Results tagged ‘ Polo Grounds ’

Booming return visit for Giambi

It isn’t every night that an opposing player at Yankee Stadium gets cheered as he rounds the bases on a home run. That rarity was experienced in the second inning Friday night when Jason Giambi drove a 2-0 fastball from A.J. Burnett into the right field bleachers to tie the score for the Rockies.

Giambi, who is getting the opportunity to be in the lineup regularly during inter-league play as Colorado’s designated hitter, once heard cheers on a regular basis in the Bronx in an often productive but also occasionally tumultuous eight seasons with the Yankees during which he hit 209 of his 423 career home runs, plus another six in post-season play, including one in the 2003 World Series.

“The Giambino,” as WCBS radio voice John Sterling calls him, was even accorded a shout-out from the bleacher creatures in the first inning after they went through the Yankees’ lineup, which he acknowledged with a wave from the third base dugout.

“You’ve got to play hard, and they appreciate that,” Giambi said before the game of Yankees fans. “Even when they’re hard on you and you hit a home run in the next at-bat, you get a standing ‘O.’ They’re incredible. They are as passionate as they possibly can be as fans.”

Frankly, after his last season with the Yankees in 2008, Giambi seemed to be finished as a major-league player. He returned to Oakland where he had won an American League Most Valuable Player Award in 2000 but was released in August 2009 after batting only .193 in 83 games. Giambi latched on with the Rockies and has been a useful pinch hitter the past three seasons.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi noted before the game that “Colorado may be best equipped of any National League team for inter-league play,” because of Giambi, who had 4-for-12 (.333) with a home run and three RBI in a three-game series at Cleveland.

Giambi has started 14 of the Rockies’ 75 games and on occasion has looked like his old self, no more so than May 19 at Philadelphia when he hit three home runs in a game. At 40, he became the second oldest player to homer three times in the same game. Hall of Famer Stan Musial was 41 when he hit three home runs July 8, 1962 against the Mets at the old Polo Grounds. I was in the stands for that one as a teenager. The Man’s third bomb that day cleared the right field roof.

Playing again before a Stadium crowd clearly was a joyous occasion for Giambi.

“It’s what you dream about as a kid,” he said. “To get a chance to put the pinstripes on, there’s nothing better on this planet. It challenges you in every possible way as a ballplayer. It’s a tough town, but at the same time, to play on the same field as [Mickey] Mantle, [Roger] Maris, [Joe] DiMaggio, [Babe] Ruth and [Lou] Gehrig and to know those guys wore the same uniform, it’s pretty special. My dad’s favorite player was Mickey Mantle, so I knew a lot about the Yankees as a kid. To have that opportunity to play was something special.”

Remebering Bill Bergesch and Bill Gallo

A moment of silence was observed before the Yankees-Royals game Wednesday night in honor of a couple of guys named Bill, Bergesch and Gallo, who both died Tuesday.

Yankees fans may recall that Bill Bergesch served the team in various capacities in a 50-year career as a baseball executive, notably as general manager in the early 1980s. Bergesh, who was 89, first worked for the Yankees from 1964-67 as stadium manager after a two-year stint as assistant general manager and farm director of the Mets in their first two seasons at the Polo Grounds under former Yankee GM George Weiss.

As Yankee Stadium manager, Bergesch was instrumental in arrangements for the Papal Mass celebrated there by Pope Paul VI in October 1965 and received a medal issued by the Vatican to commemorate the occasion.

Bergesch’s other duties with the Yankees included director of scouting, vice president of player personnel and senior consultant. During his tenures with the Yankees, the team won the World Series in 1978 and 1996 and American League pennants in 1964 and 1981. He also held a variety of executive positions with the Cardinals, Athletics and Reds. As farm director of the Cardinals, Bergesch, a St. Louis native, signed future Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Gibson in 1957.

Bill Gallo, who was 88, spent more than half a century as the sports cartoonist with the New York Daily News and penciled drawings of Yankees stars from Joe DiMaggio to Derek Jeter. I got to know Bill well when we worked together at the News in the late 1980s. He loved baseball, but his real passion was boxing.

I recall a promotion the News sponsored at a mall in Jersey City in which I and Bill, Yankees stars Dave Winfield and Willie Randolph and others took part in a forum discussion.

I lived in Yonkers at the time, as did Bill, and the News sent a limousine there to pick us up. Along the way, we stopped in Manhattan to pick up Mark Breland, then a contending welterweight, and two retired champions, heavyweight Floyd Patterson and middleweight Rocky Graziano. I got an education about the fight game that day.

