RED OLDHAM – Sully Baseball Unsung Post Season Hero of October 15

Sporting News

Sporting News

OCTOBER 15, 1925 – World Series Game 7

I will confess this entry of “Sully Baseball Unsung Post Season Heroes” is the inspiration for the entire series. I have a fascination with Pirates pitcher Red Oldham and wanted to celebrate his unlikely and mostly forgotten World Series heroism.

I have written a few blog posts about him and wanted to write this series to give recognition to Red and the other players whose fame has dimmed over the years. Arguably the most obscure person to ever clinch Game 7 of a World Series, John “Red” Oldham began the 1925 season in the minors and would end the 1926 season in the minors, never to reach the majors again. But in between he would experience World Series glory.

The Pirates won the 1925 pennant and faced the defending World Champion Washington Senators and their superstar pitcher, Walter Johnson, in the World Series.

Initially it looked like no contest. The Senators ran up a 3-1 lead in the series, thanks to a pair of complete game victories by Johnson. The Pirates took a back and forth Game 5 and over came a 2-0 deficit to win Game 6 and force a winner take all Game 7 with Walter Johnson on the mound.

Heavy rains delayed Game 7. With the infield soaked, the Pirates grounds crew decided to dump barrels of gasoline on the dirt and light it on fire to dry it out. There were different environmental rules back then.

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh manager Bill McKechnie tried to figure out how to juggle his pitching staff in the finale against the Big Train. At one point he considered using Red Oldham to start, even though he had not used the 31 year old lefty for the entire World Series.

Oldham had played for the Tigers in the 1910’s and early 1920’s and did not exactly set the American League ablaze like the infield at Forbes Field. The most famous incident in his career was having Ty Cobb dress him down and basically tackle him during a game in Detroit.

After bouncing around the minors and getting in trouble with the commissioner for playing in outlaw leagues, Oldham somehow found himself on the Pirates midway through the 1925 season. Injuries forced the team to find some left handed depth in their staff. Oldham appeared in 11 games, 4 of them starts. He threw three complete games and recorded a save.

McKechnie decided against starting Oldham and turned to Game 5 winner Vic Aldridge. Oldham would sit in the bullpen and witness one of the strangest Game 7’s in baseball history.

Aldridge did not make it out of the first inning as the Senators gave Johnson a 4 run lead before he even took the mound. Johnson kept the lead in a steady rain and mist but he was by no means dominant.

In the 7th inning, future Hall of Famer Pie Traynor tripled home the tying runs but was thrown out trying to make it an inside the park homer.

In the 8th, the Senators took the lead on a Roger Peckinpaugh homer and Washington player/manager Bucky Harris let Walter Johnson bat. Despite his struggles, Johnson was going to complete the game.

With the rain picking up, Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis nearly called the game and declared the Senators World Champs, but decided to let the game play in the downpour and fog.

Johnson was gassed but had a 7-6 lead with 2 outs and nobody on in the 8th, he was 4 outs from a World Series repeat. But Earl Smith doubled and Carson Bigbee smacked a game tying RBI double. Then a walk and an error loaded the bases. Still no relief for Johnson who faced future Hall of Famer Kiki Cuyler. He hit a drive to right field into the fog. It was declared a ground rule double. Washington right fielder Joe Harris said it was foul by 10 feet. There was no replay then. The Pirates took the lead and were three outs from winning the World Series.

McKechnie had already used Aldridge, Johnny Morrison and Ray Kremer as pitchers. Another one of his pitchers, Emil Yde was used as a pinch runner. With his options running out, he turned to Oldham.

Given a two run lead, Oldham had a little wiggle room. But Washington lineup offered little comfort. He would face Sam Rice, Bucky Harris and Goose Goslin. While you may not know those names well, go to Cooperstown. All three are enshrined there. An unknown who began the season in the minors had to face three future Hall of Famers with the World Series on the line.

On a 2-2 count, Oldham got Rice looking. One away. With no balls and 2 strikes on Bucky Harris, he recorded an out with a line drive caught by second baseman Eddie Moore. Now only Goslin remained.

With the count 1 ball and 2 strikes, Goslin was called out looking. Oldham had done it. He got the save and the Pirates, in the pouring rain and mist, became the first team to erase a 3-1 hole and win the World Series.

American League president Ban Johnson admonished Senators manager Bucky Harris for leaving Walter Johnson in for too long. And the Senators were one commissioner’s decision from repeating in the 8th.

But it was the Bucs title and the most obscure Pirate had closed it out. By the next June, Oldham was let go by the team he pitched to the title and was not with the club when they won the 1927 pennant. After a few years toiling in the minors, Oldham retired and eventually died in California.

