Results tagged ‘ Don Larsen ’

Matsui, Cone put on show at Old Timer’s Day

At the annual Yankees Homecoming Dinner this April in which Hideki Matsui was honored for his career he told a story about when he was playing in Japan and was asked if he thought he could compete in the United States.

He told a reporter that he had seen a game in which David Cone was pitching and said, “I can hit that.”

Cone and Matsui have been teasing each other over that for years. So it was inevitable that there would be a confrontation between them. What better environment than Old Timer’s Day, the 70th version of which was celebrated Sunday?

Cone came into the game specifically to pitch to Matsui. The first pitch was over the Japanese slugger’s head. The next delivery was what has become an annual grooved special by Cone in Old Timer’s Day games, right down Broadway, and Matsui jumped all over it and drove it into the second deck in right field.

Cone feigned surprise and embarrassment. Truth be told, it is all an act. Cone knows what the fans want to see on Old Timer’s Day, and that is not a pitcher burning it in to every batter and striking everybody out. I once asked the Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Gibson why he seldom took part in Old Timer’s games, and he told me that all they want is for the pitcher to put the ball over the plate so the hitters can mash it. Gibby was too competitive to play that kind of game.

Coney is a different cat. He knows Old Timer’s games are entertainment, and he aims to please. A few years ago, he grooved a pitch to former teammate Tino Martinez, who went yard. Paul O’Neill also clipped Cone. Sunday was just Matsui’s turn.

Scoring ahead of Matsui on his homer was Reggie Jackson, who had lined a single to left field in the prior at-bat off Scott Kamieniecki. I talked with Reggie Saturday after he spent about half an hour taking batting practice in the indoor cage at Yankee Stadium.

“I don’t want to strike out tomorrow,” he said, laughing.

Gene Michael is the manager for both teams, the Clippers and the Bombers. “That way, I can’t lose,” Stick said.

He had the lineup cards for both teams taped onto the front of his uniform. Roy White saw that he was batting sixth in the Clippers’ lineup and asked Stick how come Lee Mazzilli was batting second in the Bombers’ lineup.

“That’s the Triple-A squad; do you want to play for them,” Michael said.

Next came Mazzilli’s voice from across the room, “Hey, Stick, we can hear every word you are staying.”

The camaraderie among the former players is the best part of Old Timer’s Day. Bernie Williams and John Wetteland and Mariano Duncan and Charlie Hayes exchanged stories about the 1996 team that won the Yankees’ first World Series title in 15 years. Hayes still refers to the area near the third base box seats where he caught the final out against the Braves as “the holy ground.”

Williams was still beaming over graduating from Manhattan College of Music. “I completed the four years in three,” said Bernie, who is having a second career as a guitarist. “It was quite an experience. I thought I knew a lot about music until I realized that I didn’t.”

In addition to “Mr. October,” other Hall of Famers on hand were Whitey Ford, Rickey Henderson, Goose Gossage and Joe Torre. Eddie Robinson, at 95 the oldest living former Yankees player, and 1956 World Series perfect game author Don Larsen, 86, were also in attendance.

Sadly missing was the catcher who leaped into Larsen’s arms at the end of that game. Yogi Berra was a rookie in 1947 when the Yankees honored Babe Ruth to begin the Old Timer’s Day tradition and was a staple of the event over the years. He was there in spirit, however, as the Yankees used jeweled bases commemorating his legacy during the game.

Yanks to honor Wolff’s 75 years as a broadcaster

Bob Wolff’s status as the Guinness World Records holder for the longest career as a broadcaster will be certified in a special pregame ceremony Thursday at Yankee Stadium before the game against the Mariners. This is Wolff’s second Guinness World Records He was recognized for the longest career as a sportscaster March 21, 2012.

Along with his Guinness World Records recognition, Wolff has also received many other honors, ranging from being one of two broadcasters (with Curt Gowdy) to be enshrined in both the National Basketball and National Baseball Halls of Fame to his induction into the Madison Square Garden Walk of Fame. Wolff also received a TV Ace Award and multiple Emmy Awards for his on-camera work.

