Lerrin LaGrow 1978 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for April 4, 2017

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Lerrin LaGrow will always be known in baseball for two things, one might not be true and the other was done TO him.

Did he throw at Bert Campaneris on purpose in the 1972 ALCS?

And yes, Bert Campaneris threw a bat at HIM.

LaGrow was a product of the Arizona State University baseball system when the Tigers drafted him in 1969, a year after winning the World Series. After success in Montgomery in AA, he bounced between AAA Toledo and Detroit during the 1970, 972 and 1973 season.

In 1972, he had success in Billy Martin’s bullpen during his 16 appearances. Twice during his two months with the parent team he logged 3 inning relief appearances. He didn’t get chances to close out many games, but he added valuable depth as the Tigers outlasted the Red Sox to win the AL East.

LaGrow was rewarded with a spot on the playoff roster.

He came in to pitch in the 7th inning of Game 2. The Tigers lost a heart breaker in extra innings in Game 1 and were trailing in Game 2 with the chance of falling behind 2-0 in the best of 5 series.

Bert Campaneris was the bane of Billy Martin’s existence, getting hit after hit and using his speed to score. He got 3 hits, stole a pair and scored twice in Game 2 when LaGrow faced him.

The pitch went right at his ankle, potentially injuring him and threatening his speed game. Campaneris was sure that it was intentional to knock him out of the game. Before taking his base, he glowered at LaGrow and no doubt enraged at Billy Martin for ordering it.

Instead of walking to first, he flung the bat at LaGrow, who ducked it before it caused serious harm. All hell broke loose with players emptying onto the field and Billy Martin needed to be restrained from killing Campaneris.

Martin and LaGrow denied repeatedly it was intentional. A grand total of no human beings on the planet believed them. Martin loved the intimidation game and LaGrow was a young kid probably wanting to earn his spot in the minds of his teammates.

Campaneris and LaGrow were both suspended for the remainder of the series. The Tigers would be eliminated and LaGrow never did play in the post season again.

In the end, he would play pitch in 10 big league seasons. After mixed results as a starter with the Tigers he moved back to the bullpen when he bounced from St. Louis to the White Sox. He saved 25 games for the 1977 White Sox, good for 3rd in the AL for the year. He picked up 16 saves the next year, 6th in the league.

As he was picking up those saves, he posed for this Topps Card, one of my favorite obviously and awkwardly staged pics. He is standing by a batting cage and clearly not really pitching. Meanwhile he looks good with the open collars of the White Sox of the time.

Between 1979 and 1980, he moved from the White Sox and Dodgers, finishing his big league career with a Phillies team that would go on to win the World Series but was released in mid season.

Like anyone who pitched for a decade in the majors, Lerrin LaGrow no doubt has a lot of stories to tell.

But the main one people want to hear was not when he threw a ball towards a batter, but when a batter threw a bat at him.

Vida Blue 1979 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for January 16, 2017

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We need more stars like Vida Blue. And to think we in the family of baseball almost didn’t have him.

He was a star quarter back on his high school team in Louisiana and received many offers to play college ball. He was a dominating passer who could also run and no doubt would have been a smash on the NCAA level.

Who knows? Maybe he could have been in the NFL around the same time as Fran Tarkington and Roger Staubach and Joe Namath and made his name there.

Instead he was signed by the Kansas City A’s in 1967 and was on the major league squad in 1969, which had moved to Oakland by then.

It did not take long for Vida Blue to make his mark in Oakland. At the end of the 1970 season, he threw a no hitter against the eventual Division Champion Twins. That was just a warm up.

In 1971, he exploded as the best pitcher in the American League. HE threw to a 1.82 ERA over 312 innings and 24 complete games (8 were shutouts. He struck out 301 batters against only 88 walks and led the A’s to their first post season appearance since the 1931 World Series when the team was in Philadelphia.

Then came the bizarre hold out. A’s owner Charlie Finley would not give the man who had just won the AL Cy Young and MVP a substantial raise. Blue vowed to work for a plumbing company than be low balled.

He had a subpar 1972 (although his 2.80 ERA showed that he wasn’t exactly getting pounded.) His highlight came in the post season where he threw a 4 inning save in Game 5 of the ALCS, sending the Oakland to the World Series that they would eventually win.

The flamboyant Blue complained about his contract during the pennant celebration and started a fight with his teammate Blue Moon Odom as the champagne was being sprayed.

