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Father’s Day without baseball: un-American

Ah, Father’s Day. An observance I will never be a part of. I’m not going to be a father, which is not a bad thing. I would not want to pass my defective DNA to anyone. That would be grossly unfair.

This is my dad’s first Father’s Day without his father, who passed away 11 March at 97. He hasn’t said a word about it. I probably thought of it before he did.

For the first time since 1981, there will be no Major League Baseball on Father’s Day. The reason there wasn’t Father’s Day baseball 39 years ago was because the MLB Players Association went on strike 12 June and stayed out through the end of July, although games did not resume until 9 August with the All-Star Game in Cleveland.

Seven hundred twelve games were wiped out by the strike, which foisted upon us the comically bad split season, which cost the Cardinals and Reds, the teams with the best overall records

Ironically, Father’s Day in 1981 was also 21 June. Two other Father’s Days falling on 21 June produced MLB history.

In 1964, the Phillies’ Jim Bunning pitched a perfect game against the Mets at Shea Stadium. Bunning, a father of six, struck out 10 in the first National League perfect game since 1880 and the first regular season perfect game since 1922, when Charles Robertson authored one for the Tigers.

Of course, in between Robertson and Bunning, Don Larsen of the Yankees notched the most famous perfect game of all in the 1956 World Series vs. the Dodgers. It should also be noted Harvey Haddix pitched 12 1/3 perfect innings for the Pirates at Milwaukee in 1959, only to lose to the Braves.

The day after the game, Bunning was the New York Times‘ “Man in the News”, a rare honor for an athlete. On the same page as that item was a cigar advertisement with Phillies’ manager Gene Mauch, who has been described as the most successful manager to never appear in the World Series.

Philadelphia was a lead-pipe cinch for the World Series until the infamous “Phold”.

The Phillies led the National League (there were no divisions until 1969) by 6 1/2 games with 12 to play, only to lose 10 in a row (four to the Reds, three apiece to the Braves and Cardinals) and see their pennant dreams vanish. Mauch was widely blamed for pitching Bunning and left-hander Chris Short constantly on two days’ rest, simply because he didn’t trust anyone else on his staff. The only pitchers who could have possibly survived that workload are knuckleball specialists (Wilbur Wood, Phil Niekro, Charlie Hough, Tim Wakefield), and even then it would be dicey.

Hours after Bunning’s perfect game, something much more sinister took place in the piney woods of east Mississippi.

Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and James Chaney were murdered by the Ku Klux Klan, led by Neshoba County Deputy Sheriff Cecil Price and trigger man Alton Wayne Roberts, who was dishonorably discharged from the Marines. It wasn’t until 4 August that the bodies were found in an earthen dam.

Six year’s after Bunning’s pitching gem, Cesar Gutierrez had his day in the sun.

The Venezuelan went 7-for-7 in the second game of a doubleheader at Cleveland. Gutierrez was 5-for-5 through nine innings, added an infield single in the 10th, then singled again in the 12th after Mickey Stanley put Detroit ahead 9-8 on a one-out solo home run.

Two players have gone 7-for-7 in nine innings: Brooklyn’s Wilbert Robinson in 1892 and Pittsburgh’s Rennie Stennett in 1975.

Sadly, Gutierrez was out of MLB after the 1971 season, and passed away in 2005 at 62. He only played in 190 games, but on one shining Sunday, he proved why sports are the greatest reality show of all.

I found out today that Michael Gross and Meredith Baxter (Birney), who portrayed parents Steve and Elyse Keaton on “Family Ties”, were born on 21 June 1947. No wonder they had such chemistry on the TV show. They share a birthday with Bernie Kopell (Dr. Adam Bricker on “The Love Boat”, 87), Ron Ely (“Tarzan”, 82) and Chris Pratt (41).

Unfortunately for Gross, Baxter, Kopell, Ely and Pratt, Jussie Smollett was born 21 June 1982. UGH.

Royals in the World Series!!??

The Kansas City Royals are going to the World Series for the first time since 1985. I don’t know if that has sunk in for a lot of people, particularly in Kansas City, where I’m sure tens of thousands have a massive hangover this morning.

