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Vintage Video: George Springer Channels Joe Rudi With Playoff Catch 0

Posted on October 21, 2017 by Dean Hybl
The catch by Astros outfielder George Springer in the 2017 ALCS was remeniscent of the grab by Joe Rudi of the Oakland A's in the 1972 World Series.

The catch by Astros outfielder George Springer in the 2017 ALCS was reminiscent of the grab by Joe Rudi of the Oakland A’s in the 1972 World Series.

When Houston Astros outfielder George Springer raced to the wall and made a crucial catch of a Todd Frazier blast in game six of the 2017 American League Championship Series it brought back memories of another great catch by the wall in a previous post season.

In game two of the 1972 World Series, Catfish Hunter and the Oakland A’s were clinging to a 2-0 lead when the Cincinnati Reds batted in the bottom of the ninth inning. Future Hall of Famer Tony Perez led off the inning with a single. The next batter, third baseman Denis Menke, hit a long blast to leftfield that looked destined for extra bases. However, lanky outfielder Joe Rudi raced to the wall and made a backhanded catch at the wall to secure the out and force Perez back to first base. At the time, the catch was considered one of the greatest postseason catches of all-time and was an iconic moment of that seven-game series.

It also proved critical, as Hal McRae eventually drove home Perez with a single, but Rollie Fingers came in to get the final out in a 2-1 Oakland victory. Had Rudi not made the catch off Menke’s blast, the Reds would have likely tied the game and had an opportunity to win it in regulation. Given that the A’s ultimately won the Series in seven games, that moment was certainly pivotal to Oakland winning the first of their three straight World Series.

While it is yet to be determined whether Springer’s catch will help propel the Astros into the World Series, it certainly was important in game six as it came with two runners on and only one out in the seventh inning. Had Springer not made the catch, Justin Verlander would likely been pulled from the game and the Yankees could have been poised for another big inning as they have done several times throughout the 2017 playoffs.

Instead, Verlander eventually finished the inning without giving up a run and the Astros went on to win 6-1 and force a decisive seventh game.

Below are videos of Rudi’s catch in 1972 and Sprringer’s in 2017. You can see that they each made a long run to grab the ball at the wall and help save victories for their teams.

Amazing Season Surprises Coming Out of Major League Baseball 2

Posted on September 14, 2015 by Brooke Chaplan
The surprising Houston Astros have been doing a lot of celebrating so far in 2015.

The surprising Houston Astros have been doing a lot of celebrating so far in 2015.

This season has been an exciting and topsy turvy one for Major League Baseball. Teams with historically mediocre records are dominating the teams with historically good winning records. Players that no one ever cared about, let alone heard of, are now standouts. Take a look as we outline the top surprises of this year’s MLB season.

The Astros
If you had asked sports fans a year ago who they thought would be winning the AL West, probably zero would have said the Houston Astros. Before this season, the Astros last winning season was in 2008. Between 2008 and 2014, they had four seasons with more than 90 losses. Ouch. Now they are Major League Baseball’s Cinderella team. The Astros are sitting on top of the AL West, with the Rangers just nipping at their heels.

Pitcher Ryan Madsen
Everyone loves a comeback story, and it doesn’t get much better than Ryan Madsen’s comeback. The right-hander missed most of the last four seasons due to injury. After diligently recovering, his ERA at the All-Star break was 1.51. He averaged one strike per inning he pitched. He’s helping to lead the Kansas City Royals, who have a healthy lead in the AL Central Division this season.

Bruce Bochy
Dave Stewart, general manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, said the biggest obstacle to defeating the San Francisco Giants is their manager, Bruce Bochy. Actually, he jokingly recommended that his players kidnap Bochy before they played the Giants. Why? Because the first foreign-born manager to win the World Series has done so three times. He also passed the 1,500 win mark two seasons ago.