His deeds have faded with time and his one moment of glory took place appropriately during a misty day that was hard to see, much like his foggy legacy.

But his clutch performance, retiring three future Hall of Famers to clinch Game 7 of the 1925 World Series should be recognized somewhere. That makes him the Unsung Postseason Hero of October 15.

Every Post Season series that ended with a walk off hit

In my latest series of entries, I want to record how each and every post season series ended.
I am doing a blog post for each and every team, listing which pitchers clinched the final out.

And I did a post on some of the more unusual endings, such as a series being clinched with a wild pitch or a runner caught stealing.

I felt it was necessary to list all of the series winning hits.
Sure every baseball fan has thought about how cool it would be to get the hit to win the World Series or close out a playoff series. These 24 are the only ones who can claim to have done it.

To be fair, only 23 are walk off hits. One was a sacrifice fly, but I included that as well.
There are a few massive home runs and one bunt.

So here they are. I list the batter, the game, the pitcher, who scored and what the final score was.

Every Post Season series
that ended with a walk off hit

Larry Gardner
Game 8 1912 World Series

RBI Sacrifice Fly with one out in the bottom of the 10th.

Pitcher: Christy Mathewson
Scoring: Steve Yerkes

Final Score:

Earl McNeely
Game 7 1924 World Series

RBI double with 1 out in the bottom of the 12th inning.

Pitcher: Jack Bentley
Scoring: Muddy Ruel

Final Score:

Goose Goslin
Game 6 1935 World Series

RBI single with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th.

Pitcher: Larry French
Scoring: Mickey Cochrane

Final Score:

Billy Martin
Game 6 1953 World Series

RBI single with one out in the bottom of the 9th.

Pitcher: Clem Lebine
Scoring: Hank Bauer

Final Score:

Bill Mazeroski
Game 7 1960 World Series

Home run to lead off the bottom of the 9th.

Pitcher: Ralph Terry
Scoring: Bill Mazeroski

Final Score:

Ken Griffey
Game 3 1976 NLCS

RBI single with 1 out in the bottom of the 9th.

Pitcher: Tom Underwood
Scoring: Dave Concepcion

Final Score:

Chris Chambliss
Game 5 1976 ALCS

Leadoff home run in the bottom of the 9th.

Pitcher: Mark Littell
Scoring: Chris Chambliss

Final Score:

Bill Russell
Game 4 1978 NLCS

RBI single with 2 outs in the bottom of the 10th.

Pitcher: Tug McGraw
Scoring: Ron Cey

Final Score:

Gene Larkin
Game 7 1991 World Series

RBI single with 1 out in the bottom of the 10th.

Pitcher: Alejandro Pena
Scoring: Dan Gladden

Final Score:

Francisco Cabrera
Game 7 1992 NLCS

2 run single with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th.

Pitcher: Stan Belinda
Scoring: David Justice and Sid Bream

Final Score:

Joe Carter
Game 6 1993 World Series

3 run home run with 1 out in the bottom of the 9th.

Pitcher: Mitch Williams.
Scoring: Rickey Henderson, Paul Molitor and Joe Carter

Final Score:

Edgar Martinez
Game 5 1995 Division Series

2 run double with no outs in the bottom of the 11th.

Pitcher: Jack McDowell
Scoring: Joey Cora and Ken Griffey Jr.

Final Score:

Edgar Renteria
Game 7 1997 World Series

RBI single with 2 outs in the bottom of the 11th.

Pitcher: Charles Nagy
Scoring: Craig Counsell

Final Score:

Todd Pratt
Game 4 1999 Division Series

Solo home run in the bottom of the 10th with 1 out.

Pitcher: Matt Mantei
Scoring: Todd Pratt

Final Score:

Carlos Guillen
Game 3 2000 AL Division Series

RBI bunt single with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th.

Pitcher: Keith Foulke
Scoring: Rickey Henderson

Final Score:

Tony Womack
Game 5 2001 NL Division Series

RBI single with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th.

Pitcher: Steve Kline
Scoring: Danny Bautista

Final Score:

Luis Gonzalez
Game 7 2001 World Series

RBI single with 1 out in the bottom of the 9th.

Pitcher: Mariano Rivera
Scoring: Jay Bell

Final Score:

Kenny Lofton
Game 5 2002 NLCS

2 out RBI single.

Pitcher: Steve Kline
Scoring: David Bell

Final Score:

Aaron Boone
Game 7 2003 ALCS

Solo home run leading off the bottom of the 11th.

