Tuesday, October 4, 2022

SIZZLING UP THE SECOND HALF/2: 1910-1919

We return to the series we started during an off-day in the epic, just-completed journey with the 1962 Giants-Dodgers pennant race, where we look at the best second-half performances by hitters. We're still tracking Aaron Judge (still at 61 HRs with two games left in the 2022 season) to see where his stellar second-half performance this year will land in the all-time rankings; as he's struggled a bit since our first post in this series (posted on September 24th), his OPS+ value for the last half of this season has slipped to ninth best all-time (it was formerly 6th).

[Before we move on, let's look at the second-half hitter from 1962 who made it to the Top 300. If you were paying attention during the long series, you might be able to guess who it is. 

It's Frank Robinson, who ranks 127th all-time, with a second-half slash line of .344/.428/.663, which translates into a 204 OPS+ for the second half of 1962. (At some point, we'll compile how many second-half leaders wound up as league MVPs. Sadly, Frank's 1962 season won't be one of them.)]

The 1910-19 results that we post in this entry are almost certainly not going to be affected by whatever happens with Judge over the next two days, so we're safe in resuming our look at this intriguing exercise in offensive asymmtery.

As we've seen from our first post, the names of the high achievers in second-half offensive excellence are often quite familiar, but there are always some surprises along the way. Let's get to it...we begin with a look at the half-seasons from 1910-11 that cracked the Top 300 all-time:


1911 (and 1912) represented something of a thaw in the Deadball Era and its "inside baseball" approach, though it was not reflected in the shape of offense just yet (a strong harbinger of that will appear in the 1919 data. But we see some inkling of this in the ISOBAs of Sherry Magee and Frank "Wildfire" Schulte (in case you've forgotten or are coming across this term for the first time, ISOBA is simply the ratio of a player's isolated power, or SLG-BA, to his batting average). Schulte's very modest total of nine second-half homers in 1910 was, as the red ink depicts, the top mark in that stat up to that point in time. 

Unsurprisingly Ty Cobb is here both years, though he had a much more muted performance by his standards in 1911. Joe Jackson is the big news here, with his .434 second half in '11 vaulting him into the Top 40 (remember, the "top 40" really constitutes 43 hitter half-seasons).


In 1912-13 we have many of the usual suspects (Cobb, Jackson, Tris Speaker) but we also get some interesting names one might not expect to see here. In the case of Beals Becker, a mid-season trade from the Reds to the Phillies appears to have been the primary catalyst for his second-half performance; oddly, he did not take advantage of the Baker Bowl that season, as did his teammate Gavvy Cravath.

We'll eventually compile a list of all those who managed to hit .400 or higher in a half-season (first half as well as second). When we do, Hall of Fame second baseman Johnny Evers, not known for his lusty bat, will be among them.

And Ty Cobb's second-half triples total in 1912 speaks to the often startling asymmetry that shows up in this data. From that total of 19 you'd possibly expect that Cobb had at least 30 triples that year; in fact, his season total was only 23. (Of course, we say "only" with tongue firmly planted in cheek, but you get the idea.)


We've seen Speaker, Cobb, Collins and Magee before, but Steve Evans is a new name--this is from his tenure in the short-lived Federal League, where he and Benny Kauff (we'll see him in the 1915 second-half leaders) were the top offensive stars. 

Speaker has the top second-half this year, though it wasn't enough to help the Red Sox overtake the Philadelphia A's, who were shockingly swept by the Boston Braves in that year's World Series. A shame the Sox could not find a way to overtake the A's, as it would have created the only Boston v. Boston World Series in baseball history...


We'll skip through the next four years of the soon-to-vanish Deadball Era, which is primarily dominated by the folks we've seen so many times already: Cobb, Speaker, Collins and Jackson. Ty does set a new record for the highest second-half batting average, however (.443 in 1918). 


