Saturday, November 16, 2019


Last up, the first installment of our fifty-one year look at the post-season records for teams since the beginning of divisional play...scroll down for a complete decade-by-decade look at teams' records in the postseason.

There are far more dominant teams in this time frame, and many more "duds" who never make the post-season at all:


It was not a great time for competitive balance. Only 8 of 24 teams (33%) made it into the World Series. There were many repeat World Series appearances:

OAK 3 in a row (1972-74)
NYY 3 in a row (1976-78)
BAL 3 in a row (1969-71)

CIN 2 in a row (1975-76)
LAD 2 in a row (1977-78)

Best won-loss records in post-season games, 1969-1979: NYM 13-7, BOA 6-4, OAK 21-15, CIN 26-19, BAL 26-20, NYY 17-13

Worst won-loss records in post-season games, 1969-1979: MIN 0-6 ATL 0-3, PHI 2-9, SFG 1-3, ANA 1-3, KCR 5-9, DET 2-3, PIT 17-19, LAD 14-15.

Friday, November 15, 2019


Continuing to move forward into the past, with our fourth installment (that future folks will read second to move forward from the past), here is the post-season data from 1980-89...

This decade inspired us to appropriate the title from Ted Vincent's book about nineteenth century baseball, "Mudville's Revenge"--given that in the years beyond the initial wave of free agency, appearances in the post-season did not cluster in big-market franchises. Indeed, no one actually dominated the post season in the 1980s, as the table (at right) and our listing (below) demonstrate:


Only one team won multiple World Series: the Dodgers, whose 1988 team was not expected to get past the Mets in the NLCS, much less the A's.

14 of 26 franchises made it into the World Series in this decade, as compared with just 10 in 1990-99, 14 (of 30) in 2000-09, and 12 (of 30) in 2010-19.

Best won-loss records in the post-season for this decade: BAL 7-2, OAK 16-8, MIN 8-4, DET 8-4, STL 21-16, LAD 21-17, NYM 11-9 PHI 13-12, MON/WAS 5-5.

Worst won-loss records in the post season for this decade: ATL 0-3, CHW 1-3, CHC 3-7, TOR 4-8, HOU 6-10, BOS 7-11, SDP 4-6, ANA 5-7, SFG 7-9, NYY 8-9, MIL 8-9.

Thursday, November 14, 2019


Now at the mid-point of our backwards-for-blogging chronology of post-season results, this time focusing on the 1990s.

This was the decade of staggered expansion and Selig's Folly--the canceled '94 post-season, which helped to enable the Steroid Era.

Looked at in this fashion, we can see the decade as decidedly bifuracted. The first half (truncated by the '94 strike) belonged to the Braves and the Blue Jays (though Atlanta--the Brooklyn Dodgers of this time frame--did not win its lone World Series till '95). The second half was dominated by three teams--the Braves, the Indians, and the resurgent Yankees, who began a five-out-of-six World Series streak in '96.

The Braves easily dominated in terms of overall playoff appearances in the decade:


Unlike earlier expansions, the new teams were more successful in getting into the post-season quickly: three of the four new franchises--D'backs, Marlins, Rockies--made it within their first five years of existence.

Best post-season records in the decade: NYY 37-13, MIA 11-5, MIN 8-4, CIN 11-6, STL 6-4. TOR 17-12, ATL 51-43, CLE 27-25, PHI 6-6, NYM 5-5.

Worst post-season records in the decade: LAD 0-6, SFG 0-3, CHC 0-3, TEX 1-9, HOU 2-9, BOS 5-16, COL 1-3, ARZ 1-3, CHW 2-4, SEA 5-9, SDP 7-10, OAK 6-8, BAL 9-10.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

POST-SEASON RESULTS (PART 4 of 5): 2000-09

So here we are, doing a backwards tango (no Love Pie™reference intended this time...) to provide future blog readers a chance to see this post-season data in standard chrono order. Here are the results from 2000-09 (table at right):

First, note that there are more teams shut out of the post-season during this decade than in 2010-19 (and many of the other decades we'll see later...or is it earlier?).

Number of teams not making it into the playoffs during 2010-19: 4

Number of teams not making it into the playoffs during 2000-09: 7 (BAL, CIN, KCR, MON/WAS, PIT, TEX, TOR)

Of course there was only one Wild Card team per league during this time frame...but there were no teams in 2010-19 who only made it into the post-season as a second Wild Card team.

Playoff appearance totals in the 2000-09 decade:


Best won-loss records in post-season games during this decade: PHI 20-12, CHW 11-7, BOS 34-23, NYY 50-38.

Worst won-loss records in post-season games during this decade: SDP 1-6, MIN 6-18, MIL 1-3, CHC 6-12, LAD 9-14, ATL 11-17, OAK 11-16.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019


Don't panic, you haven't missed the first four installments...they will follow in reverse order. As you know, blogs work backwards, putting the most recent material, in order to have the reader view these five charts depicting each decade of post-season results, we have to start at the end.

Imagine this chart at five times the width--that's why we break it up into five segments, each covering a decade. We begin (at the end) with 2010-19.

Teams winning the World Series in any given year are shown with their post-season won-loss totals in orange; teams losing the World Series are shown with their post-season won-loss totals in yellow.

With the creation of the one-and-done Wild Card game, we also single out the losers of those games by showing their all-too-brief post-season appearances in baby blue.

Playoff appearances in the decade break down as follows:


Interestingly, the two teams making it to the playoffs the most did not manage to win a World Series--and one of those two (the mighty Yankees) did not manage to even make it into a World Series at all.

Odd to note that the Nationals made the playoffs more times in the decade than the Astros, given the latter's outsized footprint in the latter portion of the decade.

And Billy Beane's famous (apocryphal?) quote that "[his] shit do[es]n't work in the playoffs" not only remains true (assuming, of course, that he actually said it...), but has become more immediately true as well, what with the A's suffering three one-and-done post-season takedowns since the Wild Card game was instituted in 2012. (Perhaps the Wild Card losers from each league should be sent on an European tour where they play a faux World Series as consolation for such an abrupt demise. If such a plan were in place, we'd have seen some interesting match-ups over the past years: 2012: TEX-ATL; 2013: CLE-CIN; 2014: OAK-PIT; 2015: NYY-PIT; 2016: BAL-NYM; 2017: MIN-COL [note we forgot to color-code the Twins...]; 2018: OAK-CHC; 2019: OAK-MIL.)

Best post-season won-loss records for 2010-19: SFG 36-16, KCR 22-9; BOS 22-11, HOU 28-22. Worst: ANA 0-3, COL 1-4, CIN 2-7, ATL 5-13, OAK 4-9, PIT 2-5, OAK 4-9, ARZ 3-6, MIN 6-11.

Most playoff games played in 2010-19: 67 (LAD). Least: 0 (CHW, MIA, SDP, SEA).

