Fifty years ago today, one of the greatest pennant races came to an end—with a game that was both great and greatly appropriate.
The 1962 season looked like it was going to be the Dodgers’. They led the National League almost all summer long. Their lead was never too comfortable, peaking at just five games, but it was consistent.
With two weeks to go, they led by four games. Then they dropped four of their next six, but that was okay—they still held a four-game lead and there were just seven left to play. Surely, they couldn’t blow that …. Right?
Well, no. They dropped six of their last seven, including their last four. They didn’t even score in their last two games. When the regular season ended, the Dodgers had a record of 101-61—which put them in a tie with the rival Giants.
To determine the pennant winner, NL rules stipulated a best-of-three series. (The league soon changed this rule, and as a result the 1962 Dodgers and Giants are the only teams to ever play 165 games in a year).
On Oct. 1, L.A. got killed in the first game 8-0, the Dodgers’ third straight shutout loss. However, on Oct. 2 they roared back from a 5-0 deficit in the second game to even the series.
It all came down to the final game, which took place on 50 years ago today. For much of the day, it looked like Los Angeles’ late-season choke would be redeemed. In the late innings, the Dodgers held a 4-2 lead and the pennant looked to be theirs.
Then came the ninth inning.
The Dodgers didn’t just lose, they choked it away. The Giants barely had to do anything to earn the win—they just had to step out of the way while the Dodgers fumbled the pennant to them.
Matty Alou led off the top of the ninth with a single. That was arguably the last thing the Giants did all inning to win it. The rest was things the Dodgers did to lose it.
Harvey Kuenn grounded into a force play that nailed Alou. Kuenn was on first with one out. So far, so good for L.A.: two outs from the pennant.
However, the Dodgers walked Willie McCovey. And then they walked Felipe Alou, loading the bases, with the tying run in scoring position. Willie Mays was up next—and he hit one back to the pitcher. Instead of a possible double play, it went for an infield single. Now it was 4-3 with the winning run in scoring position.
Orlando Cepeda became the second batter this inning to hit the ball out of the infield for a fly out, but an out deep enough to score the game-tying run. Alou, representing the pennant-winning run, advanced to third. At least there were now two outs.
Before anything else could happen, L.A. threw a wild pitch. Well, at least Alou held at third, but the trailing runner scampered to second. With first open, L.A. intentionally walked the next batter to load the bases. As you might guess, that didn’t end well: Dodgers hurler Stan Williams proceeded to unintentionally walk the next batter, thus force in the winning run.
But since it was the top of the ninth, the inning still wasn’t over. The next batter grounded to second for an easy out—but infielder Jim Gilliam muffed it. Everyone is safe and it’s 6-4. The next batter finally struck out, but the Giants had scored four runs despite only two of the inning’s 10 batters hitting the ball out of the infield.
It was a horrific ending, but also horrifically appropriate given the way the Dodger played down the stretch to cause the playoff series in the first place. And that game was 50 years ago today.
Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that happened X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim over the list.
1,000 days since the Red Sox trade Casey Kotchman to Seattle
2,000 days since Roy Halladay goes 10 innings for Toronto. The Blue Jays haven’t had anyone go over nine innings in one outing since then.
3,000 days since Rey Ordonez plays in his last game.
4,000 days since the Yankees top the Marlins 3-1 in Game Four of the 2001 ALCS. The Yankees win on a two-run walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth.
6,000 days since the lowest Game Score of Andy Pettitte’s career: 1. His line; 1 IP, 8 H, 9 R, 8 ER, 2 BB, and no strikeouts. The Yankees win anyway, 13-10 over Baltimore.
6,000 days since Pittsburgh’s Jeff King homers twice in an inning. It’s the second time he’s done that.
7,000 days since Tony Gwynn gets six hits in a 12-inning game.
8,000 days since Darryl Strawberry signs as a free agent with the Dodgers.
9,000 days since Eddie Murray gets his 2,000th hit.
10,000 days since Tommy John records his 200th loss.
15,000 days since the Cubs sign amateur free agent Bruce Sutter.
1872 Fred Clarke, a Hall of Fame player and a terrific manager, is born.
1890 Players League founder John Ward offers an olive branch, inviting the NL owners to discuss peace.
1891 Jim Mutrie manages his final game. He has one of the best records of his era.
1891 Long John Reilly, one of only three players to hit for the cycle three times, appears in his last major league game.
1895 Harry Wright, Hall of Fame skipper, dies.
1897 Cap Anson plays in his final major league game; two games, actually, as it’s a doubleheader. He belts two homers in the first game, giving him three on the entire season.
1904 Christy Mathewson fans 16 in a 3-2 Giants win over the Cardinals. The game takes 75 minutes.
1908 NL honcho Harry Pulliam holds a hearing on the Sept. 23 Giants-Cub game, a.k.a., the Fred Merkle game, and rules it to be replayed on Oct. 8.