1919 is a good bit more interesting, despite the paucity of incidences. This is Babe Ruth's first full season as an outfielder (with a bit of Ohtani-like pitching thrown in) and his second half is already shockingly modern. His ISOBA is over 1.000 (the first time in history, and it was over 1.000 for the full season as well). He sets records for second-half HRs (18) and walks (58). These offensive numbers have a strikingly different shape, and will over time become the norm for what we see in performance leaders (in both full and half-seasons). It stands out in the last year of the Deadball Era like a neon sign in the desert, and is good for 18th place overall in terms of second-half OPS+.

We'll be back soon with a look at 1920-29...

Monday, October 3, 2022

60 YEARS AGO/158: FOUR THE HARD WAY

It's a familiar story to us...because it was a repeat performance. The Giants scored four in the bottom of the ninth inning at the Polo Grounds in 1951 to win a three-game playoff and go on to lose the World Series to the New York Yankees; on 10/3/62, they'd score four in the top of the ninth, win another three-game playoff--and go on to lose another World Series to the Yankees.

But the background of this "repeat performance" has become obscured by the passage of time (and other, more spectacular memories that have intervened). So here is some of what has been pushed aside:

--Johnny Podres pitched for the Dodgers on two days' rest. 

--The fielding for both teams remained on the sloppy side. 

--Walt Alston stayed with his veterans Duke Snider (left field) and Wally Moon (first base). One delivered in Game Three; the other did not.

--Another attempt at a "heroic" relief appearance (four or more innings helping a team to come from behind) fell apart in the final, decisive inning.

The Giants scored twice in the third to get out in front, and it could have been worse. Podres threw wildly to second on Juan Marichal's sacrifice bunt attempt. Johnny Roseboro threw wildly to second when it appeared they had Marichal picked off. Podres induced Orlando Cepeda to hit into an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded to keep the game close. 

In the bottom of the fourth, Snider hit a lead-off double, but had to hold at third on Tommy Davis' single to left because it was hit so hard. The Dodgers were still have problems hitting, however, and they just barely cashed in on this runners at second and third and no out situation; Davis' take-out slide at second allowed Frank Howard to beat out what otherwise might have been a double play. The Giants still led, 2-1.

That changed in the bottom of the sixth, when Snider and Davis teamed up to turn the game around. Snider slapped Marichal's 1-1 pitch into left field for a single, and Tommy D., trying to hang on to his batting title, homered into the left field pavilion to give LA the lead.

Maury Wills. who'd stolen his 102nd base back in the third inning, then manufactured an insurance run for the Dodgers by singling (his fourth straight hit off Marichal), and stealing second. He then took off for third, stealing #104 and coming home to score when Ed Bailey air-mailed his throw past Jim Davenport into left field.

All that led up to the fateful ninth, when Walt Alston decided to stretch Ed Roebuck into a fourth inning. In retrospect, he might have been better off bringing in Ron Perranoski, as the Giants had two lefty hitters among the first three man coming up in the inning. But he didn't do that.

Five batters later, the score was 4-3, the bases were loaded, and Alston brought in Stan Williams, who, in a reversal of his performance in Game Two, was unable to strand any runners, and walked in the go-ahead run. Then and only then did Alston call for Perranoski, who was sabotaged by second baseman Larry Burright booting a grounder, permitting the fourth run to score. (Burright, along with Stan Williams, would find himself playing for different team the following year.)

Billy Pierce, who'd shut down the Dodgers in SF two days earlier, came in for SF and retired the Dodgers in order: ground out by Wills, fly out by Jim Gilliam, and line out by Lee Walls. Final score: Giants 6, Dodgers 4.

--A long winter of discontent set in for the Dodgers, who contemplated changes in management. But cooler heads prevailed; in '63, Sandy Koufax rebounded completely from his injury and late-season ineffectiveness (the Dodgers went 34-6 in the games he pitched), and LA would win three of the next four pennants, including World Series titles in 1963 and 1965.

The Giants, with home field advantage, would play an intermittently exciting, but rain-marred World Series that proved to be most memorable for its disappointing conclusion (Willie McCovey's line drive caught by Bobby Richardson to foil a ninth-inning rally in Game 7 in a game the Giants lost 1-0). 

That frustration would linger for decades, as it took more than twenty-five years for them to return to the World Series (1989, where they were swept by their cross-town rivals, the Oakland A's) and another twenty-one years to actually win one (2010).

