Posts Tagged ‘major league baseball’

“Hey, Gary!”

By Ham City Kev

The Kid

I don’t remember the game. I don’t remember the date. I just remember my favorite autograph story ever happened at a Mets/Expos game sometime in 1993.

I’m not big into autographs, but I got a kick out of it as a kid. My first autograph was actually from Ozzie Smith. I had Field seats to a Cardinals game sometime in 1992 and had my baseball sticker book with me. I saw Ozzie throwing warm-up tosses in front of the Cards dugout and was floored. “that’s Ozzie Smith,” I thought. Not, “that’s that guy who makes all those great plays on my baseball highlight tapes,” as he was far beyond that of course. That was Ozzie Smith. It was easily the first big star I ever got close to. When he was done tossing the ball around, he came over to all the kids begging for his autograph on the railing and signed his name for me, right under his picture in the sticker book. I still have that book, and refuse to throw it away.

Through my old friend Paulie’s family connections, we got to a lot of games in the Field Box seats in 92 and 93. I got some more autographs, all of them on the Anthony Young ball (more on that at 35 on the list), but the names were never too big. Joe Orsulak, Ryan Thompson, uhhh… hang on, let me find the ball and check it… hey, I got Barry Larkin, too! Not ridiculously impressive, but that’s nothing to shake a stick at. I remember a rain delay where Paulie and I got soaked because we saw Doc Gooden talking to someone in the tunnel behind home plate, and we stood in the rain begging for his autograph. He said, “one second guys,” and we waited patiently… and patiently… and patiently… Finally a few more kids saw us and figured we were up to something, so they came running over. They all screamed their heads off because we discovered Doc. “We saw ‘em first, we get the autographs first,” we shouted, but it was futile. A few minutes later, Doc waved at us and walked inside, not caring that all of us were heart-broken and soaking wet, calling for him to please please come back.

This is a good segue into the Expos game I want to discuss here. But before I begin, let me preface by saying this: this is no bullshit. I know it sounds way too sugar coated and sweet, too good to be true, but this really happened and I have the autograph to prove it.

Before the game began, Baseball and Met Hall of Famer Gary Carter was walking around the field interviewing players for Expos TV (Expos TV? That really existed?). Of course, Paulie and I are begging for his autograph along with so many other people, but Gary ignores everyone. He must have walked past our group 4 or 5 times, completely ignorant. I was worried it was going to be another Doc story, but I wouldn’t let it happen. When he walked by our group again, I was the only one left shouting for him. Everyone else had given up. I may have given up as well. But I thought, “if I can’t get his autograph, I can at least thank him,” so I did.

I leaned over the railing and shouted as loud as my 12-year-old body could, “HEY GARY! THANKS FOR STARTING THE RALLY IN 86!”

Wouldn’t you know it, Good Ol’ Camera Carter stopped dead in his tracks, turned to me and said, “No problem! You want an autograph?” DID I?!?!?!

So me and Paulie got his only two autographs of the day, and I still love telling that story.

Ham City Kev’s Top Ten All-Time MLB League Championship Series

I’m a baseball fanatic, so please excuse another non-nostalgia posting and indulge me on the eve of the 2009 NLCS.

Since 1969, the Championship Series for the American League and National League have played Second Bananas to the World Series. While this is necessary and understandable, I often feel it unfair that even though there have been many great LCS’s, so few retain their shine in popular history. This year marks the 79th and 80th installments of the League Championship Series, so you know they can’t all be mediocre or boring. There is classic baseball buried in there, I promise.

Now, as a child of 1980 I fully admit to appreciating some of the following baseball from boxscores and hearsay only. I understand that sometimes there’s more drama than the numbers show and vice versa. It’s certainly not the best system to come up with a top ten, but shit, being born in 1980 isn’t my fault–and it’s not like MLB Network is putting together a Prime 9 to properly honor these Series. I may not be fully qualified to put together a list like this, but the way I see it, it’s me or nobody. Might as well listen to me, right?

So, without further ado, I present my Top 10 All-Time MLB League Championship Series. Click to links to read about the awesomeness of these series in greater detail on Wikipedia, otherwise enjoy my cliff notes.

Honorable mentions: 1984 NLCS – Padres def Cubs 3-2; 2008 ALCS – Rays def Red Sox 4-3.

