Thursday, May 26, 2022

60 YEARS AGO/44: DIFFERENT PARTNERS, SAME DANCE...

Perhaps the Phillies and Mets waved to each other across the dark, turbid California air space as they swapped places on their West Coast journeys. 

If so, it was unquestionably a forlorn exchange. The Phillies, in fourth place two weeks previously, were in the midst of a 1-8 road trip west of the Mississippi that was part of a stretch in which they'd lose seventeen of twenty. 

The Mets, not to be outdone, followed a successful opening road series in Milwaukee (winning three of four, a feat they would not duplicate until 1964) with a losing skein that moved with them like an occluded front. It followed them home, and stalled over the Polo Grounds for another week, refusing to move on until the consecutive body count reached seventeen.

As you can see, bad pitching can really jump-start a protracted string of losses; the Phillies (above right, from May 12-30) and the Mets (at left, from May 21-June 5) clearly personify that principle. (And, no, that's not a misprint--Roger Craig really did strike out only three batters in his four losing starts during this period. Note, though, that he had a pretty respectable ERA--a long losing streak tends to require at least one guy pitching well but without luck.)

The Mets did try their darnedest, however, to snap this losing streak in two on Saturday, May 26, cuffing around Billy O'Dell for seven hits in three innings and taking a 3-2 lead into the fourth. Unfortunately for them, however, they had Jay Hook on the mound, and not Craig or Bob Miller, and the former electrical engineering student kept giving back the lead--meaning that he kept pitching to Willie Mays (who hit two homers and a triple against him).

Those Mays homers, somewhat unsurprisingly, came at crucial points in the game--the first in the eighth to erase a 5-4 Mets lead, and the second in the tenth with a man on to overturn a 6-5 Mets lead and send them to another defeat. Why Hook was still in there pitching in extra innings is slightly mysterious, but a look at the relief pitcher ERAs in the graphic covering the Mets' pitching during their 17-game losing streak probably explains it. (Of course, we won't dismiss the "Stengel napping on the bench" theory out of hand--this was a day game after a night game.) Final score: Giants 7, Mets 6 (10 innings).

DOWN in LA, the Phillies did manage to score against Sandy Koufax (a Roy Sievers homer in the first), but they could manage only another unearned run the rest of the way as they began to flail at his deliveries in increasing helplessness as the afternoon progressed. Koufax would wind up with 16 strikeouts, and would even contribute an RBI single in the seventh when the Dodgers broke a 3-3 tie. Willie Davis added an insurance run with a homer in the eighth, and "the left arm of God" struck out the side in the ninth to nail down his sixth win and the Dodgers' sixth win in a row...in a streak that would eventually reach thirteen. Final score: Dodgers 6, Phillies 3.

SEASON RECORDS: SFG 31-14, LAD 29-15

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

60 YEARS AGO/43: EVERYONE HAD THEIR HITTING CLOTHES ON...

We should amend that headline to note that three of the four teams in our two featured games on Friday, May 25, 1962, also had their walking clothes on. The Dodgers and Mets each drew six walks, while the Giants drew eight, including three from the normally swing-happy Chuck Hiller

The Phillies drew only three walks, but they would eventually compile eleven hits as they tried to overcome a nine-run deficit at Candlestick Park. They didn't make it, but Al Dark seemed intent on giving them a bushelful of chances (to paraphrase Rhoda Penmark) to do so. (The real-life Rhoda, actress Patty McCormack, would blanch at such a thought--a good Brooklyn girl from the get-go, McCormack is a lifelong Dodger fan.)

Once again, Willie Mays and Orlando Cepeda were in the middle of things, each hitting their 14th homer and knocking Phillies starter Jack Hamilton out of the game in the fifth. Frank Sullivan must have felt the presence of the Bad Seed during his brief but unmerciful relief stint, for the Phils made three errors in the sixth to hand the Giants four more (unearned) runs, pushing the score to 10-1.