Sunday, October 2, 2022

60 YEARS AGO/157: FOUR HOURS, FOUR PITCHERS (TWICE)...& "MR. FOUR-EYES" COMES THROUGH

10/2/62 gave us the longest nine-inning game in history--up to that point, at least (but the record set in this game held up for more than forty years)--as it took four hours and eighteen minutes to bring the game to a conclusion.

It started out as a pitcher's duel between Don Drysdale (working on two days rest) and Jack Sanford (who uncharacteristically struck out the side in the first innng). The Giants scored a run in the top of the second when Felipe Alou doubled home Orlando Cepeda, but Drysdale--working much more deliberately than usual--turned back potential Giants rallies in the third and fourth innings. Sanford dodged a bullet in the fourth when Duke Snider's screaming liner to center field was run down by Willie Mays with two men on base.

Drysdale finally weakened in the top of the sixth, walking Tom Haller and leaving a fastball too over the plate to Jose Pagan, who smoked a grounder past Tommy Davis at third for a double. Sanford was up next, and after two unsuccessful bunt attempts, slapped one off Drysdale's glove; Big D ran after the ball, whirled and threw a sinker to home that bounded off catcher Johnny Roseboro's shinguards as Haller lumbered home. The ball got away, allowing the Giants' catcher to score, and the floodgates opened: before the inning was over, Drysdale had been chased and the Giants had opened up a 5-0 lead.

But this wasn't anything close to your normal sixth inning, as the Dodgers were about to prove. Jack Sanford walked Jim Gilliam--and received one of the quickest "quick hooks" in history. As things would turn out, Giants' manager Al Dark had led with his chin, bringing in his erstwhile ace reliever, Stu Miller, as the "first responder." (He certainly wouldn't be the last!

Duke Snider doubled, sending Gilliam to third; Tommy Davis then hit a drive to dead center field that Willie Mays grabbed at the wall, quite possibly preventing a home run: Gilliam scored and Snider made it to third, getting the Dodgers their first run in three days. 

Wally Moon walked; Frank Howard then rifled a single to left that was hit so hard that Moon had to scamper as fast as he could so as not to be thrown out at second. It was now 5-2 Giants.

Dark replaced Miller with Billy O'Dell. which did not "spell relief." Doug Camilli singled to load the bases, and then O'Dell hit Andy Carey with a 2-2 pitch to force in another run and bring up Lee Walls to bat for Ed Roebuck. 

Walls, acquired in the off-season from the Mets, was a kind of poor man's version of Frank Howard: not quite as big (6'3" instead of 6'7") but equally bespectacled. He was supposed to provide some power off the bench against lefties, but he'd failed to hit a single homer all season. O'Dell made him look bad on two curve balls, but on the 1-2 pitch he came with a fastball--which Walls promptly hit off the left-center field wall  to clear the bases, giving LA a 6-5 lead.

That brought in Don Larsen, who gave up a single to Maury Wills to score Walls. Maury stole his 101st base, but Willie Mays threw him out trying to advance to third after Johnny Orsino's throw skipped into center field. Jim Gilliam, who'd started things off with a walk nearly three-quarters of an hour earlier, then flew out to end the inning--but the Dodgers had gotten off the deck for seven runs and now led 7-5.

Of course, they couldn't help but squander the lead in the very next inning, as Ron Perranoski proved distressingly hittable. Things got dicey enough that Walt Alston wound up bringing in the inhabitant of the team's doghouse, Stan Williams, in order to stop the bleeding. Williams did so, but the Giants got two in the inning to knot the game at 7-7.

Stan pitched a strong ninth as well, striking out a couple of batters and finally looking like the pitcher he was back in 1960. In the bottom of the inning, Al Dark would match his total of pitchers in a single inning (4) that he'd already used in the sixth--in a desperate attempt to keep LA from scoring the game-winning run. Here's how it went: Bobby Bolin walked Maury Wills; Dick LeMay walked Jim Gilliam; Gaylord Perry (you remember: "Young Gaylord") was brought into counter Alston's move to bat righty-hitting Daryl Spencer for Duke Snider; Spencer sacrificed, putting the winning run just ninety feet away.