Friday, November 8, 2019


As most of you know, we are not nearly as obsessed with baseball's award season as is the case with others. One of the places where sabermetrics took a wrong turn was in its desire--no, its fetish--with rewriting past history via the various awards: MVP and Cy Young in particular. (And let's not get started with the Hall of Fame.)

Awaiting (with withheld breath...) the sabermetric analysis of the Oscars...
Using advanced analysis to better understand the value of performance is one thing--it can help those folks in the mainstream media do a better job of picking award winners in the future. But the obsession with rewriting past awards, like so many things in twenty-first century America, has become toxic in nature. (We should focus on trying to change things that actually matter to human beings who are alive today--those in need, those who are suffering, or who are in direct danger due to matters that the rest of us can rally behind to correct--instead of descending into a rabbit hole of reinterpretation over a fait accompli that does not really advance knowledge.)

Of course, there are exceptions to (virtually) every rule. In the past, we've bent these rules in terms of baseball awards to look for voting patterns--to see, for example, if there were systemic biases built around certain stats. Most of our "bending" is found in the area of starting pitching, due to the development of the Quality Matrix (QMAX), still the only organic system utilizing probabilistic methods. The QMAX winning percentage (QWP) remains the most useful tool for assessing starting pitcher performance currently available, and it's the only one that does so by ignoring runs allowed as part of its methodology.

But that's far enough about it--and us. What's interesting is that both FIP (many of you know it in its "long form" as Fielding Independent Pitching) and QMAX (working from significantly different assumptions/approaches) tend to clarify aspects of starting pitcher performance that tend to remain opaque using other measures. What's more interesting is when these measures diverge, as is the case in the 2019 AL Cy Young race.

FIP is not nearly as much in alignment with WAR in ranking starting pitchers, because it uses a different sliding scale to extract its value measurement. It prefers a particular type of pitcher, whereas WAR only wants to know who allowed the fewest runs. FIP predicts a kind of "Platonic" ERA using its formula, but it's not probabilistic--it's not based on game-by-game perturbations as QMAX is. The differences in their results are instructive, but not quite conclusive.

In 2019 FIP rejects WAR's conclusion that the AL's best pitcher was Justin Verlander. (The reason: despite a superb ability to prevent hits in general, Verlander gave up a lot of HRs--36, to be exact--which forces the method to account for this and penalizes for it. So the system actually projects more runs allowed from Verlander than was actually the case.) It suggests that his teammate Gerrit Cole was the best pitcher, which is supported by Cole's ERA (1st), ERA+ (1st) and FIP (1st).

QMAX, which grades each start for hit prevention and walk prevention and assigns a "matrix grade" for each performance component, makes adjustments for HRs in the actual context in which they occur, which is not the case for FIP. QMAX prizes hit prevention in individual games more highly than any other aspect of performance, but it achieves its probabilistic precision by calculating an expected win value for each segment on its matrix chart (all 49 performance gradations), thus producing a probabilistic winning percentage (or QWP, as noted above).

For the Verlander vs. Cole comparison in 2019, it shows significant difference in the two pitcher's performance shape, but not in their overall value. In fact, there's little daylight between them, from their raw QMAX averages (Verlander: 2.71 "S" or hit prevention, 2.24 "C" or walk prevention; Cole: 2.73 "S", 2.33 "C") to their QWPs (Verlander .685; Cole .679). If ever there probably deserved to be a tie in the voting, this is the year.

We talked about "shape" differences in their stats. This may seem baffling, considering how similar the shape of their numbers stats appear to be (similar H/9 ratios, similar K/9 ratios, similar K/BB rations, similar WHIP values). But the difference can be seen in the QMAX matrix chart, and it helps to explain how the two pitchers wind up with highly similar value measures despite the shape divergence.

Putting them side-by-side (or, in this case one on top of the other) can show the difference. The top two rows of the QMAX chart (the numbers in the "1" and "2" slots moving down the diagram) are the region of greatest hit prevention, but the "1S" group is enough better probabilistically to make a difference in the valuation. (The 1,3 game is just as likely to be a winning game as a 2, 1 game: the average probability of a win in the "1" row is more than a hundred points higher than in the "2" row.

That is why Verlander, despite his extra HRs allowed, and his greater incidence of games where is not ultra-dominating (the 5-7 rows, where he has just over a quarter of his starts as opposed to only one-sixth for Cole)--despite these aspects that compare unfavorably to his teammate, the essentially reversed placement of 1S-2S games is the reason why he winds up having a slightly better overall QWP.

Of course, this is not predictive in terms of individual games, as we (and Verlander) discovered in the World Series. His penchant for giving up home runs, which reached its peak this year, worked against him in those games. But he also had off-games in terms of hit prevention--an event that can happen at random throughout the season. Cole fared better in the World Series, but also was not as dominant as he was against the AL in 2019.

We should expect a vote as close as the QMAX results--and, for the sake of fairness, we should hope (as already noted) that they somehow manage to tie. They are both deserving. Sometimes that's just the way it is, and that's the way it should be remembered. Fingers crossed...

[FOLLOWUP 11/13: Voting results are in for AL CYA...Verlander 171, Cole 159. If two BBWAA voters had switched their first-place votes from Verlander to Cole, there would have been a tie.]

Thursday, October 31, 2019


Of course it should be noted that the 2019 World Series was really nothing like its counterpart fifty years earlier. The entire process was different, though divisional play began in '69 and the post-season added its first intermediate step that year.

The two World Series were not the same length--and the impact of top-notch starting pitchers, though ballyhooed extravagantly by the consumerist groupies who've overrun the game in both mainstream and social media, was actually not as great in 2019 as it was in 1969, when three starters for the Mets were able to hold a 109-53 team (the Baltimore Orioles) to a .146 batting average (and a .210 SLG!).

But the general lay of the land was quite similar. You had a team that had stumbled out of the gate (the Washington Nationals) and had to regroup over the course of the season; in 1969, you had an upstart team (the New York Mets) who'd never finished above .500 during its first seven seasons. You had a team that was loaded with talent (the Baltimore Orioles) that had roared through its league; in 2019, you had an organization that seemed to turn every player it acquired into an All-Star (the Houston Astros), whose combination of trading acumen and in-house development threatened to turn the American League into a mockery.

All four teams had top-notch starting pitching, but the 1969 teams had starters who could do two things their 2019 counterparts could not: 1) throw a lot of innings and 2) keep the ball in the park. The Mets overachieved in many ways during the '69 Series, and one of them was actually hitting six homers in the five games--a ratio that would have netted them 194 HRs over the regular season. (They hit 109, an unfathomably low number in '19, whereas the sleepy Nationals cruised their way to 231 and the Astros had four players with 30+ HRs plus three more with 20+ en route to a staggering 288 for the year--and didn't even lead the league!)

The Mets top two pitchers (Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman) don't quite have the same cachet as Gerrit Cole (riding high after his best season, but with just three grade-A years in the book thus far) and Justin Verlander (whose second wind in Houston has burnished his reputation), but they managed to be a good bit more effective in shutting down the mighty Orioles.