Billy Pierce was cruising until the eighth, when star-crossed bonus boy Mel Roach singled home Ted Savage and scored on Tony Gonzalez' two-run homer, making it 10-4. He gave more ground in the ninth, finally giving way to Stu Miller after Johnny Callison's three-run shot. Stu almost allowed the tying run to come to the plate, but apparently thought better of it, coaxing Roach to tap one back to the mound for the game-ending out. Final score: Giants 10, Phillies 7.

DOWN in LA, the Dodgers rolled out two six-run innings as they took after five Met hurlers, scoring runs against all of them. Maury Wills had four hits, three stolen bases, and scored three runs; Tommy Davis had four hits and three RBI. But the real damage came from the bottom three hitters in their lineup: Larry Burright (his era now seriously on the cusp of vaporization...) had a last fling with a double, a homer and four RBI; third-string catcher Norm Sherry coaxed long-misplaced memories from his bat, also knocking in four runs; and Ron Fairly had three hits, three RBI and scored three times, thus conjuring up three hat tricks at once. 

Teenage monster Joe Moeller didn't pitch well, but he didn't really have to--but he was touched for homers by Frank Thomas (#13, trying to keep pace with Mays and Cepeda) and another one of the Mets' ethereal legends, Cliff Cook, a failed slugger dropped on their doorstep by the Reds, who would hit all of .188 while doing hard time in the Polo Grounds. (The real Mets "legend of '62" had also just come aboard after being spirited out of Baltimore in the dead of night: we're speaking of "Marvelous Marv" Throneberry, a man that Casey Stengel had pined for after the Yankees had traded him away in 1959. Marv went 0-for-5 on this evening, and Ol' Case would soon stop pining for him even while Mets' fans made him into a cult figure.)

One last Met hero in yet another losing cause didn't even start the game--Felix Mantilla replaced Elio Chacon at shortstop (Elio apparently needing to prepare for his upcoming one-round bout with Willie Mays--more on that later...) and promptly went 4-for-4 with four RBI. Strangely enough, this performance did not earn "Felix the Cat" a start the following evening in San Francisco. Could Stengel have really slept through a game that produced a total of twenty-five runs?! Final score: Dodgers 17, Mets 8.

SEASONAL RECORDS: SFG 30-14, LAD 28-15

NL RBI LEADERS: Cepeda, SF 47; Tommy Davis, LA 43; Pinson, Cin 36;  Mays, SF 35

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

60 YEARS AGO/42: WILLIE'S TIME: HIS TIMES AT THE DISH UNDO McLISH

The essential anarchy underlying baseball (until it was painted into a corner by those "murder to dissect" creatures slithering through the game in the 21st century) may have its most representative embodiment in one Calvin Coolidge Julius Caesar Tuskahoma McLish. (Call him Cal if only to save your tongue some undue exertion, but note that he doesn't have a dog--or any other "pet"--named Spot.)

McLish bloomed early and flopped twice before the age of 25; when he regrouped into the PCL, his major league record stood at 8-21, with a 5.88 ERA. (Some of that, it should be said, stemmed from a "teenage monster" phase with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1944, when MLB was awash in peach fuzz due to WWII--a kind of jock-strap analogue to the Val Lewton film Youth Runs Wild.)

But, true to the last of his middle names, McLish found redemption with a team whose (at-the-time) nickname (Indians) was congruent with his roots (Oklahoma, once referred to as "Indian country"). He would do some late blooming in Cleveland, get traded despite winning 19 games, go bust, and wind up spending his twilight years with the Phillies, pitching for his teenage teammate with the Dodgers (Gene Mauch). When all accounts were settled, Cal's career captured the connective tissue in baseball between anarchy and random variation: his won-loss record was 92-92.

However, on our day in question (May 24, 1962), McLish faced the Giants, a tough hitting team, beginning with a leadoff hitter (Harvey Kuenn) who wore him out (18-for-55, 5 HRs). He'd handled the team's big boppers (Willie Mays, Orlando Cepeda) pretty well, though. In fact, Cepeda was only 1-for-12 against him lifetime.

