1924 World Series Film

October 5, 2014

This is a pretty interesting find from the Library of Congress. Here’s the story behind it.

H/T to my Mom, who texted a CNN story about this to me.


1925 World Series Game 3: Instant Replay Edition

March 12, 2014

What if Commissioner Landis had instituted a manager’s challenge system for instant replay prior to the 1925 season? Here is a new account of Sam Rice’s famous catch in Game 3 of the World Series.

Saturday October 10, 1925

Nats Lose in Late Innings, Local Man Called Goat

Stephen Jeffrey Bartmaier wasn’t looking to be famous. All he wanted was a ball to commemorate his trip to Griffith Stadium for Game 3 of the World Series.

When replay cameras caught the 17-year-old removing the ball from the glove of a temporarily incapacitated Sam Rice, everything changed. Bartmaier was caught on camera trying to replace the ball in Rice’s glove, but it was too little too late for the life-long Nats fan who may not be able to show his face in the DC area again.

With two outs in the top of the eighth inning, Pittsburgh catcher Earl Smith hit a drive deep into the right field corner of Griffith Stadium. Right fielder Sam Rice sprinted toward the right field line, leapt, and backhanded the ball in his glove as he tumbled into the stands. Moments later, Rice emerged with ball in hand. Smith was called out. Immediately Pittsburgh manager Bill McKechnie threw the white hanky to get the attention of the umpire.

The game was delayed while the umpire crew looked over the various camera angles. Initial angles were inconclusive, but a hand held camera stationed in the outfield bleachers caught Bartmaier’s act. Before the Fox broadcasters could show the incident a second time, there was already a Wikipedia entry for Bartmaier calling him, among other things, “Washington’s biggest palooka”  and the “goat” of the 1925 World Series.

Further delayed followed as the crew tried to determine whether the ball was foul or not. After about 20 minutes total, the ruling was that Smith had earned a ground rule double and the Nats were forced to retake the field.

The next batter was Carson Bigbee, who pinch hit for pitcher Ray Kremer. Bigbee singled off of a cooled-off Firpo Marberry to plate Smith with the game-tying run. The Pirates went on to win the game in the bottom of the ninth when Pie Traynor’s sacrifice fly knocked in Max Carey.

Though there were plenty of on field heroes in the game, all of the talk afterwards was about McKechnie’s challenge and Bartmaier’s mistake.

 

 

 


1991: “The Twins are gonna win the World Series, the Twins have won it!”

October 21, 2010

2010: Unlike Game 6, I remember exactly where I watched Game 7. Sunday night was church night growing up, and that wouldn’t change for a silly baseball game (believe me, I tried). So, I missed the first few innings, but caught most of the game in the church basement with the rest of the lucky few who gathered for the service that night. I was in transit home when the game went into the ninth inning (it was also a school night, after all), and saw the final play on the television at home.

I originally wrote this at twinscards.com in 2007.

1991 World Series Game 7
Sunday October 27, 1991
HHH Metrodome

Just hours after Kirby Puckett took the team on his back to win Game 6, the Twins were back at the Metrodome preparing for Game 7. St. Paul native Jack Morris was brought in as a free agent for the 1991 season, and would now take the hill for the most important game of the season. Morris already had a reputation as a big game pitcher, mostly for his efforts in 1984 when he went 3-0 in three post season starts with the Detroit Tigers while holding the opposition to just five runs over 25 innings in that post season. Morris was prepared for another run in the post season, and had promised that “If I feel like King Kong, I’ll throw like King Kong” before the 1991 World Series started.

Morris and the Twins knew that it was likely he was going to need to throw like King Kong in Game 7, because runs weren’t going to come easy for the Twins. Taking the mound for the Braves that night was John Smoltz, then just a 24-year-old most famous for coming to Atlanta in the trade that sent Doyle Alexander to the Tigers for what turned out to be an unsuccessful run in the 1987 playoffs (a year when the Tigers were eliminated by the Twins). Of the big three pitchers for Atlanta, Smoltz may have been the less publicized, but he had quietly gotten the job done, including a very strong showing against the Twins in Game 4.

