PAUL LINDBLAD – Sully Baseball Unsung Post Season Hero of October 16

Topps / Cardboard Gods

Topps / Cardboard Gods

OCTOBER 16, 1973 – World Series Game 3

Today’s unsung post season hero, the late Paul Lindblad, had a long career where he seemed to bounce back and forth between the Athletics organization and the Senators/Rangers organization before wrapping up his career with a cameo in the Bronx. Along the way he picked up a few World Series rings and played along side a bunch of Hall of Famers over 13 seasons.

In 1973, he found himself back in Oakland helping the defending World Champs against the upstart New York Mets.

The A’s won game 1 but lost a sloppy Game 2 in extra innings, sending the series back to Shea. Errors by second baseman Mike Andrews  sparked A’s owner Charlie Finley to try and fire or release Andrews and replace him with another player. He even tried to make Andrews announce he was injured. It was an ugly incident that made an already tense A’s clubhouse worse (and eventually would lead to manager Dick Williams resigning at the end of the series.)

Two future Hall of Famers, Catfish Hunter and Tom Seaver, started Game 3. A Seaver win would give all the momentum to manager Yogi Berra and the Mets. And an A’s loss would keep the team in an emotional spiral. A lead off homer by Wayne Garrett and another run put the Mets up 2-0 in the first. Seaver kept the A’s off the board until the 6th. Oakland tied the game in the 8th but could not score in the 9th against the Mets bullpen.

Williams, having already used his best lefty reliever Darold Knowles, handed the ball to Lindblad in the bottom of the 9th after not using him in the ALCS or the first two World Series games.

Every single pitch he threw could have won the game for the Mets. He allowed a ground rule double to Rusty Staub in the 9th, but after an intentional walk, worked out of the jam.

In the 10th, he let up a single to Bud Harrleson and faced Willie Mays. Now of course Willie Mays was no longer the great player he once was. But all he needed was one swing against a journeyman left hander to put the perfect exclamation point on his career.

Instead, Lindblad got Willie Mays to ground out. It was Willie Mays’ last at bat ever.

Lindblad batted in the 11th and the A’s rallied to score a run. He took the mound in the bottom of the 11th before allowing a single to Wayne Garrett. Rollie Fingers finished the game and earned the save. But Lindblad earned the win, shutting out the Mets and denying the “You Gotta Believe” squad from a walk off win. As it turned out, the Mets did indeed win the next two games in New York but the A’s took the series in Oakland in seven games.

Had Paul Lindblad faltered, the Mets may have won it at home and Oakland’s defense of the 1972 World Series would have fallen short instead of extending to 3 straight in 1974.

Reggie Jackson won the MVP of the Series. Mike Andrews returned as a pinch hitter. But the series may have hinged on those two innings Lindblad threw.

For that reason, he is the Unsung Postseason Hero we salute on October 16th.


HAL SMITH – Sully Baseball Unsung Post Season Hero of October 13



OCTOBER 13, 1960 – World Series Game 7

The seventh game of the 1960 World Series was a wild and dramatic game that was going to be remembered for all time no matter what the outcome was. As it turned out, it featured one of the most memorable home runs in baseball history. Bill Mazeroski’s blast became the first ever World Series ending homer.

If a few tiny details had changed, the game would have been forever remembered as “The Hal Smith Game.”

In 1960, the Yankees returned to the World Series after a one year absence and looked to capture the title with pure power. They slugged their way to 16-3, 10-0 and 12-0 victories over the Pirates, who won their first pennant since 1927, a year they were swept by the Babe Ruth led Yankees.

However, while the Yankees won the blow outs, the Pirates took the close games, sneaking off 6-4, 3-2 and 5-2 victories. In virtually every statistical category, the series was lopsided in the Yankees favor, but it still went to a deciding Game 7.

The Pirates used a platoon of catchers in 1960. Smoky Burgess caught games against right handed starters. Journeyman catcher Smith did so against left handers. Lefty Whitey Ford was not available for the finale as he won Game 6 for the Yankees. Bob Turley was the Yankees starter meaning Burgess got the call to catch for the Pirates and Smith rode the bench.

From the beginning, it was clear this was not going to be a pitchers duel. Pirates first baseman Rocky Nelson homered in the first and when Burgess singled in the second, Bob Turley was lifted after only retiring three batters. Pittsburgh built a 4-0 lead.

The Yankees came storming back with homers by Moose Skowron and a three run homer by Yogi Berra, playing left field that day, and took a 5-4 lead in the sixth.

Burgess singled in the seventh and was the tying run with nobody on. He was lifted for pinch runner Joe Christopher but the Pirates could not drive him in.

In the 8th, Smith filled in as catcher. The 29 year old reserve was not even the most famous active catcher named Hal Smith. The Cardinals had an All Star by the same name which this author thought was the same person before doing the research for this post.

Calling pitches for reliever Roy Face, Smith saw the Yankees pad their lead. Johnny Blanchard and Clete Boyer each smacked RBI hits and New York led 7-4 and seemed to be pulling away.

In the bottom of the 8th, Gino Cimoli singled and Bill Virdon smacked a grounder that hit Tony Kubek in the neck. After a delay, Kubek was replaced by Joe DeMaestri.

Dick Groat singled, cutting the Yankee lead to 7-5. Then with two outs, Roberto Clemente beat out a grounder that made it a one run game.

Up stepped Hal Smith against reliever Jim Coates. With 2 outs, the count 2 and 2 and Casey Stengel’s Yankees 4 outs away from taking yet another title, Smith smashed a deep home run over Yogi Berra’s head in left field.

Suddenly the Pirates had a 9-7 lead. Forbes Field went insane as the reserve catcher had struck the blow that looked to slay the Yankees once and for all. The Pirates had not won a World Series since Pie Traynor and company stunned Walter Johnson the Washington Senators in 1925. Now, 35 years later, they were on the verge of another stunning game 7 victory and Hal Smith would be the man to lead the way.

Bob Friend came in to close out the World Series, but allowed a pair of singles without retiring a batter. Harvey Haddix, who famously threw 12 perfect innings in a 1959 game before losing in the 13th, relieved Friend. He coaxed a foul pop up to Smith. In a strange play with one out, Yogi Berra grounded out to first and Mickey Mantle appeared to be caught in a potential World Series ending rundown. But he dove back to first in time and Gil McDougald scored to tie the game. The lead that Hal Smith gave the Pirates was no more because of Mantle’s dive back to first. Haddix retired Skowron but now the game was knotted at 9.

Bill Mazeroski faced Ralph Terry to lead off the bottom of the 9th and hit a 1-0 pitch over the left field fence to end the World Series. Forever the game was known for Mazeroski’s homer. Any montage of great World Series moments includes Mazeroski’s homer. The fame of that moment probably was the event that clinched his Hall of Fame bid.

But think of how close it was to being Hal Smith’s moment in the sun. He would have been the great hero on the cover of magazines and whose blast would be remembered for all time. Devoted Pirate fans love and applaud Hal Smith’s heroism. However his deeds were so close to being immortal.

For that reason he is the Sully Baseball Unsung Post Season Hero for October 13.