“Through his work as a cartoonist and columnist, Bill Gallo was the voice of generations of New Yorkers,” Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said. “My father was a frequent subject of his work, and he had tremendous respect for Bill’s talents. My family and the entire Yankees organization offer our condolences to his wife, Dolores, and the Gallo family.”

Fordham to honor memory of Gil McDougald

With the Yankees not playing until 8:05 p.m. Saturday in Texas (on YES), why not take in a game in the Bronx in the afternoon? Former Yankees infielder Gil McDougald, who died last Nov. 28 in Wall Township, N.J., at the age of 82, will be honored prior to Fordham’s 4 p.m. game against Saint Joseph’s at Houlihan Field.

Family members and former players will be on hand to salute McDougald, who reached the World Series eight times in his 10 seasons with the Yankees (1951-60) and won five rings. He was Fordham’s head baseball coach from 1970-76 and led the Rams to a 100-79-4 record.

That the tribute will be held May 7 is a sad piece of irony. On that date in 1957, a line drive hit by McDougald struck Indians pitcher Herb Score in the face in one of baseball’s most tragic accidents. McDougald vowed to quit the game if Score did not recover, which he did but was never again the imposing pitcher he had been in 1955 and ’56. It is fair to say that McDougald was not quite the same after that incident, either.

Later in life, long after his major-league career, McDougald fought a long battle with deafness. Below is a copy of the blog I wrote for The Cutoff Man after McDougald’s death. For those who may not have had a chance to read it, here it is again.

In memory of the late Gil McDougald, who died last week of prostate cancer at the age of 82, I would like to share a piece I wrote on the five-time All-Star Yankees infielder back in 1997 when the New York Chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America honored him with the Casey Stengel “You Can Look It Up” Award.

For a long time, Gil McDougald lived in a noiseless world. Embarrassed by his deafness, the former Yankees infielder withdrew from his friends, turned away from all but his immediate family and settled into a chamber of silence.

The lively sounds at Yankee Stadium were once music to McDougald’s ears. A hearing disorder stemming from a concussion McDougald suffered in 1955 during a batting practice accident worsened to the point that in 1976 he resigned as Fordham’s baseball coach because of communication difficulties. In 1985, he felt compelled to sell his building-maintenance business. His suburban New Jersey home had become more a place of exile.

An article in 1994 by New York Times columnist Ira Berkow drew attention to McDougald’s situation. He was contacted by Dr. Stephen Epstein, a Yankees fan who directs the Ear Center in Maryland and recommended McDougald consult Dr. Noel Cohen, chief of otolaryngology at New York University Medical Center. That November, in a 3-hour operation, McDougald received a cochlea implant of a microcomputer that helped restore his hearing. McDougald lectured around the country on the benefits of the procedure.

“There’s a real need to build awareness of the technology,” McDougald told Sports Illustrated. “When you’re fortunate and something good happens, even though you weren’t expecting anything, that’s when the payback comes. When you see the progress, particularly with little children, it’s so satisfying. It’s like hitting a home run with the bases loaded.”

That was one of McDougald’s career highlights, a grand slam off the Giants’ Larry Jansen at the Polo Grounds in the 1951 World Series. The honor bestowed by the writers is most appropriate for McDougald because Stengel was the only manager he played for in his 10 major-league seasons, all with the Yankees, from 1951 through 1960 before he quit rather than go into the American League expansion draft.

McDougald was among the most gifted of the tough, heady infielders who were integral figures on Stengel’s teams such as Phil Rizzuto, Billy Martin, Jerry Coleman, Bobby Brown, Andy Carey, Tony Kubek, Bobby Richardson and Clete Boyer.

The Ol’ Perfessor would have loved Derek Jeter.

That brings us to the “You Can Look It Up” part, which refers to one of Casey’s pet expressions. Among Jeter’s accomplishments in his Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award season of 1996 was a .314 batting average. What’s the big deal, you say? Well, you have to go back 40 years to find a New York shortstop – Yankee, Met, Giant or Dodger – who hit .300 over a full season.

And that shortstop was Gil McDougald. True, Kubek hit .314 in 1962, but he played in only 45 games that year because of military duty and a back injury. McDougald’s .311 mark for the Yankees in 1956 was the highest for a fulltime shortstop before Jeter topped it in ‘96.

The AL Rookie of the Year Award is another link between the two Yankees shortstops. McDougald was the first and Jeter the most recent of the eight Yankees who have won the award. McDougald wasn’t a shortstop when he won in 1951 by two votes over White Sox outfielder Minnie Minoso, 13-11. The more heralded Yankees rookie, Mickey Mantle, did not receive a vote.