1908 Hall of Famer outfielder Joe Kelley plays in his final game.
1909 Rival managers Fred Clarke and Frank Chance square off against each other for the 100th time.
1910 Max Carey makes his big league debut.
1911 Baseball player George J. Burns debuts.
1915 Fred Clarke resigns as Pirates manager on his birthday. He’ll never manage again. Though only 43 years old, he has 1,602 victories, more than any other manager at that point.
1915 Hall of Fame catcher Roger Bresnahan plays in his last contest.
1916 John McGraw yells at his Giants, “You bunch of quitters!” and leaves the field for the clubhouse.
1919 World Series Game Three: The Reds lose to Clean Sox Dickie Kerr, 2-0. Kerr tosses a three-hit, complete-game shutout.
1919 Black Sox first baseman Chick Gandil tells ex-player turned gambler Sleepy Bill Burns that the fix is in for Game Three despite starting pitcher Dickie Kerr not being part of the fix. “If we can’t win for Eddie Cicotte and Lefty Williams, we’re not going to win for no busher,” Gandil says. Burns will bet everything he has and lose it when Kerr wins. This will help cause a later aggrieved Burns to be a witness for the prosecution in the Black Sox trial in 1921.
1920 Veteran managers George Stallings and Clark Griffith both manage their last games. Griffith, now an owner, will spend the rest of his time in the front office. Stallings will end up managing in the minor leagues.
1920 Edd Roush plays second base for the only time in his career.
1924 The first official Negro Leagues World Series begins.
1929 Kiki Cuyler gets his 1,000th hit in his 794th game played.
1929 Pitcher Art Nehf plays in his last game.
1936 In Game Three of the World Series, the Yankees top the Giants, 2-1, despite the Giants out-hitting them, 11-4. The Yankees plate the winning run in the bottom of the eighth.
1937 Johnny Allen’s attempt at a perfect season is ruined in the last day, as he loses to Detroit, 1-0, giving him a record of 15-1.
1937 The Detroit Tigers release Hall of Famer Goose Goslin.
1937 Ken Heintzelman, the most highly leveraged starting pitcher of all-time, makes his debut.
1937 Kirby Higbe, quality starting pitcher, makes his debut.
1943 Gil Hodges makes his big league debut.
1946 Leo Durocher says he’ll be with the Brooklyn Dodgers “until the day I die.” He’ll never manage another complete season for the team.
1946 St. Louis clinches the NL pennant by winning the second game in a best-of-three series for the title over the Dodgers.
1947 In one of the most incredible games in World Series history, Yankees starting pitcher Bill Bevens comes one out from a no-hitter, only to lose, 3-2, to the Dodgers. He walks a ton of batters, leading to one run scoring early, and with two on (both by walks) and two outs in the ninth, he surrenders a walk-off, no-hit-ending double.
1948 Veteran Yankee Frankie Crosetti plays in his last game.
1948 Mike Garcia makes his big league debut.
1951 Bobby Thomson hits the most famous home run in baseball history and Russ Hodges has the most famous broadcasting call in sports history. Thomson’s three-run walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth in the last game of a best-of-three series between the Giants and Dodgers completes New York’s impressive comeback from 13.5 games back. Yes, the Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!
1951 Dave Winfield is born.
1954 Dennis Eckersley is born.
1961 Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Michael A. Musmano writes a letter to Cincinnati manager Fred Hutchinson urging the Reds to change their name due to the association of communism with red.
1966 The Tigers sign Mayo Smith as their manager. They’ll win a title under him in 1968.
1968 In Game Three of the World Series, Mickey Lolich picks a nice time for the only home run of his career. Detroit wins, 3-1, over the Cardinals.
1970 Baseball umpires strike for one day, the first game of the playoffs.
1970 In a pitchers’ duel in Game One of the NLCS, the Reds top the Pirates, 3-0, in 10 innings.
1971 Pittsburgh’s Bob Robertson belts three home runs in Game Two of the NLCS, leading the Pirates to a 9-4 win over the Reds.
1971 Wil Cordero is born.
1972 Baltimore’s Roric Harrison becomes the last AL pitcher to homer until interleague play. The Orioles top the Indians, 4-3. That game also sees Earl Weaver at his least Weaver-ian, as the Orioles lay down three sacrifice hits (tying his all-time high) and are three-for-four in stolen base attempts.
1972 Roberto Clemente plays in his last regular-season game.
1974 The Indians hire Frank Robinson as the major leagues’ first black manager.
1976 Hank Aaron plays in his final game, and the Brewers retire No. 44 in his honor. He hits a single.
1976 In the top of the fourth, Nolan Ryan loads the bases with no one ougt, only to fan three straight batters to escape without allowing any runs. It’s the second time he’s done that.
1976 George Brett legs out the first of four career inside-the-park home runs. Brett wins the batting title after a tight duel with teammate Hal McRae. After the game, McRae accuses opposing teams of racism in their defensive alignments.
1976 Bill Freehan, a Hall of Fame-caliber catcher, plays in his final game.
1979 The Orioles win Game One of the ALCS on a walk-off homer for a 6-3 victory in a 10-inning game over the Indians.
1979 In Game Two of the NLCS, the Reds tie the Pirates, 2-2, in the bottom of the ninth, but Pittsburgh wins in the 10th innings.