The game started with a handshake between Atlanta lead off man Lonnie Smith and Twins catcher Brian Harper, who had met earlier in the series under very different circumstances in a violent home plate collision. Whether it was a gesture by Smith to bury the hatchet, or more indicative of the battle that the Series had been up to that point is unclear, but it was a unique start to a baseball game.

Smoltz and Morris, as advertised, settled into a pitcher’s duel immediately. Both retired the side in order in the first inning, then worked around some trouble in the early innings. The Twins got a pair of two out singles off of Smoltz in the second inning, but a Pagliarulo ground out ended that threat. The Braves had runners at first and second with just one out in the third inning when Morris retired Pendleton and Gant in order to keep the score 0-0.

The Braves threatened again in the fifth. Series hero Mark Lemke led off the inning with a single, and had advanced to third on two bunts, the first a sacrifice, the second a bunt single by Lonnie Smith. With runners at the corners and one out, Pendleton and Gant had a chance to redeem themselves for the missed opportunity in the third inning. It was not to be, however, as Morris got an innocent pop up out of Pendleton, and caught Gant looking with a third strike that erupted the crowd and caused Morris to pump his fist as he jogged off the field.

The teams entered the eighth inning with the score still tied at zero. In the top of the frame, Smith led off with a single that brought Pendleton to the plate with Smith on first and no outs. Pendleton launched a drive to left center that should have easily scored Smith, but at the end of the play he had only made it to third. Replays showed Smith pull up when he saw short stop Greg Gagne fake a throw to Knoblauch at second. The bluff confused Smith long enough that he was unable to score the go-ahead run.

Still, the Braves had runners at second and third with no outs and the heart of the lineup due to bat against Morris, so a run seemed inevitable. After Morris induced a weak ground out from Ron Gant, the Twins decided to give David Justice and intentional pass to load the bases for Sid Bream. Bream hit a hard grounder to Hrbek at first who was playing in to cut down the run at home. He did that, then took the return throw from Harper to complete the double play and end the inning with no damage done.

In almost a mirror image of the Atlanta half of the eighth, the Twins loaded the bases with one out in their half. With Kent Hrbek ready to bat, the Braves had brought in Mike Stanton to intentionally walk Puckett and try to wiggle out of the inning. A hard line drive off the bat of the slumping Hrbek was hit right to Braves shortstop Rafael Belliard who easily stepped on second to complete the double play.

The Twins looked like they might end the game in the bottom of the ninth with two consecutive singles to start the inning, but Alejandro Pena came on and got a ground ball double play and a strikeout of pinch hitter Paul Sorrento to send the game into extra innings.

Five years earlier, in Tom Kelly’s first World Series as manager, ace pitcher Frank Viola came to the dugout after the eighth inning of Game 7 with a 4-2 lead and wanted to continue. Kelly didn’t let him, explaining that Reardon had been the man in the ninth all season, and sent his closer out to finish the Series. After Game 7 of 1991, the same manager said the only way he could have removed his starter on that day was “with a shotgun,” and told pitching coach Dick Such after the ninth “it’s just a game, let him go” – so Morris took the mound for the tenth inning, and promptly retired the Braves in order.

Dan Gladden led off the Twins’ tenth with a broken bat looper to short left center. On what most likely should have been a single, Gladden made into a double by hustling around first while the Braves fielders played the ball on the high hop from the Metrodome turf. A perfectly executed sacrifice bunt from rookie Chuck Knoblauch sent Gladden to third, and the Braves opted to walk both Puckett and Hrbek to load the bases with Jarvis Brown on deck, who had entered the game to run for Chili Davis in the ninth.

Kelly called Gene Larkin’s name to face Pena with the bases loaded and one out. Larkin had a bad knee, and had only seen three previous at bats in the series. All that was meaningless, however, when Larkin drove the first pitch he saw over the heads of the drawn in outfield to clinch the World Series for the Twins.


1991: “And We’ll See Ya Tomorrow Night!”

October 19, 2010

2010: I reposted this last season after the Twins were swept out of the playoffs by the Yankees in hopes of lifting the spirits of baseball fans in the area. It seems that we can use it again.