McDougald played third base and second base until 1956 when Stengel tabbed him to succeed Rizzuto at shortstop. In the 10 years McDougald played for the Yanklees, they won more than 90 games nine times, eight pennants and five World Series, including ‘56, which made him a precursor to Jeter as a .300-hitting shortstop for a Series champion.

In that ‘56 Series, McDougald made an alert play that helped preserve Don Larsen’s perfect game against the Dodgers in Game 5 at Yankee Stadium. Jackie Robinson led off the second inning with a line drove to third that glanced off Carey’s glove to McDougald, who threw out Robby at first base.

Hitting out of an unorthodox, open stance which he moderated midway through his career, McDougald compiled a .276 career average with 112 home runs before retiring at age 32 after the 1960 World Series rather than play for the expansion Los Angeles Angels or Washington Senators.

McDougald was an unwilling participant in a baseball tragedy May 7, 1957. Indians lefthander Herb Score, then in the third year of a career that might have led him to Cooperstown, was struck in the face of by a liner off McDougald’s bat. Score was never the same pitcher again.

Less known is the incident two years earlier in which a BP liner by Bob Cerv hit McDougald above his left ear. It was diagnosed as a concussion, and McDougald was back in uniform in several days. He later learned that he had inner ear damage from an undetected fractured skull, which began McDougald’s quiet retreat.

“Except for playing golf, Gil had really become a recluse,” said former AL president Bobby Brown, one of McDougald’s oldest and closest friends. “But now since he can hear again, he’s his old self and able to contribute. It’s an emotional thrill for all of us.”

Anniversary of a legendary voice

Sunday marks the 60th anniversary of the first game worked by public address announcer Bob Sheppard at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees will conclude the homestand with an 8 p.m. game against the Rangers on ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball.”

Back on April 17, 1951, the Yankees opened their season against the Red Sox. The game also marked the major-league debut of Mickey Mantle, who played right field and batted third in the order and had a single in four at-bats.

Sheppard, who died in 2010 at the age of 99, was the Stadium’s PA voice until late in the 2007 season before he was sidelined by illness. His voice is still heard at the Stadium whenever Derek Jeter steps to the plate. Sheppard recorded his announcement of Jeter and it continues to play before each of the Captain’s at-bats.

Bob worked 121 consecutive post-season games at the Stadium, including 62 games in the World Series, from 1951 to 2006. He also handled similar duties for the football Giants, who moved to Yankee Stadium from the Polo Grounds in 1956. Sheppard continued to do Giants games at their stadium in the New Jersey Meadowlands through 2005, a total of 50 seasons.

Here are the lineups Bob introduced for that ’51 opener, won by the Yankees, 5-0.

Boston Red Sox New York Yankees
Dom DiMaggio, CF Jackie Jensen, LF
Billy Goodman, RF Phil Rizzuto, SS
Ted Williams, LF Mickey Mantle, RF
Vern Stephens, 3B Joe DiMaggio, CF
Walt Dropo, 1B Yogi Berra, C
Bobby Doerr, 2B Johnny Mize, 1B
Lou Boudreau, SS Billy Johnson, 3B
Buddy Rosar, C Jerry Coleman, 2B
Billy Wright, P Vic Raschi, P

McDougald’s struggle against silence

In memory of the late Gil McDougald, who died last week of prostate cancer at the age of 82, I would like to share a piece I wrote on the five-time All-Star Yankees infielder back in 1997 when the New York Chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America honored him with the Casey Stengel “You Can Look It Up” Award.

For a long time, Gil McDougald lived in a noiseless world. Embarrassed by his deafness, the former Yankees infielder withdrew from his friends, turned away from all but his immediate family and settled into a chamber of silence.

The lively sounds at Yankee Stadium were once music to McDougald’s ears. A hearing disorder stemming from a concussion McDougald suffered in 1955 during a batting practice accident worsened to the point that in 1976 he resigned as Fordham’s baseball coach because of communication difficulties. In 1985, he felt compelled to sell his building-maintenance business. His suburban New Jersey home had become more a place of exile.

An article in 1994 by New York Times columnist Ira Berkow drew attention to McDougald’s situation. He was contacted by Dr. Stephen Epstein, a Yankees fan who directs the Ear Center in Maryland and recommended McDougald consult Dr. Noel Cohen, chief of otolaryngology at New York University Medical Center. That November, in a 3 -hour operation, McDougald received a cochlea implant of a microcomputer that helped restore his hearing. McDougald lectured around the country on the benefits of the procedure.