The combined record of Cole and Verlander against the Nationals in the 2019 World Series: 1-3, 4.88 ERA. The combined record of Seaver and Koosman against the Orioles in the 1969 World Series: 3-1, 2.48 ERA.

And then there are the second basemen. Mighty mite Jose Altuve, who knocked the Yankees out of the ALCS with his walk-off homer, hit .303 in the Series--but it was a quiet .303: just one RBI, three doubles and a .688 OPS. Meanwhile, his sometimes counterpart, Howie Kendrick (used as a DH during the Series' stay in Houston) cracked a game-winning homer in Game Seven, following in the footsteps of the Mets' most unlikely hero, featherweight-hitting second baseman Al Weis, whose seventh-inning HR in Game Five pulled the Mets even in their incredible rush to glory.

We even had parallels in "managerial banishment"--Dave Martinez followed in Earl Weaver's footsteps by getting ejected in the final game of the World Series. But, as our headline says, vive la difference: Weaver's team took it on the chin and went home stupefied; the Nationals, however, pulled away from their opponents after a questionable call and made Martinez into a uniquely plucky hero.

Add it all up and you have two underdog winners in tumultuous times--which is, perhaps, the most pugnacious parallel of all. Unlike the two occupants of the White House during these teams' indelible date with destiny, these unheralded victors proved to be downright unimpeachable.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019


Here are two quick charts to provide some historical perspective on Game Seven as it has evolved over the years: neither of these seem to be available elsewhere, so here is something that's hopefully useful and new for you to take in...

First, a D/Y table showing Game 7 incidence over the years, along with a notation as to which league won.

We didn't see any reference to the fact that NL teams have a 23-16 lead in Game Seven--there has been much more attention paid to the ongoing "games won on the road" phenomenon that's still in play after the Nationals' 7-2 win in Houston last night. [NOTE: The table has been updated as of 11/1 to reflect the 2019 outcome: the NL now leads in Game 7 wins, 24-16. We still haven't seen any mention of it anywhere else...]

This table shows us that the greatest number of Game Sevens in any decade occurred in the 1960s, with the adjacent decades (50s, 70s) clustering up with five more apiece. 2019 brings our current decade into a tie with the 50s and 70s.

One feature of this chis a breakout by the "suffix" of a year--all years ending in 0, 1, 2, etc. The AL has fared extremely well in years ending in "2," winning five of six Game Sevens. Which means that in all other years, the NL has put up a 2-to-1 advantage in these games (22-11). The NL team has won the only two Game Sevens to occur in a year ending in "9."

An occult little table, but hopefully one with some amount of interest...

Next, a chart that shows all of the teams who have participated in a Game Seven, the years in which they have done so, and the outcome (orange for a win, blue for a loss).

As you'd expect, the Yankees have been in the most Game Sevens (a total of 11), but they are not the most successful team in such a situation, winning only five times (the last in 1962).

The Cardinals are the most successful team in Game Seven situations, winning seven times out of ten appearances in a "do or die" game.

By far the most successful franchise when we measure by winning percentage, however: the Pittsburgh Pirates, who've won all five of the Game Sevens in which they've appeared.

Two notes: 1) we've obviously left the color-coding blank for the 2019 series; 2) we've shown the Nationals as their own franchise, since their lineage is from the Montreal Expos; the other Washington appearances (from 1924 and 1925) have been put into the Minnesota data. (The same principle is applied to all franchises who've moved around; this should be self-explanatory). [NOTE: As of November 1, the color-coding has been updated to reflect the 2019 outcome.]

Enjoy these visual aids, and enjoy Game Seven tonight. They happen about a third of the time overall, but they pack an outsized amount of excitement into them due to the dual nature of the "do or die." Who will traverse the tightrope, and who won't? We'll know soon enough...

Sunday, October 27, 2019


In the midst of an eventful post-season (a flurry of coverage about a less-than-#metoo-friendly front office, a stop-and-start-and-stop-and-start-again path toward a World Series title...) the Houston Astros' in-season achievements in 2019 have, to our knowledge at least, not been fully identified.

As is (more occasionally than usual) the case, we're here to bring you those as-yet unrevealed facts.

Or, more modestly, fact. But even one fact can drive home a point (if not a run). And this fact is another point noted in an escalating series reminding us that baseball in 2019 has continued to rewrite the rules of the game by rewriting the record book.

So, yes, we're teasing out the exact nature of this record by posting several of our patented "decade/year" table that capture frequency of events over time. We do this both for your own good and because we just can't help doing it--somewhere in the inchoate middle of those impulses there is (hopefully, at least) enlightenment.

Above right: a D/Y table with all incidences of 20 or more homers hit by the batter occupying the leadoff (#1) slot in his team's batting order. (This is not "leadoff homers", as in leading off an inning with a homer--those would be much more numerous--but the number of homers hit by the man "batting leadoff.")

As you can see, the 20+ threshold took awhile to be cracked, despite the appearance of Babe Ruth in 1919-20 and the slow-but-steady homerification of the game. The initial incidence was 1949; as you can see, the rise was slow but steady until the mid-90s, when it accelerated--and over the past four years, has (like so much else in America during this time...) gone out of control.

Above left: the next level up of "leadoff lightning"--that subset of the first table dealing with those #1 slot hitters with 30+ HRs in a season. You may be surprised to discover what team was the first to have a 30+-HR performance from its leadoff hitters...but you are probably not surprised to discover that over the past four seasons this number has risen sharply--reaching double figures (including, as you doubtless suspect, the Astros).

Continuing into more lofty regions, we have one more chart for the leadoff slots that have produced 40+ HRs in a season. The table at right shows you that this is, at least at present, a much more rarified occurrence: only eight teams have managed to accomplish this feat. Perhaps unsurprisingly, four of them did so in 2019: the Braves, the Twins, the Dodgers--and, yes, the Astros.

(By the way, the three times it happened in the 2000s--2001, 2002, 2006--the main culprit was Alfonso Soriano, whose 46 HRs in '06 for the Nationals allows us to make this into a "World Series" post...despite his involvement in these single-season peaks, Soriano is only second in baseball history in terms of career totals for HRs while batting in the #1 slot--in fact, his total of 197 is a distant second. And, no, we're not going to tell you who #1 is...we trust that you can figure this out for yourselves!)

So perhaps you've figured out what the record is by it the fact that George Springer hit 39 HRs batting leadoff for the Astros this year, tying him with Soriano's 2006 mark?

Nope. (Though the above is true.)

The record we're referring to is a team record, not an individual record. In this instance, it's the sum of all HRs hit by all the Astros' #1 hitters in all the gin joints including Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Derek Fisher, Kyle Tucker, and Dooley Wilson (hit it again, Sam! ...just making sure you're paying attention).

That total--Springer and his surrogate Astro spaniels--adds up to an even 50. That's a new record, and the first time it's happened. (And no, we're not putting up a table with only one square filled in just to complete the set--you can visualize that on your own...and get your own damned letters of transit while you're at it!)