A couple of notes:

1. The call by Jack Buck, immortalized in the title of this post, made Joe Posnanski’s list of top 32 calls of all time. It is ranked #27 – one spot higher than the Music City Miracle and one spot lower than Joe Buck’s take on his father’s call 13 years later.

2. I was in eighth grade during the 1991 World Series. I don’t remember where I watched this game, though I know I did. I remember being discouraged in the lead up to the game. All of the national coverage revolved around the Braves. They had all the “momentum,” and were pitching Steve Avery (who couldn’t be touched in the 1991 postseason up to that point) against Scott Erickson, who seemed to be the most unreliable starter for the Twins. A Braves win, according to just about everybody, was inevitable, and I bought into it. That may have been the roots of my disdain for “momentum” as it relates to sports.

I originally wrote this for Twinscards.com in 2007.

1991 World Series Game 6
Saturday October 26, 1991
HHH Metrodome

The 1991 World Series returned to Minneapolis with a completely different feel than it had left five days before. The Twins returned home trailing in the series, three games to two, after the Braves defeated them in Game 5, the only blow out of the series so far. What’s more, Atlanta had Steve Avery on the mound for Game 6, the pitcher that had become something of a phenom in the NLCS. The Twins countered with Scott Erickson, who had been all but untouchable in June of that year, but had run into some post season problems. To many, the Braves seemed like the team of destiny, and Game 6 was when they were likely to achieve that destiny.

Prior to the game, Twins manager Tom Kelly had nothing but praise for Avery.

“You have to give the kid a lot of credit for poise and composure,” Kelly said. “It doesn’t look like he has any fear in his eyes. He’s going to be one of the great ones. We’re going to have to take the ball up the middle against him and scratch for some runs.”

Kelly’s reputation lent some doubt as to whether his praise for the Atlanta pitcher was genuine. There was open speculation in the local papers that it was a ploy to get into the young pitcher’s head.

Master plan or not, the Twins got to Avery early. After Scott Erickson worked around a single and a walk to get out of the first inning unscathed, the Twins offense started with one out in the bottom of the first. After Chuck Knoblauch singled, Kirby Puckett, who had told the rest of the team earlier in the day to “jump on his back,” tripled with a ground ball down the left field line. Puckett later scored when Shane Mack connected with his first base hit of the series two batters later. The Twins held a 2-0 lead over the Avery and the Braves.

Erickson maintained the lead through four innings, not necessarily with dominant pitching. He was helped along the way by some great defensive plays, including Scott Leuis’ jumping grab of a Brian Hunter line drive in the second, and Puckett’s leaping grab of Ron Gant’s drive in the third inning, which robbed Gant of an easy double.

The Braves finally cracked the score board in the fifth, when NL batting champion Terry Pendleton connected with a two-run home run to center field. No sooner had the Braves tied the game than the Twins took the lead again, this time on a sacrifice fly by Puckett in the bottom of the fifth. Erickson retired the Braves in order in the fifth inning, but was ultimately removed from the game after he allowed a lead off single to Mark Lemke, who had been an unlikely October hero for the Braves. Lemke ended up scoring later in the inning to once again tie the game. Erickson’s night was over. Though he wouldn’t get a decision in the game, he had performed well enough for the Kelly, allowing three runs over six plus innings pitched.

Avery, meanwhile, didn’t come out for the seventh inning, and ended his game with three runs on six hits over six innings pitched. The respective bullpens made relatively easy work of the batters over the next several innings, Puckett’s one out single in the eighth and subsequent stolen base notwithstanding. The Braves got a lead off single in the 11th, but it was immediately removed when Keith Mitchell was caught trying to steal second. The score remained tied into the bottom of the 11th.

Five years prior, Charlie Leibrandt was on the hill for Kansas City in a must-win late season game against the first place Minnesota Twins. With a man on and one out in the bottom of the first inning, Kirby Puckett launched a home run to left center that set the tone for an 8-1 Twins win and ultimately a season’s end for the Royals. Now, in an even bigger situation, Bobby Cox called on Leibrandt to extend the game another inning. The first batter he would face: Kirby Puckett.