“There’s a real need to build awareness of the technology,” McDougald told Sports Illustrated. “When you’re fortunate and something good happens, even though you weren’t expecting anything, that’s when the payback comes. When you see the progress, particularly with little children, it’s so satisfying. It’s like hitting a home run with the bases loaded.”

That was one of McDougald’s career highlights, a grand slam off the Giants’ Larry Jansen at the Polo Grounds in the 1951 World Series. The honor bestowed by the writers is most appropriate for McDougald because Stengel was the only manager he played for in his 10 major-league seasons, all with the from Yankees, from 1951 through 1960 before he quit rather than go into the expansion draft.

McDougald was among the most gifted of the tough, heady infielders who were integral figures on Stengel’s teams such as Phil Rizzuto, Billy Martin, Jerry Coleman, Bobby Brown, Andy Carey, Tony Kubek, Bobby Richardson and Clete Boyer.

The Ol’ Perfessor would have loved Derek Jeter.

That brings us to the “You Can Look It Up” part, which refers to one of Casey’s pet expressions. Among Jeter’s accomplishments in his Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award season of 1996 was a .314 batting average. What’s the big deal, you say? Well, you have to go back 40 years to find a New York shortstop – Yankee, Met, Giant or Dodger – who hit .300 over a full season.

And that shortstop was Gil McDougald. True, Kubek hit .314 in 1962, but he played in only 45 games that year because of military duty and a back injury. McDougald’s .311 mark for the Yankees in 1956 was the highest for a fulltime shortstop before Jeter topped it in ’96.

The American League Rookie of the Year Award is another link between the two Yankees shortstops. McDougald was the first and Jeter the most recent of the eight Yankees who have won the award. McDougald wasn’t a shortstop when he won in 1951 by two votes over White Sox outfielder Minnie Minoso, 13-11. The more heralded Yankees rookie, Mickey Mantle, did not receive a vote.

McDougald played third base and second base until ’56 when Stengel tabbed him to succeed Rizzuto at shortstop. In the 10 years McDougald played for the Yanklees, they won more than 90 games nine times, eight pennants and five World Series, including 1956, which made him a precursor to Jeter as a .300-hitting shortstop for a Series champion.

In that ’56 Series, McDougald made an alert play that helped preserve Don Larsen’s perfect game against the Dodgers in Game 5 at Yankee Stadium. Jackie Robinson led off the second inning with a line drove to third that glanced off Carey’s glove to McDougald, who threw out Robby at first base.

Hitting out of an unorthodox, open stance which he moderated midway through his career, McDougald compiled a .276 career average with 112 home runs before retiring at age 32 after the 1960 World Series rather than play for the expansion Los Angeles Angels or Washington Senators.

McDougald was an unwilling participant in a baseball tragedy May 7, 1957. Indians lefthander Herb Score, then in the third year of a career that might have led him to Cooperstown, was struck in the face of by a liner off McDougald’s bat. Score was never the same pitcher again.

Less known is the incident two years earlier in which a BP liner by Bob Cerv hit McDougald above his left ear. It was diagnosed as a concussion, and McDougald was back in uniform in several days. He later learned that he had inner ear damage from an undetected fractured skull, which began McDougald’s quiet retreat.

“Except for playing golf, Gil had really become a recluse,” said former AL president Bobby Brown, one of McDougald’s oldest and closest friends. “But now since her can hear he can hear again, he’s his old self and able to contribute. It’s an emotional thrill for all of us.”

How much did Lee lose?

Did Cliff Lee hurt his bargaining power with his two losses in the World Series? Although he pitched brilliantly for six innings Monday night, the three-run home run Lee allowed to Edgar Renteria in the seventh essentially lost the World Series for the Rangers, who will have to dig deep into their pockets, which aren’t exactly Texas size, to retain the lefthander bound for free agency.

The Yankees haven’t made any secret of their interest in Lee, who beat them twice in the 2009 World Series and again in Game 3 of this year’s American League Championship Series. General manager Brian Cashman tried to trade for Lee in July and almost had a deal in place before the Rangers swooped in and grabbed him from Seattle.

Lee was not exactly lights out for Texas during the regular season (4-6, 3.98 ERA) after a terrific start with the Mariners (8-3, 2.34 ERA). That’s a combined record of 12-9 with a 3.18 ERA, which is not all that imposing. Lee is looking for CC Sabathia-type money, but those statistics aren’t CC Sabathia-type numbers.