Ah, but things change...yes, they do. Taking the mound under bright sunshine with a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first, Cal fanned Kuenn to start things off, but Chuck Hiller, someone he'd dominated in the past, managed to draw a walk. Up came Mays. BLAM! A double to left, hit so hard that Hiller could only make it to third. 

Then Cepeda, who hit one to the fence in left that Ted Savage hauled in on the dead run. Hiller scored, tying the game. Cepeda would single in the third--another ball hit so hard that the baserunner on second (Kuenn, who'd walked and stolen second) had to be held at third. McLish wriggled off the hook by retiring Felipe Alou--the second straight time Alou had left a man on third base. ("Indian country," indeed.)

The score was still 1-1 when Mays came to the plate in the bottom of the sixth. BLAM! A home run over the center field fence, the ball traveling nearly 450 feet. Then Cepeda again. BLAM! A long drive to left that cleared the fence for another home run. The Giants led, 3-1.

But Juan Marichal had been uncharacteristically wild in this game, and Giants' manager Al Dark had pulled him in the fourth after he'd walked six Phillies. Don Larsen had replaced him, and had thrown two more scoreless innings--but Dark tried to stretch him into the seventh, and it didn't work. Tony Taylor doubled, Ted Savage walked, and Johnny Callison singled to cut the lead to 3-2. Dark brought in his putative ace reliever Stu Miller--who brought his gasoline can with him to the mound. Stu got three outs in the inning--but not before the Phils had three more hits and two more runs, taking a 4-3 lead. 

In the bottom of the seventh, Tom Haller (brought in via a double-switch by Dark when he'd relieved Larsen--some slick stuff there from a guy who, like McLish, originally hailed from Oklahoma) singled. Then Dark decided to have Kuenn bunt him along--remember Kuenn has hit 5 HRs off McLish in his career. (You can see the android taking over in Dark's cranium, with a monotone voice: "It's a one-run game...you must bunt...it's a one-run game...you must bunt...".) Harvey does what he's told, Haller gets safely to second, and makes third when Hiller makes Callison back up for his fly ball in right.

Then it's Willie Mays again. Does Mauch walk him intentionally? Does he bring in a reliever? No, and no. BLAM! Willie hits another homer. It's 5-4 Giants. Does Mauch remove McLish? No.

Cepeda rips a single to left. (The Baby Bull would add four more consecutive hits in his subsequent at-bats against McLish.) THEN Mauch pulls Cal in favor of big journeyman right-future manager Dallas Green, who faces Felipe Alou

BLAM! Alou homers, and has a noticeable smirk on his face as he rounds the bases. 

Stu Miller becomes the putative ace in the eighth and the ninth that he'd been so unputatively in the seventh--and the Giants have stopped stumbling. Final score: Giants 7, Phillies 4.

THAT evening in LA, the Dodgers found themselves trailing 2-1 to a tough young right-hander (Bob Miller) when Jim Gilliam's error led to the Mets scoring two unearned runs in the third. It would stay that way until the seventh, when LA would scratch across its own unearned run on a single by Wally Moon. Reliever Craig Anderson, who would move into the Mets' starting rotation with catastrophic results (0-11), would surrender two two-out runs on singles by Frank Howard and Johnny Roseboro. Larry Sherry would induce expatriated Dodger great Gil Hodges to hit into a game-ending double play, and that (as they say...) was that. Final score: Dodgers 4, Mets 2.

SEASON RECORDS: SFG 29-14, LAD 27-15.

NL HOME RUN LEADERS: Mays, SFG 13; Cepeda, SFG 13; Thomas, NYM 12; Pinson, CIN 12

Monday, May 23, 2022

60 YEARS AGO/41: STUMBLING HOME...TO STUMBLE SOME MORE

The Giants, having dropped two games at Dodger Stadium, returned home on Wednesday, May 23, 1962 in a listless mood despite still having a 2 1/2 game lead in the NL standings. Their fans seemed to mirror this lassitude, as less than 8,000 of them turned out at Candlestick Park to watch the opening game of an oddly-scheduled three-game series against the Philadelphia Phillies.*

Stumbling home, then, the Giants continued to stumble on this evening, playing against a team that had been the NL doormat in 1961 (a 47-107 record). After surrendering two singles to start the game, Mike McCormick was victimized by a dropped throw on the part of second baseman Chuck Hiller, nixing what might have been a double play. The Phillies parlayed that error into a three-run first inning. 

