A New York Yankee Legend Apologized… But Which One?

Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

A Yankee star who fell out of favor with the media felt compelled to apologize.

The star was not home grown nor a product of the farm system but rather an established player who the Yankees poached. He came over in a controversial deal that made Red Sox fans furious.

He put up big numbers but was selfish, not a team first guy and frankly was a bit of an embarrassment. The star acted in a self promoting way that ultimately clashed with management. No matter how many home runs he hit, the Star’s off field behavior and post season failings would overshadow his greatness.

What good was homering at record clips if he came up short in October? And weren’t those home run totals just the result of an era of inflated statistics?

Who cares if the Star is helping the Yankees break attendance records if he is such a mess personally? The new ballpark the Star helped open with a World Series title was great, but what it worth having such a money hungry Prima Donna on the team?

The Star was a married father but spent his time running around with women, strippers and lord knows who else. His over the top lifestyle made him hard to root for, especially when compared to the homegrown beloved Captain of the team who won and produced with dignity and grace. The Star and the Captain were once good friends, but drifted apart as the Star’s behavior became more unpredictable.

Ultimately the illegal products the Star was putting into his body affected his performance and his body began breaking down when the club needed him.

His off field embarrassments finally came to a head. Before long, he was suspended by the commissioner and punished by the Yankees.

The press, the Yankee organization and even elected officials vilified the star, calling him out and demanded he apologize to the team and their fans. After long stretches of stubbornness, the Star ended his suspension with a humiliating series of apologies.

The Star put up the best numbers of his era, but he was wild, the product of a troubled childhood. That lack of discipline would be his undoing and would ultimately prevent teams from wanting him despite his undeniable greatness.

Which Yankee Star am I talking about?

Alex Rodriguez?

Or Babe Ruth?

National Baseball Hall of Fame

National Baseball Hall of Fame

The vilification of Alex Rodriguez is bordering on the bizarre. Yes he did PEDs and yes he did many questionable things during his Yankee tenure.

So did Babe Ruth. Everything listed above in this blog post was recapping Babe Ruth’s time in New York.

Ruth was a Prima Donna who argued with managers, insulted the fans and clashed with the front office for salary increases.

Ruth flopped big time in several World Series, including the humiliating loss to the New York Giants in 1921 and 1922. Imagine if A-Rod was thrown out trying to steal second base while representing the tying run in the bottom of the 9th in Game 7 of the World Series, as Ruth did in 1926.

The many transgressions of Ruth would have made him public enemy number one in today’s media and sports fan world.

Not only did he run around with women (and prostitutes) in New York, but Ruth had his poor wife raise a daughter which he supposedly sired with someone else. He wanted a divorce but could not get one because Ruth and his wife were Catholic. She eventually died in a house fire, allowing Ruth to remarry with impunity. Imagine what the conspiracy theory crowd would say about THAT in today’s Social Media environment! There would be Babe Ruth Truthers.

His selfish behavior and uncontrollable personal life can be traced back to his hard drinking days with the Red Sox.  Of course Ruth was a big drinker during prohibition, technically a crime. And the lack of care he took for his body made him miss significant chunks of time, especially in the 1925 season. The press called his ailments in 1925 “The Bellyache Heard Round The World.” But in truth it was a serious health blow where his convulsions sent him to the hospital for prolonged stretches. Overweight, drunk and living a crazy sexual lifestyle, he was a distraction to the 1925 squad.

And yes, Ruth was suspended by both the Commissioner of Baseball for his barnstorming and by the Yankees for insubordination. He returned, but only after apologizing to the team with his tail between his powerful legs.

He was not the stoic “team first captain.” Ruth was A-Rod and Lou Gehrig was Jeter.

And while Ruth’s numbers were eye popping, remember they came during an era where offense spiked unnaturally. And in the wake of scandal (the 1919 fixed World Series) the powers that be of baseball turned a blind eye to the artificially pumped home run totals, the product of a new live ball. Sound similar to the baseball establishment letting the home runs fly out of the yard after the 1994 strike?

