Book Excerpt: In Scoring Position: 40 Years of a Baseball Love Affair
By Bob Ryan and Bill Chuck. Foreword by Jayson Stark.
Bob Ryan scored baseball games. Some 1400 of them, during his time working as a sportswriter for the Boston Globe. He held on to to his scorebooks (as many of us do), through the decades; the 1970s through the 2010s. And decided to put them all into a book (as no one has done, at least not like this) to tell a story of baseball as he (and Bill Chuck) experienced it during that time. Each chapter features memorable contests from a particular decade, each beginning with the date, the circumstance and a photo of the corresponding page in one of his spiral-bound scorebooks. “In Scoring Position” is a unique book, and makes for a fun read.
As you might expect, I have chosen three stories that involve the Dodgers, postseasons games all, two or them wins and one a loss. Which is .667 ball, if you’re scoring, and if you’re not. Mr. Ryan was. Two are from Chapter 1, The 1970s; the other from Chapter 2, The 1980s.
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What just happened?
That was my reaction. That was the reaction of the 63,719 in attendance at The Vet in South Philly. And I’m sure that was the universal reaction of the Phillies themselves after the endlessly bizarre events of the Dodger 9th inning turned an apparent 5–3 victory in Game 3 of the NLCS into a stunning 6–5 loss. Yes, teams have scored three runs in the 9th inning. But few of those rallies begin with a two-out bunt by a 38-year-old pinch-hitter (Vic Davalillo), followed by a double should have been caught (why was there no defensive replacement for lumbering Greg Luzinski in left?) by a 39-year-old pinch-hitter (Manny Mota).
Want more? Davalillo was a Mexican League refugee who had last been in the bigs in 1974. Mota? Oh, that was his career pinch-hit number 123.
And the fun was just beginning.
A bad throw to the infield by Luzinski allowed Davalillo to score and moved Mota to third. Davey Lopes hit a shot that ricocheted off third baseman Mike Schmidt. Aha, but shortstop Larry Bowa picked it up and gunned it to Richie Hebner at first in time to end the game. Right?
Ah, no. First base ump Bruce Froemming called Lopes safe, and Hebner will take it to his grave that Lopes was out. So now it was 5–5. Wait, it gets worse.
Phillies reliever Gene Garber, who had retired the first eight men he faced, made a wild pick-off throw, moving Lopes to second. He was moving with the pitch when Bill Russell singled him home with the go-ahead run.
Long forgotten was the raucous crowd that had—gotta say it—“hooted” L.A. starter Burt Hooton off the mound as he walked four consecutive batters in a three-run Philly 2nd. Instead, it was all about the Dodger 9th, and Dodger pitcher Mike Garman summed it up best. “I was happy to concede. I forgot about our Latin connection. Our over-40 bunch killed ’em.”
Before you say, “What do you expect? Losing reliever Gene Garber was in his third inning of relief?” Garber had 19 saves during the regular season, and eight of them occurred when Garber pitched at least three innings. On top of that, Garber, on this strange night, had retired the first eight batters he faced before the Davalillo drag bunt. BTW, if you were wondering, from 1974 to ’77, Davalillo had been playing in the Mexican League, only to be rediscovered by scout Charlie Metro. And if the name “Gene Garber” sounds familiar, it might be because the guy pitched effectively for 19 seasons in the majors, or it might be because on August 1, 1978, now pitching for the Braves, Garber was deemed the most responsible for stopping Pete Rose’s 44-game hitting streak. In that game, he pitched three innings and earned that save in a 16–4 blowout of Pete’s Reds.
Talk about being in the right place at the right time. Lance Rautzhan pitched a third of an inning and got the win in this game. Rautzhan had come in with two outs in the bottom of the 8th with Bob Boone on third and got Bake McBride on a grounder. It was his only career postseason decision, and he only had two more wins in the remaining 58 games of his career.
In defense of Greg Luzinski, in the top of the 2nd, Dodger starting pitcher Burt Hooton doubled to left, and Luzinski threw to the cutoff man, Mike Schmidt, who then got Steve Yeager out at the plate. But I agree with Bob in questioning why Luzinski was still out there. During the regular season, the Phils often used Jerry Martin as their defensive outfielder. Martin that season had appeared in 116 games, but only started 49. And he played 47 games in left, but only started four.
