Here’s to Gil

Back in the day

Sometimes, I think if I could go back in time, I would have been a Brooklyn Dodgers fan. Between the “Boys of Summer,” their two local rivalries, Branch Rickey, their lovable fans, and their one success and their numerous agonizing failures, it just feels like Ebbets Field was a good place to be in the baseball universe.

But then I think about September 24, 1957 and I can’t imagine the pain.

The Brooklyn Dodgers won one World Championship. On Tuesday, October 4, 1955, Johnny Podres shut out the Yankees, 2-0, in Game 7 of the World Series.

Then the unthinkable happened.

On Tuesday, September 24, 1957, a mere 721 days later, 19,358 days ago today, the Brooklyn Dodgers played their last game at Ebbets Field. The next season, they moved to Los Angeles to play forever.

I simply can’t imagine what it must have felt like to have your still beating heart ripped from your soul and packed up to move across country. I felt betrayed when the New York football Giants moved to New Jersey, so I can’t imagine what this must have been like.

In 1962, the National League returned to New York. Not to Brooklyn, but to upper Manhattan, to the Polo Grounds where the other deserters, the NY Giants had played, as the New York Mets were born. Made up of the colors of these former teams, the blue of the Dodgers and the orange of the Giants, the team at its start was always more Dodger-like, than the more mature Giants. They were daffy, hapless, and incredibly engaging.

To be appealing to their fan base, the team would gather washouts, has-beens, and those who never-weres, but were recognizable names, for their roster. As often as possible, they were former Dodgers or Giants.

The 1962 model included former Dodgers Charlie Neal, Joe Pignatano, Don Zimmer, Roger Craig, Clem Labine, and the beloved Gil Hodges. Tim Harkness, Chico Fernandez, Norm Sherry, and the “Duke of Flatbush” himself, Duke Snider joined the following year.

Of all these guys, it was Hodges who had the greatest impact on the Mets. He had been beloved in Brooklyn. In 1952, churches all around Brooklyn prayed for Gil to get a hit in the World Series. He went 0-for-21; which proves either there is no god or god is a Yankee fan.

Gil was toast when he joined the Mets, seemingly a prerequisite to be added to the roster. But, any organization was better simply because this fine man was part of it. He didn’t last long, playing his final game on May 5, 1963 and soon was managing the Washington Senators. He actually had been traded to Washington for Jimmy Piersall for the express purpose of replacing Mickey Vernon as manager. He was in charge of their improving ballclub until October 11, 1967, when he became the manager of the Mets.

Hodges replaced the former Giants catcher Wes Westrum, who had succeeded former Yankee, Dodger and Giant Casey Stengel (see how that connection keep popping up?) who had resigned three weeks earlier. Hodges had a year to go on his contract, but the Mets paid a “substantial amount” of cash believed to be in excess of $50,000 and Bill Dennehy in indemnity to the Senators. Hodges was to be paid between $50,000 – $60,000. The announcement was made in Boston, just three hours before Game 6 of the 1967 Series game between the Sox and the Cardinals. The Impossible Dream team beat the Cardinals to stay alive for one more game.

As Joseph Durso reported in the New York Times, the Mets were in 10th place when he left the team, and 10th place when he returned. But they did not stay there for long. But there was to be a misstep (and what turned out to be a precursor) along the way.

On September 24, 1968 Hodges complained of chest pains while in the dugout in Atlanta and was rushed to the hospital. While recovering from his mild heart attack, coach Rube Walker, another former Brooklyn Dodger, finished off the season as the Mets finished in ninth place. One year, 365 days, a mere 8760 hours later on September 24, 1969, 14,975 days ago today, with Hodges back in the dugout, Gary Gentry tossed a four-hitter as the Mets became first team to clinch a National League East title.

It was Amazin’.

Here’s to Gil.

Last night

If it is Friday, it must be the Giants turn to be back in first place in the continually exciting NL West. This is turning out to be a great race of historical proportions. It is too bad that so much of the country is asleep for many of the results. I sense some very tired mornings in my near future.