The Royals completed their four-game sweep of the Orioles in the American League Championship Series with a 2-1 victory yesterday afternoon at Kauffman Stadium. It’s the first time the Royals have ever swept a best-of-seven postseason series, and the first time the Orioles have ever been swept in any postseason affair, whether it be best-of-five or best-of-seven.

Today marks the 29th anniversary of the Royals clinching the 1985 ALCS in Toronto. Kansas City lost the first two games of that series in Canada and were down 3-1, but Dick Howser’s crew won game five at home thanks to Charlie Leibrandt’s shutout, then went back to Toronto’s frigid Exhibition Stadium and won the last two games.

As for the 2014 Royals, Tuesday was a very special anniversary for first base coach Rusty Kuntz.

October 14, 1984 was the day the Detroit Tigers clinched the World Series by defeating the San Diego Padres in game five. Kuntz was a reserve outfielder on that powerful Tigers team, which household names Lance Parrish, Darrell Evans, Lou Whitaker, Alan Trammell, Chet Lemon and Kirk Gibson in the everyday lineup, plus a mighty pitching staff led by ace Jack Morris and shutdown closer Willie Hernandez, who came over from Philadelphia and won the 1984 American League Cy Young and Most Valuable Player awards.

I remember that 1984 Tigers team well. I recall Jack Morris throwing a no-hitter on the first Sautrday of April vs. the White Sox at old Comiskey Park. I remember the 35-5 start Detroit enjoyed and the fact they were never seriously threatened. The Tigers easily swept the Royals in three straight in the ALCS, then had little trouble with the Padres in the World Series. Had it not been for a three-run pinch hit home run by San Diego’s Kurt Bevacqua in game two, Detroit would have swept the Padres.

In the clinching game of the Series, San Diego trailed 5-4 in the bottom of the eighth when Gibson came to the plate with two on and two out. Padres manager Dick Williams ordered one of the great relievers of all-time, Goose Gossage, to intentionally walk Gibson. Gossgae told Williams no, that he wanted to pitch to Gibson.

Big mistake. Gibson crushed a Gossage fastball deep into the right field upper deck, and the TIgers had their first Series championship since 1968.

Unfortunately, Detroit fans did not know how to react to their first championship in 16 years. In the worst rioting in the Motor City since the 1967 civil rights riots, tens of millions of dollars of damage was undertaken by a bunch of thugs.

MLB’s second act at its end

The 162nd game of the Major League Baseball season will be meaningful for four teams in particular, maybe more.

NOTE: the second act is the regular season. The first is spring training, the third is the postseason. At least I can spin it that way.

The Central divisions of both leagues are still in question. The Tigers in the American League and Cardinals in the National League each have a one-game lead, but both missed opportunities to close out today.

Detroit lost its second consecutive game at home to last place Minnesota, 6-1, while St. Louis fell in Phoenix to the Majors’ worst team, the Arizona Diamondbacks, 5-2.

The Pirates came back from an early 3-0 deficit in Cincinnati and went to extra innings, but the Reds’ Todd Frazier launched a grand slam in the bottom of the 10th to doom Pittsburgh, 10-6. The Pirates must win tomorrow and the Cardinals must lose to Arizona to force a one-game playoff Monday in St. Louis. Regardless of what happens, the Pirates will be no worse than a wild card and play the Giants in the one-game playoff.

The Royals almost came back, but left a runner stranded in the ninth as they lost to the White Sox in Chicago, 5-4. If the Royals and Tigers end up tied, the playoff is Monday in Detroit. The worst that can happen to the Royals is the wild card game is in Kansas City. It will be the first playoff game at Kauffman Stadium since October 27, 1985,, the night the Royals won the World Series by blowing away the Cardinals 11-0. Back then, the stadium was known as Royals Stadium, the playing surface was artificial–the hard stuff, not the rubbery faux grass you see today–the seats were hard red plastic, and there was no replay screen, although there was the original crown scoreboard in center field.