Before the bottom of the 2nd was complete, the Phils knocked out Hooton. Well, “knocked out” is a little strong. After a couple of singles, Hooton walked four straight batters with two outs and three runs scored.
And so that is the story as to why if you mention “Black Friday” to any old Phillies fan, they think of this day and not the day after Thanksgiving.
“REGGIE! REGGIE! REGGIE!”
Most baseball fans know the reference, and every good Yankee fan certainly knows what I am referring to. With this performance, Reggie Jackson capped a season of personal drama unparalleled in Yankee (maybe even in baseball) history. I was there on June 18, 1977, when Billy Martin pulled Jackson from right field for “lackadaisical play” mid-inning, which resulted in a Jackson and Martin rumble in the jungle of the Fenway Park visitors’ dugout, and I was there again when the season ended with a three-home run barrage in the clinching game of the World Series at Yankee Stadium.
Reggie was only the second person ever to hit three home runs in a World Series game, the other being another guy, also with a candy bar, named Ruth, who did it twice. But that’s not the whole story. Reggie’s three homers were off three different Dodger pitchers, and each came on the first pitch. One more thing: He had hit a homer in his final at-bat in Game 5 back in L.A. So, Reggie had hit four World Series home runs not just in his final four at-bats but in his final four swings.
For the record, the first homer Reggie hit was a fastball over the plate off Burt Hooton. The next was a fastball high and over the plate off Elias Sosa. And, of course, a knuckleball low and away off Charlie Hough. The third, a bomb to the faraway black seats in distant right-center field, well, let me tell you what I provided the next day for the Boston Globe readers: “His eighth inning smash off the knuckleballing (Charlie) Hough was the Baked Alaska, the Double Dutch chocolate cake, the Creme Caramel of the batting banquet.”
Dodger first baseman Steve Garvey tipped his metaphorical cap to his rival. “Anybody can appreciate three homers in a championship game,” he said. “It’s like a hat trick in a Stanley Cup or 40 points in an NBA Final.”
Fast forward 26 years. Reggie was traveling with the Yankees during the 2003 Red Sox–Yankees ALCS, and so was I. One night, we’re on the field at Fenway. I handed to Reggie the scorebook from 1977 to sign during batting practice. He was startled at the sight of a writer’s scorebook. He snatched it from me and scampered to the batting cage. I watched him gesticulate wildly as he proudly showed the book to Yankee manager Joe Torre, who in 1977, was the player/manager for the Mets. He brought the book back to me, signed, as you can see, as only Reggie Jackson could. Reggie, remember, is a man who once pondered aloud about the “magnitude of me.” The “Mr. October” is great, but, to me, the piece de resistance is the “44” inside the big “J” loop.
Why would anyone think it’s surprising that Reggie Jackson is the one who hit three momentous homers in a row? After all, a wise man said, “This team, it all flows from me. I’m the straw that stirs the drink. Maybe I should say me and Munson, but he can only stir it bad.” Wait that wasn’t a wise man; that was Reggie, who later claimed he was misquoted.
A wise man said, “There isn’t enough mustard in the whole world to cover that hot dog.” That was pitcher Darold Knowles talking about Reggie. Reggie is the one who said, “The only reason I don’t like playing in the World Series is I can’t watch myself play.”
It was the wise man who said, “The best thing about being a Yankee is getting to watch Reggie Jackson play every day. The worst thing about being a Yankee? Getting to watch Reggie Jackson play every day.” That was wise guy Graig Nettles talking about his teammate.
What Reggie said while playing for the A’s in 1973 was, “If I was playing in New York, they’d name a candy bar after me.” And it was Reggie’s teammate Catfish Hunter who said, “When you unwrap a Reggie bar, it tells you how good it is.”
Jackson had 42 multi-homer regular-season games but only had two three-homer games in his career, not including this one. His only other postseason game with as many as two homers was in the 1971 ALCS, when he was on the A’s and facing the O’s. Reggie had four Series games in which he had three hits and one in which he had four.