Wolff, 93, is in his 75th year as a broadcaster and his 28th year at News 12 Long Island. His career began Oct. 23, 1939 on WDNC, a CBS radio station in Durham, N.C., while was attending Duke University. Bob later branched into television and cable. Before his current run on News 12, Wolff had been seen and heard on Madison Square Garden programming for 59 years. His 50th year at the Garden was saluted with a special “Bob Wolff’s Golden Garden Anniversary.”

The New York native is renowned for his knack of coming up with appealing content and for his ability to ad lib in news stories. Along with his sense of humor and engaging interviews, Wolff has the talent to entertain in offbeat ways such as when he was the host and commentator at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, which he enlivened with his singing and “dog show lyrics.”

Wolff called two of the greatest sports events in Yankee Stadium history – Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series and the Baltimore Colts’ overtime victory over the football Giants in the 1958 National Football League Championship game, which became known as “the greatest football game ever played.”

He also handled the television play-by-play for both championship seasons for the Knicks (1969-70 and 1972-1973) and called two of Mickey Mantle’s longest home runs, including the famed “rising shot” at Yankee Stadium that crashed into the old Stadium’s façade.

On a national level, Wolff is the only broadcaster to handle play-by-play in the championships of all four major professional sports: the World Series, the NFL Championship, the NBA Finals and the Stanley Cup Finals.

“Bob Wolff is a true broadcasting pioneer,” Guinness World Records official Mike Janela said. “His career embodies longevity and versatility, and we’re honored to recognize this special achievement in the Bronx, where he called some of his most amazing moments.”

Lots of history with Yankees and Dodgers

There was a time when a matchup of the Yankees and the Dodgers in games that count could only occur during the World Series, which happened more often than with any two major league clubs. The Yanks and Dodgers opposed each other in 11 World Series with the Yankees winning eight of them.

Only the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics, who have played for the NBA title 12 times, have had more championship series than the Yankees and the Dodgers. For the record, the most such matchups in the NHL have been seven by two sets of teams – the Montreal Canadiens against the Boston Bruins and the Detroit Red Wings against the Toronto Maple Leafs – and in the NFL six between the New York Giants and the Chicago Bears. In the Super Bowl alone, the Dallas Cowboys and the Pittsburgh Steelers played each other three times.

Inter-league play has changed all that for the Yankees and the Dodgers. The two-game series at Dodger Stadium that began Tuesday night marks the fourth in-season encounter by the long-time postseason rivals. The Yankees took two of three games twice before at Dodger Stadium in 2010 and 2004. The only time they have faced each other at Yankee Stadium was June 19 this year in a rainout-forced, separate-admission doubleheader that the teams split.

When the Dodgers left New York that night, their record was 30-40, which had them in last place in the National League West and eight games out of first. Los Angeles has gone 26-8 since then and started play Tuesday night in first place in its division with a 2 ½-game lead. In the 34-game stretch, the Dodgers made up 10 ½ games in the standings. Conversely, the Yankees were 39-33 after the twin bill and in third place in the American League East and 3 ½ games out of first. They have gone 16-18 since and are now in fourth place and 7 ½ games from the top.

In postseason play, the Yankees have a 37-29 record in games – 22-10 at Yankee Stadium, 12-11 at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn and 3-8 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. The Yanks won each of the first five times the clubs met in the World Series, in 1941, ’47, ’49, ’52 and ’53 before the Dodgers finally won in 1955.

The Yankees’ 1956 Series victory was highlighted by Don Larsen’s perfect game in Game 5, the only no-hitter in World Series history. The Yankees are 2-2 in Series against the Dodgers since their move to Los Angeles in 1958. The Yanks were swept in 1963, just one of three times in 40 World Series appearances that they did not win a game (also in 1922 against the Giants and in 1976 against the Reds). The Yankees’ back-to-back World Series titles in 1977 and ’78 mark the most recent instance of back-to-back World Series victories over the same team, the first such occurrence since the Yanks defeated the Dodgers in 1952-53).

Some other nuggets about the two legendary teams:

Babe Ruth’s last job in professional baseball was as a Brooklyn Dodgers coach in 1938. Ruth, who wore uniform No. 3 with the Yankees, donned No. 35 with the Dodgers.

The Dodgers won their only championship in Brooklyn history when left-ander Johnny Podres beat the Yankees, 2-0, in Game 7 of the 1955 World Series at Yankee Stadium.

