Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Greatest Baseball Game Ever?

I am rather deficient in early childhood memories. I recall riding a pony, and this must have been before I turned 8, and I have a specific memory of my father saying "Don Larsen just pitched a perfect game", and having no idea what that meant.
But I sure do remember the seventh game of the 1960 World Series, and Paul Mirengoff, marking its fiftieth anniversary, has made a series of wonderful posts on that subject. Part 5 is here, but you should go and read the earlier parts, as Mazeroski's home run was only the icing on the cake of the most ridiculous drama I can recall in baseball. And you should go find them yourself as you ought to be reading the Power Line blog.
Terry's first pitch was high. Catcher Johnny Blanchard took a few steps towards the mound and signaled that Terry should get the ball down. His next pitch was fat. Mazeroski launched it to deep left field. Yogi Berra turned looked up and then began jogging towards the dug-out. Baseball's most dramatic game had come to a stunning conclusion.
The Yankees walked directly to the locker room. In those days, the losing players did not sit morosely in the dug-out staring blankly at the field. In any case, that wasn't the Yankee way.
Ralph Terry entered Casey Stengel's office to apologize. Stengel told him not to forget about it and come back strong next year. Terry would, but Stengel wouldn't reap the benefits. Within a week, the Yankees fired him.
Blanchard would claim that Mazeroski's homer came off of a Terry slider, the pitch Lopat had warned him not to throw. Terry would never say what pitch he threw. His stock answer to the question has always been, "the wrong pitch."
Mickey Mantle had batted .400 for the Series with 3 home runs and 11 RBI. He had also contributed a base-running play for the ages. Now, he was disconsolate and ungracious, claiming that this was the first time the Yankees had lost a World Series to an inferior team. The Pirates were probably every bit as good as the Yankees, and had demonstrated it over the course of the full season. But given the run count for the Series - New York 55, Pittsburgh 27 - one could certainly understand Mantle's point.
The Yankees won games by overwhelming scores, but lost four if only by squeaky results. And that is what counted.
I fear in a way that this game ruined baseball to a degree for me, though I loved playing it through my teens. But that level of drama seems unreachable now. And Paul Mirengoff makes another good point in this post. The games are simply too long!
This seems a tendency now in all sports; I always felt two hours or so was about the time one could sustain drama for me. Look at how long movies are. But add overtime to soccer, and all the pitching changes to baseball, and keeping my attention has become more difficult. The NFL has now crept up to three hours, but that is decidedly better than yesterday's baseball.


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