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This Week in Baseball History: Oct. 18 – 25

Mr. October, A-Rod and Scott Podsednik: Three Playoff Icons

Oct. 18, 1977 – The Mr. October Game

 

We all know how unfathomably hot Kiké Hernandez has been this postseason. Here’s a stat that illustrates exactly that:

When you are in a club with Reggie “Mr. October” Jackson, you know you are playing out of your mind. But what exactly did Jackson do during his absurd four-game stretch? Let’s travel back to 1977 to find out.

It all began in Game Four of the 1977 World Series between Jackson’s Yankees and the Dodgers. Up to that point, Jackson had struggled mightily during the ’77 postseason. In the five-game ALCS and first three WS games, Jackson had slashed .160/.300/.160 over 30 PAs with 0 HR, 3 R and 2 RBIs. Despite this lackadaisical performance from the Bronx Bombers’ cleanup hitter, New York jumped out to a 2 – 1 series lead over Los Angeles.

In Game Four, Jackson’s bat came alive, recording a lead-off double in the third that began a three-run rally and a sixth-inning solo shot to give the Yanks a 4 – 2 lead (which was the final score).

 

A day later in Game Five, Jackson did almost the same exact thing: a lead-off single in the seventh that kicked off a two-run rally and an eighth-inning solo shot (going back-to-back with Thurman Munson).

 

Unfortunately for him, Los Angeles easily won by a score of 10 – 4 while facing elimination.

Enter Game Six on Oct. 18. The Yankees, trying to clinch their first championship since 1962, put Mike Torrez. The Dodgers, who had lost in their two previous World Series appearances in ’74 and ’66, relied on starter Burt Hooton.

The match was an offensive showcase from the get-go. LA took a quick two-run lead in the first on Steve Garvey’s triple. A two-run blast from Chris Chambliss evened the score the next inning. One inning later, the lead went back to the Dodgers, this time on a solo shot from Reggie Smith.

Something you have to realize is that on this fateful October day, for whatever reason, Jackson saw the baseball absolutely perfectly. Every ball, he took without question. And every strike, he crushed without hesitation.

In his first at-bat in the second, Jackson worked a four-pitch walk, coming around to score the Yankees first run. In his second appearance in the bottom of the fourth, Jackson needed only one strike to knock Hooton out of the game.

4 – 3, Yankees lead.

But Reggie wasn’t done yet.

Two innings later, this time against Elias Sosa, the same story played out:

One more pitch, one more homer, and one more Dodgers pitcher taken out of the game.

Finally, in the eighth inning, with the Yankees leading 7 – 3, Jackson put both an exclamation point on the Yankees championship run and a dagger into the hearts of the Dodgers. And all Jackson needed was, again, just one pitch.

“Now when they bring in Charlie Hough, I said to myself, ‘oh my goodness, I hit knuckleballers pretty good,” Jackson later said. “He threw me a room-service knuckleball that Charlie says he thought it was pretty good.”

But Hough was dealing with Mr. October.

 

Seven pitches seen. His final line for the pivotal Game Six: 3-for-3, 4 R, 3 HR, 5 RBIs, 1 BB, and 1 World Series ring.

The Yankees clinch their 21st championship and Jackson clinched the iconic moniker of “Mr. October.”

 

Oct. 19, 2004 – The Glove Slap Incident

 

Alex Rodríguez crossed off numerous milestones that few players have ever reached. 3,000 hits, 600 homers, three MVPs, the list goes on…

But unfortunately for him, some of his most notable career highlights are in fact lowlights.

Of course, Rodriguez received one of baseball’s longest suspensions ever dealt out. And there’s that time when Rodriguez yelled “ha” to distract an infielder and cause them to drop a popup. But nothing is more characteristic of prime “prima donna” A-Rod than what happened in Game Six of the 2004 ALCS.

Here’s a refresher of that series (although you probably already know the story): the Yankees take a 3 – 0 lead. Then, Dave Roberts steals a base. The Red Sox staged a dramatic comeback and walk-off win in Game Four to keep their hopes alive. Game Five is the same story: another comeback, another walk-off.

Enter Game Six. Curt Schilling pitching for Boston. Remember the Yankees starter? Cause I sure didn’t! It was Jon Lieber, dipping his toes into the American League for one season.

Unlike the previous five games of this series, the Red Sox took a commanding four-run lead early on in the fourth, thanks to a big rally capped off by Mark Bellhorn’s wall-scraping, three-run blast.

 

Schilling, as was usual for him at this point, was lights out. Sure, Bernie Williams managed a solo shot to cut the Red Sox’s lead to 4 – 1. But a final line of 7 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, and 4 K is mighty solid in a must-win game.

Terry Francona handed the eighth over to Bronson Arroyo, noted musician and serenader of Walker Buehler.

Arroyo struck out the lead-off batter before allowing a double to Miguel Cairo. A clutch single from Derek Jeter drove Cairo in, and suddenly the score was 4 – 2.

Rodriguez stepped up the plate with the chance to tie the game. A-Rod had won the MVP in both the previous and subsequent seasons. In the ’04 ALDS, he was also clutch, going 8-for-19, good for a line of .421/.476/.737. There was no one else the Yankees would rather have up at that time.

On a 2 – 2 count, all Rodriguez managed was a measly dribbler down the first base line. Arroyo scooped it up and went for the tag. Rodriguez had an innovative idea: karate chop.

“I was trying to go for his glove,” