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Wednesday, November 19, 2003
Great Series moments involving New York teams
By Larry Schwartz
Special to ESPN Classic

From the Babe's homer in Wrigley to Willie's catch through the Miracle Mets in '69, New York teams and players have a unique place in World Series lore. We look back at some of the greatest World Series moments involving the the Yankees, Mets, Giants and Dodgers.

Oct. 14, 1905: During the season, Christy Mathewson had his third consecutive 30-win year, compiling a 31-8 record with a 1.27 ERA and eight shutouts. The New York Giants ace continued his impressive pitching in the second World Series, pitching a pair of four-hit shutouts against the Philadelphia Athletics. Does he have one more shutout in him?

Yes. In recording his third shutout in six days, Mathewson holds the Athletics to six hits in today's 2-0 Game 5 victory, much to the delight of the fans, who mob the field at the Polo Grounds after the Giants win the Series. In his three victories, the 27-year-old righthander struck out 18, walked one and did not permit a baserunner to reach third.

Mathewson - and each of his teammates - receives $1,141.41 for winning the Series.

Oct. 17, 1911: Frank Baker, the Philadelphia Athletics' 25-year-old third baseman who led the American League in home runs with 11, belted a two-run homer off the New York Giants' Rube Marquard yesterday to give the Athletics a 3-1 victory in Game 2 of the World Series.

In today's Game 3, Christy Mathewson has the Athletics shut out until the ninth inning when Baker delivers again. The left-handed hitter sends Mathewson's fastball into the rightfield grandstand at the Polo Grounds to tie the game 1-1. The Athletics score two runs in the 11th to win 3-2.

The two dingers earn Baker, a future Hall of Famer, the nickname "Home Run."

Oct. 9, 1916: Before Babe Ruth became the greatest slugger in baseball, he was one of the game's top pitchers. The Boston Red Sox southpaw was 23-12 with an American League-leading 1.75 ERA in 323 2/3 innings during the 1916 season.

Today in Boston, in Game 2 of the World Series, Ruth pitches a Series record 14-inning complete game as he beats the Brooklyn Robins 2-1 in the longest game in Series history. Ruth allows six hits, walks three and strikes out four. The only run he allows comes in the first inning when Hy Myers, who had hit only three homers all season, wallops an inside-the-park home run.

This is Ruth's only appearance in the Series, which will be won by Boston in five games. At the plate, he goes 0-for-5.

Oct. 10, 1924: It appears as if the baseball gods want Washington and Walter Johnson to finally win a World Series. Thanks to two bad bounces and four scoreless innings of relief by Johnson in Game 7, the result is the Senators' first - and only - Series title.

The Senators trail the New York Giants 3-1 with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning when Bucky Harris hits what appears to be a routine grounder to third. But the ball hits a pebble and bounces over rookie Freddie Lindstrom's head for a game-tying, two-run single. Johnson, who is 0-2 in the Series after going 23-7 in the season, enters in the ninth, and gets into trouble when Frankie Frisch hits a one-out triple. But the 18-year veteran strands Frisch.

In the 12th, Giants catcher Hank Gowdy stumbles over his mask and drops Muddy Ruel's foul pop-up. Given another chance, Ruel doubles. Two batters later, Earl McNeely hits a grounder to third. But just like the one four innings earlier, this ball also, incredibly, takes a bad hop over Lindstrom's head. The hit scores Ruel to give Washington a 4-3 win.

"The good Lord just couldn't bear to see a fine fellow like Walter Johnson lose again," says losing pitcher Jack Bentley.

Oct. 6, 1926: The Cardinals have controlled Babe Ruth in the first three games of the World Series, holding him to two hits in 10 at-bats. But in today's Game 4 in Sportsman's Park in St. Louis, the Babe adds to his legend by exploding for three homers, the first player to accomplish this feat in a Series game.

The first two pitches to him by Cardinals righthander Flint Rhem result in two solo homers. In the first inning, his high fly down the rightfield line lands fair by about two feet. In the third, he lashes a long, high and hard drive over the bleacher roof in right-center.