Pitcher: Tim Wakefield
Scoring: Aaron Boone

Final Score:

David Ortiz
Game 4 2004 AL Division Series

2 run home run with 2 outs in the bottom of the 10th.

Pitcher: Jarrod Washburn
Scoring: Pokey Reese and David Ortiz

Final Score:

Chris Burke
Game 4 2005 Division Series

Solo home run with 1 out in the bottom of the 18th.

Pitcher: Joey Devine
Scoring: Chris Burke

Final Score:

Magglio Ordonez
Game 4 2006 NLCS

3 run home run with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th

Pitcher: Huston Street
Scoring: Craig Monroe, Placido Polanco and Magglio Ordonez

Final Score:

Jed Lowrie
Game 4 2008 AL Division Series

RBI single with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th.

Pitcher: Scot Shields
Scoring: Jason Bay

Final Score:

Nyjer Morgan
Game 5 2011 NL Division Series

RBI Single with 1 out in the bottom of the 10th.

Pitcher: J. J. Putz
Scoring: Carlos Gomez

Final Score:

Most of the players listed are solid big leaguers but not superstars.
Only Bill Mazeroski and Goose Goslin were Hall of Famers (and Mazeroski’s inclusion in Cooperstown is one of the most controversial votes ever.)

Rickey Henderson crossed the plate twice on a series ending hit, but never as a member of the A’s. Surely when you think of Rickey, you think of him as a Toronto Blue Jay or a Seattle Mariner.

So why did I do this list?
Well in case anyone out there in the vast internet land happens to wonder out loud “I wonder who got a walk off hit to end a post season series” they would land on this post from your pal Sully.

And I will update it the next time there is a walk off hit to end a post season series.

As of now, Nyjer Morgan’s hit against the Diamondbacks is the last one.

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10 Reasons why the Detroit Tigers winning the 2011 World Series would be good for baseball

The Tigers dramatic win on Saturday and blow out win last night put them front and center on my baseball mind today. This team could very well be warming up to a long October run and be a real potential World Series winner. Now is as good a time as any to do the Detroit entry for the Why Each Team’s Potential World Championship Would Be Good For The Game series.

Recently the AL Central winner has been an after thought at best in the post season. The last three Central teams have won a combined one post season GAME in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

But a combination of big bats, a great manager and a world beating ace could put an AL Central entry in the ALCS for the first time since the 2007 Indians, in the World Series for the first time since the 2006 Tigers or join the 2005 White Sox as the second ever champ from the Division.

Why would a fan outside of Michigan want to see a title in Motown? I have a few reasons.

10 Reasons why the
Detroit Tigers
winning the 2011 World Series
would be good for baseball

1. A Tiger title would put Jim Leyland among the elite managers in history

I already think Jim Leyland belongs in the Hall of Fame, and not just because he looks like a baseball manager sent from Central Casting. He has pennants in both leagues, a World Series title and turned around three franchises. But a World Series title in both leagues would put him with Sparky Anderson and Tony LaRussa as the only ones to pull off that feat.

Plus a title in Detroit would be probably be less bittersweet than his ring: The soon to be dismantled 1997 Florida Marlins.

2. Another title helps put Dave Dombrowski back among the elites.

Dombrowski doesn’t look that old until you have him stand next to all the young GMs around baseball today. I suppose he would have to be considered part of the “Old School.” While Brad Pitt isn’t about to play him in a movie any time soon, he was the 31 year old GM who helped assemble a very talented Expos team. Then slapped together a World Champion in Florida and made sure that when it was dismantled, solid players came back in return. Many of the 2003 World Champion Marlins were acquired by Dombrowski. Then he turned around a disastrous Tigers team. As more and more GMs get Hall of Fame consideration, a Detroit title could put Dombrowski in Cooperstown.

3. A ring for baseball lifer Gene Lamont.

Lamont has put in 47 years of his life to professional baseball. He’s been a player, minor league coach and manager and been a loyal lieutenant to Jim Leyland for many seasons.

He also won manager of the year in 1993 leading the White Sox to the ALCS and later managed the Pirates. Oddly he hasn’t been hired as a manager since.

He was managing in the Royals organization in 1985, so I think he may have a ring from that year. Let’s drop the “I think” and get him a big league ring. He’s put in the time.

4. A title would put a positive spotlight on Miguel Cabrera.

Cabrera has had far too many negative headlines over the last few seasons, mainly about his fight with alcohol. Hopefully he is battling those demons. What he brings to the field is nothing short of extraordinary. Year in and year out he puts up MVP caliber numbers. The players that Baseball Reference compares him to at this age are people like Frank Robinson, Ken Griffey Jr, Orlando Cepeda, Mickey Mantle and Hank Aaron. In other words he is a Hall of Famer if he can keep his life together.