A 2-1 hanging change up from Leibrandt was the catalyst for arguably the most memorable moment in team history. Puckett launched the ball to left center field where it landed among the 55,155 fans in the Metrodome. As he rounded the bases, fists pumping, Jack Buck made his famous call that set the stage for a memorable Game 7.

Kirby Puckett had been in some way responsible for each of the four Twins runs, and in all likelihood took away an Atlanta run with his catch in the third inning. The Twins went on to win the series in seven, but Kirby Puckett almost single-handedly got them there with his performance in Game 6.


1925: “At no time did I lose possession of the ball”

October 6, 2010

Amidst all the “baseball in October” commercials I keep coming back to this moment that is not a huge part of the modern lore, but probably should be.

Saturday October 10, 1925

After splitting the first two games of the 1925 World Series, the Washington Nationals returned home to host Game 3 against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Nats were ahead 4-3 heading into the top of the eighth inning, looking to take a 2-games-to-1 lead in the series. With two outs, Pittsburgh catcher Earl Smith hit a drive deep into the right field corner of Griffith Stadium. Right fielder and future Hall of Famer Sam Rice sprinted toward the right field line, leapt, and backhanded the ball in his glove as he tumbled into the stands. Moments later, Rice emerged with ball in hand. Smith was called out, and Washington went on to win the game.

There was some dispute from the Pirates as to whether Rice had actually caught the ball. The working theory for Pittsburgh was that he lost the ball in the crowd, but a helpful Washington rooter placed it back in his glove.

Rice seemed to enjoy the mystery surrounding the play. As the years went on, he never directly addressed the question of whether he caught the ball, often replying in a coy manner that “the umpire said he was out, so he was out.” He even refused to tell his wife and daughter the truth, obviously enjoying the mystery of the whole thing.

Instead of revealing the truth while alive, Rice left a sealed letter with the baseball Hall of Fame, to be opened upon his death. Finally, in October of 1974, the letter was opened, revealing that following:

“… the ball was a line drive headed for the bleachers towards right center, I turned slightly to my right and had the ball in view all the way, going at top speed and about 15 feet from bleachers jumped as high as I could and back handed and the ball hit the center of the pocket in glove (I had a death grip on it). I hit the ground about five feet from a barrier about four feet high in front of bleachers with all my brakes on but couldn’t stop so I tried to jump it to land in the crowd but my feet hit the barrier about a foot from top and I toppled over on my stomach into first row of bleachers, I hit my Adam’s apple on something which sort of knocked me out for a few seconds but McNeeley arrived about that time and grabbed me by the shirt and pulled me out. I remember trotting back towards the infield still carry in the ball for about halfway and then tossed it towards the pitcher’s mound. (How I have wished many times I had kept it.) At no time did I lose possession of the ball.”

Rice’s “revelation” was obviously written in a clever way as to keep the mystery surrounding the event. In fact, a Washington fan claiming to have been sitting in the front row that day claimed that Rice had indeed lost the ball.


“The Twins are gonna win the World Series, the Twins have won it!”

September 1, 2010

I originally wrote this at twinscards.com in 2007.

1991 World Series Game 7
Sunday October 27, 1991
HHH Metrodome

Just hours after Kirby Puckett took the team on his back to win Game 6, the Twins were back at the Metrodome preparing for Game 7. St. Paul native Jack Morris was brought in as a free agent for the 1991 season, and would now take the hill for the most important game of the season. Morris already had a reputation as a big game pitcher, mostly for his efforts in 1984 when he went 3-0 in three post season starts with the Detroit Tigers while holding the opposition to just five runs over 25 innings in that post season. Morris was prepared for another run in the post season, and had promised that “If I feel like King Kong, I’ll throw like King Kong” before the 1991 World Series started.

