December 12, 2013
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Monday, August 06, 2012
It was 15,000 days ago that one of the game’s greatest sluggers hit one of his most famous home runs. It wasn’t necessarily one of his most important homers, but it is one people still remember. It didn’t win the game, and it wasn’t a dramatic homer late in the contest. Why, it wasn’t even in an official game that counted in the standings.
It was 1971, and the contest was the All-Star Game on July 13, 1971.
The batter, of course, was Reggie Jackson. Heading into the day, the AL hadn’t won an All-Star game since 1962. Early on, it didn’t look like they would win here, either. Johnny Bench hit a two-run homer in the top of the second, and Hank Aaron added a solo shot to give the NL a 3-0 lead.
Then came the bottom of the third. When shortstop Luis Aparicio led off with a single, Jackson stepped to the plate, and it didn’t take long for him to leave an impression. He didn’t just hit an offering from Pittsburgh’s Dock Ellis out of the park; he destroyed that pitch.
Jackson is famous for being the first player to stand and admire his longballs instead of running, or at least trotting, to first. It was a form of bragging and gave him more attention, which Jackson liked. Of all the home runs Jackson ever stood to admire, this might be the most famous one. His World Series homers in 1977 are famous as a unit, but this is one that’s famous as a stand-alone.
It also helped cement Jackson’s reputation as a hot dog. Almost all of the great and memorable moments in Jackson’s career came after this one. In July, 1971, Mr. October hadn’t played in a single postseason game yet. For many Americans, watching Jackson stand there and admire his monster shot was the first time they could recall seeing someone do that after connecting. This at-bat isn’t the most famous moment in Jackson’s mythos, but more than any other swing, it created Jackson’s image.
Oh, and it cued an AL comeback. Frank Robinson hit a two-run homer a few minutes later off Ellis for a 4-3 lead. A Harmon Killebrew two-run shot later in the game cemented a 6-4 win. But Jackson's is the one people remember.
It’s certainly the at-bat that NL pitcher Ellis remembered. He didn’t like Jackson homering, and he certainly didn’t like Reggie standing at the plate admiring the ball. But Jackson was in the AL and Ellis in the NL, so he couldn’t do anything about it.
That is, until 1976, when Ellis switched leagues to become a New York Yankee. Jackson was a Baltimore Oriole that year and on July 27, 1976, Ellis got his revenge. When Jackson led off the eighth, Ellis drilled him in the face with a fastball, injuring Jackson and breaking his sunglasses. Ellis sauntered over, looked at Jackson lying there, and casually asked, “Is he dead?” Jackson had to leave the game and didn’t return to the lineup until July 31.
Ellis had earlier opportunities to hit Jackson—both in that game and a previous meeting—but with a 4-0 lead late in the contest, he felt now would be a good time to allow a base runner. Ellis stayed in and got the shutout.
But the home run is what people remember, and it happened 15,000 days ago today.
Aside from that, many other events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary.” They are listed below with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim.
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Tigers 10, Indians 8: I was at this game, and I gotta tell ya, until the 9th inning it was one of the more lame, butt-dragging tie games you'll ever see. Omar Infante and Austin Jackson kept hitting, but apart from that the highlight until then was Joe West getting all ejecty for no good reason. But then a runner on third, no-out situation in the bottom of the ninth led to no runs for Detroit and the Indians' three-run tenth inning rally was trumped by the Tigers' five-run tenth inning rally, capped with a Miguel Cabrera walkoff homer. That sent the Tribe to their ninth straight loss and ended what had to have been one of the more dispiriting weekends that team has had in some time. With the exception of a couple of moments late in this one, the Indians spent the entire three-game series applying postage to the 2012 season and preparing to drop it at the nearest mailbox.
Pirates 6, Reds 2: The Pirates salvage one behind A.J. Burnett's 14th win. Actual Clint Hurdle quote following the game: "I've never had an ace before." I wonder if anyone asked Burnett if he'd ever been one.
Orioles 1, Rays 0: How do you find yourself in second place in the AL East despite having -57 run differential? You win 10 consecutive one-run games while getting blown out whenever you lose. Ladies and gentlemen, your 2012 Baltimore Orioles!
Dodgers 7, Cubs 6: Hanley Ramirez knocked in the game winner in the bottom of the ninth to help L. sweep Chicago. Nice bounceback for the Dodgers after getting themselves swept by Arizona earlier in the week. And a nice way to keep pace after the Giants ...
Giants 8, Rockies 3: ... swept the Rockies. Actually this was less of a sweep and more of a shop-vac kind of job. Except it was the Rockies doing the sucking. Like, all weekend along. Tim Lincecum won two in a row for the first time since April.
Padres 7, Mets 3: After his first outing, Terry Collins compared Matt Harvey to Justin Verlander and Stephen Strasburg. After Harvey gave up five runs on eight hits in five innings to one of the leagues least impressive offenses, I'm thinking that Collins needs to think of some different comps.
Nationals 4, Marlins 1: Meanwhile, the real Stephen Strasburg threw six shutout innings against Miami. He also singled in two runs. He was kinda like a one man force eh, like Charlton Heston in Omega Man. Did ya see it, it was beauty, eh.
Royals 7, Rangers 6: In the tenth inning, Alberto Gonzalez made an error on one play and Mike Olt made one on the next, giving the Royals the game. I'm guessing that, come playoff time, those balls will be hit to Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre.
White Sox 4, Angels 2: A.J. Pierzynski homered in his fifth consecutive game. The White Sox have won nine of 12 and still have a 1.5 game lead over the Tigers who have taken four straight. Chicago was my top candidate for a second half letdown, but so far it hasn't happened.
Cardinals 3, Brewers 0: Der Sweep. Kyle Lohse and three relievers combine for the shutout.
Blue Jays 6, Athletics 5: Two RBI a piece for Edwin Encarnacion and Yunel Escobar and Rajai Davis scored from second base on a sacrifice bunt, which is kind of nifty. The Jays split the series.
Phillies 5, Diamondbacks 4: Ryan Howard has been slumping like crazy, but he singled in the winning run in the bottom of the ninth to seal the comeback win. Cue the Phillies people calling him underrated again.
Red Sox 6, Twins 4: The good news: the Red Sox averted the sweep by the Twins. The bad news: they were in a position to where they had to avert a sweep by the Twins. Adrian Gonzalez hit a two run homer. Carl Crawford had three hits and a leaping catch. The drawing board, for one game at least, was validated.
Braves 6, Astros 1: Chipper Jones continues to impress in his final season. He was 2 for 4 with an RBI double and scored the winning run on a wild pitch. This is a lot of fun now, but it's gonna be kind of a bummer when Satan comes back and claims Jones' soul in exchange for the four months of good health and 1990s-era production he was granted.
Yankees 6, Mariners 2: Until I read the game story it had not dawned on me that Freddy Garcia and Raul Ibanez each played for the 1999 Seattle Mariners. And that Ichiro was Garcia's teammate in 2001. And now these three gray-hairs are all part of a 2012 Yankees team that has just as good a chance as anyone to win it all. And that's before you shuffle-in Seattle-era A-Rod. There's gotta be some sort of "Mariners of a dozen or so years ago are the new inefficiency" theory afoot here.