Despite these remarkable milestones, Bochy’s career started with humble beginnings, as a rarely used backup catcher. This season, ESPN polled MLB players, scouts, coaches, and general managers to find out who they thought was the best GM in the league. Bochy won by a landslide. Read the rest of this entry →

Lee May: Forgotten Slugger 6

Posted on June 06, 2011 by Dean Hybl

Lee May

The June Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month is one of the forgotten sluggers of baseball history.

For more than a decade, Lee May was one of the most feared sluggers in baseball.  He blasted 20 or more home runs and drove in 80 or more runs for 11 straight seasons while playing for the Cincinnati Reds, Houston Astros and Baltimore Orioles. Read the rest of this entry →

The J.R. Richard Story: From Unhittable to Homeless 2

Posted on October 19, 2009 by Blaine Spence

J.R. Richard was 107-71 with 1,493 strikeouts when his career was cut short by a stroke.

J.R. Richard was 107-71 with 1,493 strikeouts when his career was cut short by a stroke.

The amazing thing about J.R. Richard was that he could throw a baseball hard, really hard. One of Richard’s pitches was once clocked at 98 miles per hour. Oh, did I fail to mention that this particular pitch was his slider? His fastball was regularly gunned in the triple digits, and on more than one occasion reached 103 mph.

Born to parents Clayton and Lizzie back on March 7 in the year of our lord 1950, it didn’t take long for James Rodney Richard to figure out he liked sports. It also didn’t take long for him, and the surrounding communities, to realize he excelled at them.

Basketball and baseball were the two sports that quickly showcased Richard’s physical gifts.

As a pitcher, imagine not losing a single high school game for your career, and not giving up a single run in your senior year. How about hitting four consecutive jacks, and in the same game pitching your team to a 48-0 shellacking of your opponent?

His basketball prowess was such that Richard entertained offers of scholarships from nearly every elite college program in the country. He turned every one of them down flat.

Read the rest of this entry →

Joe Niekro Foundation and Arizona Fall League Partner To Strike Out Aneurysms 46

Posted on October 19, 2009 by Dean Hybl
Natalie Niekro threw out the first pitch at the Houston Astros game on September 13, 2009. She will be throwing out the first pitch at three Arizona Fall League games between October 26-31 as part of "Aneurysm Awareness Week" at the Arizona Fall League.

Natalie Niekro threw out the first pitch at the Houston Astros game on September 13, 2009. She will be throwing out the first pitch at three Arizona Fall League games between October 26-31 as part of "Aneurysm Awareness Week" at the Arizona Fall League.

Unlike the deceptive and tricky pitch that her father used to record 221 major league victories, Natalie Niekro’s goal for the Joe Niekro Foundation is very straightforward and simple. She is determined to turn the tragedy of his death from a brain aneurysm three years ago into a positive by using his memory and celebrity to increase awareness about and funding for brain aneurysm research.

Following on the heals of the foundation’s successful initial fundraiser earlier this year, the Joe Niekro Foundation is continuing its mission of “Knuckling Up for Aneurysm Research” by teaming up with the Arizona Fall League to raise money and increase awareness.

The Fall League has designated the week of October 26 as “Aneurysm Awareness Week.”  As a result, every strikeout recorded that week by a pitcher from one of the seven teams that Joe Niekro played for during his 22-year career in the majors will result in a donation to the foundation.

“So far we have three sponsors that each will donate $36 per strikeout,” Natalie Niekro said. “The number 36 is important to us because that was my dad’s number.”

In addition, Natalie, a marketing executive in Scottsdale, and her husband, Luke Woosley, will match each donation.

Read the rest of this entry →

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    • Bulldog Turner: Two-Way Star
      November 12, 2017 | 8:52 am
      Bulldog Turner

      Bulldog Turner

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month was a two-way star for the dominant Chicago Bears teams of the 1940s.

      Though Hardin-Simmons College in Abilene, Texas was not known as a football power, legendary head coach George Halas could find great players anywhere and chose Clyde “Bulldog” Turner with the seventh pick in the 1940 NFL Draft.

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