Morris and the Twins knew that it was likely he was going to need to throw like King Kong in Game 7, because runs weren’t going to come easy for the Twins. Taking the mound for the Braves that night was John Smoltz, then just a 24-year-old most famous for coming to Atlanta in the trade that sent Doyle Alexander to the Tigers for what turned out to be an unsuccessful run in the 1987 playoffs (a year when the Tigers were eliminated by the Twins). Of the big three pitchers for Atlanta, Smoltz may have been the less publicized, but he had quietly gotten the job done, including a very strong showing against the Twins in Game 4.

The game started with a handshake between Atlanta lead off man Lonnie Smith and Twins catcher Brian Harper, who had met earlier in the series under very different circumstances in a violent home plate collision. Whether it was a gesture by Smith to bury the hatchet, or more indicative of the battle that the Series had been up to that point is unclear, but it was a unique start to a baseball game.

Smoltz and Morris, as advertised, settled into a pitcher’s duel immediately. Both retired the side in order in the first inning, then worked around some trouble in the early innings. The Twins got a pair of two out singles off of Smoltz in the second inning, but a Pagliarulo ground out ended that threat. The Braves had runners at first and second with just one out in the third inning when Morris retired Pendleton and Gant in order to keep the score 0-0.

The Braves threatened again in the fifth. Series hero Mark Lemke led off the inning with a single, and had advanced to third on two bunts, the first a sacrifice, the second a bunt single by Lonnie Smith. With runners at the corners and one out, Pendleton and Gant had a chance to redeem themselves for the missed opportunity in the third inning. It was not to be, however, as Morris got an innocent pop up out of Pendleton, and caught Gant looking with a third strike that erupted the crowd and caused Morris to pump his fist as he jogged off the field.

The teams entered the eighth inning with the score still tied at zero. In the top of the frame, Smith led off with a single that brought Pendleton to the plate with Smith on first and no outs. Pendleton launched a drive to left center that should have easily scored Smith, but at the end of the play he had only made it to third. Replays showed Smith pull up when he saw short stop Greg Gagne fake a throw to Knoblauch at second. The bluff confused Smith long enough that he was unable to score the go-ahead run.

Still, the Braves had runners at second and third with no outs and the heart of the lineup due to bat against Morris, so a run seemed inevitable. After Morris induced a weak ground out from Ron Gant, the Twins decided to give David Justice and intentional pass to load the bases for Sid Bream. Bream hit a hard grounder to Hrbek at first who was playing in to cut down the run at home. He did that, then took the return throw from Harper to complete the double play and end the inning with no damage done.

In almost a mirror image of the Atlanta half of the eighth, the Twins loaded the bases with one out in their half. With Kent Hrbek ready to bat, the Braves had brought in Mike Stanton to intentionally walk Puckett and try to wiggle out of the inning. A hard line drive off the bat of the slumping Hrbek was hit right to Braves shortstop Rafael Belliard who easily stepped on second to complete the double play.

The Twins looked like they might end the game in the bottom of the ninth with two consecutive singles to start the inning, but Alejandro Pena came on and got a ground ball double play and a strikeout of pinch hitter Paul Sorrento to send the game into extra innings.

Five years earlier, in Tom Kelly’s first World Series as manager, ace pitcher Frank Viola came to the dugout after the eighth inning of Game 7 with a 4-2 lead and wanted to continue. Kelly didn’t let him, explaining that Reardon had been the man in the ninth all season, and sent his closer out to finish the Series. After Game 7 of 1991, the same manager said the only way he could have removed his starter on that day was “with a shotgun,” and told pitching coach Dick Such after the ninth “it’s just a game, let him go” – so Morris took the mound for the tenth inning, and promptly retired the Braves in order.

Dan Gladden led off the Twins’ tenth with a broken bat looper to short left center. On what most likely should have been a single, Gladden made into a double by hustling around first while the Braves fielders played the ball on the high hop from the Metrodome turf. A perfectly executed sacrifice bunt from rookie Chuck Knoblauch sent Gladden to third, and the Braves opted to walk both Puckett and Hrbek to load the bases with Jarvis Brown on deck, who had entered the game to run for Chili Davis in the ninth.

Kelly called Gene Larkin’s name to face Pena with the bases loaded and one out. Larkin had a bad knee, and had only seen three previous at bats in the series. All that was meaningless, however, when Larkin drove the first pitch he saw over the heads of the drawn in outfield to clinch the World Series for the Twins.


