December 13, 2013
Get It Now!Hardball Times Annual is now available. It's got 300 pages of articles, commentary and even a crossword puzzle. You can buy the Annual at Amazon, for your Kindle or on our own page (which helps us the most financially). However you buy it, enjoy!
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Friday, March 01, 2013
Wondering about the World Baseball Classic and what it's all about? Check out this cool graphic, courtesy of the Major League Baseball Player's Association.
10,000 days ago, one of the most memorable postseason homers of all time took place. Certainly, it was one of the least likely postseason homers of all time. It was 10,000 days ago that the Cardinals won a game over the Dodgers in the NLCS on a walk-off homer by, of all people, Ozzie Smith.
Obviously, Smith was a great player and a noncontroversial selection to the Hall of Fame, an honor he received on his first BBWAA ballot, but he went in for his defensive prowess, not his offensive ability.
Oh, he wasn’t totally useless on offense. He had speed and stole over 500 bases in his career, and he could draw his share of walks. He hit .262 for his career, which isn’t very good but also isn’t too bad for the era, especially not for a shortstop. But when you say “not for a shortstop” we’re bringing back defense to justify his offense.
At any rate, the biggest hole in Smith’s game was power. He didn’t have any. In his career, he had a half-dozen seasons as a starting shortstop during which he didn’t hit any homers. In Smith’s entire 10,778 plate appearances regular-season career, he smacked just 28 homers, one every 385 plate appearances. That’s only slightly better than Juan Pierre. Not surprisingly, none of those homers was a walk-off, game-winning shot.
At least none of his regular-season homers were. But that’s just what makes what happened on Oct. 14, 1985, that much more incredible. The series was tied two games apiece, but the Cardinals needed the win more than L.A. After all, the next two games would be in Dodger Stadium, giving them the advantage. And a freak injury had just sidelined star St. Louis speedster Vince Coleman; he’d been run over by the tarp machine the day before.
Early on, St. Louis went for blood, scoring two runs in the first before making any outs. Leadoff man Willie McGee walked and then Smith did likewise, just in time for second baseman Tom Herr to double them both in.
After that, however, Dodgers starting pitcher Fernando Valenzuela settled in nicely. Though he had control problems, he blanked the Cardinals batters inning after inning. Meanwhile, the Dodgers tied it up on a two-run homer by Bill Madlock.
It was still 2-2 entering the ninth inning. For the first time all day, the Dodgers had a new pitcher. Valenzuela had done well, but he was tiring, and the top of the order was due up for St. Louis.
Now pitching was Dodgers fireman Tom Niedenfuer. He’d had a stellar season, winning seven games and saving 19 others with a 2.71 ERA. In a sign of how it was a different game back then, Niedenfuer had thrown over 100 innings. He fanned a batter an inning while walking one man every fourth frame. Oh, and he was hard to go deep against, allowing just six homers in his 106.1 frames.
So when he retired McGee with a harmless pop-up for the first out, it looked like the game would go into extra innings. But hey, maybe Smith could get on base, steal second and come home on a single by Herr. That was the most likely pro-Cardinals outcome.
Instead, Smith connected on a 1-2 pitch and it went deep to right, past the warning track, over the wall and—incredibly—into the stands. Smith had won the game in the least Ozzie-ish manner possible. In fact, he wouldn’t hit another homer until May 31, 1988. Yes, not until three seasons later.
St. Louis would win Game Six as well to claim the pennant. But that game provided no moment as memorable as Ozzie Smith’s walk-off home run. And that moment was 10,000 days ago.
Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate either their “day-versary” or anniversary. Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim.
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