McCormick settled down after that, however, and Willie McCovey (getting a start in right field while Willie Mays got a rare night off) homered off the Phils' Art Mahaffey to close the gap to 3-1. 

But the often-embattled lefty, originally signed as a bonus baby at age 17 and who'd led the NL in ERA at age 21 in 1960, would soon find himself in trouble again in the fifth. (His injury-plagued 1962 would trigger another panic response in Giants' owner Horace Stoneham, who would discard him over the 1962-63 off-season in one of SF's worst trades.) Tony Taylor singled, stole second, and rode home on a double by the Phillies' hot rookie Ted Savage (who'd drawn comparisons to Mays and Jackie Robinson after a superb year in AAA in '61; he'd soon show a weakness against right-handers and become the 60s version of Harry "Suitcase" Simpson). 

Al Dark pulled McCormick and brought in young Gaylord Perry, who in '62 was at least as unprepared to be an effective major league reliever as he was ready to be a successful starter (4.82 ERA in six games from the pen, 5.35 ERA in seven starts). He grooved one to Don Demeter, who just missed hitting it out of the park in left: it hit the top of the fence and caromed back in for a double. Savage scored, making it 5-1 Phillies.

The hole got deeper in the seventh when Bobby Bolin gave up more hits to Taylor and Savage, followed by a double by Roy Sievers, settling to earth at age 35 after a great late-blooming half-decade of stardom in the AL (157 homers, 146 OPS+ from 1957-61). 

But Phils' manager Gene Mauch gave the Giants a shot in the bottom of the inning by pulling Mahaffey in favor of the fading Frank Sullivan (9-32 in his last two seasons, split between the Red Sox and the Phillies: later in '62, he'd be released on Bastille Day). The Giants' lesser lights mounted a rally that got them back to within three runs before Mauch brought in Jack Baldschun in order to face Orlando Cepeda (who fouled out to end the threat).

Jim Duffalo came in for San Francisco to pitch the eighth and promptly handed back three runs to the Phils, saved only from further damage when Savage was thrown out at the plate. Down 10-4, the Giants had a wacky rally in the bottom of the inning when McCovey reached first on a strikeout, helping them to load the bases (Baldschun deciding to "unintentionally" walk Willie Mays, who finally showed up as a pinch-hitter) and plate three more runs thanks to singles from Harvey Kuenn and Chuck Hiller. But Dark let Matty Alou bat when he could've brought up his big brother to hit for him; Baldschun induced the littlest Alou to pop out to left and the Phils wriggled off the hook. 

After all that, the ninth inning was uneventful, and the Giants had their third consecutive loss. Final score: Phillies 10, Giants 7. 

IN Los Angelels, the Dodgers drew the New York Mets, still a "respectably bad" team at this point but now in the early throes of what would become a 17-game losing streak. This one was a tight little affair, barely over two hours in length (as opposed to the 3+ hours of lumbering baseball played 400 miles up the coast). Jim Gilliam doubled in Maury Wills to give the Dodgers a 1-0 lead in the third, but Joe Christopher singled home Richie Ashburn to tie the game in the fourth.

It remained that way until the bottom of the eighth, when the Dodgers loaded the bases with no outs against their ex-teammate Roger Craig and brought home a couple of runs, the first on a deep fly by Ron Fairly that Mets' left fielder Frank Thomas caught at the low fence--deep enough to let Willie Davis take third...and thus allowing Willie to score when the Mets muffed a chance to turn a double play on a grounder by Frank Howard (shortstop Elio Chacon dropped the ball as he tried to throw to first). 

Don Drysdale gave up just his fourth hit in the ninth--a blooper from Chacon--but Wills and Gilliam converted Joe Christopher's grounder into a game-ending double play, bringing the Mets' soon-to-be-legendary losing streak up to three. (There was a long, long way to go...) Final score: Dodgers 3, Mets 1.

