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PostWorld Series Classic Moments; Baseball Onomastics (Patrick Mears, Germany, 11/06/17 2:37 pm)
I very much enjoyed Ed Jajko's recent post on the 2017 seven-game World Series matchup between the Astros and the Dodgers, especially Ed's commentary on Yu Darvish and the origins of his name.
The Series this year, just as last year's, captured and held my attention, even though I had no "favorite" team in the Fall Classic. That would have been reserved for either the Cubs or the Yankees (or both), but the Bronx Bombers faltered after taking three straight in New York from the Astros. That would have been a classic World Series: the Dodgers and the Bronx Juggernaut in a nostalgic "Subway Series" (so to speak). These two teams have battled 11 times for the world championship, with the Yankees still on top with an 8-3 record. But that idyllic struggle was not to be, notwithstanding the grittiness of Aaron Judge and the rest of the crew.
This Series reminded me of the seven-game Fall Classics from my youth, of which there were many between 1951 and 1969: (i) Yankees-Dodgers, 1952, 1953, 1955 and 1956; (ii) Yankees-Milwaukee Braves, 1957 and 1958; (iii) Yankees-Pirates, 1960; (iv) Yankees-San Francisco Giants, 1962; (v) Yankees-Cardinals, 1964; (vi) Dodgers-Twins, 1965; (vii) Cardinals-Red Sox, 1967; and finally (viii) Cardinals-Tigers, 1968. Of the 20 Series matchups held between 1951 and 1969, 12 of these went the full distance. Some of these seven-game World Series featured extraordinary performances by certain players under great stress. Here are just two that spring to mind, some of which I witnessed albeit only on television. Apologies to those who were expecting some memories of Don Larsen's Perfect Game (1956), Bill Mazeroski's walk-off homer (1960) and/or Mickey Lolich's three wins in the 1968 Classic.
1. Yankees vs. Dodgers, 1953, Seventh Game: In the bottom of the seventh inning with two outs, the Bums had the bases loaded with one out and Duke Snider at bat. The loaded bases were the result of Vic Raschi pitching in relief of Allie Reynolds. Raschi boasted a fine regular season record of 16-6 with a 2.78 ERA (earned run average) and had already won two games in this Series as a starter. However, according to Mel Allen, the TV broadcaster for the seventh game, Raschi was not much of a relief pitcher. True to Allen's comments, Raschi loaded the bases on two walks and a single. With only one out, Yankees manager Casey Stengel replaced Raschi with another reliever, Bob Kuzava, a Wyandotte, Michigan native and former AL Rookie of the Year in 1949, when he went 10-6 for the White Sox. Kuzava clinched the 1951 Series for the Yankees against the New York Giants, pitching in relief in the sixth game, and was called in by Casey to do the same thing here. Kuzava pulled off his feat, but just barely and primarily with the help of Billy Martin, the Yankee second baseman. After tossing his warm-up throws, "Sarge" Kuzava retired the "Duke of Flatbush" on a pop-up, thereby bringing another future Hall of Famer, Jackie Robinson, up to bat. Robinson also popped up to the right side of the infield and, for what seemed to be an eternity, no one including Kuzava (whose play it was) moved out of position--except for Billy Martin, who rushed in at caught the ball off of his shoetops next to the mound. Kuzava then held the Dodgers off for the next two innings, thereby earning the save and making the Yankees World Champs. On a sad note, Kuzava passed away on May 15th of this year in his hometown only two weeks before his 94th birthday, thereby breaking another historical link to baseball's golden years. Because of his baseball exploits, Kuzava was inducted in 2003 as a member of the "National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame," located in Troy, Michigan. Here is a link to a video Martin's famous scramble and snag. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6GigCtNR0Ac .
2. Yankees vs. Dodgers, 1955, Seventh Game: Edmundo "Sandy" Amoros Isasi (1930-1992), who was born in Havana, Cuba and began his Major League career with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1952, was called upon by Dodgers Manager, Walter Alston, to replace Junior Gilliam in left field during the sixth inning of the Seventh Game of the 1955 World Series in Yankee Stadium. In the bottom of the sixth, Yogi Berra came up to bat with two baserunners on and only one out. Berra promptly lined a pitch from Brooklyn starter, Johnny Podres, to the opposite field/left field, heading into the corner. Amoros, who was known for his speed, seemingly appeared from nowhere and caught Berra's drive on the run next to the stands. If he had not been a left-handed thrower, he likely would not have caught the ball. Amoros then quickly pegged the ball to the infield, where Gil McDougald, who had rounded second base in the belief that Berra had stroked a sure hit, was doubled up, ending the inning. This miraculous catch and resulting double-play allowed the Bums to escape the inning and win their first World Series title on Podres' 2-0 shutout gem. "Next Year" had finally arrived for the long-suffering Dodgers fans. Here is a link to a video of Amoros' grab. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xcw7TH581uo .
Sandy played from 1952 to 1960 with the Dodgers, but during his last season in Los Angeles, he was traded to the Detroit Tigers. He made his last Major League appearance with the Bengals on October 2, 1960 and thereafter retired. He owned an expensive ranch in Cuba and, when he returned there after the 1960 season, President Fidel Castro asked him to manage the Cuban National Baseball Team, which Amoros declined to do. This placed him in hot water with Castro and later his ranch was expropriated by the Cuban state. Amoros was permitted to leave Cuba for the United States in 1967 and settled in Miami. Amoros suffered from diabetes in his later years and eventually lost his left leg from gangrene as a consequence of that disease. Sandy passed away in 1992, shortly before he was scheduled to appear beside Yogi Berra at a baseball card show.
As far as MLB player names and nicknames go, many colorful ones abound. See, e.g., https://athlonsports.com/50-best-baseball-nicknames-ever-2014 . My current, favorite nickname of all time is that given to an obscure ballplayer from the dead-ball era, Irvin Key ("Kaiser") Wilhelm (1874-1936). The Kaiser was born in Wooster, Ohio, and pitched in the majors between 1903 and 1921 for teams such as the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Boston Beaneaters (later, the NL team, Boston Braves), and the Brooklyn Superbas (now the Dodgers). In the Kaiser's first MLB season, 1903, his team, the Pirates, won the NL Pennant and met the Boston Americans in the first World Series, which Boston won by 5 games to 3. However, the Kaiser failed to appear in any of these games, although his season record was decent. In 1903, he won 5 games (including one shutout) and lost 3 with a 3.24 ERA. Perhaps if he had been used by Player-Manager Fred Clarke with more frequency, like Walter Alston did with Sandy Amoros, the ultimate result of this Series may have led to a Pirates' world championship. But then again...
JE comments: The Kaiser must have been very popular later in his career, after the US entered the war in 1917. Maybe he changed his nickname to "Windsor" Wilhelm?
How is it possible that I've never visited the Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame, which is literally one town over from Royal Oak? We often shop at a Polish grocery right across the street. Thanks for the recommendation, Pat!