Billy-Ball Daily: 2007-5-25

5/25/2007
Billy-Ball Daily
Bill Chuck (Billy-Ball his own self)

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Have a great long weekend

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Top of the 1st
OH, TO HAVE BEEN THERE
It probably is not great to say that I am lucky to be back in physical therapy with Chris Morin and the crack team at Sports and Physical Therapy in Brookline, MA, but in many ways that’s how I feel. Besides Chris’ ability to bend me, shape me, any way he wants me in order to try to knock off the persistent pain in my achy leg, I always get great conversation and laughs. Actually, it’s my job to bring in the topic and yesterday’s was so good that I’m bringing it to you.

Here’s the scenario: you may go back in time to experience any baseball game in history. You know what you are about to see until you arrive on the scene, so that once you are there, you experience it with the same excitement of any other fan.

We batted around a number of choices. I personally rejected “just to say you were there events,” meaning games like Hank Aaron’s breaking the Babe’s record. Aaron broke it early in the season, on April 8, 1974, in the 4th inning off of Al Downing of the Dodgers and the game had little or no meaning. To have been one of the 53,775 people in Atlanta that night would have been exciting, but it was a 7-4 game and it was the fourth game of the season. Not good enough for time travel.

The same is true for October 1, 1961, the day Roger Maris broke Ruth’s single season record. Yes, this time it was the end of the season, but once again, the game had no meaning. Yes, it was a 1-0 game that Maris’ homer won with a line drive homer to right off of Boston rookie Tracy Stallard, but other than that, so what? The Yankees were 56 games over .500 and the red Sox were 10 games under when the game was completed. Once again, to be one of the 23,154 to see the record being set would have been memorable but other than that, it’s not enough.

So, what is enough?

I’m glad you asked. I came up with loads of choices, most of them were World Series games, but I decided I would present you with only my top three. Now, since I created this exercise, why I put myself through this torture, I don’t know, but I think that’s all part of the excitement of it. I mean regretfully I had to put aside Joe Carter’s World Series homer, Chris Chambliss’ homer that put the Yanks into the post season, “The Double” in Seattle, Game 6 of the ALCS in 2004, Boone’s homer off of Wakefield, McCovey’s liner in Game 7 in 1962, Bucky “Frickin'” Dent, Kirby Puckett’s exploits in 1991 or to see the great pitching duel in the 1991 finale, Chris Burke’s homer, Francisco Cabrera’s single in 1992, Edgar Renteria in 1997, Game 6 in the ’86 Series, and “The Day Grady Little Lost His Job.”

But if I could only pick my top three, I had to leave out some of the greatest moments, greatest spectacles, greatest games. I had to leave two more out and these are the ones that hurt. I left out October 15, 1986, when the Mets and Astros had the spectacular Game 6 of the NLCS. But, I think the one that hurt even more was October 15, 1988, the night of Kirk Gibson’s homer for the Dodgers in the 9th against Dennis Eckersley. Oh, I would love to have been at that game.

But, instead I would have traveled to Forbes Field, to see, well I’ll let my co-author Jim Kaplan describe what I would have seen, “On October 13, 1960, Bill Mazeroski hit a dramatic 9th inning shot off the Yankees’ Ralph Terry to win the rock-’em, sock-’em seventh game of the World Series 10-9. The only time a walk-off homer ever ended a seven-game Series, it also concluded perhaps the most exciting game in Series history, not to mention what some call the most skilled era baseball has ever known.”

And that was only choice number three.

Choice number two was simpler for me, because once I determined what didn’t make the cut, I knew the final two games I would want to attend. Number two would have placed me in the Polo Grounds, in New York on October 3, 1951, the day that Bobby Thomson hit the Shot Heard ‘Round the World — a three-run, 9th inning homer that gave the New York Giants a 5-4 victory over the Brooklyn Dodgers for the National League pennant in Game Three of the best of three playoffs. The Giants were trailing Brooklyn by 12 1/2 games on August 11 (read that again Red Sox Nation) and ended up with Thomson dancing around the bases with a 5-4 victory that sent the Giants to the Series and the Dodgers home. Oh, my goodness! To have been there would have been amazing.

But the ticket I would like to have had would be one to enter Yankee Stadium on October 8, 1956, Game Five of the World Series that was tied two games apiece. That afternoon I would have been one of 64,519 to see the Yankees win 2-0. But those 126 minutes would have been the greatest of my baseball life as I watched Don Larsen’s Perfect Game.

I would have loved it if you could have been there as well.

What’s your choice? Pick your game and email me, Bill@billy-ball.com.

Top of the 2nd
“EUPHORIA”
John Smoltz described his feelings about last night’s Atlanta Braves’ 2-1 victory over the New York Mets, “Euphoria,” Smoltz said. Smoltz last night became baseball’s first pitcher with 200 wins and 150 saves by throwing seven shutout innings and beating Tommy Glavine who he faced for the third time this season. The 40-year-old Smoltz gave up seven hits without a walk and struck out five. In back-to-back wins over Boston and the Mets, Smoltz has thrown 14 scoreless innings while allowing 10 hits and one walk.