SEASONAL RECORDS: SF 28-14, LAD 26-15


--

*As with a number of series in the 1962 schedule, this one started on Wednesday and concluded on Friday, destabilizing our present-day expectation that series are generally designated as "weekday" (Monday-Wednesday or Tuesday-Thursday) and "weekend" (Friday-Sunday) events. These irregularities were more prominent in pre-expansion baseball, when the 154-game schedule created an 11/11 series split between teams, and the later April start to the season also contributed to a more generally anarchic schedule.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

60 YEARS AGO/40: THE DODGERS TAKE A 3-1 SERIES LEAD VS. GIANTS

After losing three straight to the Cardinals at home, the Dodgers fell 4 1/2 games behind the Giants as their arch-rivals arrived in Los Angeles for a two-game series. It was crucial, even at this early stage of the season, for the Dodgers to win both games.

And, thanks to the timely re-emergence of Stan Williams and the clutch hitting of Tommy Davis, LA followed up its 8-1 win in the opener of the series with another precious victory on Tuesday, May 22, 1962. 

A tight pitching duel commenced between Williams, who'd struggled in his early starts (including one against the Giants back on April 16) and Jack Sanford (who would eventually win 24 games, but whose won-loss record that day would fall to 4-4). Jim Gilliam's RBI single in the third put the Dodgers ahead 1-0 in the third, but the Giants tied the score in the top of the sixth when Chuck Hiller, oddly batting third in the SF lineup, singled home Willie Mays (who, in a strange, unconscious nod to "post-modern baseball theory," was batting in the #2 slot). 

Tommy Davis, emerging from a brief slump, came up big for the Dodgers in the bottom of the sixth, hitting a two-run homer off Sanford. (Davis would have an incredible year against the Giants in '62: he wound up hitting .452 against them, with 8 HRs and 27 RBI in 21 games.) Willie Davis added insurance runs with a two-run single in the bottom of the seventh.

Williams faltered in the ninth, allowing singles to Orlando Cepeda and Matty Alou (subbing for his brother Felipe). Larry Sherry came in and quickly induced a double play ball from Jose Pagan and retired pinch-hitter Willie McCovey on a grounder to first to cement the Dodger win and move them to within 2 1/2 games of the Giants. Final score: Dodgers 5, Giants 1.

SEASON RECORDS: SFG 28-13, LAD 25-15

Saturday, May 21, 2022

60 YEARS AGO/39: SANDY'S SKEIN BEGINS...

Monday night, May 21, 1962, with 45,000+ in attendance for the first meeting of the Dodgers and Giants in Dodger Stadium--it was also the night where Sandy Koufax entered into the level of performance that defined him until his premature retirement after the 1966 season.

Koufax had been more hittable than usual in the first six weeks of the '62 season--but his control, which had always been his Achilles heel, was much better--markedly improved even from his first star-quality season in 1961, when he won 18 games and set a new NL strikeout record with 269 (a record he would break twice in the next three seasons).

With his five-hit, ten-strikeout complete game win on May 21, Koufax would begin a skein of pitching at an otherworldly level that presaged the elevated level of performance that he would maintain from 1963-66. In 13 starts until an undiagnosed blood clot in the index finger of his pitching hand forced him to the sidelines, Koufax would compile a 10-2 record, with an ERA of 1.49. Our Quality Matrix method (QMAX), a probabilistic measurement of starting pitcher performance, shows that 12 of his 13 starts in that time frame were in the top two tiers of hit prevention as defined by the system (see QMAX matrix chart at right.)

Arguments about Koufax' performance have persisted in the neo-sabermetric age, based on overstating the effects of either ballpark factors or the strike zone change that came into effect starting in 1963, but most have come around to the more general consensus that he reached a pinnacle of performance of sufficient magnitude to more than justify his enshrinement in the Hall of Fame despite his retirement at the age of 30. 