The Dodgers and Yankees staged an exhibition game May 7, 1959 at the Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles to benefit Roy Campanella, the former Dodgers catcher who had been paralyzed in an auto accident prior to the 1958 season. This game drew 93,103, the largest crowd ever to see a baseball game until an exhibition game in 2008 between the Dodgers and the Red Sox.

Of the six World Series championships in team history, the only one clinched by the Dodgers on their home field was in 1963, when lefthander Sandy Koufax pitched a 2-1 victory in Game 4 to clinch the sweep of the Yankees.

Crooked number follows 9 zeroes

No shutout this time. After becoming the first team to get shut out in a game at Coors Field this year, the Yankees got on the board right away Wednesday night. Vernon Wells, who has been struggling lately with three hits in his previous 22 at-bats (.136) clubbed a 3-2 fastball from the Rockies’ Juan Nicasio in the first inning for a two-run home run.

The blow, Wells’ seventh homer of the season and his first ever at Coors, scored Brett Gardner, who had singled to lead off the game and stolen second base. It was the Yankees’ fifth steal in 10 innings at Denver.

Lyle Overbay put on a clinic at first base in the bottom of the first inning to save Yankees starter David Phelps from a potential rough beginning. Overbay took part in all three outs with a putout and two assists, both on sure-handed grabs of tough hops. The Yankees could have done a whole lot worse in finding a replacement for injured Mark Teixeira than the stylishly efficient Overbay.

The Rockies got even in the second inning with a two-run homer of their own. After a one-out double to right-center by Wilin Rosario, Todd Helton drove a 3-1 fastball to right field for his second home run of the season.

Come the sixth inning and both team’s pitchers were batting eighth in the order. Yankees manager Joe Girardi decided to bat Phelps in the 8-hole to break up the left-handed hitters. It was the first time a Yanks starting pitcher batted in that spot since Aug. 28, 1957 when then manager Casey Stengel hit Don Larsen eighth and second baseman Bobby Richardson ninth against the White Sox.

Nicasio was in the usual ninth spot for pitchers to start the game, but when he came out after five innings Rockies manager Walt Weiss made a double switch and brought in Jonathan Herrera to play shortstop and put reliever Josh Outman in the 8-hole previously occupied by Reid Brignac.

Girardi bats pitcher 8th in inter-league lineup

The Yankees’ starting lineup Wednesday night at Denver’s Coors Field had an unusual look. Not only was a pitcher in the batting order in accordance with National League rules but also said pitcher, David Phelps, was in the eighth spot rather than the traditional 9-hole for pitchers.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi’s reasoning was pretty sound. With Robinson Cano batting second, someone other than the pitcher, in this case rookie catcher Austin Romine, gives the Yankees an additional hitter in front of Cano after the first time through the order. Girardi also wanted to avoid stacking left-handed batters near the bottom of the order because the Rockies have quality relievers from the left side.

It is not entirely uncommon for pitchers to bat somewhere in the lineup other than ninth. Good hitting pitchers such as Wes Ferrell, Warren Spahn, Bob Lemon, Don Newcombe, Don Drysdale, Don Larsen and Earl Wilson occasionally batted higher in the order than ninth. In more recent years, Tony La Russa often batted a pitcher eighth and a position player ninth in his time with the Cardinals.

Gotta go to ‘Mo’

So I was trying to think of which Yankees legend would throw out the ceremonial first pitch before Wednesday night’s Game 3 of the American League Division Series at Yankee Stadium.

The octogenarians Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford aren’t up to the task anymore, and neither is Don Larsen, probably. Reggie Jackson hasn’t been seen around the Stadium for months.

It never dawned on me until I saw him trot to the mound that the Yankees had the ideal guy all along to handle the assignment – Mariano Rivera. What a concept; a guy used to throwing the last pitch throws out the first one instead.

A perfect choice.

Climate control difficult in modern postseason

As the start of the American League Division Series between the Yankees and the Orioles being delayed for the second straight day suggests, weather more and more plays a factor in baseball’s postseason. Remember last year’s rainout of Game 1 of the Yankees-Tigers ALDS wiped out the start for pitchers CC Sabathia and Justin Verlander.

It is a sign of the times. Not to get overly nostalgic, but consider this. Monday marked the 56th anniversary of Don Larsen’s perfect game for the Yankees against the Dodgers in the World Series at Yankee Stadium. The momentous event occurred in Game 5. That same date Oct. 8 this year was for Game 2 of the ALDS.

