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Sports Then and Now

10 Players Who Thrived in Baseball’s Clutch Moments 3

Posted on September 22, 2011 by Jena Ellis

Reggie Jackson's play in the post season earned him the nickname "Mr. October."

You can debate whether or not there’s such a thing as “clutch” hitting. Scoring runs in the first inning is just as important as scoring runs in the ninth inning, right? Does the process of securing a hit change dramatically as the situation changes dramatically? Should we completely ignore the human elements of emotion, concentration and focus, each of which may fluctuate depending on the person in the batter’s box?

The following players (five hitters, five pitchers), for whatever reason, hit and pitched extremely well during the postseason, a period of time when the margin for error — and patience for under performing — is at a minimum.

1. Babe Ruth
He’s the greatest for a reason. As a pitcher in the postseason, Ruth boasts a microscopic 0.87 ERA in 31 innings pitched, a shutout and a 3-0 record. His best performance came in a 14-inning, complete game win in Game 2 of the 1916 World Series. In both World Series in which he pitched, the Red Sox won (1916 over the Brooklyn Robins and 1918 over the Chicago Cubs). As a hitter, he amassed 15 home runs in 167 plate appearances, accumulating an impressive 1.211 OPS. In 1928, he hit .625 in a four-game sweep of the Cardinals, notably mashing three home runs in the series-clinching game.

2. Reggie Jackson
Mr. October kindly disagrees with the idea that clutch hitting doesn’t exist. He was the first player to win World Series MVP with two different teams (Athletics and Yankees), and was just the second player to hit three homeruns in a World Series game — that, as you probably know, came in the series-clinching Game 6 of the 1977 World Series versus the Dodgers. During the six games, he hit five home runs with a .450 average and 1.792 OPS. A year later, he led the Yankees to a repeat in a rematch, hitting a meager two home runs with a .391 average and 1.196 OPS. He hit 18 home runs during his postseason career. Read the rest of this entry →

Year of the Pitcher Ends with Giants’ Victory 2

Posted on November 03, 2010 by Dean Hybl

Tim Lincecum capped the "Year of the Pitcher" with eight strong innings in the final game of the World Series.

In a perfect ending to the “Year of the Pitcher”, the San Francisco Giants received back-to-back great pitching performances to secure the first World Series title for the franchise since 1954.

It wasn’t quite the showing of the 1966 Baltimore Orioles, who held the Los Angeles Dodgers without a run for the last 33 innings of their series sweep, but it was almost that impressive given that the Rangers were among the top offensive teams in baseball in 2010.

In holding the Rangers to five runs over the last four games, with four of them coming in their only victory of the series, the Giants demonstrated exactly what took them from floundering team to World Series champion over the final three months of the season.

After seeing their record fall to 41-40 on July 4th, the Giants rallied to go 51-30 over the final three months of the season. During that stretch, 20 of their victories were in games in which their pitching staff held the opponents either scoreless or to one run.

Though Tim Lincecum will not claim a third consecutive Cy Young Award, the performance of the young hurler during the World Series proved that he is indeed a staff ace. Read the rest of this entry →

Being a Staff Ace Isn’t What it Used To Be 1

Posted on October 31, 2010 by Dean Hybl

Despite being the staff ace, there was never any thought by the Rangers of having Cliff Lee pitch three games in the World Series.

If I was writing this column in 1970 or even in 1990, it would be about Cliff Lee’s preparation to start game four of the World Series for a Texas Rangers squad that trails two games to one and desperately needs a strong performance from their best pitcher.

However, because we are in the year 2010 when pitchers are often treated like fine china, this column is about how the Rangers must figure out how to win three more games though their staff ace will pitch just one more time in the series.

What is interesting about the decision by Ron Washington to pitch Tommy Hunter in game four, instead of to start Cliff Lee on three day’s rest, is that it really isn’t a decision at all. I every interview from prior to the World Series through game three, Washington never wavered in his insistence that Lee would not pitch a day earlier than normal regardless of the situation in the Series.

Given that Lee struggled in the first game with a week of rest, it makes sense not to take a chance bringing him back early. However, the decision means that should the Series come down to one final game, the Rangers would not be pitching their staff ace.

Of course the same would be true for the San Francisco Giants, but even with consecutive Cy Young Awards to his credit, there has never been discussion about maneuvering their rotation to get a third start out of Tim Lincecum.

What is interesting about the situation for the Rangers is that just a year ago, Lee and his previous team the Philadelphia Phillies were in the same exact situation.