Another shot of October glory could help cement a potential wonderful legacy. He won a title in 2003 with Florida. (Doesn’t it seem like EVERYONE in Detroit also won in Florida? For the record, Tigers pitcher Brad Penny also has a Florida ring!)

5. An overdue ring for Carlos Guillen

Guillen hasn’t been much of a factor this season other than getting into a spat with Angels pitcher Jered Weaver. But he’s had a nice 13+ season career with memorable highlights (a Division Series ending walk off bunt for the Mariners in 200… a 1.625 OPS in Detroit’s 2006 Division Series victory over the Yankees.) And he has shown toughness (coming back from Tuberculosis to play in the 2001 ALCS) and will someday be a big league coach or manager.

He has been underrated his whole career, despite a few All Star appearances and a top 10 MVP finish in 2006. Players like Guillen deserve a title.

6. The National Anthem as sung by Eminem

I don’t care about or listen to rap. But even I would be curious to hear Marshall Bruce Mathers III do his rendition of The Star Spangled Banner.

Oh yeah, there are lots of Motown artists who will no doubt make their dutiful appearance. But nobody will get Slim Shady’s press.

7. A Tiger championship would make Mike Illitch the greatest figure in Detroit since Henry Ford.

When Little Caesar’s founder Mike Illitch took over the Detroit Red Wings in 1982, the team hadn’t played in a Stanley Cup Final since 1966 and hadn’t won since 1955. Under his ownership they won the Cup in 1997, 1998, 2002 and 2008 and made 2 other Finals appearances.

When he took over the Tigers from Domino’s Pizza founder Tom Monaghan in 1992, the team was in flux. This year a fifth title in Detroit from a Mike Illitch team could be won.

If they win, maybe he should sell the Tigers and buy the Lions.

8. A World Series title could cement Justin Verlander’s legacy at age 28.

He has already been a Rookie of the Year, an All Star and a Cy Young contender. He will no doubt win the Cy Young this season and having passed the 100 win mark at a young age, he is a legit candidate to someday pass 300.

All his legacy needs is a World Series title and good health and we might be seeing a Hall of Famer emerging. In the post Steroid era, a new generation of ace pitchers are dominating and doing so into October. Last year Tim Lincecum, Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee left their indelible marks. Now it is Verlander’s turn.

9. A new Tigers championship would help celebrate their underrated legacy

When you think of the great winning baseball franchises, chances are most wouldn’t list the Tigers. But go back and look at the great teams and titles they have won and you’d be surprised what a great history they had.

A quick glance at my Homegrown vs. Acquired entry for the Tigers shows Hall of Famers like Hank Greenberg, Ty Cobb, Charlie Gehringer, Heinie Manush, Harry Heilmann, Jim Bunning, Hal Newhouser, Mickey Cochrane, George Kell, Sam Crawford and Goose Goslin, whose walk off single clinched the Tigers first ever World Series title. They would the World Series in the 1930s, 1940s, 1960s and 1980s.

They would feature one of the game’s greatest characters with Mark Fidrych. They would have a mind bogglingly deep team in 1984 who got off to a dizzyingly amazing start led by the future Hall of Fame manager, Sparky Anderson. Then they won it all, going 7-1 in the post season.

The Tigers won a heart stopping Division race in 1972 and again in 1987. And won the 2006 pennant on a walk off homer by Magglio Ordonez.

Tiger fans of all generations have had remarkable highlights. But it has been 27 years since they have won it all. It is time for a new generation of Tiger fans to have THEIR title.

10. No city could use a moment to celebrate more than Detroit

It’s no secret that Detroit has had a rough few decades. The city has become worse than a punch line. It has become a symbol of pity for much of the country, which no doubt is the biggest insult of all.

It will take a lot to have Detroit reach its glory days as a city. But everyone I know from Detroit has a real pride in their city and hope and trust that better days are coming. A World Series title could bring the city closer together and show the country that there is still something positive in the Motor City. Sure there have been recent titles by the Pistons and the Red Wings. But the desire for a Tiger title is palpable, and hard to root against.

It’s a real possibility this year in Detroit. Verlander is having one of those “I dare you to try and beat me” seasons and the lineup is strong enough to score runs in bunches. They could win it all and have everyone in Michigan say “Bless you boys.”

And that’s not a bad thing.

If you liked this then go ahead and read the entries for the other teams.