In this momentous finale, Reggie’s three home runs tied him with Babe Ruth for the most hit in a game. Since that game, Albert Pujols (2011) and Pablo Sandoval (2017) have had three-homer Series games. Honestly, nobody cares. And Reggie’s remain the most ever hit consecutively.
His World Series total of five homers was another record tied by Chase Utley (2009) and George Springer (2017). But nobody shouts “Chase! Chase! Chase!” or “George! George! George!” Despite the fact that they are two very likable players.
In that Series, Reggie Jackson broke or tied eight World Series batting records against the Dodgers (and broke the heart of young Dodgers fan Buster Olney). He was amazing. Even now, watch the video and you will see him fill the space as few could ever do.
When Jackson signed his Yankee contract, he said, “I didn’t come to New York to become a star, I brought my star here.” He came to New York to become “Mr. October.”
And by the way…
There were four homers in this game hit by Reggie, three by Reggie Jackson and one by Reggie Smith.
And one more thing…
This Reggie Jackson performance brought Billy Martin’s only World Series championship as a manager.
He had started Games 1 and 3. He had saved Game 4. He had warmed up twice in Game 5. But he was Orel Hershiser IV, winner of 23 games in the regular season, a man who had led the league in complete games (15), shutouts (eight), and innings pitched (267). His mates wanted no one else on the mound for Game 7.
So no one in Los Angeles was surprised when Orel Hershiser IV shut the Mets down on five hits in this critical game.
“Several people say Orel was tired, and I’m sure (he was),” said NL MVP Kirk Gibson. “But we call him ‘Bulldog’ for a reason. It’s not like he’s a one-pitch pitcher. A one-pitch pitcher gets tired. Orel is as smart as and pitcher run the games. We want him out there.”
It was 6–0 after two innings. Manager Tom Lasorda never considered lifting his ace. Orel Hershiser IV threw 130 pitches. Ain’t happening today.
It almost seems unfair because whoever faced Orel Hershiser was not going to win, and, on this night, it was never even close.
By the time Orel’s Mets’ starting counterpart, Ron Darling, had faced 10 batters, six had reached based on hits, and one reached on an error. After 35 pitches, Darling left the game with the bases loaded and no one out in the 2nd inning, trailing 3–0. In came Game 1 and Game 4 starter Dwight Gooden to the mound in relief. By the time the 2nd inning was over, the scoring for this game was over as well, with the Dodgers up 6–0.
Back to Hershiser. Thanks to the Bulldog, the game never became interesting. The Bulldog was relentless.
• In the 1st inning, the Mets reached on a single and a walk.
• In the 2nd inning, the Mets reached on a single.
• In the 3rd inning, the Mets reached on a single.
• In the 4th inning, the Mets reached on a single.
• In the 7th inning, the Mets reached on a double.
• In the 8th inning, the Mets reached on an HBP and a walk.
• In the 9th inning, the Mets reached on an HBP.
Hershiser was the NLCS MVP, appearing in four games, making three starts, and allowing five runs (three earned) in 24.2 IP, worthy of an ERA of 1.09, over a full run better than his regular-season spectacular ERA of 2.26.
One last thing…
In September 1988, Orel Hershiser made six starts and threw 55.0 innings of scoreless baseball. He allowed 30 hits, walked nine, and struck out 34. It was SCORELESS baseball. This means that by the time this NLCS was finished, Hershiser had made nine starts and one relief appearance and had allowed three earned runs in 79.2 innings pitched. That’s an ERA of 0.34. And by the time the World Series against Oakland was completed (for which he was the MVP as well), he had allowed five earned runs in 97.2 innings pitched. That’s an ERA of 0.46. Bob had been in the presence of brilliance on baseball’s highest stage.
About the authors:
Bob Ryan was a sportswriter for The Boston Globe and a four-time winner of the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association National Sportswriter of the Year Award. He retired in 2012 after 44 years on the job. In 2015, he received a PEN/ESPN Lifetime Achievement Award for Literary Sports Writing. He is the author of Scribe: My Life in Sports.
Bill Chuck is a baseball writer and researcher. With Jim Kaplan, he is the author of “Walkoffs, Last Licks, and Final Outs (Baseball’s Grand and Not-So-Grand Finales)”. --This text refers to the hardcover edition.
Read OBHC online here.