When Ruth’s career ended, he was cast aside. Besides 1/2 a season as a coach for the Brooklyn Dodgers, nobody wanted to hire him. His reputation was too toxic.

Leon Halip/Getty Images

Leon Halip/Getty Images

Perhaps it is heresy to compare Alex Rodriguez to Babe Ruth.

But maybe not. The glorious history of the Yankees have had no shortage of flawed heroes.

Joe DiMaggio was an unfaithful husband. As was Mickey Mantle who drowned himself in drink. Billy Martin found ways to get in trouble as a player and manager. Reggie Jackson was a me first prima donna. Andy Pettitte used performance enhancing drugs.

By the end of the 2015 season, all of them, along with Ruth, will have their numbers retired in Monument Park and have glowing tributes on YES and during montages in between innings.

Possibly the biggest monument in centerfield honors George Steinbrenner, who was suspended twice by the league and at one point was so hated by the fans that “George Must Go” chants cascaded from the upper deck.

Why shouldn’t A-Rod be honored? Why are HIS transgressions so unforgivable? Why was he put in a position to scribble an apology to the fans that will no doubt satisfy nobody?

When Yankee Stadium opened in 1923, Babe Ruth christened the park with a great season and the team’s first World Series title.

When the new Yankee Stadium opened its doors in 2009, A-Rod was the post season hero, launching homer after homer that clinched the 27th and most recent championship.

Both were the best players of their generation. Both were flawed. One is the greatest hero in franchise history. The other is a pariah.


Stange Endings… Post Season Series that didn’t end normally

I am in the middle of a one of my big Sully Baseball blog post series. I want to honor each pitcher who has ever clinched a post season series.

I’ve already done it for the Red Sox and the Phillies.
But as I started up writing each team’s entry, I realized that I should write a separate post about each player to end a post season series with a walk off hit.

Then another bizarre revelation hit me. I needed to create a whole new category.

Some series didn’t end with an out to clinch.
Some series didn’t end with a walk off hit or sacrifice fly.
Some had stranger endings. There are a few wild pitches, a bases loaded walk, a caught stealing and even one series ending with a base hit by the LOSING team.

So let’s list them here. The strange and difficult to categorize finishes to post season series.

1926 World Series
Game 7

Cardinals 3, Yankees 2

Babe Ruth is caught stealing to end the World Series.

One of the most memorable games in World Series history ended in a truly bizarre and anticlimactic manner. The Yankees and Cardinals went back and forth in a do or die Game 7 that featured Grover Cleveland Alexander coming out of the bullpen on no days rest to strike out Tony Lazzeri with the bases loaded in the 7th.

In the bottom of the 9th with St. Louis clinging to a 1 run lead and 2 outs, Babe Ruth walked and represented the tying run. Hard hitting Long Bob Meusel was at the plate, the man who led the league in home runs and RBI just the year before. It was a classic confrontation against the future Hall of Famer Alexander. Except it never happened.

Ruth, never known as a speed demon, took off to steal second and put himself in scoring position. Cardinals catcher Bob O’Farrell threw to second baseman and manager Rogers Hornsby and Ruth was nailed. The World Series was over with the greatest Yankee looking like a dope on the ground.

1927 World Series
Game 4

Yankees 4, Pirates 3

The juggernaut Yankees clinch the World Series on a wild pitch

The 1927 Yankees were considered for generations to be one of if not THE greatest team of all time. They won 110 out of 154 games, had Babe Ruth slug 60 homers and Lou Gehrig chipped in with 47 of his own with a .373 average. They were Murderers Row and had a solid pitching staff to boot. They finished 19 games ahead of the Philadelphia Athletics for the pennant and went on to sweep the Pirates in the World Series.

But to be fair, the Pirates didn’t just lay down to the Yankees. Game 1 and 4 were one run games and it was a Pittsburgh mistake, not Yankee power, that clinched it.

With the score tied in the bottom of the 9th of Game 4, Pirates pitcher Johnny Miljus walked Earle Combs to lead it off. After a single and a wild pitch, he walked Babe Ruth intentionally. He then struck out Lou Gehrig and Bob Meusel and looked like he was going to get out of the jam. But facing Tony Lazzeri, he threw his second wild pitch of the inning, scoring Combs and winning the World Series.

