A Salute to Clayton

This year it’s different  being a Dodger fan.  I see more Dodger blogs, merchandise, games, and chatter about them. If they don’t win this year that is alright…it was nice seeing that win back in October.

Between 2004 the Dodgers were owned by Frank and Jamie McCourt…better known to Dodger fans as McBroke. The last three years of their reign were heart breaking for Dodger fans. Fans stopped going to the games while Frank and Jamie were going through a divorce. Finally the Commissioner …Selig finally intervened and stopped the non-sense of them both draining the Dodgers dry and attempting to under sell their Fox TV contract by getting quick money…but Selig is NOT without blame in this. Although McCourt was denied for buying the Red Sox…he was approved buying the Dodgers from Fox with a loan from…you guessed it…Fox.

While all of this was going on, Clayton Kershaw kept fans watching the Dodgers. He was maybe the best pitcher in MLB between 2011 and 2014. His stats were 72-26 with a 2.11 ERA with 3 Cy Young Awards and a second place finish to R.A. Dickey. He would have had more wins but most years the bullpen was awful…and that bullpen would cause some of those post season failures. He would be on the ropes in the 8th inning but he would be kept in because the bullpen was not to be trusted. That didn’t cause all of his troubles but it added to them greatly.

On April 11, 2021 he won his 177th career game against 77 loses. He is 100 games over at this point in his career and he looks like he has plenty in the tank at this point. It’s not just his great pitching either…more importantly from all accounts he is a nice decent human being. Fans of other teams who hate the Dodgers seem to like Clayton Kershaw. I saw Giants fans happy to see him win…only him though…and that’s the way it should be. Vin Scully was the other person associated with the Dodgers who was loved by rival teams.

Clayton is great for the game of baseball and the Dodgers. I’ve tried not to take him for granted because players like him don’t come along often. Clayton is only 33 years old and my hope is he remains a Dodger until he is ready to hang them up. If he quit today he should be Hall of Fame bound.

In past off seasons Kershaw and his wife Ellen go to Africa and help build and rebuild villages and give relief to poverty stricken areas. They formed a charity called Kershaw’s Challenge.

Post Season Failures

Vin Scully has said before each post season he would pray…not that the Dodgers would win but that no one on either team would become a goat that would be so hard to live down. After what happened to Kershaw against the Nationals it made me think of some unfortunate players/spectators/umpires failed at the wrong moment.

A few of these people got reminded of these plays the rest of their life…as if their life boiled down to this one moment.

These are in no order

Bill Buckner – Probably the poster boy for scapegoats… Bill’s misfortune happened in the 1986 World Series. I always thought he was unfairly treated. The Sox were leading the Mets in the 10th inning 5-3 with TWO outs. All they needed was one out to win the World Series. After a single, single, single, walk, passed ball… let’s stop here for a second…now they are tied because they cannot get one out. Mookie Wilson is up next and dribbles one down the first baseline and Buckner…who usually was taken out of games because of defensive reasons…misses the ball and the Mets win 6-5. That tied the series up at 3 games apiece.

Game 7 belonged to the Mets after winning 8-5 and they won the World Series.

Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams – This one I felt when they put him in to pitch. Joe Carter took him long to win the World Series in the 9th inning for the Toronto Blue Jays. I remember Curt Schilling always hiding his head under a towel when Mitch pitched which didn’t go over well with the reliever. Williams does have a sense of humor about it anyway.

Willie Davis – Some will remember the day in 1966 when he made three errors in one World Series game. On Oct. 6, 1966, against the Baltimore Orioles, Davis lost three fly balls in the sun at Dodger Stadium. According to reporter Charles Maher’s account in The Times the next day, Davis came back to the dugout after the inning and told pitcher Sandy Koufax, “I’m sorry, I just lost them in the sun.” Koufax said: “Don’t let it get you down.” Pitcher Don Drysdale said: “Hell, forget it. … You’ve saved a lot of games for me with great catches.”

It wouldn’t have mattered much in the long run in all probability. The Dodgers were swept by the Orioles in 4 games.

Fred Merkle – “Merkle’s Boner” In the bottom of the ninth, the Giants and Cubs were tied at 1–1 with two men on base and two outs. Giants outfielder Moose McCormick stood at third base, while Merkle was the runner on first. Giants shortstop Al Bridwell took the first pitch from Cubs southpaw Jack Pfiester and got the ball past second baseman Johnny Evers for a single into center field. McCormick scored and the pennant appeared to belong to the Giants. Fans stormed out of the stands in celebration as Merkle made his way to the dugout, assuming that the game was over.

One problem: Merkle never touched second base… Evers noticed the error and headed over to beat Merkle back to the bag, which would void McCormick’s run for the final out. But this is where it gets even weirder: Evers didn’t have the ball, which was hit and lost in the shuffle of people. Some retellings of the play say that Giants pitcher Joe McGinnity, who also served as a first base coach that day, tossed the ball into the stands to a fan, who bolted with his new souvenir. In this version of the story, police officers stopped the spectator and the ball made its way back to the field with a throw from Joe Tinker to Evers. The umpires saw Evers on the bag, and Merkle was called out. Charles Dryden, the Chicago Tribune‘s writer on-site, talked to multiple players that day and tallied 18 assists on the final play. 

People never let him forget this through his life. This is what helped The Cubs win their final World Series in the 20th Century in the year 1908.

Image result for merkle's boner

Steve Bartman – Ok not a player but he caught hell after leaning over to make a catch that a lot of fans will do. People forget that there was actually baseball played after the incident and a few errors that had an effect on the score. One of the biggest came from Alex Gonzalez, his bobble of a routine double-play ball that would’ve ended the inning with a 3-1 Cubs lead ended up turning into an eight-run inning for the Marlins. So, Bartman was an overzealous fan going after a fair ball but the man moved out of Chicago because of the furor of Cubs fans.

He was rewarded with a WS ring in 2016 but when you have a Halloween mask modeled after you…is that really enough?

Scott Norwood – I’m cheating here because this is football but man did I feel bad for this guy! I was watching this Superbowl and will never forget Al Michaels saying “Wide Right” after Norwood’s missed field goal attempt for the Bills that let the Giants win the Superbowl on January 27, 1991 .

Honorable Mentions…umpires

Don Denkinger – He blew a huge call during Game 6 of the 1985 World Series. The Kansas City Royals were down one to the St. Louis Cardinals in the bottom of the ninth inning. If the Cardinals win the game, they would have taken the series. Jorge Orta came to the plate and hit a grounder to first. The throw beat Orta to the base, but Denkinger inexplicably called Orta safe. Kansas City went on to score two runs in the inning and tied up the series…..The Royals won Game 7 and the World Series, partially as a result of the blown call.

Frank Pulli – Oh how I disliked this man in 1978. The 12-year-old me learned quickly that life was not always fair.

It was 1978 and the Dodgers were leading the Yankees 3-1 in the 6th inning. The Yankees had runners on 1st and 2nd when Piniella hit a line drive at Bill Russell, who dropped the ball, picked it up and stepped on second for the force out. The ball wound up in right field after he attempted to turn the double play with a throw to first. At that moment Jackson stuck his hip out to deflect the throw, and run was scored on the play. This helped the Yankees tie it with a run in the 8th after which they won in the 10th. All of that helped them even the series. The momentum went to the Yankees after this… Reggie should have been called out for interference. The Dodgers would have had a 3-1 lead in the series and heading back to LA for games 6 and 7.

The Dodgers finally got revenge in 1981 against the Yankees and Reggie Jackson.

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