The 1956 World Series ended with a Yankees victory at Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field Oct. 10. If the World Series goes the distance in 2012, the date of Game 7 will be Nov. 1. The weather can only get worse as the postseason continues to expand.

The Yankees’ five runs in the ninth inning in Game 1 at Camden Yards marked the fourth time they scored that many runs in the ninth inning of a postseason game. All the other times were also on the road. They scored seven runs in the ninth inning of Game 6 of the 1936 World Series against the Giants at the Polo Grounds and six runs apiece in the ninth inning of Game 2 of the ’36 Series and in Game 4 of the 1999 AL Championship Series against the Red Sox at Fenway Park.

At 40 years, 3 months, 24 days, Andy Pettitte was the fourth oldest pitcher to start a postseason game for the Yankees. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Yankees pitchers who were older than Pettitte were Roger Clemens (45 in 2007), Randy Johnson (43 in 2006) and David Wells (40 years, 4 months in October 2003). Wells was only a week younger than Pettitte.

Monday night’s Game 2 assignment was Pettitte’s 43rd postseason start. The total for the entire Baltimore staff was 10. It was also Pettitte’s 16th start in Game 2 of a postseason series, the most in history. Tom Glavine is second with 11.

Pitcher Dellin Betances was reinstated from the 60-day disabled list in order to participate in Arizona Fall League. To make room on 40-man roster, pitcher Cory Wade was designated for assignment.

Larsen, Yogi reunited on anniversary of Series perfecto

Don Larsen and Yogi Berra will be reunited on the 56th anniversary of the only perfect game in World Series history at 1 p.m. Monday at the Yogi Berra Museum on the campus of Montclair State University in Little Falls, N.J. The battery mates for that historic game will be present at the museum along with Brandon Steiner, chief executive officer of Steiner Sports; Andrew Levy, president of Wish You Were Here Productions and museum director Dave Kaplan.

The No, 18 uniform that Larsen wore in that milestone performances in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series will go up for auction. Steiner Sports Memorabilia, a leader in collectibles and a company which has sold innumerable sports artifacts, has been entrusted with the auction that will be held from Oct. 8 through December this year.

Recently, a jersey once worn by Babe Ruth was sold to a collector for a reported $4.4 million. Berra’s No. 8 jersey that he wore during Larsen’s perfecto reportedly sold for nearly $600,000 in 2010. It will not be a part of the auction but will be displayed at the press conference.

Old Timers remind fans of good times

Old Timers’ Day never gets old, if you know what I mean. The Yankees were the first team to celebrate their history with an annual reunion that began in 1947 to honor Babe Ruth, and they are the last team to bring back stories players from their past every year on a scheduled date.

The Yankees’ great tradition lends itself perfectly to such an exercise. It seems as if everyone invited back had a part in producing one of the 27 World Series championships, some of them more than others but no one more so than Yogi Berra.

The practice of Old Timers’ Days with other clubs gained popularity in the 1960s, but by the 1990s nearly every team, including such other tradition-rich franchises as the Dodgers, Giants and Cardinals stopped doing them regularly. The Red Sox did a nice job of inviting back many of the players from their past to celebrate Fenway Park’s centennial back in April, but that was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing. For the Yankees, it is an annual get together that is the result of the hard work of vice president for marketing Debbie Tymon and her staff.

Yogi was clearly the focus Sunday as the introductions wound down to those so close to him in his long connection with the team, such as old pal Whitey Ford; former American League president Bobby Brown, who roomed with Yogi during their years together as players in the late 1940s and early ‘50s, and Don Larsen, whom Berra navigated through a perfect game in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series, the only no-hitter in Series history.

Every Yankees era was represented: the 1950s with Berra, Ford, Brown, Larsen, Jerry Coleman and Bob Turley; the 1960s with Hector Lopez, Luis Arroyo, Bobby Richardson, Ralph Terry, Joe Pepitone, Al Downing, Jake Gibbs and Mel Stottlemyre; the 1970s with Reggie Jackson, Bucky Dent, Brian Doyle, Mickey Rivers, Ron Guidry, Lou Piniella, Willie Randolph, Roy White and Ron Blomberg; the 1980s with Tommy John, Goose Gossage and Rickey Henderson; the 1990s with Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez, David Cone, Cecil Fielder, Charlie Hayes, Darryl Strawberry, Jesse Barfield, Pat Kelly, Bernie Williams and Joe Torre.