1991: “And We’ll See Ya Tomorrow Night!”

August 31, 2010

I originally wrote this for Twinscards.com in 2007.

1991 World Series Game 6
Saturday October 26, 1991
HHH Metrodome

The 1991 World Series returned to Minneapolis with a completely different feel than it had left five days before. The Twins returned home trailing in the series, three games to two, after the Braves defeated them in Game 5, the only blow out of the series so far. What’s more, Atlanta had Steve Avery on the mound for Game 6, the pitcher that had become something of a phenom in the NLCS. The Twins countered with Scott Erickson, who had been all but untouchable in June of that year, but had run into some post season problems. To many, the Braves seemed like the team of destiny, and Game 6 was when they were likely to achieve that destiny.

Prior to the game, Twins manager Tom Kelly had nothing but praise for Avery.

“You have to give the kid a lot of credit for poise and composure,” Kelly said. “It doesn’t look like he has any fear in his eyes. He’s going to be one of the great ones. We’re going to have to take the ball up the middle against him and scratch for some runs.”

Kelly’s reputation lent some doubt as to whether his praise for the Atlanta pitcher was genuine. There was open speculation in the local papers that it was a ploy to get into the young pitcher’s head.

Master plan or not, the Twins got to Avery early. After Scott Erickson worked around a single and a walk to get out of the first inning unscathed, the Twins offense started with one out in the bottom of the first. After Chuck Knoblauch singled, Kirby Puckett, who had told the rest of the team earlier in the day to “jump on his back,” tripled with a ground ball down the left field line. Puckett later scored when Shane Mack connected with his first base hit of the series two batters later. The Twins held a 2-0 lead over the Avery and the Braves.

Erickson maintained the lead through four innings, not necessarily with dominant pitching. He was helped along the way by some great defensive plays, including Scott Leuis’ jumping grab of a Brian Hunter line drive in the second, and Puckett’s leaping grab of Ron Gant’s drive in the third inning, which robbed Gant of an easy double.

The Braves finally cracked the score board in the fifth, when NL batting champion Terry Pendleton connected with a two-run home run to center field. No sooner had the Braves tied the game than the Twins took the lead again, this time on a sacrifice fly by Puckett in the bottom of the fifth. Erickson retired the Braves in order in the fifth inning, but was ultimately removed from the game after he allowed a lead off single to Mark Lemke, who had been an unlikely October hero for the Braves. Lemke ended up scoring later in the inning to once again tie the game. Erickson’s night was over. Though he wouldn’t get a decision in the game, he had performed well enough for the Kelly, allowing three runs over six plus innings pitched.

Avery, meanwhile, didn’t come out for the seventh inning, and ended his game with three runs on six hits over six innings pitched. The respective bullpens made relatively easy work of the batters over the next several innings, Puckett’s one out single in the eighth and subsequent stolen base notwithstanding. The Braves got a lead off single in the 11th, but it was immediately removed when Keith Mitchell was caught trying to steal second. The score remained tied into the bottom of the 11th.

Five years prior, Charlie Leibrandt was on the hill for Kansas City in a must-win late season game against the first place Minnesota Twins. With a man on and one out in the bottom of the first inning, Kirby Puckett launched a home run to left center that set the tone for an 8-1 Twins win and ultimately a season’s end for the Royals. Now, in an even bigger situation, Bobby Cox called on Leibrandt to extend the game another inning. The first batter he would face: Kirby Puckett.

A 2-1 hanging change up from Leibrandt was the catalyst for arguably the most memorable moment in team history. Puckett launched the ball to left center field where it landed among the 55,155 fans in the Metrodome. As he rounded the bases, fists pumping, Jack Buck made his famous call that set the stage for a memorable Game 7.

Kirby Puckett had been in some way responsible for each of the four Twins runs, and in all likelihood took away an Atlanta run with his catch in the third inning. The Twins went on to win the series in seven, but Kirby Puckett almost single-handedly got them there with his performance in Game 6.


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