  • The Giants great pitching continued as their bats came alive in a 13-0 destruction of the Cubs at Wrigley. In the 2nd inning, Juan Uribe hit a grand slam and a two-run homer, as the Giants scored nine times.
  • Madison Bumgarner (6-6) allowed seven hits over seven innings and struck out a career-high nine.
  • The shutout lengthened their 17-game streak in which San Francisco has allowed no more than three runs by its opponent.
  • The 1972 Indians and 1981 Athletics also went 16 straight games of giving up three or fewer runs.
  • Hiroki Kuroda pitched eight innings and allowed one run on five hits, struck out four and walked one as the Dodgers beat the Padres, 3-1. The Padres fell a half-game behind the San Francisco Giants.
  • The tuckered Friar, Mat Latos (14-8) lost his third straight decision, charged with three runs and six hits over five-plus innings after allowing 13 runs in 5.1 in his previous two starts.
  • The Rockies lost another critical game, 10-9, and were swept by the Arizona Diamondbacks. My NL MVP, Carlos Gonzalez went 2-for-5 with a homer and six RBI.
  • Gonzalez leads the NL with a .342 average, in fourth place in the NL with 33 homers, and has overtaken Albert Pujols by one to lead the league in RBI with 113.
  • The Tampa Bay Rays crushed the Yankees and CC Sabathia, 10-3. B.J. Upton and Carl Crawford each drove in two runs in a seven-run 6th inning.
  • The loss was huge for the New Yorkers who dropped the last two games of this four game set and left them with a tenuous half-game lead in the AL East.
  • More importantly, the win gave Tampa Bay a 10-8 edge in the season series, the first tiebreaker to decide the division title if the teams are tied at the end of the regular season.
  • Yankees reliever Javier Vazquez increased his chances of not being on the postseason roster when he tied an MLB record by hitting three straight batters in the 7th inning as the Rays added two runs without getting a hit with a bat. Another Yankee bust, the Dodgers Jeff Weaver was the last do it, whack-a-moling three Atlanta Braves on Aug. 21, 2004.
  • Derek Jeter went 1-for-3 and has hit safely in a season-high 12 straight games after having an intensive session with batting coach Kevin Long. Jeter is now back up to .267.

Up next

The Giants head to Colorado this weekend to face the Rockies, who are still in the hunt for a postseason slot. While the Padres host the Cincinnati Reds who have a magic number of three to clinch the NL Central. Atlanta heads to Washington hoping that they are the team with the fancy W.

In the AL, the Yanks host the Red Sox, who remain difficult and the Rays host the Mariners, who remain patsies. The Twins, who have clinched the AL Central but are still vying for home-field advantage by securing the best record in the league, head to Detroit.

Contenders’ Upcoming Games

Date NYY TB Date ATL COL PHI SD SF
9/24 BOS SEA 9/24 @WAS SF NYM CIN @COL
9/25 BOS SEA 9/25 @WAS SF NYM CIN @COL
9/26 BOS SEA 9/26 @WAS SF NYM CIN @COL
9/27 @TOR BAL 9/27 FLA LA @WAS CHC
9/28 @TOR BAL 9/28 FLA LA @WAS CHC ARI
9/29 @TOR BAL 9/29 FLA LA @WAS CHC ARI
9/30 @KC 9/30 @STL CHC ARI
10/01 @BOS @KC 10/01 PHI @STL @ATL @SF SD
10/02 @KC 10/02 PHI @STL @ATL @SF SD
10/03 @BOS @KC 10/03 PHI @STL @ATL @SF SD

Standings that matter

American League East
Team W L Pct. GB Home Road East Cent. West L10 Strk
N.Y. Yankees 92 61 .601 51-27 41-34 35-28 23-13 23-13 5-5 L 2
Tampa Bay (10) 91 61 .599 ½ 46-29 45-32 41-28 24-11 19-11 5-5 W 2
American League Central
Team W L Pct. GB Home Road East Cent. West L10 Strk
x-Minnesota 92 60 .605 52-25 40-35 14-18 46-20 24-12 8-2 W 3
National League East
Team W L Pct. GB Home Road East Cent. West L10 Strk
Philadelphia 92 61 .601 51-27 41-34 39-24 21-19 22-10 10-0 W 10
Atlanta (4) 86 67 .562 6 52-23 34-44 33-30 25-16 19-15 4-6 L 3
National League West
Team W L Pct. GB Home Road East Cent. West L10 Strk
San Francisco 86 67 .562 45-30 41-37 19-14 28-14 32-31 6-4 W 1
San Diego (10) 85 67 .559 ½ 42-32 43-35 16-18 24-10 36-33 5-5 L 1
Colorado (7) 82 70 .539 51-24 31-46 16-18 21-16 36-30 4-6 L 4

Wild Card Race

American League
Team W L PCT GB
Tampa Bay 91 61 .599
Boston (4) 84 68 .553 7
National League
Team W L PCT GB
Atlanta 86 67 .562
San Diego (10) 85 67 .559 ½
Colorado (7) 82 70 .539
St. Louis (3) 78 74 .513

If the season ended today

AL Division Series
Tampa Bay Minnesota
at
Texas New York
at
NL Division Series
Cincinnati Philadelphia
at
Atlanta San Francisco
at

Plenty more to come this weekend on Billy-Ball.com