Ruth walks in the Yankees' four-run fifth, but in the sixth, he puts the finishing touch on his spectacular show. On a full count, he says hello to righthander Hi Bell by belting a two-run homer into the centerfield bleachers over a 20-foot wall that is 430 feet away.

Ruth, who will walk in his final plate appearance, goes 3-for-3 and sets a Series record with four runs scored in the Yankees' 10-5 victory that ties the competition at two games apiece.

"It just wasn't in the cards that I miss all the time," the Babe says with a smile. "I just had to start hitting. I guess I had a pretty fair day, didn't I? I can't think of anything that has been more welcome to me than that hitting today."

Oct. 10, 1926: It's the stuff they make movies out of. Two outs, bases loaded, his team leading by a run in the seventh game of the World Series when the grizzled veteran, presumed washed-up earlier in the season, comes out of the bullpen the day after pitching a complete-game victory and strikes out the other team's hot-shot rookie.

If fact isn't stranger than movies . . . For this did happen, with 39-year-old Grover Cleveland Alexander, waived by the Chicago Cubs four months ago, relieving for the St. Louis Cardinals to face Yankees rookie Tony Lazzeri with the bags full and two outs in the seventh. And, after Lazzeri hits a loud foul down the leftfield line, the Great Alexander whiffs him on the next pitch to preserve a 3-2 lead at Yankee Stadium.

Alexander pitches two more scoreless and hitless innings. The final out comes when Babe Ruth, who walks with two outs, is nailed attempting to steal second base, and the one-run victory gives the Cardinals their first World Series.

Legend has it that Alexander is not quite sober when he enters the game. Fact or fiction?

Oct. 1, 1932: Almost seven decades later, the argument still rages: Did Babe Ruth call his shot, pointing to centerfield before homering into the Wrigley Fields bleachers in Game 3 of the World Series?

When Ruth, who hit a three-run homer in the first inning, goes to the plate in the fifth inning, he is being ripped unmercifully by the bench jockeys in the Cubs dugout. The Chicago Tribune reports: "Babe listened to this and yelled back, apparently unannoyed. 'That's only two strikes, boys. I still have one coming,' he cried, meanwhile holding up two fingers."

When the next pitch comes, a slow curve from Charlie Root, a 37-year-old Ruth crushes it. He sends the ball skyrocketing to deep center, into the space between the rightfield end of the scoreboard and the permanent bleachers, one of the most prodigious homers ever struck at Wrigley.

His solo homer breaks a 4-4 tie and then Lou Gehrig follows with his second homer of the game on the way to a 7-5 Yankees victory.

While there still remains doubt whether Babe "pointed" to centerfield, there's little question his pantomime performance told the Cubs he was planning to respond to their razzing.

Sept. 29, 1954: The greatest defensive play in baseball history? What about the catch that Willie Mays makes today?

The first game of the World Series between the New York Giants and Cleveland Indians is tied 2-2 in the eighth inning when Don Liddle relieves to face Don Wertz, who already has a two-run triple, with runners on first and second and nobody out.

Wertz cracks a drive to deep centerfield in the Polo Grounds, far over Mays' head. But Mays, traveling on the wings of the wind, races after it and with his back to the infield, catches the ball facing the right-centerfield bleachers, an estimated 450 feet from home plate. Then he swiftly turns and fires the ball back. "I had it all the way," Mays says later with a grin.

In the bottom of the 10th, Mays walks and steals second. After an intentional walk, Dusty Rhodes pinch-hits a three-run homer barely over the rightfield wall to give the Giants a 5-2 victory on their way to a surprising Series sweep.

Oct. 13, 1960: Danny Murtaugh, the Pittsburgh Pirates manager, played Cupid when he introduced Bill Mazeroski, his bashful second baseman, to his future wife. Maz says thank you to Murtaugh today when he hits the only home run that ends a World Series Game 7.

It doesn't look as if the Pirates will need any heroics from Mazeroski when they score five runs in the eighth inning, the final three on Hal Smith's homer, to take a 9-7 lead. But the Yankees rally for two runs in the ninth, with some elusive baserunning by Mickey Mantle at first base allowing the tying run to score.