Speaking of numbers, Lee went from 2-0 with a 2.81 ERA in the 2009 World Series to 0-2 with a 6.94 ERA in the 2010 World Series. Now I’m not forgetting his two victories over the Rays on the road in the Division Series or his Game 3 gem against the Yankees in the ALCS, also on the road. In fact, Lee did not lose on the road or win in Texas in the post-season, so maybe Rangers Ballpark In Arlington is not the place for him.

One thing the Yankees have to be careful about is how they look at a pitcher who has been successful against them (9-4, 3.81 ERA, including post-season play). Not to pick on A.J. Burnett, but his attractiveness to the Yankees two off-seasons ago was based a lot on how he pitched against them. The problem is that if a player goes to his “cousin,” then he doesn’t have that “cousin” anymore.

Don’t get the idea that I’m ranking on Lee. He would be a great addition to the Yankees. I’m just saying his price tag may have to be re-arranged a bit.

For old-time Giants fans, the ones still sore at their leaving the Polo Grounds for San Francisco in 1958, you will have to admit that the Curse of Coogan’s Bluff is over now that the Giants have their first championship in the Bay Area. The 1962 Giants of Willie Mays, Orlando Cepeda, Willie McCovey and Juan Marichal couldn’t do it. The 1989 Giants of Will Clark, Kevin Mitchell and Matt Williams couldn’t do it. The 2002 Giants of Barry Bonds, Jeff Kent and Robb Nen couldn’t do it. Managers as talented as Alvin Dark, Roger Craig and Dusty Baker couldn’t do it.

It came down to the Bruce Bochy-directed Giants of Renteria, Juan Uribe, Aubrey Huff and Cody Ross, plus a string of excellent young pitchers Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner, plus an exceptional rookie catcher Buster Posey, plus a paint-it-black bearded closer Brian Wilson, not to be confused with the Beach Boy.

Lincecum outpitched Lee in Game 5, which was also characterized by Bochy out-managing Ron Washington. In the sixth inning, Mitch Moreland led off with a single for the Rangers in what was then a scoreless game. Instead of playing for one run against the overpowering Lincecum, Washington eschewed the sacrifice and had Elvis Andrus swing away on a hit-and-run play, but he lined out to center and Moreland had to scurry back to first base. Again, no bunt with one out, and Michael Young flied out to center as well.

In the seventh, when the Giants put their first two runners on with singles by Ross and Uribe on two-strike pitches, Bochy ordered the bunt from Huff, who did not have a sacrifice in a 13-season career.  A pro, Huff got the ball down and put the runners in scoring position. Lee got the second out by punching out Pat Burrell, who had a brutal Series (0-for13, 11 strikeouts).

Again, Washington blundered by not ordering Renteria walked intentionally and let Lee go after Aaron Rowand. Lee appeared to be pitching around Renteria, but why take the risk of a pitch going awry, such as the 2-0 cutter that the Giants shortstop clubbed for a three-run homer? Never mind that Lee didn’t want to walk Renteria; who’s running the club, the pitcher of the manager?

It was the second game-winning hit in a World Series clinching game for Renteria, who won the 1997 Series for the Marlins against the Indians with an 11th-inning single. Only two other players have done that in Series history, both Yankees – Lou Gehrig (Game 4 in 1928 against the Cardinals and Game 6 in 1936 against the Giants) and Yogi Berra (Game 4 in 1950 against the Phillies and Game 7 in 1956 against the Dodgers). Joe DiMaggio also had two game-winning RBI in Series clinching games (Game 4 in 1939 against the Reds and Game 5 in 1949 against the Dodgers), but the latter was not on a hit but a sacrifice fly.

Renteria’s were far more dramatic than the others because in each case the hits broke ties from the seventh inning on. The Giants simply shut down the Rangers after Texas got back into the Series by winning Game 3. The Rangers scored one run (on Nelson Cruz’s seventh inning solo homer off Lincecum) in the last 21 innings and did not get a single runner in scoring position in Game 5.

It was hard to believe this was the same team that had, in Cashman’s word, “manhandled” the Yankees.

As I was saying. . .

Travel difficulties Sunday spoiled my chance to see one of the best World Series games pitched by a rookie as Madison Bumgarner put the Giants on the verge of winning their first championship in San Francisco.