Then Mike McCormick relieved Perry, which left folks scratching their heads. "Why bring in a lefty to face Tommy Davis?" some folks wondered. Why, all the better to issue the free pass to load the bases and allow the southpaw to face the slumping Ron Fairly (a lefty batter). And sure enough, McCormick got two quick strikes on Ron.

But Fairly connected on the 0-2 pitch, driving a liner into center field. Mays raced to his left to catch it, but his throw home was not in time to catch Wills, who scored the winning run to force a winner-take-all game the following day. Final score: Dodgers 8, Giants 7. 

(How often does a manager use four pitchers in an inning two ties in a game? It's a question for the folks at Baseball Reference to answer exactly, but the answer must be: not very darned often. (The other question to ask: what's the team won-loss record when it has to resort to using four pitchers in an inning? Another question for BB-ref, and another that we can likely summarize in three worlds--not very good!)

SEASON RECORDS: LAD 102-62; SFG 102-62

Saturday, October 1, 2022

60 YEARS AGO/156: STILL SWOONING BY THE BAY...

Still in shock, the Dodgers took the field on 10/1/62 in San Francisco after a 3-10 stretch in the second half of September that had seen them fall into a tie for first place on the final day of the season. They'd stopped hitting toward the end of that swoon, and the somewhat hasty return of Sandy Koufax had not arrested their fall. As Koufax explains in his autobiography, LA found itself in a drastic situation in terms of their starting rotation as the playoff series commenced:

"Our pitching staff was in terrible shape. [Johnny] Podres had pitched that afternoon [9/30] and had lost a tough 1-0 game. Don [Drysdale] had gone the day before and lost 2-0. During the trip to San Francisco, Walt Alston and [pitching coach] Joe Becker called me over to their seat to ask me if I thought I could go the next day. The message was clear enough: there wasn't anybody else. If I could give them four or five good innings, they could send the bullpen in to finish up."

So Koufax started the first playoff game against fellow lefty Billy Pierce, with a 11-0 record at Candlestick Park in 1962 (his inaugural season with the Giants). It did not go well for LA, and the first reason for this was Koufax, as he notes:

"I had nothing at all. The infuriating part of it was that I knew just where I was, as afar as my conditioning went. I was at the low point of the [spring] training drought. I know it sounds like an alibi, but that doesn't make it any less true. One more start, and I'd probably have been ready to come around.

One of the papers the next day said that I'd try to decoy the Giants by serving up slow stuff. I wish had: that wasn't a decoy, that was my fastball."

Willie Mays hit the first of two homers in the game against Koufax in the first; Jim Davenport hit one in the second, knocking Sandy out of the game. Ed Roebuck kept the game close for the next four innings, but Mays (#49) and Orlando Cepeda (#35) greeted Larry Sherry with back-to-back homers in the sixth, making it 5-0. Jose Pagan hit a bases-loaded double off Ron Perranoski to toss some more sand in LA's wounds. 

The first six hitters in the Dodger lineup went hitless against Pierce, who cruised to his 16th win of the year and 12th at home, throwing a three-hit shutout. The two teams then both boarded airplanes and flew back to Los Angeles, where the remainder of the playoff series (no matter how long or short) would be played. Final score: Giants 8, Dodgers 0.

SEASON RECORDS: SFG 102-61, LAD 101-62

Friday, September 30, 2022

60 YEARS AGO/155: ONE HUNDRED & SIXTY-TWO IS NOT ENOUGH...

Pitcher's duels were front and center on 9/30/62, the ostensible end of the baseball season that year. Things were wrapped up in the American League: the New York Yankees, after a period of sluggish play (and with less "slugg-ish" heroics from the "M&M boys"--63 homers between them, as opposed to 115 in 1961) had pulled things together once again...and, like everyone else, awaited the outcome of the Giants-Dodgers marathon.