1979 The Cubs release Ken Holtzman.
1979 San Diego releases veteran pitcher Mickey Lolich.
1980 The White Sox sign free agent Minnie Minoso to make him a five-decade player.
1980 Jose Cardenal plays in his last game.
1982 Only once in the 20th century do two Hall of Fame pitchers square off on the last day of the season to determine which of their teams will go to the postseason, and it occurs today. Jim Palmer and the Orioles beat Don Sutton and the Brewers, 10-2. Many of the runs score late off the Milwaukee bullpen.
1982 On the last day of the season, the Braves finally clinch the NL West, holding off the Giants.
1984 In 11 innings, the Tigers top the Royals, 4-3, in Game Two of the ALCS.
1985 Richie Hebner plays in his final game.
1986 Vince DiMaggio, Joe’s older brother, dies.
1987 Padres rookie catcher Benito Santiago has his 34-game hitting streak, a rookie record, end.
1987 Dan Driessen plays in his last game.
1987 Wally Joyner whacks three home runs in one game.
1990 In the season’s last game, Cecil Fielder becomes the first player since George Foster in 1977 to belt 50 homers in a season. Tigers manger Sparky Anderson bats Fielder first to give him as many shots at 50 as he can. He hits two to end up at 51.
1991 Carlton Fisk, just a few months shy of his 44th birthday, enjoys his 24th and final multi-home run game.
1993 Arlington Stadium in Texas hosts its last baseball game.
1993 Tommy Lasorda has his revenge. The Giants need to beat the Dodgers on the last day of the season to force a one-game playoff with Atlanta for the NL West title. The Dodgers destroy them, 12-1. After the game, Lasorda says this is for previous late-season heartbreaks the Giants have given the Dodgers, most notably 1951 and 1962.
1995 The Indians top the Red Sox in 13 innings, 5-4, in Game One of the NLDS. Both teams scored once in the 11th inning.
1995 The Braves top the Rockies, 5-4, in Game One in the NLDS. Both teams score three times in the first, and then nothing through the seventh. Both get one in the eighth, but Atlanta gets the final run in the top of the ninth.
1996 In Game Two of the NLDS, the Braves top the Dodgers, 3-2, in a game featuring only eight hits total. They also combined for nine hits in Game One.
1996 The Cardinals beat the Padres, 5-4, in Game Two of the NLDS. St. Louis leads, 4-1, but the Padres came back to tie it. St. Louis wins it with a run in the bottom of the eighth.
1998 The Padres beat Houston, 2-1, in Game Three of the NLDS. All the runs scored in three consecutive half-innings from the bottom of the fifth to the bottom of the sixth. There are only seven hits total in the game.
2002 In a tight game, the Cardinals top the Diamondbacks, 2-1, in Game Two of the NLDS. St. Louis leads, 1-0, in the middle of the eighth, but Arizona ties it in the bottom half of the inning, only to see St. Louis score a final run in the top of the ninth.
2002 Texas releases John Rocker.
2003 The Marlins defeat the Giants, 4-3, in 11 innings in Game Three of the NLDS. It’s 2-2 heading into the 11th inning.
2004 John Cerutti, former pitcher, dies at age 44.
2004 On the last day of the season, several players appear in their last regular season game, including Barry Larkin, Edgar Martinez (who hits into back-to-back GIDP to end his career), Ray Lankford (who homers), Andres Galarraga and Todd Zeile.
2004 Art Howe manages his last game.
2006 The A’s top the Twins, 3-2, in Game One of the ALDS thanks to a pair of Frank Thomas home runs.
2007 Josh Beckett throws a complete-game, four-hit shutout for a 4-0 Boston victory over the Angels in Game One of the ALDS.
2007 In Game One of the NLDS, the Diamondbacks top the Cubs, 3-1, in part because Lou Piniella decides to yank Carlos Zambrano with a 1-1 score to ensure he’s well-rested for a Game Four. That game will never come, as the Cubs end up getting swept.
2007 After 13 seasons as St. Louis GM, Walt Jocketty resigns from the Cardinals. He’s since become Reds GM.
2008 Boston gets two in the top of the ninth for a 7-5 win over the Angels in Game Two of the ALDS.
2009 Toronto fires GM J. P. Ricciardi with one year left on his contract. The 32-year-old Alex Anthropoulos takes over.
2010 Nancy Faust, the most famous organist in major league baseball, last serenades the White Sox fans after 40 years on the job.
2011 Justin Verlander and the Tigers top the Yankees 5-4 in Game Three of the ALDS. It was a closely fought game and the Yankees tied it 4-4 in the top of the seventh only to have the Tigers take the lead for good in the bottom half of the inning.
2011 Tampa loses 4-3 to Texas in Game Three of the other ALDS. Tampa leads 1-0 (on just one hit) for much of the game, but Texas roars back with four in the top of the seventh. Tampa rallies with a run in the bottom of the seventh, and another in the bottom of the eighth. Though they threaten in the ninth, the Rays can’t score that game-tying run.