30th anniversary: Blue Monday

Exactly 30 years ago today, Rick Monday helped deliver the pennant to the Los Angeles Dodgers, thanks to a ninth inning home run. Rather appropriately, Monday’s blast came on Monday Oct. 19, 1981 – “Blue Monday,” as it became known. It sure was a blue day for fans of the Expos, whose team lost due to Rick Monday’s shot.

It was the fifth and deciding game of the NLCS, and the Montreal Expos hosted the visiting Dodgers. Montreal had a promising young team and hoped to capture the first pennant in Canadian history. They’d won two of the first three games in the best of five series only to see the Dodgers trample them 7-1 in Game Four.

On the 19th, pitchers dominated through eight innings. Dodger sensation Fernando Valenzuela allowed just three hits all day, but one of those led to an early Montreal run as Tim Raines doubled leading off the first for Montreal and scored after two consecutive infield grounders.

For Montreal, that slender 1-0 lead held up for much of the day behind the pitching of veteran hurler Ray Burris. In the fifth, the Dodgers finally tied it with a rally consisting of a pair of singles, a wild pitch, and an infield grounder. The man who scored that run? Rick Monday, who led off the inning with a single.

The way the game was going, it looked like whoever scored next would win—which is exactly what would happen.

In the ninth, Montreal manager Jim Fanning decided he’d pushed Burris as far as he could go. Rather than bring in a relief ace, Fanning called on his best starting pitcher, Steve Rogers to pitch the ninth. He recorded two quick outs, and then Rick Monday came up to the plate.

That’s when Montreal felt blue. Rick Monday belted a home run and suddenly a day that seemed up for grabs now seemed safely in hand for LA.

Montreal made them sweat at least. With two outs and no one on in the bottom of the ninth, Expos starters Gary Carter and Larry Parrish each worked full counts into free passes, putting the tying run in scoring position and the winning run on base. Tommy Lasorda decided that was enough for Valenzuela, and called on a young Bob Welch to close it out. That he did—throwing just one pitch for an infield grounder and the pennant.

Montreal never came closer to the pennant than they did that day. Now, they exist only as the Washington Nationals, who are also far from the pennant.

As for the Dodgers, it was the latest in a string of impressive wins that October. In the first-ever NLDS (caused by the players’ strike that wiped out a third of the 1981 season), the Dodgers rallied from a two-games-to-none deficit to Houston to win in five games. As on Blue Monday, pitching did it for them, as they allowed just two runs on 12 hits in those three victories over Houston.

Aside from that, other events also celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is an event occurring X-thousand days ago) today. Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you just want to skim it.

Day-versaries

2,000 days since Barry Bonds ties Babe Ruth by hitting his 1,356th career extra base hit. It’s a bases-loaded double that drives in three runs.

2,000 days since Texas’ Kevin Mench homers for the seventh straight game.

2,000 days since Steve Howe dies.

2,000 days since a tentative deal is reached with striking minor league umpires on a new six-year contract for them.

7,000 days since Edgar Martinez belts the first of his nine career grand slams.

7,000 days since Von Hayes plays in his last game.

7,000 days since the Marlins sign amateur free agent Luis Castillo.

7,000 days since Bret Boone makes his major league debut, making the Boone family the game’s first three generation family.

7,000 days since the Pirates sign amateur free agent Jose Guillen.

7,000 days since Tom Glavine wins his 13th straight decision, his personal longest winning streak. In that stretch, this is his line: 13-0 W-L, 16 GS, 4 CG, 118.1 IP, 96 H, 33 R, 28 ER, 36 BB, 63 K, and a 2.13 ERA.