And, yes, the Astros had more HRs from their #1 slot in 2019 than any of the more traditional "power slots" in the batting order.

Remember, just because we report these things does not mean that we approve of them. When we say that it's the first time a team has had its #1 hitters hit 50 HRs in a year, we also mean to say that we hope it never happens again. Baseball's whack is out of whack, regardless of the virtues of a front-loaded batting order. We're shocked, not awed--and you should be, too.

Friday, October 25, 2019


Political controversy was certainly in play fifty years ago, when the New York Mets upset the heavily-favored Baltimore Orioles in the World Series. The anti-Vietnam protest dominated print journalism on the morning of October 15, 1969, but there was no 24-hour news cycle to fan it into further flames. By that evening, the protests for peace had concluded, making a point that would be duly ignored by the Nixon administration, who would invade Cambodia the next year.

The story dominating the news that evening (and over the next several days) was the odd, dramatic set of events at the World Series. Game Four, with its irregular heartbeat-inducing action in the late innings, evoked wonder (Ron Swoboda's reckless, do-or-die catch in the ninth) and controversy (should J.C. Martin have been called out for interference?).

The Mets' World Series lead of three games to one loomed larger than anything else, eclipsing (for the moment, at least) politics and the first incarnation of America's crippling "culture wars."

Today, we are in another October fraught with political controversy--a darker, more surreal time thanks to fifty years of concerted effort to divide America into as many disconnected pieces as possible. A desperate, despicable game of chicken with the principles of democracy is playing out; the climate in the country is locked and loaded on retributive justice. Marlene Dietrich's words to Orson Welles in Touch of Evil are hideously (but hilariously) on point: "You're a mess, honey."

This year, we have monopoly money teams (Yankees, Dodgers, Astros) mirroring the state of American income equality in their domination of leagues where "tanking" and other egregrious manifestations of competitive imbalance are writ large, but somehow tolerated in a similar slow ooze of the game's checks and balances that echo the proto-fascism emanating from Washington, DC.

And now we have the World Series right smack in the middle of that debacle, with its home team (stolen away by monopolistic practices imposed long enough in the past that we shrug our shoulders) representing the underdog position held fifty years ago by the Mets. Were it not for the absurd HR spike of 2019, the Washington Nationals (a dimly anodyne team nickname if there ever was one) might well be known as the "Gnats," as so humorously conjured up by Walt Kelly back in simpler times (you know, the times that produced Joe McCarthy).

These "Gnats" are currently on an eight-game post-season winning streak that continues to defy belief, as their suspect bullpen (5.68 during the regular season, worst by far of all the 2019 post-season teams) somehow bends but does not break--at least not yet. (They've been getting help from the usually mighty Astros, who've been increasingly off their game, needing five games to vanquish the pesky Tampa Bay Rays--the true "Gnats" of baseball, with their dumpster-dive approach to talent acquisition--and then falling into a mysterious slump with runners in scoring position ever since, combining for an alarming .113/.203/.290 slash line in their six-game series with the Yankees and the first two Fall Classic shockers in Houston.)

But the big news is bound up in the centripetal retributive anger of #metoo, which surfaced in the mournful melee in the Astros' clubhouse after their Game One loss, when assistant GM Brandon Taubman made an insensitive remark in earshot of female reporters. The upshot of this sequence of events was to brand Taubman as a supporter of domestic violence: his comment seemed to imply an ideological alliance with relief pitcher Roberto Osuna--acquired by the Astros during a time when he was serving a 75-game suspension for domestic violence.

We should also note that is extremely tacky for the Astros to be
advertising "youth apparel" for someone in the shadow of
domestic abuse allegations...
Taubman's poor judgment and even more catastrophic timing has cost him his job--likely a bit of an overreaction to a situation that certainly called for some form of disciplinary action short of one-strike-and-you're-out termination. In this age of instant everything--instant replay, instant outrage, instant retribution--he is another victim of a world that is becoming more divisively Draconian on both sides of the political spectrum. Without doubt a suspension was warranted, but the Astros may have decided to sacrifice him in an attempt to stem the flood tide of negative reporting they've been receiving on this issue.

Note, please, that we agree with attorney/writer Sheryl Ring that stronger policies need to be implemented in major league baseball for domestic violence offenders. We also agree with those who hold that women--particularly white women--should be voting out politicians with profiles that lean toward any evidence of toxic masculinity, and wonder why on earth white women gave 53% of their votes in 2016 to a philanderer and accused sexual abuser.

A question that Sheryl Ring and others might like to answer: is domestic violence worse in 2019 than it was in 1969? Is there a bizarre correlation (or, at least, a relationship...) between the onslaught of power in baseball and the incidence level of sexual abuse?

At any rate, rooting for the underdog remains at least as easy a decision in 2019 as it was fifty years ago...

Sunday, October 6, 2019


Yes, if we're going to be stuck somewhere, it's better to be stuck in 1969, which beats the bejesus out of what we're currently stuck with (but chin up, folks, there will be a reckoning)...

And fifty years ago today, on this day (October 6), we were getting used to a newfangled invention that baseball was foisting off on an unsuspecting public. It was called--for lack of a more scabrous term (notice how "scabrous" has pretty much taken over for that quaint term "imagination"? Dog whistles and tweets have left us bereft of actual wit...)--"da playoffs."

But if we are going to be scientifically descriptive, we might well define them as the first "multi-part post-season" in baseball's storied history. It began with two extra series, and has by now expanded to two and a half rounds, which in our tortured age is either far too much (attention-deficit) or not nearly enough (meta-masochism). I will remind myself to digress on this subject a bit later, but for now we'll kow-tow to those of you who are doubtless already fidgeting as you read this...

So--fifty years ago today, on this day, October 6, we saw two blowout games set the stage for a World Series filled with outrage, oddity, and even social relevance (the Vietnam Moratorium, which brought the protest down to what is now called "middle school" and set in motion a series of events that would spare me from graduating from the same school as the Orange Menace).

The Orioles, who'd struggled mightily to gain a 2-0 lead over the Minnesota Twins (winning two consecutive extra-inning one-run games at home), took apart the very first "opener" in baseball history (Bob Miller--who wasn't really the first opener: he'd started 11 games for Minnesota during the '69 season but had been strictly a reliever for five years previously), thanks in part to the first of two errors committed by right fielder Tony Oliva (a man more than ready to be a DH, save for the fact that they'd not yet invented the position). Twins' manager Billy Martin, then known as "the Itchy One" (it'd be another decade before he'd destroy starters' arms by relentlessly forcing them to pitch inordinate quantities of complete games--hey, remember them??) went to his bullpen with impunity--and was punished for it time and time again.

Final score: O's 11, Twins 2. Five hits (and five RBI) for Paul Blair, four for Don Buford--18 hits in all. It wasn't a game: it was a mugging.