QMAX makes it clear that Koufax' own testimony (as documented in his 1966 autobiography) about his improvement is correct--once he mastered his control, a process that began in the second half of the 1960 season, stabilized in 1961, and improved further in his injury-shorted 1962 season, he was in position to take full advantage of the strike zone change. The rest is history.

The QMAX numbers are as eye-popping as the more mainstream stats. To go with that 1.49 ERA, you have a 4.8 H/9, a .150 opponents' BA, and a 10.9 K/9 rate--all unprecedented figures in 1962. In the QMAX formulation, starting pitchers in the 1962 NL had a 3.99 hit prevention average on the matrix chart (which establishes a seven-by-seven performance grid for each start), and a 3.35 walk prevention average. Over these thirteen starts, Koufax' QMAX numbers were 1.69 for hit prevention (what's termed the "S", or "stuff" dimension) and 2.00 for walk prevention (what's termed the "C", or "command" dimension). 

Interestingly, Koufax had a precursor of this performance level in the previous season (1961), in a time frame very similar to the one we're examining for '62. In a year where he won 18 games with a 3.52 ERA and had QMAX values of 3.26 "S" and 3.09 "C", Koufax had an eleven-start streak where he came fairly close to his skein in 1962: it's a streak that fits neatly into his season-long performance levels in his final four seasons. 

The QMAX matrix chart for that streak (at left) shows a pronounced but lesser level of dominance (8 of 11 starts in the top two tiers of hit prevention, as opposed to 12 of 13), and shows his spottier control in the "C" dimension distribution; but it's clear that Koufax was steadily improving all aspects of his performance throughout this period, with these performance peaks strongly suggesting the possibility of an even higher performance level. (The QMAX scores for this 1961 streak: 2.18 "S", 2.55 "C".) While such a method is clearly not foolproof, its true probabilistic approach (as opposed to the Game Score measure, which "mixes its metaphor" by incorporating runs scored results into its formula) makes it the least encumbered tool for assessing a starting pitcher's true performance level.

Koufax began his outing on May 21, 1962 by striking out Harvey Kuenn and Chuck Hiller, and retiring Willie Mays on a fly ball. The Dodgers took a 2-0 lead in the fourth on a homer by Tommy Davis (#9 on the year; Tommy went 3-for-3 with 3 RBI in the game), and added another run in the sixth.

Orlando Cepeda hit a solo HR in the seventh to spoil Koufax' shutout, but the Dodgers sent ten men to the plate in the bottom of the eighth, scoring five insurance runs to turn a close game into a laugher. It was the beginning of an incredible hot streak for the team: beginning with this win, they'd post a 17-2 record over the next seventeen days. Final score: Dodgers 8, Giants 1.

SEASON RECORDS: SFG 28-12, LAD 24-15

Friday, May 20, 2022

60 YEARS AGO/38: THAT TWO-SIDED ONE-RUN LOSS THING AGAIN...

Or should we say--that two-side one-run loss thing happening for the first time in 1962...

...for on this day--May 20, 1962, a Sunday--the Dodgers and Giants played games in which they both lost by a single run. It was the first time that had happened to them during the season.

As it turned out, this statement needs an asterisk, for the Giants played a doubleheader on this day and won the second game. But the definition as stated above still holds. 

In terms of playing one-run games on the same day, regardless of winning or losing, this was the fourth time such had occurred during 1962. (We'll keep a running count of that, which will include any head-to-head games--two of which will occur over the next two entries, marking a momentum shift for the teams. Back in April, as you may recall, the Dodgers and Giants played a one-run game against each other: the Dodgers won that game, 8-7.)

In LA on 5/20/62, station-to-station baseball prevailed again, with the only extra-base hits in the game being two doubles (one for each side). Manager Walt Alston was still looking to play the good shepherd for his "teenage monster" Joe Moeller, and the 19-year old pitched creditably through five innings, leaving the game trailing 2-0.

Unfortunately, Alston decided to try Phil Ortega in a "hold it close until the team can rally" mode, and it didn't work: after two batters, the score was 3-0. After two more batters, Alston had to bring in Ed Roebuck with runners on first and third, and starting pitcher Curt Simmons drove in the Cards' fourth run with a sacrifice fly.