10. 1986 ALCS – Red Sox def Angels 4-3
Infamous Red Sox from-the-dead miracle comeback (well, the first one anyways). After the Sox blow Game 4 to trail the Series 3-1, the Angels historically blow Game 5 and never recover. Angels closer Donnie Moore, tormented by fans over the Game 5 loss, kills himself 3 years later.

9. 1972 NLCS – Reds def Pirates 3-2
The best of the 4 NLCS’s played between the 2 best National League teams in the 1970′s. Roberto Clemente, in his penultimate game in the Major Leagues, was the only thing stopping Ross Grimsley from pitching a no-hitter in Game 4. The Reds win it in the bottom of the 9th in the deciding Game 5 off a solo home run from Bench to tie, and a run-scoring wild pitch to win it.

8. 1991 NLCS – Braves def Pirates 4-3
Everyone remembers the drama behind Francisco Cabrera’s game-winner for the Braves in 1992, but nobody remembers the insane pitching clinic of this series. 4 shutouts, 3 of which have a final score of 1-0. The Braves pitching staff, led by an untouchable Steve Avery, holds the Pirates scoreless in the final 22 innings of the series, lowering their collective series E.R.A. to 1.57–and they still lost 3 games!

7. 2004 NLCS – Cards def Astros 4-3
“The Best Series that Nobody Watched?” Perhaps. While the nation’s attention focused on the other LCS (more on that in a sec), this series saw the home team win every game, with Carlos Beltran hitting a home run in each of the first 4 and finishing the series with a sick 1.521 OPS–and yet he was somehow outperformed by Albert Pujols and his OPS of 1.563. Game 5 had both teams pitching one-hitters into the 9th until Jeff Kent won it with a 3-run walkoff homer. Astros tie Game 6 in the 9th but strand potential Series-winning runs on 2nd and 3rd, Cards later win it on a Jim Edmonds 2-run walkoff homer in the 12th. Cardinals win pennant in Game 7 by defeating Roger Clemens in his “final” game.

6. 2004 ALCS – Red Sox def Yankees 4-3
Does this really need an explanation? Well, in case you’ve been in a coma the past 5 years, this actually happened: the Red Sox beat the Yankees. Not only that, they did it in a way that has never ever been done before or since in the long storied history of Major League Baseball–by winning 4 straight after being down 3-games-to-none (and down down to their final 3 outs, to boot). After tying the game off Mariano Fucking Rivera 2 nights in a row, the Sox win Games 4 and 5 in extra innings courtesy of David Ortiz. Curt Schilling wins Game 6 while constantly bleeding from the foot. I was on the phone with Gord as the Game 7 blowout ended, convinced the Yankees would somehow score 8 runs and win–it was that fucking hard to believe.

5. 1972 ALCS – A’s def Tigers 3-2
Some of baseball’s greatest names litter this Series, which was somewhat of a crazy palendrome through 4 games. The Tigers blow an 11th inning lead, then get shut out. The A’s get shut out, then blow a 10th inning lead. Oakland squeaks a 2-1 victory in the deciding Game 5 thanks in part to Reggie Jackson scoring and tearing his hamstring on a double-steal of home in the second. But perhaps most memorably, Bert Campaneris throws his bat at Lerrin LaGrow in Game 2.

4. 1999 NLCS – Braves def Mets 4-2
Braves win Game 1 by the score of 4-2, and that proves to be the biggest blowout of the series. Each of the remaining games would be decided by one run. Down 3-games-to-none, the Mets win Game 4 in their final at-bat, then use 23 players to win the epic Game 5, 15 inning marathon off Robin Ventura’s infamous “Grand Slam Single”. Braves win dramatic, see-saw Game 6 in the 11th with achingly anti-climactic bases loaded walk from Kenny Rogers to advance to the World Series.

3. 1986 NLCS – Mets def Astros 4-2
Mike Scott takes MVP honors despite being on the losing team after allowing only 1 run in 18 innings against the best offense in the league–with the alleged help of a scuffed ball. Mets win Game 3 on a 2-run walkoff homer from light-hitting Lenny Dykstra, then win Game 5 after a 12th inning walkoff base hit from Gary Carter. But let’s be honest, this Series ranks as high as it does because of the epic of LCS epics: the 16-inning Game 6.