Meanwhile, at Shea Stadium, the Mets--whom you'll recall for their anemic hitting--had just scored 9 runs and 11 runs respectively down in Atlanta to take a 2-0 lead back to their home park. Their opponents, the Atlanta Braves, had cuffed around Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman a bit, but their pitching (instrumental in a 17-4 run that had gotten them into the "first multi-part post-season") had pulled the pin on several hand grenades, blowing apart the heroic homer hitting efforts of Hank Aaron.

They'd do the same thing at Shea that day: Aaron hit his third HR of the series in the first, giving the Braves a brief 2-0 lead. Their #3 starter, Pat Jarvis, dodged a few bullets in the early going, but served up three homers to the Mets (!!!) in consecutive innings while Mets' manager Gil Hodges provided the first glimpse of a 300+-win career for Nolan Ryan by bringing the 21-year-old into the game to relieve shaky starter Gary Gentry in the third inning, whereupon the future Express mowed down the Braves, allowing just three hits the rest of the way. Final score: Mets 7, Braves 4.

Actually, though, these games look too much like the ones we're seeing today. Five homers in that Mets-Braves game, for Crissakes. The post-season, whether "single malt" or "multi-part," was often an austere occasion, punctuated by elevated pitching performances. (In the days of the "single malt" post-season--1903 to 1968--World Series games featured run scoring of two runs or less nearly 42% of the time, as opposed to the historical regular season frequency of 32%. We'll keep you guessing about those ratios in the "multivariate" era from 1969 on...)

On the day prior to these two blowout games (Sunday October 5, 1969), we also achieved a "first." What was this brand new thing? It was a 1-0 post-season game that was not part of a World Series. (Just for the record, we're not counting any of the tie-braker playoff games/series, i.e. Dodgers-Giants 1962, Red Sox-Indians 1948, etc., as "post-season" games--the rules state that they are part of the regular season and count in the official season stats.) The O's took 11 innings to scratch across a run to beat the Twins, 1-0. Though we are not quite so able to appreciate it anymore, there is serious beauty in such minimalism.

So: here's the stealthy question we've been waiting to spring upon you. How many 1-0 games have there been in the post-season? And how often has the winner of that 1-0 game won the series in which such a game occurred?

And here are some answers. Strangely enough, we've had exactly fifty (50) 1-0 games in the post-season--and, at the moment, there have been 25 such games in the World Series and 25 such games in the "pre-World Series post-season" (...yes, we do get paid extra for devising all these different ways of describing these categories: our sponsor is funny that way).

You can see the historical distribution of these games in the two tables (one for the Fall Classic and the other for the Fall Classic's ever-expanding!). What's astonishing is to see how few of these have been occurring in the World Series since the beginning of the "multi-part post-season." Given the established rate of just under three 1-0 games per decade's worth of World Series, we should have had thirteen 1-0 games from 1969 on...instead, we've had only seven.

But what is quite probably a far greater gob-smack is the discovery that the decade with by far the most 1-0 games in "the rest of the post-season" (insert cash register sound here...) is...the one we're just about to depart: the 2010s.

Now, it's true that the 2010s have proven (in so many ways besides baseball...) to be incredibly schizoid, and the first half of the decade was much more of a pitcher's mini-era than what's been the case in the recent time frame where certain folks seem bound and determined to set the Constitution on fire (and yes, we teased you with that with the image up top...just like the current administration, there's always a payoff to be found here sooner or later).

But it's interesting, is it not, to see so many of these games welling up now. Could it just be that there are so many more teams in the post-season these days that it's just more likely that several of these teams will "come up cold" and have a low-scoring game?

And what about those series results when a team wins a 1-0 game in the postseason? Is it a random thing, or does such a win seem to have some talismanic significance? (Skeptics of all stripes may rev their small-sample-size-engines now.)

In the 50 1-0 games in the post season, the teams who won such a game have won 34 of the 50 series in which they occurred. That's 68% of the time. Winning such a game in the World Series is a bit less of a harbinger: 16-9 (64%) as compared with 18-7 (72%) for such a win in the "pre-World Series post-season."
Still in need of a place high in the 
batting order: E. F. Schumacher.

(We just missed having a 1-0 game today...the Cardinals took a 1-0 lead into the top of the ninth, but it fell apart for them in that inning and they wound up losing to the Braves, 3-1.)

So...1969 initiated a new post-season wrinkle, one where the minimum score could crop up with greater frequency (32 times in the past 50 years, as opposed to 18 in the sixty-five seasons from 1903-68--remember, no World Series in 1904!). In a world bent on maximizing its diminishment, this is an oddly agreeable paradox, since it reinforces an idea that needs reviving: small is beautiful.

(And don't think we've forgotten about that earlier, as-yet unactivated digression--we remember it all right...we're just going to save it for another blog entry. But here's a clue to hold on to: how can we spice up the post-season with something more outrageous and unpredictable--and downright random? Those of you who remember our crackpot notions for a round-robin post-season, first presented back in 1996, will vouch for the fact that we can come up with a humdinger when we put our minds to it. So...stay tuned!)

Tuesday, September 24, 2019


It was the best of times, sure--at least in New York, where their worst of times involved the absence of a National League team in a pennant race for more than a decade--but the 1969 Mets had to overcome a significant handicap in September that threatened to scuttle their chances at pulling off their Miracle.

As they surged (and as the Cubs began an agonizing September swoon), the Mets suddenly were without their best hitter--Cleon Jones. Nursing a bad leg for several weeks, Jones had missed several games in September (as the Mets made their first move into first place in the NL East) and finally had to be sidelined after the game of September 11th (a 4-0 win over the first-year Expos).

The Mets were now two games ahead of the Cubs, but they were going on a road trip to play the resurgent Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals--and without their best hitter, things could go off the rails rather quickly if Mets' pitchers could not keep the Bucs' bats quiet.

Of course, as we know now, they were able to do just that, sweeping a Friday night "twi-night" doubleheader by identical 1-0 scores, with the only runs driven in by Mets' starting pitchers (Don Cardwell and Jerry Koosman). They won the next day as well, thanks to a grand slam from a suddenly resurgent Ron Swoboda (forced into full-time play due to Jones's injury). They lost on Sunday, but Swoboda hit two HRs off Steve Carlton the next evening in St. Louis, negating a 19-K performance from the great lefty and bringing the Mets a 4-3 victory.

By this point, the Mets were up by 4 1/2 games, and with the Cubs showing no signs of rallying, they were able to absorb a Shea Stadium ambush by the Pirates (including Bob Moose's no-hitter on Saturday September 20), and their doubleheader sweep against the Bucs the next day began a nine-game winning streak that quickly led to the NL East crown. (Today, in fact, is the 50th anniversary of the clinching game, when the Mets struck quickly against Carlton en route to a 6-0 win and the serial destruction of the Shea Stadium playing field by fans possessed with terminal delirium.)

