Playing Against The Best - Minor league baseball players who are considered top prospects are invited to play in the Florida Instructional League in the fall after their league seasons are completed.
It's an honor to be invited and some of the Detroit Tigers' minor leaguers in the FIL had an added honor this year.
Six years ago the Tigers were defeated in the World Series by the St. Louis Cardinals and Detroit manager Jim Leyland was convinced his team's poor play was because of a six-day layoff waiting for the World Series to begin.
This year, Detroit had a six-day layoff again between the completion of the American League Championship Series and the World Series. To fill the void with some meaningful play, the Tigers scrimmaged at Comerica Park against their minor leaguers from the instructional league for two days.
Instead of taking batting practice every day, the Detroit hitters got to face some live pitching. And the pitchers were throwing to live batters instead of throwing in the bullpen in a simulated game.
There might not have been anyone in the seats, but it had to be a thrill for those minor leaguers.
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Memories Of Kubek - The bizarre play in the third inning of Monday night's Game 7 of the NLCS on an apparent double-play grounder brought back memories of the key play in the seventh game of the 1960 World Series.
In that 1960 game, the New York Yankees were leading the Pittsburgh Pirates, 7-5, in the bottom of the eighth inning. Gino Cimoli of the Pirates led off the inning with a single, but Bill Virdon followed with a double-play grounder to Yankees' shortstop Tony Kubek. However, the ball bounced off a spike cut (though it's always reported as a pebble) and struck Kubek in the throat. Virdon was safe on an infield single, Kubek had to leave the game and the Pirates went on to score five runs in the inning.
New York came back with two runs in the top of the ninth to tie the game at 9-9 and then Bill Mazeroski hit his famous lead-off home run in the bottom the ninth.
However, without the bad bounce, the Yankees would have recorded a double play in the eighth inning and we probably wouldn't have had the first walk-off World Series home run.
The St. Louis Cardinals had to feel the same way on Monday night. They were trailing San Francisco, 2-0, in the third inning and the Giants had the bases loaded with one out. The Cardinals needed a double play to help get out of the jam and it appeared they might have it when Hunter Pence hit a ground ball toward shortstop Pete Kozma. However, Pence's bat broke when he hit the ball and he actually hit it twice more. That caused a screwball-like spin on the ball that sliced away from Kozma and Pence ended up with a double, not a double play. Two runs scored, plus another on and error, and the Giants had a 5-0 lead and eventually a five-run inning.
But if that ball ends up as a routine double play, we might not be talking about San Francisco successfully winning six straight elimination games. And we might be talking about the Cardinals playing the Tigers in the World Series.
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Good Advice - Ralph Terry was the pitcher who surrendered the famous home run to Mazeroski and New York manager Casey Stengel knew that might be the type of event that could affect the pitcher's career.
According to Jim Reisler in his excellent book, The Best Game Ever: Pirates Vs. Yankees: October 13, 1960, Stengel asked Terry in the locker room how he was pitching to Mazeroski. The right-hander said he was trying to deliver breaking pitches down and away, but he just couldn't keep the ball down. Stengel said that was fine because it was a physical mistake and he was pleased that Terry hadn't been doing anything contrary to the scouting report.
''Forget it kid,'' Stengel said. ''Come back and have a good year next year.''
Terry did as he won 16 games in 1961 and 23 in 1962. And in 1962 he again pitched in the seventh game of the World Series against the San Francisco Giants and tossed a complete-game 1-0 victory and was named the most valuable player.
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Hoop Stars - That 1960 Pirates team could have had some interesting pickup basketball games.
The leader of the team, shortstop Dick Groat, won the batting championship and was named the National League's most valuable player. But he had other talents.
Groat had been an All-American basketball player at Duke and his jersey was the first ever retired by the Blue Devils. In 1952 he was the national player of the year and led the nation in scoring with 26 points per game. Then he was a first-round draft pick of the Fort Wayne Pistons and played with them for one season, averaging 11.9 points in 26 games.
Also on the 1960 Pirates was pitcher Joe Gibbon, who had been an All-American basketball player at Mississippi in 1957. He was second in the nation in scoring with 30.1 points per game and led the Southeastern Conference in rebounding with 14.1 per game. He was drafted by Boston Celtics, but instead signed with the Pirates.