I was flying home from Dallas where I attended the Baseball Writers’ Association of America’s annual meeting and blogged off Game 3. My original plan was to get back to New York to catch Game 4 on television, but the plane I was supposed to board was put out of service because of mechanical problems. We were finally given clearance to board another plane about three hours later. By the time I got back home, the game was over.

I had envisioned the 2010 post-season being one in which the Phillies would take revenge for last year’s loss in the World Series to the Yankees. The trade for Roy Halladay, the likely National League Cy Young Award winner, was part of that plan, along with the mid-season acquisition of Roy Oswalt of the Astros. With Cole Hamels, the Phillies created their H2O rotation that to me seemed head and shoulders over everyone else.

Two things happened that the Phillies didn’t count on, however. The big one was that the Giants stayed hot on the Padres’ tail and ended up winning the NL West. San Francisco’s rotation of Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez was so good that former American League Cy Young Award winner Barry Zito wasn’t even placed on the post-season roster.

The Giants out-pitched the Phillies to win the NL Championship Series in six games, holding slugger Ryan Howard without a run batted in.

And out of the AL emerged the Texas Rangers, who reached the World Series for the first time in the franchise’s 50th season and had in their holster one of the most impressive post-season pitchers of all time, Cliff Lee. He was the same guy who beat the Yankees twice in the Series last year for the Phillies, who traded him to Seattle after they got Halladay.

Lee helped Texas get to the Series with three victories in the first two playoff rounds but got roughed up in Game 1 by the Giants. The lefthander stood in their way in Game 5. Lee just could be making his last start for the Rangers if the Series ends Monday night and he bolts Arlington for free agency. A Texas victory Monday night may not be much more than a bump in the road for the Giants, who would return to San Francisco still with the upper hand.

Bumgarner saw to that with eight innings of shutout pitching, limiting the Rangers to three singles and two walks. Only one player, Josh Hamilton, got as far as second base, and he reached base initially on an error. The Giants got all the offense they needed in the third inning on a two-run home run by Aubrey Huff, who has the Yankees to thank for where he is today. Well, sort of.

Giants general manager Brian Sabean mentioned the other day that during the previous off-season the club was in need of a left-handed hitter, preferably a first baseman, and had targeted Nick Johnson, late of the Nationals. But Johnson signed instead with the Yankees, so the Giants decided to go after Huff, who grew up about 50 miles from Arlington as a Rangers fan and is now in position to end their dream of a title and help the Giants to their first since 1954 when they still played at the Polo Grounds.

Memories of Giants in the World Series

The last time the Giants were in the World Series was in 2002. I covered that Series as the national baseball writer for the Hartford Courant newspaper and suffered one of my biggest disappointments.

It had nothing to do with the Giants losing. Baseball writers learn early on in their careers that the only thing worth rooting for is your story. Because of deadlines, writers work on their copy throughout the game. At times a certain storyline appears that you pursue and hope doesn’t get ruined by a turn of events.

The Giants had a 3-2 lead in games over the Angels heading into Game 6 at Anaheim. In the fifth inning, Shawon Dunston hit a two-run home run that broke a scoreless game. Two innings later, the Giants’ lead was up to 5-0 as they were on the verge of winning their first World Series since 1954 when they still played in New York at the Polo Grounds.

I thought back to that Series and knew the hero was a part-time outfielder named Dusty Rhodes, who came off the bench to get some huge hits for the Giants in their sweep of the Indians. Rhodes was 4-for-6 in that Series with two home runs and seven RBI.

Dunston, who had been a regular shortstop during his prime, was a bench player on those 2002 Giants. He was the designated hitter batting ninth in Game 6. A thought came to me, and I quickly typed out this lede:

ANAHEIM, Calif. – Move over, Dusty Rhodes, and make room for Shawon Dunston.

Just then, my pal Mark Whicker of the Orange County Register came over to me to chat about something. He looked at the sentence on my laptop screen and said, “Hey, that’s pretty good. I hope it holds up.”

The words were barely out of his mouth when Scott Spiezio belted a three-run home run to get the Angels to 5-3. The lede is still good, I told myself. An inning later, Darin Erstad homered and Troy Glaus doubled in two runs. There went my lede, and there went the Giants. The Angels won that game and the next one, too.

My other two experiences with the Giants in the World Series were in 1989 and 1962. In ’89, while typing early notes prior to Game 3 at Candlestick Park, the building started shaking. I saw the guys in the front row, all Bay Area writers, bolt for the exits. “This might be the big one,” one of them said.