So how did the Mets do in the fourteen games played between September 12-September 23, fourteen games where their best hitter--Jones--was unavailable save for a single pinch-hit appearance? As the pitchers' chart (above) shows, they went 10-4 during this stretch, with Koosman and Tom Seaver notching three wins apiece. Cardwell was also stellar in this period, notching two wins. And Tug McGraw became the Mets' ace reliever in this stretch, winning two games and pitching more innings (12) than the other six Mets' relievers combined.

Note that the Mets' hurlers allowed just 3 home runs over these 14 games and 127 innings, a feat unthinkable fifty years later.

How about the hitters? Well, they did they best they could, as their chart (above) demonstrates. Solid hitting from Art Shamsky (this was his .300 BA season, after all), along with Ken Boswell (a proficient second half), and mighty Mets' mite Bud Harrelson (.500 OBP in this stretch) certainly helped.

But it was Swoboda who did much of the heavy lifting (as noted above). Over this stretch, Swoboda hit three of the five Mets' homers and drove in 11 runs, including several more clutch hits beyond the ones noted previously. With Jones out, Tommie Agee in a tailspin (.160 BA, .423 OPS) and Donn Clendenon also mired in a slump (.160 BA, .460 OPS and no RBI), Swoboda was the only right-handed power that the Mets had going for them. He came up big, and deserves as much credit for their success in this crucial stretch of the schedule as Seaver and Koosman.

More heavy lifting from the Mets' righty hitters would be needed in the World Series, and they received it (again) from Swoboda, with big help from Clendenon (3 HRs) and Al Weis, who saved his best shot for last, hitting a game-tying HR in Game Five as the Mets did the unthinkable. We will probably never see anything quite like it ever again...

Friday, August 16, 2019


On this day in 1969, the New York Mets found themselves 9 1/2 games out of first place in the NL East (in what was the first year of divisional play). Since closing to within four games of the Chicago Cubs on July 18th, the team's pitching had faltered, giving up 25 HRs in their next twenty-four games (shades of the present day!). As a result, the Mets had gone 10-14 over that stretch, including six losses to the Houston Astros, and had fallen into third place in the NL East for the first time in more than two months.

All that was about to change. From August 16 to October 2, the Mets would win thirty-eight of forty-nine games en route to a post-season laden with improbable destiny. The pitching stats for that stretch of games (almost the last third of the season) are simply remarkable: even giving away the spoiler that the Mets' hurlers allowed only 14 HRs in those last forty-nine games (try doing that now!) can't take away the wondrous nature of this achievement (as shown below):

There certainly must be instances where other pitching duos have matched the performance turned in by Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman as they anchored the Mets' amazing stretch run. Seaver more than earned his Cy Young Award with his 9-0, 1.24 ERA during this time frame; Koosman was not quite that stellar, but his ERA was inflated by one bad outing in Los Angeles (4 runs in a third of an inning). Together, the Mets' gold-dust twins went 17-1 during this time frame.

The depth of the Mets' pitching, and manager Gil Hodges' use of a modified five-man rotation, was the key element in creating an environment where such a performance level could be achieved. That was diametrically opposite to what Leo Durocher did with his pitching staff, and the results down the stretch show what happens when pitchers are overworked:

As middling as the Cubs' starters were (Fergie Jenkins, Ken Holtzman, and ex-Met Dick Selma), the big issue was the failure of their relief ace, Phil Regan. Contrast this with the performance turned in by the Mets' Tug McGraw.

As you can see, the Mets gained 17 1/2 games in the standings on the Cubs over this stretch. While there are certainly instances of greater movement in W-L over a similar stretch of games (49 for the Mets, 44 for the Cubs), it's still an astonishing amount of turnaround.

And it all began on this day in 1969, when the Mets won a doubleheader from the first-year San Diego Padres. The scores: 2-0 and 2-1. From this point until the end of the season, the Mets' record in games where they scored three runs or less was 17-9 (.654 WPCT). By way of comparison, the overall historical record (1901 to the present) shows that when teams score three runs or less in a game, their WPCT is .227.

Only two teams in MLB history have had .500+ records when scoring three runs or less in a game over a full season. Who are they? The 1906 and 1907 Cubs. The 1969 Mets are fourth all-time, at .452 (38-46). Much of that achievement comes from their stretch run.

Monday, July 15, 2019


July 15, 1969--a day like any for that foreign war, Brock Hanke's broken back, and the impending launch of Apollo 11. Baseball had a day that looks oddly like what we see on a daily basis fifty years later: more HRs than games played (32 in 26 games, led by four from Reds' masher Lee May, who drove in 10 runs as Cincinnati split a doubleheader with the Braves in which 31 runs were scored).

Even the Houston Astros scored in double figures this day, their 10-7 win coming despite a poor outing from starter Don Wilson, who gave up seven hits and six runs in 2 2/3 IP. (Truth told, the Astrodome actually played as a slight hitters' park in 1969--the only time that ever occurred.) Wilson, who'd die at age 29 in a tragic, mysterious accident five years later, was taken off the hook thanks to 4 1/3 innings of stellar relief by erratic lefty Skip Guinn, who earned his lone major league win as a result.

In Seattle, Jim Bouton (who passed away a few days ago at age 80), mopped up in a game that his soon-to-be-infamous team, the Pilots, lost in an unusual way--opposing pitcher John (Blue Moon) Odom drove in four runs with a 3-run HR and a single as the Oakland A's stayed in the chase for the lead in the AL West (1969-first year of divisional play). Odom was a very good hitting pitcher--he hit .266 with 5 HRs and a .503 SLG in 1969. Bouton came within a strike of fanning four batters in an inning (Rick Monday reached first safely when Jim's knuckleball eluded catcher Jerry McNertney), but Jose Tartabull (father of Danny) grounded out with two strikes on him to keep Bouton out of the record books.

But the truly unexpected event occurred at Wrigley Field, when the Mets' Al Weis hit a three-run homer off the Cubs' Dick Selma (a former Met) in the fourth inning. Weis, equally adept at SS and 2B, was subbing for starting SS Bud Harrelson that day. It was just his fifth lifetime HR. His keystone partner that day, second baseman Ken Boswell, connected against Selma in the next inning, and that proved to be the decisive run in the game (the Mets would eventually win 5-4).

Weis would also homer the following day as the Mets took it to the Cubs again, 9-5. It was the only time in his career that he hit homers in consecutive games.

The Mets hit 109 HR in 1969: a total that, fifty years later, several reams have managed to hit in just two months. In 2019, here's no longer such a thing as an unexpected homer unless it's hit by a pitcher...

Weis' "moonshots" were a prelude to the incredible events that followed; first, the moon landing; second, Woodstock; third, the Mets' surreal stretch run. July 15 was a pumped-up prelude to all that, but even in that context the raw offensive numbers (.269 BA, .431 SLG, .161 ISO, .598 ISOBA) are not distended in shape--they're natural progressions of what would occur in a day of clustered good hitting (as evidenced by the unusually robust .347 aggregate OBP). It was a premonition of 1996 or 2000, not 2019. Looking back to that time, we can more clearly see how our new "whack" is really out of whack.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019


Some of you may remember "the power of three" as it manifested itself on the long-running TV series Charmed--all about the tortured lives of twenty-something young women (who just happened to be witches). Their weekly adventures contained multitudes--a bit too pre-fab at times, but jam-packed with adversity, extremity, and otherness.