It was the first invitation for Stump Merrill, who has served in numerous capacities for the organization the past 38 years, including manager in the lean times of 1990 and ’91. It was Stump who helped convert a Puerto Rican second baseman named Jorge Posada into an All-Star catcher.

“I can’t kick about waiting 38 years,” Stump said, laughing. “Last year, they invited Geno for the first time in 49 years!”

Long-time trainer Gene Monahan, who retired after the 2011 season, was also back at Yankee Stadium Sunday for the one day every year that could be renamed Good Times Day.

2 rain delays stall CC’s shot at perfection

Watching the way the Mariners went out one at-bat after another so placidly Monday night, the thought of what CC Sabathia might do to that lineup Tuesday night was downright scary. Seattle has been a mysterious team in the second half. It was a .500 club until 17 games ago, all losses.

The latest came at the hand of Sabathia, who flirted with perfection into the seventh inning. Not even a half-hour rain delay could throw the lefthander off stride. CC continued to polish off his Cy Young Award credentials with seven masterful innings

The buzz in the crowd of 46,132 at Yankee Stadium began early as Sabathia set down the M’s with ease. With four strikeouts the first time through the order, CC only got better as he struck out the side in both the fourth and fifth innings.

The Yankees supplied Sabathia support with Curtis Granderson’s 28th home run, in the fourth, and added two more runs in the fifth on singles by Nick Swisher, Jorge Posada, Eric Chavez just off the disabled list and Brett Gardner and a run-producing infield out by Derek Jeter.

Challenging Sabathia for excitement, however, was a light show going on in the northwestern skies beyond left field, a strong indication that rain was on the way. It arrived after Sabathia struck out the first batter in the sixth and had the crowd moaning because who knew how long it would last and whether it might force CC out of the game?

It reminded me of David Cone’s perfect game in 1999 at the Stadium against the old Montreal Expos. That game was also halted by a rain delay, but Cone continued. In fact, he said later that he actually pitched better after the break in action because he was forced to re-focus.

Fortunately, the storm did not last long enough to force Yankees manager Joe Girardi to consider replacing Sabathia, which would not have been a popular move to say the least. The crowd let out a howl when CC returned to the mound after the 30-minute delay. He retired the two batters he faced to stay perfect through six innings.

Could he complete a Mount Rushmore of Yankees perfect game pitchers by joining Cone, Don Larsen and David Wells?

A leadoff strikeout of Ichiro Suzuki in the seventh was an encouraging sign even if the Ichiro of 2011 does not match the player we had watched the previous decade. Sabathia then fell behind 2-0 to Mariners shortstop Brendan Ryan. CC’s next pitch was 984-mph fastball towards the outside of the plate, but Ryan made solid contact and pulled it into left field for a clean single.

Sabathia was no longer perfect, but he was still commanding. He struck out the next two batters to end the inning and run his K total to a career-high 14.

A second rain delay before the Yankees batted in the seventh stopped play for 14 minutes. This time it appeared Sabathia was affected. After not walking a batter for seven innings, CC walked the bases full in the eighth.

David Robertson was brought in to do his magic trick and nearly succeeded with two strikeouts, but a bobbled grounder by Chavez at third lost any chance for a double play as a run scored on a fielder’s choice.

Still, that single by Ryan would be the only hit as Mariano Rivera completed matters with a perfect ninth that included two more strikeouts that brought the total to 18. That tied the club record for strikeouts in a nine-inning game. The other time was June 17, 1978 by one pitcher, Ron Guidry, against the Angels.

The run was a mere blemish on the performance by Sabathia, who improved his record to 15-5 with a 2.56 ERA. He has allowed only five runs in his past seven starts totaling 54 2/3 innings and is 6-1 with a 0.82 ERA. Remember, CC didn’t have a victory in his first four starts (0-1, 3 no-decisions), so he is 15-4 in 19 starts since April 23.

And to think that we are going to look back at this season and say somehow CC Sabathia did not make the All-Star team. I mean, didn’t the American League want to win?