Results tagged ‘ Tracy Stallard ’

Red Sox’ September swoon continues

Maybe the Yankees should have taken it easy on the Red Sox Saturday. After all, there is still tine for the Red Sox to blow their chances of making postseason play, and the way Boston has folded in September the Yankees just may want their rivals in the playoffs for easy pickings.

Judging from what was on view Saturday at Yankee Stadium Wednesday, this Red Sox team did not resemble the group that won 10 of the first 12 meetings against the Yankees this year. In fact, the Red Sox’ September slide began with the final game of a three-game series between them at Fenway Park in which the Yankees won, 4-2, to take the series, two games to one.

Despite that loss, the Red Sox clung to a half-game lead in the American League East. Look at the standings now. The Yanks have clinched the division title and with the Tigers’ loss Saturday night became the top seed in the AL, which gives them home-field advantage in the first two playoff rounds. Home-field advantage in the World Series belongs to the National League because of its victory in the All-Star Game.

The Red Sox’ hold on the wild-card berth has slipped mightily. Even after Boston’s 9-1 loss, it still has a two-game lead over the Rays and three over the Angels with five games remaining, including two Sunday that ends the Yankees’ home schedule. The Yankees will conclude their regular-season schedule with a three-game series at St. Petersburg, Fla., while the Red Sox move on to Baltimore, which won three of four games at Fenway Park last week.

The Yankees kept the Red Sox reeling and roughed up Jon Lester along the way. They bashed the lefthander for eight runs and eight hits in 2 2/3 innings. Lester has been a major part of the Red Sox’ problem in September. In three starts this month, Lester is 0-3 with a 10.54 ERA. He has allowed 16 earned runs, 21 hits and eight walks in 13 2/3 innings in September.

All Boston could scratch together Saturday off Freddy Garcia, who was very good for six innings (no runs, 6 hits, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts) and five relievers was one measly run as they were 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position. Lester dug them into an 8-0, third-inning hole, and the Red Sox remained buried.

Rookie catcher Jesus Montero had another good game at the plate with a home run, double and a single with four runs batted in. Derek Jeter whacked a three-run homer off Lester to climax a six-run second inning. Russell Martin knocked in the other two runs with a single in the second.

The Red Sox didn’t look like they belonged on the same field with the Yankees, much like back in 1961 when Roger Maris hit his 61st home run off Boston’s Tracy Stallard, an event that was celebrated with a pre-game ceremony. Craig Muder and Bill Francis of the National Baseball Hall of Fame brought down from Cooperstown the ball and the bat from that day. They also went home with bats from Robinson Cano, Russell Martin and Curtis Granderson from the three-grand slam game Aug. 25 against Oakland.

The Red Sox don’t even look like they belong on the same field with the 1962 Mets, the losingest team in history. Boston’s record this month is 5-17, a .227 winning percentage that is worse than the .250 winning percentage the Mets had in ‘62 in September (6-18) and the entire season (40-120).

My daughter and son-in-law, Elizabeth and Christopher Gennari, made the difference in the Yankees’ setting a regular-season attendance record at the new Stadium of 49,556. That beat the previous mark by one customer. If Beth and Chris hadn’t come, the attendance would have fallen one short of a record total.

Yanks got last licks on Ted

There were reminisces aplenty about Tuesday’s 50th anniversary of Ted Williams’ final at-bat in the major leagues in which he hit a home run, career No. 521, which at the time was the third highest total in history behind only Babe Ruth (714) and Jimmie Foxx (534). A lot has changed in half a century. Teddy Ballgame now stands in a three-way tie with Willie McCovey and Frank Thomas for 18th place, and Barry Bonds (762) and Hank Aaron (755) have long since passed the Babe.

As for what Williams did his last time up in the big leagues, thousands of words have been written about the grand style in which he ended his career by lofting one into the right field seats at Fenway Park. That is all well and good, but for me that is just the usual batch of Red Sox Nation tripe.

I have a personal beef about the whole matter from the mindset of a pre-teen who got stood up by the guy they called the “Splendid Splinter.” He wasn’t much of a splinter by then, nor at 42 did he fit his other nickname, “The Kid,” and from my point of view he damn sure wasn’t splendid.

Here’s why. Do you know what little piece of information all those Boston boors leave out of their Teddy’s last at-bat stories? How about this: nobody in the yard knew it was Williams’ last at-bat until after the game. That’s right. The Red Sox still had three more games to play, at Yankee Stadium, but after the game Williams told the writers that he wasn’t going to New York. The Yankees had already clinched the American League pennant, the Red Sox had been dead meat for a month, so there was no point in his making the trip.

Now doesn’t take a bit of the bite out of that story. I mean, it would have rung truer if he had told the press before the game that he wasn’t playing any more. To Red Sox fans, this was the perfect ending to a Hall of Fame career by admittedly one of the game’s greatest hitters. But to Yankees fans holding tickets to games that weekend, it was a big gyp. The only allure of the series was to see Williams bow out, not watch Carroll Hardy in left field.

My uncle, Bill Gallagher, had gotten tickets for the Friday night game Sept. 30, 1960, and we talked about Williams on the ride to the Stadium. I was really into baseball in those days and was amazed at how vital the two great aging stars of that time, Williams and Stan Musial, still were. Musial, in fact, would play three more seasons, and I would get to see him three home runs in one game at the Polo Grounds in 1963 when he was 42.

God bless Casey Stengel, then in his last year as manager of the Yankees. Although the Yankees were already set for the World Series, ‘ol Case started his regular lineup. Roger Maris, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and the rest. The Red Sox? No Ted Williams. What?

Unlike today’s 24/7 media whirlwind, information from out of town came slowly in those days. A man sitting in the seat next to Uncle Bill said that he heard that Williams decided not to accompany the team to town. Truth be told, I had not been much of a Yankees fan to that point in my life, but I cheered my head off for them that night. To make matters worse, the Red Sox almost won the game.

What follows comes from my old, pencil-scribbled scorecard, boys and girls (I still score in pencil).

Bill Monbouquette, a wonderful guy whom I would get to know more than 20 years later when he was the pitching coach for the Mets, was Boston’s best pitcher and took a 4-2 lead into the bottom of the ninth, but he was replaced by lefthander Tom Brewer after Bobby Richardson led off with a single. Brewer gave up a single to Gil McDougald, and the Yankees had a rally going.

Tony Kubek, another terrific person I would get to know years later, flied out, but Hector Lopez and Maris followed with singles to tie the score and put runners on first and third. Mantle had come out of the game earlier, and his spot in the lineup was taken by Bob Cerv, the thickly-built, right-handed hitter.

Boston manager Pinky Higgins brought in a right-handed pitcher I had never heard of, but a year later he would almost be a household name – Tracy Stallard, the guy who gave up Maris’ 61st home run. On this night, Stallard would be done in by his second baseman, a September callup named Marlan Coughtry. Thanks to him, I learned something important about the game – the need to remain calm in a crisis.

Cerv hit a grounder to Coughtry, who considering Cerv’s lack of speed should have thrown to second base to start a double play. Instead, he decided to tag Maris in the base path and then throw to first. Maris, who never got enough credit for being a heads-up player, put on the brakes and went into reverse. Coughtry took the bait. Lopez broke for the plate. The rookie tagged Maris eventually for the second out but in hesitating lost any chance to get the third out as Lopez scored the winning run.

Talk about a satisfying finish! It made me forget all about Ted Williams, who insulted baseball fans in New York so that he could have all his Beantown acolytes wax poetic about his going deep in his last big-league plate appearance.