It was big all right, an earthquake that registered 6.9 and shut down the World Series for 10 days. The people in San Francisco and Oakland were remarkable in the aftermath over the next two weeks as the area recovered not only from the quake but also the fires it caused in both cities, including the Presidio district where Yankees Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio was among those whose home was severely damaged.

On a more light-hearted note, there was 1962, the only year I ever played hooky from school – and I did it twice. The first time was in February to see the ticker-tape parade for John Glenn, the astronaut who had orbited Earth three times. The second time was Oct. 8, a Monday for Game 3 of the World Series at Yankee Stadium between the Yankees and the Giants, Whitey Ford versus Juan Marichal.

A friend of mine had gotten tickets from a business associate of his father. I had never been to a World Series game, but I knew my parents would not let me out of school for something like that. I was going to a Catholic high school in Nassau County, Long Island. We didn’t wear uniforms, but we had to wear jackets, ties and leather shoes. I left the house that way but instead of taking the bus to school I walked to the nearest LIRR station and took the train to Penn Station and the subway to the Bronx.

It was worth it. The Stadium was all dressed up with the red, white and blue bunting I had never before seen in color and on the field were Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays, the central figures although neither one had a big Series. Marichal had to leave the game early because of an injury. The score was 2-2 in the seventh when Giants second baseman Chuck Hiller homered with the bases loaded. I didn’t find out until reading the paper the next day that it was the first grand slam hit by a National League player in World Series history.

It felt neat to have witnessed some history, but for most of my life I had to keep that day a secret. In fact, it was only a year ago that I finally told my mother and father what I had done. My father, who had been a Giants fan before switching to the Mets in the 1960s, said, “I wish I could have gone with you.”

Yanks got last licks on Ted

There were reminisces aplenty about Tuesday’s 50th anniversary of Ted Williams’ final at-bat in the major leagues in which he hit a home run, career No. 521, which at the time was the third highest total in history behind only Babe Ruth (714) and Jimmie Foxx (534). A lot has changed in half a century. Teddy Ballgame now stands in a three-way tie with Willie McCovey and Frank Thomas for 18th place, and Barry Bonds (762) and Hank Aaron (755) have long since passed the Babe.

As for what Williams did his last time up in the big leagues, thousands of words have been written about the grand style in which he ended his career by lofting one into the right field seats at Fenway Park. That is all well and good, but for me that is just the usual batch of Red Sox Nation tripe.

I have a personal beef about the whole matter from the mindset of a pre-teen who got stood up by the guy they called the “Splendid Splinter.” He wasn’t much of a splinter by then, nor at 42 did he fit his other nickname, “The Kid,” and from my point of view he damn sure wasn’t splendid.

Here’s why. Do you know what little piece of information all those Boston boors leave out of their Teddy’s last at-bat stories? How about this: nobody in the yard knew it was Williams’ last at-bat until after the game. That’s right. The Red Sox still had three more games to play, at Yankee Stadium, but after the game Williams told the writers that he wasn’t going to New York. The Yankees had already clinched the American League pennant, the Red Sox had been dead meat for a month, so there was no point in his making the trip.

Now doesn’t take a bit of the bite out of that story. I mean, it would have rung truer if he had told the press before the game that he wasn’t playing any more. To Red Sox fans, this was the perfect ending to a Hall of Fame career by admittedly one of the game’s greatest hitters. But to Yankees fans holding tickets to games that weekend, it was a big gyp. The only allure of the series was to see Williams bow out, not watch Carroll Hardy in left field.

My uncle, Bill Gallagher, had gotten tickets for the Friday night game Sept. 30, 1960, and we talked about Williams on the ride to the Stadium. I was really into baseball in those days and was amazed at how vital the two great aging stars of that time, Williams and Stan Musial, still were. Musial, in fact, would play three more seasons, and I would get to see him three home runs in one game at the Polo Grounds in 1963 when he was 42.

God bless Casey Stengel, then in his last year as manager of the Yankees. Although the Yankees were already set for the World Series, ‘ol Case started his regular lineup. Roger Maris, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and the rest. The Red Sox? No Ted Williams. What?

Unlike today’s 24/7 media whirlwind, information from out of town came slowly in those days. A man sitting in the seat next to Uncle Bill said that he heard that Williams decided not to accompany the team to town. Truth be told, I had not been much of a Yankees fan to that point in my life, but I cheered my head off for them that night. To make matters worse, the Red Sox almost won the game.

What follows comes from my old, pencil-scribbled scorecard, boys and girls (I still score in pencil).