What often rescued the three witches from destruction, eternal damnation, wardrobe malfunction, or (merely) the prying eyes of those ever-judgmental mortals, was a shared faith in their collective heritage. It buoyed them--saved them--in the face of relentlessly desperate times.

Now, we suddenly find ourselves living in desperate times, and the Baseball Reliquary--though arguably not as slinky as the actresses who played those three witchily beleaguered heroines--is also twenty-something: its monument to faith in a collective heritage, the Shrine of the Eternals, turns 21 on this Sunday, July 14th--as usual, in Pasadena, CA, where its own uncanny "power of three" continues to shine a light on the true underpinnings of baseball's hold on the American psyche. (Lord knows that this is a year in which we need a reminder of that.) It's an especially propitious moment for us to be reminded that since 1999, the Shrine has honored three unique, unusual individuals whose lives are indelibly and inspirationally tied to baseball, receiving induction into a group of honorees who comprise a viable "Cooperstown for the rest of us."

Sometimes those inductees appear to represent "corrections" for the Hall of Fame's various exclusions--Dick Allen, Joe Jackson and Pete Rose, just to name three---but the Shrine can now safely be seen as something operating well beyond the oddly limited scope of Cooperstown. Think of it as a cultural laboratory which, admittedly, "leans left" from the perspective of a divided America; beyond such self-limiting characterizations, however, it should be seen as a magic portal into the wonder and awe that continues to manifest within a game that, despite ever-expanding media hype and unlimited TV money, still manages to retain its qualities of passionate innocence.

The Reliquary's enduring genius is to take hold of this innocence and cast it through the lens of three forces that drive humanity's desire to excel but that cast a dangerous spell over the ability to succeed. These forces, as we've so often noted here (and, occasionally, elsewhere...) are adversity, extremity and otherness.

Each of the yearly Shrine inductees--and the 2019 class (Billy Beane, Lisa Fernandez, and J. R. Richard) is no exception--captures an uncanny connection to these three principles. Amazingly, even as the membership of the Reliquary (who make the Shrine choices via a yearly vote) has changed over time--Executive Director Terry Cannon (he of the subtle smirk and the extra-loud cowbell) estimates the turnover in membership is now around 80% since the Reliquary's inception in 1996--these three forces continue to dovetail in the ongoing choice of deserving individuals. (Charmed had a writing staff to invoke "the power of three" in a fanciful supernatural fiction--it's arguably at least as supernatural that the Reliquary voters have managed to do the same with actual persons. Where fiction and fact converge, however, is in the connective tissue of empowerment and transformation--a spiritual place where a collective faith in the meaning of existence itself can be nurtured and supported, even in desperate times.)

Both in fiction and real life, we all know that great natural talent can blossom--we see it, every day, evidenced in art, music, film, literature, sport--but the path that talent will take once it has blossomed is neither predictable nor assured. Beane, Fernandez, and Richard each possessed surpassing physical gifts, but their paths to the dais at the Shrine of the Eternals could not be more different from one another. They arrive there this Sunday due to forces beyond those gifts--and for how they ecountered and overcame the turbulences amid opportunity that occur via adversity, extremity and otherness.

Richard's incredible physical talent brought him to the pinnacle of success in 1980 when he then suffered a career-ending stroke because his team, the Houston Astros, decided that the African-American pitcher was "malingering" when he reported baffling medical problems. As a result, his life took a hard right turn for many years, including a stint of homelessness. (Call it the otherness of extreme adversity--or perhaps you'll forgive me if I do.) When one is homeless, one is definitely perceived by the world as "other." But Richard gamely fought back from his undeserved fall from grace, and has embraced the contours of his life story as one that can enlighten and inspire others.

Fernandez, the most dominant pitcher in the history of women's softball, is a singularly fascinating example of extremity. In the male world of baseball, there is no one with a lifetime .930 winning percentage. There is also no one, not even Babe Ruth, whose two-way statistics (pitching and hitting) are such astonishing outliers (the Reliquary's 2019 press release for the 2019 Shrine ceremony reminds us that in her senior year at UCLA, Fernandez not only had an ERA of 0.23, but she also hit .510!). Here is otherness in the form of the otherworldly. Her selection dovetails with the Shrine's previous induction of Ila Borders (the first woman to pitch in the minor leagues) and should inspire us to ask if their is somehow a future in sport where forms of athletic competition can become, if not androgynous, then somehow gender-neutral.

Beane was a "can't miss" player who managed to fizzle, a commonplace occurrence in the world of sports (but one that is peculiarly haunting in baseball, with its lingering focus on the individual). Despite this setback, Beane found a way to augment his natural charisma with an unheralded intellectual curiosity to fashion a career in baseball that is truly unique--the first widely-acknowledged front office executive to embrace sabermetric concepts and apply them in a way that undercut the "bidding war" philosophy vis-a-vis baseball talent that had taken hold in the game after the advent of free agency.

While the "extreme measures" he employed for a team--the Oakland A's, who've remained a team enmeshed in economic adversity throughout his twenty-year tenure--have become both more commonplace and more extreme (the home run surges that currently threatens the game's aesthetics and strategic variety), Beane has transcended the hype of Moneyball (the book, the movie, the lingering fetish...) and retooled his own idiosyncratic vision of how to build a winning team "on the fly" year after year. While not as successful as some (Theo Epstein) who've also had copious financial resources in order to achieve ultimate post-season glory, Beane's career is only truly soulful use of a set of precepts that currently dominate baseball's approach but that might not ultimately serve the game well in its attempt to navigate the roiling currents of the twenty-first century (particularly the last half of its dangerous second decade).

But it's once again those indefatigable Reliquary voters, as they sift through their shifting, eclectic set of names, who keep finding such inspiring and illustrative troikas to honor as they fashion their own history of the game and honor the cultural/spiritual hold it still has over America. Yes, the Reliquary "leans left," but I think it does so because it knows that nostalgia alone does not lead us to a viable future, and that a more critically devotional history needs to be constructed in order to ensure that the great gifts the game (and, by extension, the nation as a whole) does not perish from the earth.

For as long as the Baseball Reliquary continues to provide such a vision--played out in its quirky but reverent ceremony held one week before "the official story" takes place in Cooperstown--we can be assured that the three forces (like three strikes and three outs--but not "three true outcomes"...) will remain in play, inspiring the same type of wonder in the game that was seen in its youth by Walt Whitman and Mark Twain, the original aestheticians of the game. More than a century after their passing, the Reliquary and its Shrine continues to keep the flame of that wonder alive.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019


French noir is a beast, but we have wild imagery from it that will baffle and time permits some posting here, we'll foist these off on you as if it somehow had something to do with the purported subject of this rag-tag blog (which, of course, it doesn't). No matter: it's our blog and we can digress when we want to.