The two Sunday afternoon games would take time to unfold, and would not be decided until the late innings. In San Francisco, Turk Farrell tempted fate and took the ball from Houston Colts' manager Harry Craft despite having already lost 19 times; the hard-luck hurler shrugged, suggesting that "20 is a nice round number no matter which side of the ledger it appears on." 

For the Giants, Billy O'Dell had a shot at winning his 20th. "Whatever happens, happens," he said to reporters before the game. "We just need to win, period."

Ed Bailey, part of the Giants' curious all left-handed catcher platoon, hit his 17th homer off Farrell in the fourth. Roman Mejias, Bob Aspromonte, and Jim Pendleton slapped together three singles off O'Dell to the game in the top of the sixth. 

O'Dell's chance for twenty wins ended when he was pinch-hit for by the other lefty-hitting catcher on the Giants, Tom Haller, with men on first and third and one out in the bottom of the seventh. Haller's fly to short right was too short to score the tie-breaking run, but Colts' right fielder Roman Mejias threw home anyway, allowing Chuck Hiller to scamper from first to second to put two runners in scoring position. But Matty Alou popped out to end the threat.

It was up to Willie Mays to push the Giants into place to lock down their 101st win: he left off the bottom of the eighth with his 47th homer of the year off Farrell, who kicked up some dust on the pitcher's mound as the ball left the park. Stu Miller retired the Colts in order in the ninth, and the entire city of San Francisco awaited the news from down south. Final score: Giants 2, Colts 1.

DOWN in LA, the Dodgers still couldn't hit worth a lick. But their veteran lefty Johnny Podres was matching pitches with the Cardinals' crafty southpaw Curt Simmons in a game that saw goose-eggs register on the scoreboard for seven consecutive innings. 

LA wasn't helping itself much when someone made a hit, either. In the second, Lee Walls ran his team out of an inning when he tried to stretch his bloop hit down the right field line into a double: Charlie James threw him out. In the bottom of the seventh, Tommy Davis was picked off by Simmons to foil another scoring threat. 

And then, in the top of the eighth, Podres left a 1-2 fastball up to catcher Gene Oliver, who launched a laser beam to left field that left the park like a lightning bolt. Though it was only the first run of the game, it somehow seemed definitive: Simmons retired the Dodgers in order in their last two turns at bat, and LA was on its way to SF. Manager Walt Alston wordlessly waved off reporters as the team boarded the bus that took them to the airport. They'd be playing the Giants in a best-of-three playoff series in less than twenty-four hours. Final score: Cardinals 1, Dodgers 0.

SEASON RECORDS: SFG 101-61, LAD 101-61

 

Thursday, September 29, 2022

60 YEARS AGO/154: THE NOOSE TIGHTENS...

First, a note of correction. The Giants-Colts game reported on in the previous thread was actually part of a day-time doubleheader played in San Francisco on 9/29/62 (Saturday), and not on 9/28/62 as represented in yesterday's post. (The 9/28 game was postponed by rain, which would later become a prominent issue in the World Series.) 

For now we will leave the previous entry alone, using the excuse that both games of this doubleheader were completed before the Dodgers-Cardinals game in LA on 9/29, so that the standings we posted for yesterday were in fact correct after the conclusion of the Giants' 11-5 win over the Colts regardless of what day it was played. 

We pick things up with the second game of the doubleheader between the Giants and Colts, with Juan Marichal facing off against Bob Bruce. Both pitchers were a bit off their game early on: Bruce allowed a home run to Matty Alou, who was riding a late-season hot streak and was now platooning with his older brother. Marichal gave up a run in the top of the first, but his bases-loaded suicide squeeze bunt in the bottom of the second went for a hit and gave the Giants a 2-1 lead.

Norm Larker wiped that out in the top of the third, however, with a two-run homer, and the Colts knocked Marichal out of the game by scoring another run in fifth. Bruce got stronger as the game progressed, allowing just one hit over the final five innings, frustrating the Giants' chances of advancing further in the pennant race. Final score: Colts 4, Giants 2.

The Dodger lead was now set back to 1 1/2 games as they took the field in LA on Saturday evening. Walt Alston decided to go with veterans, moving Tommy Davis to third and putting Duke Snider in left field; he also benched the slumping Ron Fairly and substituted Wally Moon at first. None of it mattered...