The A’s won the 1972 World Series and the next two after that and another division title in 1975. Vida Blue regained his ace form, winning 20 games in 1973 and 1975 and earning votes in several Cy Young campaigns. He threw a combined no hitter to finish out the 1975 season, the last moment of glory for that Oakland run.

When Finley began dismantling the A’s, he tried to send Blue to the Reds where he would be plugged into the Big Red Machine. Commissioner Bowie Kuhn shot down the trade. He also stopped Blue’s contract from being sold to the Yankees.

By 1977, Blue was the only star left in Oakland as he slogged through a campaign where he led the league in losses and saw his once mighty team fall to a 63-98 record.

He was paroled and went across the Bay to pitch for the 1978 Giants, represented here in this 1979 Topps Card. As the All Star banner implies, his first year in the National League was a good one. He finished third in the Cy Young vote with an 18-10 record and a 2.79 ERA. The Giants contended that year and looked like they might be putting together a nice run.

Alas Blue never played in the post season again. And while he would post several All Star seasons with the Giants, his career which around the time this card was issued looked like it was on a Hall of Fame trajectory, was derailed by injuries and cocaine suspensions.

Over the years, Blue has become a fan favorite TV personality for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, speaking about both of his former Northern California teams (he also played for the Royals briefly.) He also has been a mainstay in Silicon Valley charity functions.

Vida Blue was fun, outspoken, was his own man and one of the few players to wear his first name on his uniform instead of his surname. And oh yeah, he could really pitch.

Just think, we could have lost all of those wonderful memories to college football!

THE 34 TIMES WHERE A POST SEASON SERIES COULD HAVE WON BY EITHER TEAM ON THE SAME PITCH

 

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Did you notice during the final Dodgers and Nationals game that there were a few moments where either team could have clinched when a pitch was thrown? A double play or an out would seal the deal for Los Angeles. A home run or an extra base hit would send Washington to the NLCS. A single pitch had the polar opposite fates for two teams.

How many times has this happened? How many times has a post season series come down to a moment where a single pitch could have clinched for either side?

I originally did this post for the Giants and Royals finishing the 2014 World Series. I am updating it for last night’s game.

While figuring this out, I picked a team where a hit, including a homer, would yield a walk off clincher for the home club.

I also took a visiting team where an out or a realistic double play would end the series. If a runner is on third with 1 out, the chances of a double play would be slim at best.

The list will not include memorable series like the 1960 World Series, 1975 World Series, 1980 NLCS, 1986 World Series, 2004 ALCS nor 2011 World Series. Oddly enough those years did not yield this scenario. The losing team and winning team were never on the verge of clinching at the same time in any of those years.

So lets find them, the ultimate post season at bats. This list will include One Game Playoffs, Wild Card Games, Division Series, League Championship Series and of course World Series.

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1912 World Series
New York Giants at Boston Red Sox
Game 8 (Series included 1 tie.)

Bottom 10. Giants 2 – Red Sox 1.
1 out. Runners at first and third.
Double Play would win World Series for Giants.
Extra Base Hit would win World Series for Red Sox.

Giants Pitcher – Christy Mathewson.
Red Sox Batter – Tris Speaker.

Result – Speaker singled to right field to tie the game 2-2.
Red Sox would win the World Series two batters later when Larry Gardner hit a walk off sacrifice fly to drive home the winning run.

 

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1926 World Series
St. Louis Cardinals at New York Yankees
Game 7

Bottom 9. Cardinals 3 – Yankees 2.
2 outs. Runner at first.
Out would win World Series for Cardinals.
Home Run would win World Series for Yankees

Cardinals Pitcher – Grover Cleveland Alexander.
Red Sox Batter – Bob Meusel.

Result – Babe Ruth, the runner at first, is caught stealing to end the game and clinch the World Series for the Cardinals.

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1951 National League Playoff
Brooklyn Dodgers at New York Giants
Game 3

Bottom 9. Dodgers 4 – Giants 2.
1 out. Runners at first and third.
Double play would win Pennant for Dodgers.
Home Run would win Pennant for Giants.

Dodgers Pitcher – Ralph Branca.
Giants Batter – Bobby Thomson.

Result – Thomson homers to left field. The Giants Win the Pennant (The Giants win the Pennant.)