Oakland still has a hold on the second wild card, but just barely. If Seattle can oust the Angels tonight, it will come down to tomorrow. The Athletics would have to lose and the Mariners would have to win, but there would still be hope in the Pacific Northwest. Every eye in Seattle and Washington State would be watching the M’s, because the Seahawks have a bye tomorrow.

The Brewers FINALLY clinched a winning season tonight by beating the Cubs 2-1. Milwaukee was 73-58 on the morning of August 25, and it has gone 9-21 since. Ouch. Pittsburgh was six games out of first on that earlier date.

Sloth-paced Saturday

I’ve been sitting in front of my computer most of the day–albeit sometimes I’ve dozed off–and yet I have not posted today. I am on the verge of getting back into my old lazy habits, where I would just neglect a blog after starting off fast. Then again, since I’m back in Russell, there really wasn’t anything doing. I did get out of the house for a couple of hours, because there was an open house at the Russell County News office to welcome the new publisher, Frank Mercer, and to say thank you to his predecessor, Jack Krier, since he and Kathy retired May 31 and have now moved to Missouri. It was the first time my Impala has left the garage since I got home Tuesday evening from my serpetine drive from Kansas City to Omaha to Lincoln and back to Russell through Belleville, Concordia and Salina.

The Brewers lost yet again today, ,and now they are tied with the Cardinals atop the NL Central. Tomorrow, the Cardinals will complete the sweep and knock the Brewers off the perch. Man, Milwaukee has looked beyond putrid the last two weeks. They are looking WORSE than the team I thought would win 74 games prior to the season, and that’s saying a lot. The Brewers were 51-32 on June 28, and now they’re 52-43. They have lost a 6.5-game lead over St. Louis in 14 days. REPEATING: THE BREWERS HAVE LOST A 6.5-GAME LEAD IN 14 DAYS. It was fun while it lasted, but now Wisconsin sports fans will be turning to the Packers en masse.

At least today wasn’t so painful for the Brewers. They were hammered 10-2. Last night, they led St. Louis 6-0 early, only to lose 7-6 when Matt Holliday hit a game-winning home run in the top of the ninth. The day before, Matt Garza no-hit Philadelphia through six innings, only to have the Phillies score seven in the eighth and go on to win 9-1.

I had a sinking feeling the Brewers were going to hit a bad patch. I just didn’t know it would be this prolonged and this painful. Then again, they probably had no business being in the NL Central race. The Cardinals still have one of the best rosters in all of baseball, even if All-Star catcher Yadier Molina will miss at least two months. The Pirates and Reds were in the playoffs a year ago, and bot of those teams have started to play much better. I’m expecting Milwaukee to continue its freefall past the All-Star Break. It’s one thing if they would have started the season slowly and continued to be bad. This makes it all the more painful to witness.

The MLB team closest to Russell is faring no better in an important series at home. The Royals’ hopes to win the AL Central are now ZILCH, barring a collapse by Detroit. Kansas City lost again to the Tigers at home, tonight by a 5-1 count, and now are 0-5 this year vs. Detroit at Kauffman Stadium. Detroit has owned the Royals in Kansas City since 2006, but most Royals teams from1996 through 2012 have been downright pitiful or worse. To continue to have those problems when you’re supposed to be a contending team is a sign of real trouble. The Royals are now nine games behind Detroit in the loss column. No way they’re making that up, unless there’s a 1978 Red Sox-Yankees plot twist in the wind.

By the way, the third place match of the FIFA World Cup was today. If you were watching it, you are addicted to association football and need to go into detox after the conclusion of tomorrow’s championship match.

Third place contests are the worst. Who cares? I cannot stand the fact the Kansas State High School Activities Association insists on them in every team sport except football. They are useless. Do two teams who lost their chance to play for a championship really want to come back for something totally meaningless? What’s worse about the World Cup is the Dutch players had to spend two more days away from home after they’ve been in Brazil for a month in that miserable climate. At least in Brazil’s case, they didn’t have to leave home. But why bother? Cut out the third place match, play the championship on Saturday and end the damn thing.

Speaking of the World Cup championship match, kickoff is now just over 14 hours away. Here’s hoping Germany takes it.