Trailing two games to one against the Yankees, Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel did not start Lee in game four though the Yankees were pitching their ace C.C. Sabathia on short rest. The Yankees went on to win the game and take a 3-1 Series lead. Lee won game five, but the Yankees claimed the Series in six games. Read the rest of this entry →

25 Years Ago: The Kansas City Royals Rule Baseball 4

Posted on October 27, 2010 by Dean Hybl

In 1985 the Kansas City Royals took advantage of some amazing fortune to win the World Series title.

While it is just about impossible in today’s baseball landscape to imagine the Kansas City Royals being among the dominant teams in the game, that was indeed the case in the 1970s and 1980s when the Royals were perennial contenders. Their run of glory culminated 25 years ago when they claimed their one and only World Series title.

After entering the American League as an expansion franchise in 1969 (two years after the Kansas City Athletics left for Oakland), it took only three seasons for the Royals to post a winning campaign and in 1976 earned the first of three straight division titles under the guidance of future Hall of Fame manager Whitey Herzog.

Unfortunately, each season ended with an American League Championship loss to the New York Yankees.

After faltering slightly in 1979 and replacing Herzog with Jim Frey, the Royals won their fourth division title and again faced the Yankees in the post season in 1980.

This time, the Royals swept the Yankees and earned their first World Series appearance in only their 12th season. By comparison, it took the Texas Rangers (who entered the league as the expansion Washington Senators in 1961) 36 years to make a playoff appearance and 50 years to reach the World Series.

Though Kansas City lost to the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series, the core nucleus of players, including George Brett, Frank White and Willie Wilson was young enough that additional series appearances seemed likely.

However, the Royals in the early 1980s struggled slightly. After earning a playoff spot in the strike-shortened 1981 season despite having an overall losing record, the Royals didn’t again reach the playoffs until 1984 when they won the AL West with a pedestrian record of 84-78.

To no surprise, the Royals were swept in the playoffs by the Detroit Tigers.

By 1985 many recognized that the Royals, now under the guidance of manager Dick Howser, were reaching the end of their championship window. Read the rest of this entry →

Gene Tenace: World Series Hero 4

Posted on October 03, 2010 by Dean Hybl

Gene Tenace

The October Sports Then and Now Athlete of the Month came out of nowhere to become the hero of the 1972 World Series for the Oakland A’s.

After hitting only five home runs in the 1972 regular season, Gene Tenace became an overnight superstar by becoming the first player in World Series history to hit home runs in his first two World Series at bats. He went on to drive in all three runs in a 3-2 game one win over the Cincinnati Reds.

With slugger Reggie Jackson out of the series with an injury, Tenace filled the void and helped lead the A’s to victory. During the seven game series, Tenace hit four home runs and drove in nine runs. In the decisive seventh game, he drove in two runs in a 3-2 victory that lifted the A’s to the first of their three straight world championships. Read the rest of this entry →

Phillies Happy To Be Home For Pivotal Game 3 3

Posted on October 31, 2009 by Richard Marsh
Ryan Howard celebrates his homerun during game three of the NLCS in Philadelphia

Ryan Howard and the Phillies will look to launch more long balls as they return home for game three of the World Series.

Game Three of the 2009 World series shifts today to the new launching pad in the National League, Citizens Bank Park. It’s a bit ironic that the Philadelphia “Mashers” at one point in time had a far better record on the road than they did at home. They righted that situation in the second half of the season to finish nine games over .500 at home.

The post-season is a completely different story as the Phillies have lost a grand total of three games over the past three post seasons. They’ve won 12 games and the only team to beat them at home was the Colorado Rockies.

Today they try to keep that streak going with 2008 World Series MVP Cole Hamels going up against one of the great post-season pitchers, Andy Pettitte.

Game three has always been a critical game in the World Series. In the past 10 World Series where the two teams were tied at one a piece, the team who took Game Three went on to win the World Series nine out of the last ten times. Those are pretty darn good odds for the winner of today’s game.

Read the rest of this entry →

  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Early Wynn: 300 Game Winner
      August 1, 2020 | 8:37 pm
      Early Wynn

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month pitched in four decades, was a veteran of World War II and is one of only two pitchers to finish with exactly 300 career victories.

      Hall of Famer Early Wynn began his career as a 19-year old in 1939 by pitching three games for the Washington Senators. After spending the 1940 season in the minors, he went 3-1 with a 1.58 ERA in a brief stint in the majors in 1941.

      Read more »

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