It’s been a forgettable year all-around, let’s not mince words about it.
It’s getting to the point where getting out of bed these days is an act of faith all on its’ own.
Remember Rodney Dangerfield’s great line about the ‘heaviness’ he had hanging around him?
Johnny Carson heard it often on the ‘Tonight Show’ (back when it was entertaining); Dangerfield would greet the ‘heaviness’ when he woke and it would respond, “Today I’m gonna get you good!!!!”
Carson, the greatest straight man ever, would convulse in laughter, as would the audience and millions of late-night viewers.
But the ‘heaviness’ seems so real right now; that’s the kind of year it’s been.
It’s been heavy on baseball fans of a certain age; those of us who remember when the World Series, as Carson’s ‘Tonight Show’ was must-see television, when the nation came to, if not a halt, then a severe slowdown, to watch (or listen to on transistor radios in out school desks) the Fall Classic.
It didn’t matter which teams were playing; you generally had a rooting interest of some kind, like most of America did when the Yankee dynasty was at it’s height.
“Rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for United States Steel,” the anti-Yankee sentiment went.
Last week the baseball world lost the last great line to those Yankees when Hall of Famer Whitey Ford passed away.
We’d barely had time to absorb Ford’s loss then the news came on Monday that Hall of Famer Joe Morgan died at the young age of 77, joining Al Kaline, Tom Seaver, Lou Brock and Bob Gibson as all-time greats who we’ve lost just in the last few months....heaviness.
It got me to thinking that Brock, Gibson, and Morgan had one thing in common when it came to the World Series:
The absolutely destroyed the Yankees and Red Sox.
Brock came to the Cardinals in a mid-season trade in 1964 and helped them overcome a huge Phillies lead, winning the pennant on the last day of the season by beating the Mets.
He hit .300 with three extra base hits in the seven-game series; but he was just getting warmed up for a few years later.
In that same series, Gibson broke through on the national scene, beating Yogi Berra’s Yankees twice, including a seventh game in which he was left in by manager Johnny Keane after giving up home runs to Clete Boyer and Phil Linz.
“I had a commitment to his heart,” said Keane, who jumped ship to the Yankees immediately afterwards, only to find the cupboard had been emptied by the time he came aboard.
In 1967 the Cardinals, with Brock and Gibson in the primes of their careers took on the “Impossible Dream” Red Sox, of Yaz and Jim Lonborg and a collection of scrappers whipped into shape by Dick Williams.
Most thought the Cards would dispose of the Sox quickly, but it didn’t happen that way and without Brock and Gibson, Red Sox fans likely would not have waited 37 years for a title, as it took a loaded St. Louis team (Roger Maris, Orlando Cepeda, Curt Flood, Mike Shannon, Tim McCarver, Nelson Briles and a young left-hander named Steve Carlton) seven game to break the hearts of New Englanders.
Brock was unstoppable at the plate, hitting .414 - if it seemed every time he came to plate, he got on base, then stole second, it was because he did, going 7-for-7 in the larceny department.
Yaz and the Sox gave those talented Cards everything they could handle, but in the end, they couldn’t handle Gibson, who went 3-0 (all complete games - the horror!!!) with an ERA of 1.00; in 27 innings, he struck out 26, allowed only 14 hits and walked only five batters.
While Brock and Gibson were done with the local teams, Morgan was still a few years away from playing a villains’ role.
After the Reds stole him from the Astros, Morgan who was a pretty good second baseman, sprang forward in the superstar category as a main cog in the Big Red Machine, bringing attitude to a team which already had plenty (see: Rose, Pete), but was missing something.
In 1975 it all came together, but Morgan’s Reds were up against it in the Series against a talented Red Sox team which still had Yaz, but also, rookies Fred Lynn and Jim Rice and stars in Luis Tiant, Carlton Fisk, Dwight Evans, Rick Burleson and Rico Petrocelli.
Morgan may have batted only .259 in the seven game epic, but it was his ninth inning single off the immortal Jim Burton in the finale (which the Sox led at one time, 3-0) which stunned the Fenway Park crowd, which was left to wonder what might have been had Rice not missed the post-season with a broken wrist.
In 1976, Morgan the Reds had the Yankees in their sights, and it was no contest, as the at-their-peak Reds swept the Bombers away in four straight (only Thurman Munson showed up), with Morgan batting .333, reaching base at a .412 clip, scoring three runs, popping three extra-base hits and being active in the field, turning three double plays as the Reds repeated as champions.
Watching Brock, Gibson and Morgan systematically rip our hearts out in those long-ago Octobers wasn’t easy at the time, but their feats grow in legend the more we read about, hear about and watch them, all along wondering what has happened to our once-national game, which has become all-but-unwatchable to many of us.
Which just seems to add to the ‘heaviness,’ doesn’t it?
While on the subject of great Series performers, is there any doubt that with starters like Seaver, Gibson and Ford at their disposal, even the over-educated, bow-tie wearing analytics’ crown which is killing the game would give permission to their managers to just hand them the ball and give the overworked bullpens the night off?
Could you imagine any of them, in particular Gibson, not telling the manager to get the hell off his mound???....Didn’t think so.