These runs proved just enough to beat the Dodgers, who rallied for two in the bottom of the sixth and closed to within one run on a double by Larry Burright (three more hits and now hitting .375 as his "era" reached its apex). But a ninth-inning rally fell short, in part due to a botched sacrifice attempt, and Simmons wriggled off the hook, retiring Doug Camilli and Maury Wills on well-hit flies that were tracked down by Charlie James and Curt Flood. Final score: Cardinals 4, Dodgers 3.

In Game One of their doubleheader against the Colts in San Francisco, the Giants quickly learned that Juan Marichal was too hittable on this day: the Colts slapped three hits in the first for a run, then added four more hits and a walk to add four more runs in the third, taking a 5-1 lead. In the sixth, Marichal allowed the sixth and decisive run after walking Colts starter Bob Bruce, whose presence on the base paths created a scoring opportunity cashed in by Roman Mejias, making the score 6-3. The Giants rallied in the bottom of the ninth against Bruce, but Colts manager Harry Craft brought in his ace starter Turk Farrell (leading the league in ERA) and the ex-Dodger closed things out with a flourish, fanning Willie Mays to strand the potential tying and winning runs. Final score: Colts 6, Giants 5 (game one).

In Game Two, the Giants decided to leave nothing to chance by sending eleven men to the plate in the first inning, chasing starter Hal Woodeshick and scoring six runs. Giants starter Billy Pierce was not especially sharp in the early going, allowing a homer to Bob Aspromonte in the third and giving back two more runs in the fifth, but he tightened up in the later innings and drove in an insurance run in the seventh. (Some wags call a game like this "pitching to the score," and perhaps that's just what it was.) Pierce's Game Score was a middling 59, still relatively win-indicative; his QMAX score was 3, 1 (a bit better in terms of probabilistic WPCT: teams win about 65% of games where the starter has such a score). Final score: Giants 7, Colts 4.

SEASON RECORDS: SFG 28-11, LAD 23-15.


Thursday, May 19, 2022

60 YEARS AGO/37: THE CARDINAL AMBUSH CONTINUES IN LOS ANGELES...

The reason why the Los Angeles Dodgers did not win the 1962 NL pennant is shockingly simple: they could not beat the St. Louis Cardinals in Dodger Stadium that year. They lost seven of nine games to them in their bright, shiny new home, including three in a row at the end of the season: just one additional win against these pesky Redbirds was all they needed to avoid a playoff with the Giants and advance to the World Series.

On Saturday, May 19, 1962, the best you could say about the game at Dodger Stadium was that the Dodgers only squandered a 1-0 lead. Don Drysdale lost that lead in the fourth inning when St. Louis bunched together four singles and a walk, winding up with four runs in the inning when Curt Flood's single slipped by Willie Davis in center field, allowing Cardinals' starter Ray Sadecki to score.

Sadecki was a bit wobbly, allowing six hits and five walks, but the Dodgers helped him out by going just 1-for-8 with RISP while also hitting into two double plays. When Drysdale faltered in the fifth, he was replaced by Phil Ortega, making only his third appearance of the year and continuing a trend of appearing in games where his team was losing. (By the end of the 1962 campaign, Ortega would appear in a total of 24 games--and the Dodgers' record in those games was...2-22.) Final score: Cardinals 8, Dodgers 1.

In San Francisco earlier that afternoon, a mercurial career was quickly closing in on its final act. Right hander George (Red) Witt had been a sensation in 1958, posting a 9-2 record with a 1.61 ERA over the second half of the year. (His last ten starts that year were particularly eye-popping: 7-0, 0.99 ERA.) Arm miseries quickly intervened, however, and Witt never came close to that performance again; at the end of the 1961 season, he was sold to the Los Angeles Angels, where he flunked an April '62 tryout, appearing in five games (two starts), posting an unsightly ERA of 8.10.