2. 2003 ALCS – Yankees def Red Sox 4-3
If you check the box scores of this series, it doesn’t add up to some of the entries above. The numbers, however, are not what this series was about. This was edge-of-your-seat history in the making. This was about 2 incredibly matched teams renewing a great rivalry. It was about the Red Sox standing up for themselves and surprisingly hanging in there against a Yankee team that would normally steamroll them. It was about the benches clearing in Game 3 and Pedro Martinez tossing 72-year-old Don Zimmer on his head. Most memorably, it was about Boston once again tricking everyone into thinking they were going to pull it off in Game 7–until the other shoe dropped late, and Aaron Boone won the series with an 11th inning, walkoff home run. It was the highest of high for the winners, and the lowest of low for the losers.

1. 1980 NLCS – Phillies def Astros 3-2
How this series is not constantly celebrated is beyond me. Game 1, a 3-1 victory for the Phillies, was not only the sole game to feature a home run, but the only game out of 5 that was wrapped up in the regulation 9 innings. The remaining 4 games were back and forth, back and forth; runners stranded, plays at the plate, 3 10th inning victories and one in the 11th, the Astros blowing the first pennant in their franchise’s history and the Phillies winning their first in 30 years. There really aren’t any words that can properly capture the excitement of this series. Click on the link above to see for yourself.

What can be in store for us this year, the 40th anniversary of the League Championship Series? One or two new entries to this list, perhaps? Well, we can hope so. The 4 Divisional Series were wrapped up quickly, but each had a flair for the dramatic. Perhaps it’s a good sign. Hey, it’s a flawed playoff system (imo), but this year we’re actually getting what we’re supposed to get: the 2 legitimately best teams in each league facing eachother to determine a champion. I may not like who’s left to root for, but I applaud the victory for baseball fans everywhere.

Here’s hoping these 100 players provide games to celebrate for 100 years.

Ham City Kev’s 2009 MLB Post-Season predictions

Once I get started on baseball it’s hard to stop me, so I’ll try and keep this brief. First of all, congratulations Twins. That playoff was one for the ages. As Bob Murphy might have said, “this is heart-stopping baseball. Pulsating baseball. Nobody has sat down in the last 4 or 5 innings, incredible!”

Now, let’s talk playoffs. Things to look for:
1. Since the introduction of the Wild Card, only the legendary 1998 Yankees have had sole possession of the best overall regular-season record to go along with a World Series trophy. Will this trend continue, or are the 2009 Yankees that good?

2. In 2006, limping into the playoffs seemed to work for the Cardinals. Will history repeat for the 2009 group of Redbirds?

3. Can the Phils score enough runs to support their dogshit bullpen?

4. Should the Dodgers barely miss the World Series, can the Curse of Don Mattingly get national attention?

5. Can the Twins ride their ridiculous hot streak straight to the World Series like the 2007 Rockies did, or is their competition just too strong?

6a. Can the Angels finally beat the Red Sox in October?
6b. Can the Yankees finally beat the Angels in October?

With the Metsies long out of it, the question is who do I root for? Though I pretty much hate all other National League teams, anyone who has no personal stake in these playoffs should be rooting for the Rockies. If Bud Selig is greedy enough to allow World Series games in November (without the help of terrorism), then he deserves the headache coming to him when Coors Field is covered in 4 feet of snow come Game 3. In the American League I’d like to see the Twins get a shot to keep this decade’s list of Champions between 9 teams instead of 8. If the Angels win, fine. If the Red Sox win, fine–but seriously, fucking enough already.

Anyone but the fucking Yankees. They’ve had their century. Now, onto my official predictions (please note I’m predicting with my head, not my heart):

Yankees over Twins in 3
Red Sox over Angels in 4

Cardinals over Dodgers in 4
Phillies over Rockies in 5

Yankees over Red Sox in 5
Cardinals over the Phillies in 4

Yankees over Cardinals in 4

If I’m right, I feel awful sorry for Twins, Red Sox, and Cardinals fans who watch the Yankees win it on their turf, then go on to hear about how inferior they are from visiting douchebag Yankee fans as they exit their stadium–especially you poor Twins fans. Those fans can at least take solace that they aren’t Mets fans who have to put up with that shit on a daily basis–amongst many other headaches of course.

(for those wondering how good I am at predicting baseball, typically I’m either 90% right or 100% wrong, but it’s rarely in the middle. Just flip a coin. Shit, it’s baseball–I’m pretty sure odds makers do the same thing.)

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