In the bottom of the inning, the leadoff batter is Mazeroski, who hit 11 homers during the season and whose two-run homer in the Series opener helped the Pirates to a 6-4 victory. Maz gains more than his 15 minutes of fame when he bashes a drive over the leftfield wall off Ralph Terry. It gives the Pirates their first world championship in 35 years even though they are outscored 55-27 in the seven games.

Oct. 16, 1969: In eight seasons the New York Mets have gone from the joke of the baseball world to the toast of the town. The Mets, who lost a modern major league record 120 games in their first season in 1962, put the final touches on their improbable season by defeating the supposedly superior Baltimore Orioles 5-3 in Game 5 of the World Series. A ninth-place team a year ago, the Mets are now world champions.

After the Mets fall behind 3-0 today, Series MVP Donn Clendenon belts a two-run homer, his third dinger of the Series, and then, amazingly, Al Weis (six four-baggers in 1,446 career at-bats) homers to tie the game. Ron Swoboda's tie-breaking double in the eighth makes a winner of Jerry Koosman. When Cleon Jones snatches the final out in left, Gil Hodges' Mets and their fans go bananas.

Thousands of deliriously happy fans tear up the turf at Shea Stadium. From the sleek skyscrapers of Wall Street comes a spontaneous tickertape blizzard greeting the triumph of the Miracle Mets.

Oct. 18, 1977: Reggie Jackson gives a performance that solidifies his place in baseball lore. The Yankees slugger hits three home runs on the first pitch from three Dodger pitchers to power the Yankees to an 8-4 victory in Game 6 at Yankee Stadium and their first World Series triumph in 15 years.

In his final time up in Game 5, Reggie also homered. He walks on four pitches in his first plate appearance tonight before becoming the first player to hit three consecutive homers in a Series game. At game's end, he has four homers on his last four swings.

His three homers tonight - off Burt Hooton, Elias Sosa and Charlie Hough - tie Babe Ruth's record and his five homers in the Series set a mark.

"Now I believe him," says winning pitcher Mike Torrez. "Now I know why he calls himself Mr. October."

"Perhaps for one night," Jackson says, "I reached back and achieved that level of the overrated superstar."

Oct. 11, 1978: It's the duel baseball fans love: Fastball hitter vs. fastball hitter. Bob Welch vs. Reggie Jackson. Ninth inning, game on the line. Second game of the World Series.

The Los Angeles Dodgers cling to a 4-3 lead when Welch, a 21-year-old rookie righthander, enters with runners on first and second with one out. He retires Thurman Munson, setting up his confrontation with Mr. October, who has already knocked in all three Yankee runs. Jackson gets his cuts, but the best he can do is foul off four pitches as the count runs to 3-2 in this six-minute at-bat.

Jackson adjusts his glasses. Welch stands motionless. The runners move on the pitch. Jackson swings at a high inside fastball. He misses. Game over.

Jackson angrily stomps away, and flings his bat, shattering it against the dugout wall. Manager Bob Lemon offers consolation, but Reggie nudges him aside. Later, Jackson praises Welch, "I got beat, that's all."

Oct. 25, 1986: The Boston Red Sox are trying to rid themselves of the Curse of the Bambino. They have not won a World Series since trading Babe Ruth to the Yankees after the 1919 season, but it appears the curse is about to end tonight.

Boston is one out away from winning its first Series since 1918, holding a two-run lead with two outs and nobody on base in the 10th inning of Game 6. But the Mets get three consecutive singles to make it 5-4. Bob Stanley relieves and third-base coach Bud Harrelson tells Kevin Mitchell, the runner on third, "He might throw a wild pitch. Be ready." Stanley does, and the game is tied.

Then Mookie Wilson hits a routine grounder to first base, but the ball goes under Bill Buckner's glove and into rightfield as Ray Knight scores to give the Mets an incredible 6-5 victory.

"I can't remember the last time I missed a ball like that," says the sore-legged Buckner, who usually is replaced for defensive purposes by manager John McNamara. "But I'll remember this one." So will all Boston fans.

Rightfielder Dwight Evans says, "I don't believe in curses, or ghosts, or magic spells, but I'm beginning to." The Mets will win Game 7 two nights later.

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