The Angels sent him back to the Pirates, who quickly sent him on to the Colts, who figured they had nothing to lose except ball games. Three days after acquiring Witt, Houston supplied him with an acid test--a start against the first-place Giants, a team that also happened to be tearing the cover off the ball (a .297 team batting average). 

Witt made it through the first two innings unscathed, but the wagon wheels disintegrated in the bottom of the third: Willie Mays doubled, scoring starting pitcher Mike McCormick (making his first start of the year for the Giants). Chuck Hiller and Orlando Cepeda followed with singles, knocking Witt out of the game. Dave Giusti, some years away from being a top closer, had a messy long relief outing, ultimately giving up homers to Mays, Cepeda and Ed Bailey, turning the game into a laugher for the Giants. 

McCormick pitched well, scattering nine hits over eight innings, and it was looking like San Francisco was loaded with pitching. But McCormick would struggle all year, and "young Gaylord Perry" would regress, leaving them with a hole in the back of the rotation that would plague them later in the year.

Witt would get one more start for the Colts; it wasn't really all that bad, but they decided he wasn't starting pitcher material, and put him in the bullpen. As it so happens, we'll have a ringside seat at Witt's final outings in the major leagues...stay tuned. Final score: Giants 10, Colts 2.

SEASON RECORDS: SFG 27-10, LAD 23-14, STL 20-13, CIN 19-14, PIT 16-16, PHI 15-17, MIL 14-19, NYM 10-19, HOU 12-22, CHC 10-24

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

60 YEARS AGO/36: IS IT THE ONLY DAY IN MAY WHERE BOTH THESE TEAMS LOSE?

Well, is it? The diagram at right tells you that Friday, May 18, 1962 is a day where the Giants and Dodgers both lose. It's the only day thus far in the month that they've done so (they did it three times in April, despite the fact that the Giants went 15-5 for the month). And you've already seen (in previous posts) that the Dodgers are going to get very hot for the rest of May--so are you willing to take a tumble on answering the question posed in our subject line?

Feel free to hedge you bets...

Willie McCovey figured in all of the Giants' scoring in their game against the Houston Colts at Candlestick Park--one where starting pitchers Ken Johnson (Colts) and Jack Sanford (Giants) each showed top-level hit prevention and both men pitched 10-inning complete games. McCovey, still the forgotten man on the Giants' roster, started this game in left field. He walked to lead off the second, and was promptly picked off first by Johnson--except that the throw was wild and kicked down the right field line, allowing Willie Mac to make it all the way to third. He then scored on a single by Jim Davenport

Then, with the Giants railing 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth, McCovey homered off Johnson (only the third hit he'd surrendered in the entire game) to tie the game. Johnson got his own revenge in the top of the tenth, however, driving in the go-ahead run with a single after Sanford had walked Joey Amalfitano in order to pitch to him. (The move made sense: Johnson was a lifetime .114 hitter, and had only four hits in 1962--but this was one of them.)

The Giants got the tying run into scoring position in the bottom of the tenth, but Johnson worked his way through it to earn his first win of the season. Final score: Colts 3, Giants 2 (10 innings).

At Dodger Stadium, Johnny Podres got hit with a batted ball in the first inning and had to leave the game--and Stan Williams allowed two bequeathed runners to score, followed by four more ragged innings (particularly the third, where four hits and three walks produced a four-run inning), giving the St. Louis Cardinals a 6-1 lead after three. 

Ron Fairly and Larry Burright (yes, we're still in the "Larry Burright era"...) each had three hits for the Dodgers, but the 1-4 hitters went 0-for-16 against Cards' starter Larry Jackson and they never got their offense untracked. RISP hitting was a big factor in this game: the Cards were 5-for-13 in such situations, while LA was only 1-for-9. Dodger pitchers walked seven in the game, while Jackson didn't allow a single base on balls and scattered eight hits in a complete game win. Thanks to Williams' feckless performance, Podres took the loss. Final score: Cardinals 8, Dodgers 3.

SEASON RECORDS: SFG 26-10, LAD 23-13.

NL RBI LEADERS: Cepeda, SFG 38; Pinson, CIN 36; T. Davis, LA 35.