...because the Cards' Ernie Broglio tossed a gem, allowing only two hits as he totally stifled LA's offense, striking out nine. Don Drysdale gave up two unearned runs in the second due to Frank Howard's misplay on a Dal Maxvill fly ball; that was all St. Louis was able to manage against him, but on this night that was enough to prevent the Dodgers from clinching the pennant. LA went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position (RISP). Howard, with a chance to redeem himself in the bottom of the ninth, batting as the potential tying run, hit Broglio's first pitch into a game-ending double play. Final score: Cardinals 2, Dodgers 0.

SEASON RECORDS: LAD 101-60, SFG 100-61

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

60 YEARS AGO/153: THE FINAL WEEKEND MAELSTROM COMMENCES...

The Cardinals and Colts changed places on 9/28/62 for the final three games of the season. One of these teams would have an outsized effect on the ultimate shape of the pennant race...

...and that team was not the Houston Colts, who fell apart in the first two innings on Friday the 28th after giving Giants fans a scare by scoring two runs in the top of the first against SF's erstwhile ace Jack Sanford. The Giants scored five runs off Ken Johnson in the bottom of the inning, and added four more in the second (capped by Tom Haller's three-run homer off knuckleballer Bobby Tiefenauer).

Sanford, the beneficiary of 6.5 runs of offensive support at Candlestick, bobbed and weaved all night, and had to be bailed out in the sixth inning, but he'd gone far enough to complete his second dozen carton of eggs with "W's" painted on them. (The win also raised his home record to 14-1, which is what 6.5 runs of offensive support can do for you.) Stu Miller had an uneventful 3 1/3 innings of relief, and the Giants were home free. Final score: Giants 11, Colts 5.

DOWN in LA, Walt Alston made his decision the night before about who'd pitch the opening game of what was now fast becoming a fateful series. And how did he do that? By using Stan Williams in the final inning of the team's 8-6 loss to the Colts. (When he did that, Williams might've just started to pack his bags, as this action did more than merely suggest that Alston had lost all confidence in him--it shouted it from the rooftops. Williams was traded in the off-season to the New York Yankees for Bill Skowron.)

Rookie lefty Pete Richert got the start, with Alston making whiplash motions in the dugout from the very first inning as he practiced his quick hook. The game first displayed as low-scoring and tight, however, with the Dodgers striking first for an unearned run in the bottom of the first, with St. Louis parrying with a tying run in the second (and bailing the Dodgers out of more potential trouble when catcher Gene Oliver tried to take third on Dal Maxvill's RBI single to left and was thrown out).

In the top of the fourth, Richert gave up two singles after retiring the first batter. Alston was unable to wait any longer; despite the fact that his bullpen had been primarily responsible for losing the game just the night before, he brought in Ed Roebuck, who walked the bases loaded before pitching out of the jam (aided by facing the bottom of the batting order.) But in the fifth, Roebuck surrendered a run when Stan Musial brought home Julian Javier with an RBI single, after Javier had singled and been sacrificed to second by Curt Flood

Larry Sherry replaced Roebuck in the sixth and pitched out of jams in that inning and the seventh as well; in the bottom of the inning Alston used his two veteran lefty hitters, Duke Snider and Wally Moon, as part of a desperate effort to take advantage of Cardinal starter Larry Jackson's momentary loss of home plate. Maury Wills, still riding a hot bat in September, singled in the tying run amid the shouts of "brand new ball game!" from Dodger fans. But Jim Gilliam grounded out to end the rally.

Ron Perranoski entered the game in the eighth, and mowed down the Cards for two innings--matched by Larry Jackson. It was the tenth inning that proved to be fateful. Flood and Musial opened the inning with singles, setting up runners at first and third with no outs. Ken Boyer then smacked a grounder to third, with Flood breaking for the plate on contact. Dodger third baseman Andy Carey's throw home was true, and Flood was out, with runners now at first and second.