Smoltz is 4-1 in May and lowered his ERA from 2.85 to 2.58 and became the 106th pitcher to reach 200 wins and the first with at least 200 wins and 150 saves. He saved an Atlanta-record 154 games as the Braves’ closer from 2001 through 2004. Dennis Eckersley entered the Hall of Fame in 2004 with 197 wins and 390 saves.

The only pitchers with more wins in Atlanta history are Phil Niekro (266) and Glavine (242).

Smoltz also lead all pitchers in post-season victories with 15 and like his opponent Tommy Glavine who has 296 wins, is Cooperstown bound.

Top of the 3rd
MARINERS COMEBACK FALLS SHORT
Seven of Tampa Bay’s nine starters drove in at least one run, and after four innings, the Devil Rays led 12-4. By the time the game ended, the Rays had won 13-12 despite four Seattle field goals.

Top of the 4th
CLEVELAND WINS, CLEVELAND TIES
Jeremy Sowers scattered six hits over seven innings and earned his first win of the season as the Cleveland Indians topped the Kansas City Royals, 10-3.

This was the 486th game between these two teams since the Royals came into existence in 1969. The two teams are tied with 243 wins.

Top of the 5th
GETTING CHASED
Here is the all-time managerial ejection chart.
Manager Teams Games
1. John McGraw Orioles/Giants 131
2. *Bobby Cox Blue Jays/Braves 128
3. Leo Durocher Dodgers/Giants/Cubs/Astros 124
4. Earl Weaver Orioles 98
5. Frankie Frisch Cardinals/Pirates/Cubs 86
6. Paul Richards White Sox/Orioles 80
7. *Tony La Russa White Sox/Athletics/Cardinals 73
8. *Lou Piniella Yankees/Reds/Mariners/D. Rays/Cubs 71

Top of the 6th
IN THE CARDS?
Braden Looper won for the third time in four outings and Yadier Molina extended his hitting streak to 15 games and had two RBI as the Cards defeated the Pirates, 3-1, to complete a three-game sweep. Both of the Cardinals’ sweeps this season have come against the Pirates, the other on the road in April. Before the series, the defending World Series champions had lost five in a row and were nine games below .500.

Including this series against the Pirates, the Cardinals will have five consecutive series against sub-.500 teams. Stretch their schedule out into late June, past six games with Kansas City, and 23 of their next 26 games are against opponents with losing records.

In the words of The King (not Ray King, Elvis), “It’s now or never.”

Top of the 7th
PROBABLE PITCHERS
Away Home Time (ET) Away Probable Home Probable
Angels Yankees 7:05 p.m. Weaver (3-3) Clippard (1-0)
Indians Tigers 7:05 p.m. Byrd (4-1) Robertson (4-3)
Mets Marlins 7:05 p.m. Hernandez (2-1) Mitre (2-2)
Athletics Orioles 7:05 p.m. Haren (4-2) Bedard (3-2)
Pirates Reds 7:10 p.m. Maholm (2-6) Harang (5-2)
Phillies Braves 7:35 p.m. Moyer (4-3) Hudson (5-2)
Red Sox Rangers 8:05 p.m. Matsuzaka (6-2) McCarthy (4-4)
Mariners Royals 8:10 p.m. Hernandez (2-2) Meche (3-2)
Blue Jays Twins 8:10 p.m. Litsch (1-1) Baker (1-0)
Nationals Cardinals 8:10 p.m. Bowie (0-2) Reyes (0-7)
Devil Rays White Sox 8:11 p.m. Shields (3-0) Buehrle (2-1)
Astros D-Backs 9:40 p.m. Williams (1-6) Gonzalez (1-2)
Brewers Padres 10:05 p.m. Bush (3-4) Maddux (3-3)
Rockies Giants 10:15 p.m. Hirsh (2-4) Cain (2-4)
Cubs Dodgers 10:40 p.m. Lilly (4-2) Lowe (4-5)

Top of the 8th
DID YOU KNOW?
Mets’ first base coach Howard Johnson was excused last night so he could attend the high school graduation of his son, Glen. Johnson’s son could be drafted in June.

Congratulations, HoJo – fried clam rolls all around!

Top of the 9th
HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND
Billy-Ball is taking a three day weekend as here in the States we celebrate Memorial Day. Monday I will be memorializing my energy.

This weekend I will be watching Jen guard the 8-feet high by 24-feet wide net area for Vito and the Blastettes as you watch the action on the perfect diamond. But, I know we will have a Blast and I trust you will have one as well.

Thank you all again for your support, emails, and new subscribers.

See you on Tuesday.

Have a great weekend1

Bottom of the 9th
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Information provided in Billy-Ball has been gathered from A.P. reports, espn.com, sportsline.com, mlb.com and numerous other e-sources. Opinions expressed in Billy-Ball are obviously solely the opinions of the author of Billy-Ball and do not reflect those of source material no matter how off the wall they may be.