Anniversaries

1876 Hall of Fame starting pitcher Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown is born.

1887 Defensive stud center fielder Fred Snodgrass is born.

1913 The White Sox and Giants (along with some players from other teams) start a world tour.

1923 Ban Johnson persuades AL owners to prohibit boxing matches in their parks. This will not last.

1927 The Browns trade pitchers Sad Sam Jones and Milt Gaston to Washington for Dick Coffman and Earl McNeely.

1939 The Reds release Al Simmons.

1943 Sandy Alomar Sr. is born.

1946 The Yankees acquire Allie Reynolds from the Indians for Joe Gordon and Eddie Bockman.

1949 The White Sox make one of the best trades in history, landing Nellie Fox from the A’s for Joe Tipton.

1954 Hall of Fame outfielder Hugh Duffy dies.

1954 The Yankees release relief pitcher Ralph Branca.

1959 The Dodgers trade slugging first baseman Jim Gentile to the Orioles, where he’ll have some considerable success.

1959 The US Supreme Court upholds the validity of the sale of Chavez Ravine by the city of Los Angeles to the Dodgers.

1960 Mark Davis, reliever who will win the Cy Young Award, is born.

1961 Tim Belcher, starting pitcher, is born.

1964 The Pirates hire Harry Walker to manage them.

1964 The Cardinals hire Red Schoendienst to manage their team.

1964 The Senators release slugger Roy Sievers.

1965 NBC gets the rights to package upcoming World Series and All-Star Games.

1972 Keith Foulke, relief ace, is born.

1972 The A’s stun the Reds 3-2 in Game Four of the World Series to take a three games to one lead. Cincinnati leads 2-1 entering the bottom of the ninth, but A’s skipper Dick Williams uses three pinch hitters and two pinch runners in 10 minutes to jumpstart a two-run, game-winning rally.

1975 Using aerial photography, the Boston Globe pegs Fenway Park’s left field foul pole at 304.779 feet, not the 315 feet the sign on it claims.

1976 Ranger infielder Michael Young is born.

1978 The White Sox fire manager Larry Doby, and name Don Kessinger player-manager. He’s the last player-manager in AL history.

1980 A dramatic rally in Game Five of the World Series puts the Phillies one win away from their first world title ever. They enter the ninth inning trailing the Royals 3-2, but plate the tying and winning runs on three hits in the top half of the inning. In the bottom of the ninth, they barely hold on with relief ace Tug McGraw fanning Jose Cardenal with the bases loaded for the final out. The Phillies lead, three games to two.

1982 The A’s fire Billy Martin, their manager for the last three seasons. This is the longest time Martin will ever last helming a team.

1983 The Phillies release first baseman Pete Rose.

1986 Former pitcher George Pipgras dies.

1987 The Yankees hire a new manager, Billy Martin. It’s the fifth time they’ve hired him, a record for most tours of duty by one person with the same club.

1999 The Braves win the pennant, ending arguably the greatest NLCS ever, by topping the Mets 10-9 in extra innings. Atlanta jumps out to an early 5-0 lead, and are still ahead 7-3 after six innings, only to see the Mets tie it in the top of the seventh, and take an 8-7 lead in the eighth.

In the 10th, the Mets take a 9-8 lead but Atlanta ties it on a two-out RBI single by Ozzie Guillen. Then, in the 11th, the Braves loaded on a bases loaded walk by Kenny Rogers to Andruw Jones. The Mets had intentionally walked the previous two batters to face Jones, too. Oops.

2001 Former Phillies pitcher Hugh “Losing Pitcher” Mulcahy dies. He wasn’t a good pitcher, but he got the nickname because he was a durable hurler for some absolutely horrible teams. He was also the first prominent NL player taken in the WWII draft.

2004 The Red Sox, once down three games to none, tie the Yankees three games all with their 4-2 win in Game Six of the ALCS. There is no late inning dramatics in this one, but there is a dramatic hero, as Curt Schilling pitches them to victory shortly after undergoing experimental ankle surgery and having a bloody sock during the contest.

2005 Wilson Alvarez retires.

2006 The Cardinals, barely a .500 team in the regular season, win the pennant with a dramatic 3-1 win in Game Seven of the NLCS over the Mets. Yadier Molina belts a two-run homer in the top of the ninth to provide the margin of victory.

2007 The Royals hire Trey Hillman as their new manager.

2009 The Angels top the Yankees 5-4 in 11 innings in Game Three of the ALCS.

2009 The Phillies beat the Dodgers 5-4 thanks to two runs in the bottom of the ninth in Game Four of the NLCS. Both the game-tying, and game-winning runs score on a walk-off double by Jimmy Rollins.

2010 The Giants beat the Phillies 3-0 in Game Three of the NLCS, holding Philadelphia to just three hits along the way.

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