That brought up Bill White, who grounded to first; Ron Fairly went for the double play, but White beat the relay back to first, putting runners on first and third with two out. With an 0-2 count on Charlie James, White took off for second; Johnny Roseboro held the ball, ensuring that pinch-runner Bobby Gene Smith could not try to steal the go-ahead run. James then hit the 1-2 pitch into right field for a single, scoring Smith--but White was thrown out at home on a strong throw from Frank Howard.

But LA was now down a run, and were down to their last at-bats. Wills tried to bunt on the 0-1 pitch and popped it up; Larry Jackson--still in the game--caught it for the first out. Jim Gilliam then hit Jackson's first pitch into right field for a single. The slumping Willie Davis, put back in the #3 slot against the righthander, had his fifth at-bat of the game and swung at the first pitch for the fourth time, smacking a grounder to first baseman White; the man called 3-Dog did not dog it down the baseline, and beat the relay throw on the attempted 363 double play to keep LA's flickering hopes alive.

Tommy Davis. leading the league in BA and RBI, quickly fell behind Jackson 0-2, took a stroll around home plate, got back in the box--and hit the next pitch on one hop to Boyer at third...who threw him out. Final score: Cardinals 3, Dodgers 2 (ten innings). The Dodgers' lead was back down to one game.

SEASON RECORDS: LAD 101-59, SFG 100-60

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

60 YEARS AGO/152: SAVAGED BY THE SIXTH, GORED BY THE SEVENTH...

Only three games were played in MLB on Thursday 9/27/62; two of them were central to the still-unresolved NL pennant race.

Billy O'Dell and the Giants made it clear that they were not going to gain any ground on the Dodgers very early in their game against the St. Louis Cardinals: by the time SF batted in the bottom of the fifth, they trailed 7-0. Cards manager Johnny Keane decided to start Stan Musial against the lefty O'Dell, and Stan the Man responded with three straight singles, two of them in scoring innings. (Musial wound up 5-for-5 for the night.)

Don Larsen served up a game-crushing three-run homer to catcher Gene Oliver when he came into relieve O'Dell. If he'd retired Oliver instead, the Giants would have tied up the game in the eighth when Ed Bailey hit a three-run homer of his own. But as it turned out, it just got them close--they did get the tying run to the plate in the inning, but little Bobby Shantz got Felipe Alou to ground out to short to end the inning--and the Giants' chances. Final score: Cardinals 7, Giants 4.

DOWN in LA, it looked as though Sandy Koufax had gotten things together in his second start since returning from the contretemps with his finger--he mowed down the Houston Colts for three inning, fanning four. In the bottom of the third, Frank Howard's two-run double capped a three-run Dodger outburst that had Dodger fans cheering and singing as the ongoing action in the Giants-Cards game was transmitted to them. A win by LA coupled with a Giant loss would clinch a tie for the pennant with three games to go.

But baseball is a game where the momentum can shift suddenly and drastically. Koufax held his 3-0 lead in the fourth, despite giving up his first hit (to the colorfully named yet totally forgotten Al Heist). In the fifth, however, after he'd walked the pesky Bob Aspromonte, his first pitch to Roman Mejias was too fat--and the Colts' HR leader smacked his 24th of the year to get Houston within one run.

LA scored in the bottom of the inning, knocking out ex-Dodger Jim Golden, but Frank Howard hit into an inning-ending double play with men on first and third. But no worries yet...it was 4-2 and Koufax looked pretty strong.

But Walt Alston decided that Sandy had thrown enough for the night (73 pitches) and decided to trust the game to his bullpen. And all three of his top relievers would fail him in this game.

Ed Roebuck took over in the sixth. He walked Johnny Temple, then got Al Spangler to foul out. On his first pitch to ex-Dodger Norm Larker, Temple stole a page from the Dodger playbook at stole second. This seemed to unnerve Roebuck, who left his slider over the plate on a 2-2 to Larker, who tripled off the top of the right-center field wall, scoring Temple. With the tying run now at third and the Dodger infield drawn in, Roebuck pitched carefully to Dodger nemesis Bob Aspromonte, who uncharacteristically lunged at a 2-0 pitch and grounded to second. Larker stayed put, and Jim Gilliam tossed to first for the second out. 