Bill Monbouquette, a wonderful guy whom I would get to know more than 20 years later when he was the pitching coach for the Mets, was Boston’s best pitcher and took a 4-2 lead into the bottom of the ninth, but he was replaced by lefthander Tom Brewer after Bobby Richardson led off with a single. Brewer gave up a single to Gil McDougald, and the Yankees had a rally going.

Tony Kubek, another terrific person I would get to know years later, flied out, but Hector Lopez and Maris followed with singles to tie the score and put runners on first and third. Mantle had come out of the game earlier, and his spot in the lineup was taken by Bob Cerv, the thickly-built, right-handed hitter.

Boston manager Pinky Higgins brought in a right-handed pitcher I had never heard of, but a year later he would almost be a household name – Tracy Stallard, the guy who gave up Maris’ 61st home run. On this night, Stallard would be done in by his second baseman, a September callup named Marlan Coughtry. Thanks to him, I learned something important about the game – the need to remain calm in a crisis.

Cerv hit a grounder to Coughtry, who considering Cerv’s lack of speed should have thrown to second base to start a double play. Instead, he decided to tag Maris in the base path and then throw to first. Maris, who never got enough credit for being a heads-up player, put on the brakes and went into reverse. Coughtry took the bait. Lopez broke for the plate. The rookie tagged Maris eventually for the second out but in hesitating lost any chance to get the third out as Lopez scored the winning run.

Talk about a satisfying finish! It made me forget all about Ted Williams, who insulted baseball fans in New York so that he could have all his Beantown acolytes wax poetic about his going deep in his last big-league plate appearance.

Jeter top New York hit maker

Derek Jeter’s leadoff single to right field Wednesday night off Cliff Lee was career hit No. 2,877 for the Yankees shortstop and captain, and it was a big deal.

Coming in the same week in which Jeter passed Babe Ruth on the career list, this time he pushed ahead of Mel Ott and in so doing now has the most hits of any player while playing for a New York team, not just the Yankees but also the Mets and the former New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers. That covers a lot of territory.

Not all of the Babe’s 2,873 hits were for the Yankees. He also played for both Boston teams, the Red Sox and the Braves. In Ott’s case, all of his 2,876 hits were with the Giants in a 22-season career spanning 1926 to 1947. No player wearing a New York uniform had more hits than Ott, a record he held for 63 years until Wednesday night.

Just last year, Jeter surpassed Lou Gehrig as the Yankees’ franchise hit leader, which was rarified air enough. Now this. Think about the long history of major league baseball in New York City, much richer than even the supposed hot beds of St. Louis and Boston, and now Derek Jeter stands heads and shoulders over all the hit makers.

There are 203 players in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Of that total, 92 played a portion of their careers for at least one of the New York teams. The city has seen some of the greatest hitters ever, from the Babe and Lou to Joe DiMaggio and Jackie Robinson, from Willie (Mays), Mickey (Mantle) and the Duke (Snider), on to Don Mattingly and Keith Hernandez.

Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio and Mantle all won batting titles as did fellow Yankees Snuffy Stirnweiss, Paul O’Neill and Bernie Williams. Other batting champions in New York were the Dodgers’ Robinson, Jake Daubert, Zack Wheat, Pete Reiser, Dixie Walker and Carl Furillo and the Giants’ Mays, Larry Doyle and Bill Terry, the last National League player to hit .400 (.401 in 1930). No Mets player has led the league in batting, but Dave Magadan and John Olerud came close.

Ott won no batting titles, either, even though he was a career .304 hitter. Ott’s specialty was the long ball. His total of 511 was the NL record for 20 years before Mays passed him in 1966. Ott led the league in home runs six times, and the NL trophy for the annual home run champion is named after him. He also had 488 doubles and 72 triples and hit .295 with four homers and 10 RBI in 16 World Series games.

Ott would have fit very well into today’s game as an on-base specialist. He led the NL in walks six times, walked more than 100 times in 10 seasons and had a career .414 on-base average. A left-handed batter, Ott took advantage of the short right field dimensions at the Polo Grounds utilizing a quirky hitting style in which he lifted his right leg as he started his swing. Copying that style years later was the Japanese slugger Sadaharu Oh of the Yomiuri Giants.

In his last six seasons in the majors, Ott wore two hats for the Giants as a player manager. A soft-spoken man from Louisiana with a demeanor not unlike that of Gehrig, it was Ott to whom Leo Durocher came up with his famous line, “Nice guys finish last.”

Ott never did finish last, and when he did finish his career he was first among New York players in total hits. Now that distinction belongs to Derek Jeter, another nice guy who doesn’t finish last.

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