Murderers Row had won the World Series on a rally where the ball never left the infield.

1972 National League Championship Series
Game 5
Reds 4, Pirates 3

Bob Moose’s wild pitch ends the Pirates dream to repeat

The 1972 Pirates were the Defending World Champions and looked ready for a return date in the World Series where they would face the winner of the A’s and Tigers ALCS. They had a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the 9th and Dave Giusti, the NL leader of saves in 1971 and had posted 22 in 1972, was on the mound.

But Johnny Bench hit a lead off homer to tie the game and Tony Perez and Denis Menke both singled, suddenly putting Cincinnati in the position to win the pennant. Bob Moose came in and got Cesar Geronimo and Darrel Chaney out. Meanwhile pinch runner George Foster moved to third when Hal McRae came to the plate as a pinch hitter.

Moose let a pitch get away scoring Foster and sending the Reds to the World Series. The Pirates, the only team to lose a post season series on a wild pitch, pulled off the feat twice.

1999 National League Championship Series
Game 6
Braves 10, Mets 9

One of the greatest post season series ever played ends with a whimper and a bases loaded walk

The 1999 NLCS was one of the wildest, most unpredictable and heart stopping playoff series I have ever seen. The Mets lost the first three to the Braves in agonizingly close games including a 1-0 bang your head against the wall Game 3. The Mets won a 15 marathon Game 5 where they were 3 outs from elimination and Robin Ventura hit his “Grand Slam Single.” Then the Mets came back from a 5-0 first inning hole to send Game 6 into extras. They had a chance to be the first team to be down 3-0 to force a Game 7.

In the bottom of the 11th, Mets pitcher Kenny Rogers let up a lead off double to Gerald Williams and a sacrifice by Bret Boone put the Braves pennant on third with one out. Mets manager Bobby Valentine ordered a pair of intentional walks hoping to set up a force at home. But Rogers never found his control and walked Andruw Jones to bring in the pennant winning run.

The idea of walking in the winning run will always boggle my mind. How can a pitcher not just throw it down the heart of the plate? The worst case scenario is a walk off grand slam. But make the HITTER connect with it. Instead a series filled with come from behind rallies and starting pitchers coming out of the bullpen ended with a thud.

2003 National League Division Series
Game 4
Marlins 7, Mets 6

Pudge holds onto the ball and the Marlins eliminate the Giants

The Giants responded to their heart breaking 2002 World Series loss with a powerhouse 2003 season where they ran away with the NL West and looked like the team to beat. The Wild Card Marlins, who eliminated the Giants in 1997, didn’t look to pose much of a threat. But Florida came back to win Game 2 and won Game 3 in extra innings when they were one strike from losing.

In Game 4, Dontrelle Willis and the Marlins jumped ahead to a 5-1 lead but the Giants tied the game and it remained so until the 8th. In the bottom of the 8th the Marlins took the lead, in part when Pudge Rodriguez crashed into Yorvit Torreabla at home plate, jarring the ball loose. In the 9th inning the Giants rallied and put the tying run at second base in the form of J. T. Snow. Manager Felipe Alou had run out of pinch runners, but that wouldn’t be a factor, right?

Jeffrey Hammonds hit a single to left and Snow rounded third to try and tie the game. Jeff Conine threw home to Rodriguez who made the tag and held onto the ball after the collision. That was the clear difference between Torreabla and Rodriguez.

It was not only the first time a post season series ended with the tying run being thrown out at the plate but it is the only time a series ended with the losing team getting a hit.

I was in my bedroom listening to the game on the radio, putting on my tuxedo getting ready for my wedding. When the series was over, I looked at my mom who was helping me with my cuff links. We raised our eye brows, shrugged and I put my shoes on.

So there you have 5 series whose endings defy regular categories.
None were walk off hits.
None were the pitcher recording the final out.

All were agonizing for the losing team and no doubt made the winning team think “Oh boy, we got away with one.”

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