 

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1962 World Series
New York Yankees at San Francisco Giants
Game 7

Bottom 9. Yankees 1 – Giants 0
2 outs. Runner at first.
Out would win World Series for Yankees.
Home Run would win World Series for Giants

Yankees Pitcher – Ralph Terry.
Giants Batter – Willie Mays.

Result – Mays doubles to right field. Baserunner Matty Alou is held at third base.

Bottom 9. Yankees 1 – Giants 0
2 outs. Runners at second and third.
Out would win World Series for Yankees.
A single or an error would win World Series for Giants

Yankees Pitcher – Ralph Terry.
Giants Batter – Willie McCovey.

Result – McCovey lines out to second baseman Bobby Richardson to clinch World Series for the Yankees.

 

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1972 American League Championship Series
Oakland A’s at Detroit Tigers
Game 5

Bottom 9. A’s 2 – Tigers 1
1 out. Runner at first.
Double Play would win Pennant for A’s.
Home Run would win Pennant for Tigers.

A’s pitcher – Vida Blue.
Tigers batter – Mickey Stanley.

Result – Stanley grounds to shortstop. Runner is forced out but Stanley reaches first.

Bottom 9. A’s 2 – Tigers 1
2 outs. Runner at first.
Out would win Pennant for A’s.
Home Run would win Pennant for Tigers.

A’s pitcher – Vida Blue.
Tigers batter – Tony Taylor.

Result – Taylor flies out to center field. A’s win the pennant.

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1972 World Series
Oakland A’s at Cincinnati Reds
Game 7

Bottom 9. A’s 3 – Reds 2
2 outs. Runner at first.
Out would win World Series for A’s.
Home Run would win World Series for Reds.

A’s pitcher – Rollie Fingers.
Reds batter – Pete Rose.

Result – Rose flies out to left center field. A’s win World Series.

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American League East Division One Game Playoff

New York Yankees at Boston Red Sox

Bottom 9. Yankees 5 – Red Sox 4
1 out. Runner at first.
Double play would win Division for Yankees.
Home Run would win Division for Red Sox.

Yankees pitcher – Rich Gossage.
Red Sox batter – Jerry Remy.

Result – Remy singles to right field. Rick Burleson moves to second.

Bottom 9. Yankees 5 – Red Sox 4
1 out. Runners at first and second.
Double play would win Division for Yankees.
Extra base hit would win Division for Red Sox.

Yankees pitcher – Rich Gossage.
Red Sox batter – Jim Rice.

Result – Rice flies out to right field.

Bottom 9. Yankees 5 – Red Sox 4
2 outs. Runners at first and second.
Out would win Division for Yankees.
Extra base hit would win Division for Red Sox.

Yankees pitcher – Rich Gossage.
Red Sox batter – Carl Yastrzemski.

Result – Yastrzemski pops up to third baseman Graig Nettles. Yankees win Division.

 

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1981 National League Championship Series
Los Angeles Dodgers at Montreal Expos
Game 5

Bottom 9. Dodgers 2 – Expos 1
2 outs. Runner at first.
Out would win Pennant for Dodgers.
Home Run would win Pennant for Expos.

Dodgers pitcher – Fernando Valenzuela.
Reds batter – Larry Parrish.

Result – Parrish walks. Pinch runner Jerry Manuel moves from first to second.

Bottom 9. Dodgers 2 – Expos 1
2 outs. Runners at first and second.
Out would win pennant for Dodgers.
Extra base hit would win Pennant for Expos.

Dodgers pitcher – Bob Welch.
Reds batter – Jerry White.

Result – White grounds out to second. Dodgers win pennant.

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1992 National League Championship Series
Pittsburgh Pirates at Atlanta Braves
Game 7

 

Bottom 9. Pirates 2 – Braves 1
1 outs. Runners at first and second.
Double Play would win Pennant for Pirates.
Extra base hit would win Pennant for Braves.

Pirates pitcher – Stan Belinda.
Braves batter – Damon Berryhill.

Result – Berryhill walks. David Justice moves to third. Sid Bream moves to second.

 

Bottom 9. Pirates 2 – Braves 1
1 outs. Bases Loaded.
Double Play would win Pennant for Pirates.
Single would win Pennant for Braves.

Pirates pitcher – Stan Belinda.
Braves batter – Brian Hunter.

Result – Hunter pops up to second baseman.