(Wild image, though, right? Given the state of the USA as we enter the summer of 2019, you may be feeling just how the great French actor Raimu felt when we shoved a set of stairs upside his head. We call it "double exposure"--you can call it what you like.)

Fifty years ago tonight, there were nine games on the schedule (out of a possible twelve: 1969 was baseball's most unruly expansion year, with four new teams in the same season). A total of thirteen home runs were hit in those games, which works out to .72 HR/team game: just a bit more than half of the rate we're seeing in 2019. (There has been a game this year where teams combined to hit 13 HRs in a single evening--with liftoff like that, you might just be able to land a man on the moon. Pretty sure who 60% of America would like to send up to "green cheese exile" right now.)

After the games June 19--two days before the beginning of the third and final "summer of love" and two months before Max Muncy's grandfather got the idea to name his son after a Republican dairy farmer (Max Yasgur) by flying his freak flag at Woodstock--the Orioles were playing .734 ball (47-17). Their reckoning would come on the day after the Vietnam "Moratorium Day" protests--but we're getting ahead of ourselves. The Expos and Padres, en route to 110 losses apiece, were a combined 42-86. The Chicago Cubs were cruising along at .641 (41-23), some six games ahead of the upstart New York Mets.

June 19, 1969 was something of a high-water mark for Jim Bouton, embroiled in his diary-stained season in Seattle: in an uncharacteristically high-scoring game at Comiskey Park, the Pilots' cheeky knuckleballer pitched four solid innings in relief even as all hell was breaking loose around him. He even got an at-bat in the game, extending a three-year streak of going hitless at the plate. The White Sox eventually won, 13-10.

Perhaps the most consequential game that day, however, featured those pesky Mets, playing in Philadelphia just a few days before Dick Allen would be suspended for a month in what would prove to be his final altercation with Phillies' management (at least in the 1960s!). In the midst of a streak where they'd won fourteen of their last eighteen games, the Mets sent Tom Seaver to the mound against lantern-jawed Jerry Johnson, an ex-Met farmhand who would accompany Allen to St. Louis as part of a fateful trade (Curt Flood) that eventually figured in the dismantling of the reserve clause. He'd soon have what was his single top-notch season after being traded to the Giants, where in 1971 he was a workhorse reliever (109 IP, 12 wins, 18 SV) and actually finished sixth in the Cy Young Award voting, but on this night he seemed over-matched.

But Seaver was a bit off, surrendering a run in the bottom of the first and setting up short-time big leaguer Gene Stone with a barroom story usable for the next four decades. Stone received his first major-league start in place of Allen when the slugging first basemen came up lame (or, as the ever-supportive Philadelphia press noted--so he said!) and faced Seaver with two outs and men at second and third--whereupon he received his first and only intentional walk. Manager Gil Hodges wanted Seaver to have the platoon advantage, so lefty Stone was passed and righty slugger Larry Hisle, who'd play 1100 more major-league games and finished fourth in the NL Rookie of the Year voting that year, came up with the bases loaded--and struck out.

The two teams see-sawed over the entire game, with each pitcher having problems with significantly weak hitters. The inimitable Al Weis, who'd wind up with a .215 batting average in 1969, rehearsed the first of his two big World Series hits with a game-tying RBI single in the top of the second. In the bottom of the third, catcher J. C. Martin threw out Johnny Briggs trying to steal second, which proved fortuitous because the next Phillies batter, offensive sinkhole Mike Ryan, a brilliant defensive catcher who'd thrown out 58% of runners attempting to steal the previous season, hit a home run off Seaver, making it 2-1.

It got worse: Cookie Rojas took Seaver deep in the fifth. But the Mets had Art Shamsky, who'd regained his hitting stroke after hitting .197 and .236 in the last two seasons. And they got just what they need from him on this night: with Cleon Jones on first and one out in the top of the sixth, Shamsky hit the first of two late-in-the-game HRs he'd hit that night to tie the game. Two innings later--boom--his second homer gave the Mets their first lead of the game at 4-3.

But Seaver and normally reliable reliever Ron Taylor weren't quite through giving ground. In the bottom of the eighth, Ryan doubled and Gene Stone tried to sacrifice him to third. But Stone got more barstool bragging rights when his bunt took a strange hop over Seaver's glove and wound up being a hit. Taylor came in and got a couple of outs, but manager Hodges decided to "play it safe" and intentionally walk the other Stone on the Phillies' roster--Ron Stone, who was hitting .150 on the year. This set up the force play at any base, but the next hitter--Rick Joseph--was more successful than Hisle had been in the first: his single scored two runs and the Phils took a 5-4 lead into the ninth.

Enter Al Raffo, the gangly (6'5") rookie right-hander, groomed as a starter in the Phillies' farm system but converted to the bullpen upon his elevation to the majors in late April. Very effective of late (1.20 ERA in his past six appearances), he was getting a shot to be a closer. But the Mets' gremlins had other ideas for him: Martin, hitting .205, coaxed a leadoff walk. Next up: the enigmatic Ron Swoboda, batting for the downright baffling Al Weis. Trying to jam him, Raffo left a pitch out over the plate and the mercurial slugger (who over the next weekend would strike out in ten of his next twelve at-bats) lined a single to left.

Phils' skipper Bob Skinner (soon to get the axe after mishandling the Allen fiasco lying in wait for him) took no chances, bringing in Dick (Turk) Farrell, his top reliever. Pinch-hitter Jerry Grote bunted the runners over to second and third; Farrell fanned Tommie Agee for the second out.

But Skinner elected not to emulate Hodges by walking Ken Boswell--and the Mets' second baseman made him pay for that decision with a two-run single that put the Mets back on top, 6-5.

Tug McGraw pitched the bottom of the ninth, got two outs, walked a batter--and gave Gene Stone a chance for his first career RBI. Stone lined it into left, but Cleon Jones raced over and snagged the ball at his knees for the final out. It was just one of 64 one-run games that the Mets played that season, but it was part of a key turnaround in their fortunes. After going 7-9 in one-run games during April and May, the Mets went 9-3 in June and fashioned a spectacular 34-14 record in one-run games from June 1st through the end of the 1969 season.

By the way, Gene Stone never did get that first career RBI. Even when Allen was suspended, he did not get a chance to play first base, and was farmed out to AA, never to return.

The aggregate batting line for the games played on this night fifty years ago was as follows: .262/.330/.378. Aggregate ISO was just .116, with ISOBA of .462, as opposed to .190 ISO (!) and .785 ISOBA (!!) on June 18, 2019. But you know what--those weak-kneed banjo hitters back then still managed to score 4.56 runs per game that night--about 2/5ths of a run more than the long-ball lotharios managed.

Yes, Virginia: baseball was definitely more interesting fifty years ago...