But then it was Mejias again. With Alston's penchant for the free pass, one would've thought he'd bypass the Colts' most dangerous hitter. But he didn't--and on a 1-0 pitch, Roman lined a single to center, knotting the game at 4-4. 

Alston replaced Roebuck with Larry Sherry, who had evidenced some difficulties with the first batter he faced in a game (.280 BA, .775 OPS). And, disastrously for the Dodgers, that pattern continued: catcher Hal Smith singled to left, sending Mejias (running on the 1-2 pitch) to third. Then the flyweight-hitting SS J.C. Hartman sliced Sherry's fat 2-2 slider down the left field lone for a two-run double. Dodger fans were shocked into silence as the Colts took a 6-4 lead.

The Dodgers rallied against Brunet in the bottom of the sixth, putting the first two men on. Tall (6'4") righty Jim Umbricht came in, and was sabotaged by second baseman Temple, whose throw was wild, loading the bases. LA would get the tying runs home, but via slow grounders. Umbricht would get tougher in the later innings, however...

And in the seventh, Alston (who batted for Sherry in the previous inning) brought in Ron Perranoski, who also had shown some issues with first batters. And--sure enough--Carl Warwick singled. Then Temple hit a slow roller to third baseman Daryl Spencer, just brought into the game for defensive purposes. Spencer's throw pulled Ron Fairly off the bag at first, putting two men on with no one.

Then Al Spangler's sacrifice bunt turned into a nightmare of perfection, dribbling up the third base line slowly enough that Perranoski had to eat the ball. All of a sudden, the Colts had the bases loaded.

But not for long. Alston decided to set the infield at double play depth. Perranoski got a grounder from Norm Larker, but it was hit too slow to turn two. Warwick scored, and Temple moved to third. The Dodgers tried for the DP again, and Bob Aspromonte hit one toward the hole at short that Wills backhanded, but his momentum carried him away from second and he had to windmill a throw to first for the second out...but Temple scored.

And Umbricht then proceeded to strand two Dodger runners in the bottom of the seventh, retired LA in order in the eighth, and got Ron Fairly (in a terrible hitting slump that would continue into the weekend series with the Cardinals) to pop up with two out and a man on in the ninth. The Dodgers, who'd specialized in heroic relief appearances, were undone by Umbricht's four scoreless innings--a most unwelcome display of heroism. Final score: Colts 8, Dodgers 6.

SEASON RECORDS: LAD 101-58, SFG 99-60

Monday, September 26, 2022

60 YEARS AGO/151: IT HAPPENED FOR THE LAST TIME (IN 1962, ANYWAY...)

And what was it that happened for the last time (in 1962, anyway)?

It was the 54th and last time that the Giants and Dodgers both won on the same day.

In San Francisco, Billy Pierce continued to walk on water when pitching at Candlestick Park (in 1962, anyway). Bolstered by big batting support from his batterymate Tom Haller (4 RBI, HR #18) and Orlando Cepeda (HR #33), Pierce improved his season record at the "House of Wind" to 11-0 by fending off the Cardinals for seven innings. A three-run pinch-hit homer from Stan Musial spoiled Billy's shutout, but Don Larsen relieved him and closed things out to lock down the Giants' 99th win of the season. Final score: Giants 6, Cardinals 3.

Down in LA, the Dodgers feasted on the back end of the Houston Colts' starting rotation, amassing 17 hits, including Frank Howard's 31st homer of the year. "Hondo" drove in five runs, pushing that season total to 115, just 33 behind teammate Tommy Davis, who pushed his seasonal BA up to .346 with three hits. 

In the midst of all this, Maury Wills became the first man to steal 100 bases in a season when he and Tommy Davis engineered a double steal in the third inning.

Johnny Podres scattered eight hits over seven innings to win his 14th game, and for reasons known only to those who interpret and codify the slippery save rule, Larry Sherry earned his eleventh save of the year despite entering the game in the ninth inning with a twelve-run lead. Final score: Dodgers 13, Colts 1.

SEASON RECORDS: LAD 101-57, SFG 99-59