 

Bottom 9. Pirates 2 – Braves 1
2 outs. Bases Loaded.
Out would win Pennant for Pirates.
Single would win Pennant for Braves.

Pirates pitcher – Stan Belinda.
Braves batter – Francisco Cabrera.

Result – Cabrera singles to left. Justice scores the tying run. Sid Bream somehow scores the winning run. Braves win NLCS.

 

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1997 World Series
Cleveland Indians at Florida Marlins
Game 7

Bottom 9. Indians 2 – Marlins 1
1 outs. Runner on First.
Double Play would win World Series for Indians.
Home Run would win World Series for Marlins.

Pirates pitcher – Jose Mesa.
Braves batter – Charles Johnson.

Result – Johnson singles to right field. Moises Alou runs from first to third.

 

Bottom 9. Indians 2 – Marlins 1
1 outs. Runner on First and third.
Double Play would win World Series for Indians.
Extra base hit would win World Series for Marlins.

Pirates pitcher – Jose Mesa.
Braves batter – Craig Counsell.

Result – Counsell lines to right field. Alou tags and scored to tie the game.

Marlins would win World Series in bottom of the 11th.

 

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2001 World Series
New York Yankees at Arizona Diamondbacks
Game 7

Bottom 9. Yankees 2 – Diamondbacks 1
1 outs. Runners on First and Second.
Double Play would win World Series for Yankees.
Triple or Home run would win World Series for Diamondbacks.

Pirates pitcher – Mariano Rivera.
Braves batter – Tony Womack.

Result – Womack doubles to right field. Pinch runner Midre Cummings scores to tie the game.

Diamondbacks would win the World Series two batters later on Luis Gonzalez’s single.

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2002 American League Division Series
Minnesota Twins at Oakland Athletics
Game 5

Bottom 9. Twins 5 – Athletics 4
2 outs. Runner on First.
Out would win Division Series for Twins.
Home Run would win Division Series for Athletics.

Twins pitcher – Eddie Guardado.
Athletics batter – Ray Durham.

Result – Durham hits a foul pop to the second baseman. Twins win Division Series.

 

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2002 National League Division Series
San Francisco Giants at Atlanta Braves
Game 5

Bottom 9. Giants 3 – Braves 4
1 out. Runners on First and third.
Double play win Division Series for Giants.
Home Run would win Division Series for Braves.

Giants pitcher – Robb Nen.
Athletics batter – Chipper Jones.

Result – Jones hits into a double play to the first baseman. Giants win Division Series.

 

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2003 American League Division Series
Boston Red Sox at Oakland Athletics
Game 5

Bottom 9. Red Sox 4 – Athletics 3
2 outs. Runners on Second and third.
Out would win Division Series for Red Sox.
Single would win Division Series for Athletics.

Red Sox pitcher – Derek Lowe.
Athletics batter – Chris Singleton.

Result – Singleton walks.

Bottom 9. Red Sox 4 – Athletics 3
2 outs. Bases loaded.
Out would win Division Series for Red Sox.
Single would win Division Series for Athletics.

Red Sox pitcher – Derek Lowe.
Athletics batter – Terrence Long.

Result – Long strikes out looking. Red Sox win Division Series.

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2006 National League Championship Series
St. Louis Cardinals at New York Mets.
Game 7

Bottom 9. Cardinals 3 – Mets 1.
1 out. Runners on Second and third.
Double play would win Pennant for Cardinals.
Home run would win Pennant for Mets.

Cardinals pitcher – Adam Wainwright.
Mets batter – Jose Reyes.

Result – Reyes lines out to centerfield.

Bottom 9. Cardinals 3 – Mets 1.
2 outs. Runners on Second and third.
Out would win Pennant for Cardinals.
Home run would win Pennant for Mets.

Cardinals pitcher – Adam Wainwright.
Mets batter – Paul LoDuca.

Result – LoDuca walks to load the bases.

Bottom 9. Cardinals 3 – Mets 1.
2 outs. Bases loaded.
Out would win Pennant for Cardinals.
Extra base hit would win Pennant for Mets.

Cardinals pitcher – Adam Wainwright.
Mets batter – Carlos Beltran.

Result – Beltran strikes out looking. Cardinals win pennant.

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2009 American League Central Division Playoff
 Detroit Tigers at Minnesota Twins.
 

Bottom 10. Tigers 5 – Twins 4.
1 out. Runners on first and third.
Double play would win Division for Tigers.
Extra base hit would win Division for Twins.

Tigers pitcher – Fernando Rodney.
Twins batter – Matt Tolbert.

Result – Tolbert singles, scoring Michael Cuddyer to tie the game. Alexi Casilla moves to third.

Twins would win game, and Division, in the bottom of the 12th.

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2012 National League Division Series
San Francisco Giants at Cincinnati Reds.
Game 5

Bottom 9. Giants 6 – Reds 4.
1 out. Runners on first and second.
Double play would win Division Series for Giants.
Home run would win Division Series for Reds.

Giants pitcher – Segio Romo.
Reds batter – Jay Bruce.

Result – Bruce flies out to left.

Bottom 9. Giants 6 – Reds 4.
2 out. Runners on first and second.
Out would win Division Series for Giants.
Home run would win Division Series for Reds.

Giants pitcher – Segio Romo.
Reds batter – Scott Rolen.

Result – Rolen strikes out. Giants win Division Series.

Wild Card Game - Oakland Athletics v Kansas City Royals

2014 American League Wild Card Game
Oakland Athletics at Kansas City Royals

Bottom 9. Athletics 7 – Royals 6.
1 out. Runner on second.
Double play would win Wild Card for Athletics.
Home run would win Wild Card for Royals.

Athletics pitcher – Sean Doolittle.
Royals batter – Nori Aoki.

Result – Pinch runner Jarrod Dyson steals third. Aoki hits game tying sacrifice fly.

Royals win Wild Card in bottom of 12.

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2014 World Series
San Francisco Giants at Kansas City Royals
Game 7

Bottom 9. Giants 3 – Royals 2.
2 out. Runner on third.
Out would win World Series for Giants.
Home Run would win World Series for Royals.

Giants pitcher – Madison Bumgarner.
Royals batter – Salvador Perez.

Result – Perez pops up to the third baseman. Giants win the World Series.

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2014 National League Division Series
Los Angeles Dodgers at Washington Nationals
Game 5

Bottom 9. Dodgers 4 – Nationals 3.
1 out. Runner on first.
Double Play would win Division Series for Dodgers.
Home Run would win Division Series for Nationals.

Dodgers pitcher – Kenley Jansen.
Nationals batter – Jayson Werth.

Result – Werth walks. Bryce Harper moves to second base.

 

Bottom 9. Dodgers 4 – Nationals 3.
1 out. Runner on first and second.
Double Play would win Division Series for Dodgers.
Extra Base Hit would win Division Series for Nationals.

Dodgers pitcher – Clayton Kershaw.
Nationals batter – Daniel Murphy.

Result – Murphy pops up to second base. Runners do not advance.

Bottom 9. Dodgers 4 – Nationals 3.
2 outs. Runner on first and second.
Out would win Division Series for Dodgers.
Extra Base Hit would win Division Series for Nationals.

Dodgers pitcher – Clayton Kershaw.
Nationals batter – Wilmer Difo.

Result – Difo strikes out. Catcher Carlos Ruiz throws to first baseman Adrian Gonzalez after the ball was dropped. Dodgers win the Division Series.

 

 

It has happened 34 times in 20 different games.

7 times, the game continued when a batter reached base. 6 times the second out of the inning was recorded.

11 times, the clinching out was recorded.

6 times, the game was tied. In each of those 6 instances, the team that tied the game would go on to win the series.

2 times, the Thomson homer and the Cabrera single, the home team got a walk off game winning hit.

So when BOTH teams face a situation where they can clinch, it has gone 12-8 in favor of the pitching team.

Five Hall of Fame batters came up in the situation (Speaker, Mays, McCovey, Rice and Yaz) not including Pete Rose and Chipper Jones, who hit into the only series ending double play from this scenario.

Four Hall of Fame pitchers were on the mound in these moments (Mathewson, Alexander, Fingers and Gossage.) Mariano Rivera will eventually make it five Hall of Fame pitchers. Madison Bumgarner could very make it six. Clayton Kershaw will probably make it seven.

Mathewson faced Speaker, Fingers faced Rose and Gossage faced Rice and Yaz in the ultimate match ups of greatness.

And Babe Ruth was the only player caught stealing to end it, spoiling Bob Meusel’s chance at immortality.

So this October, take a look to see if we get to see another match up like this, one where a single pitch could mean glory or never ending agony for both teams.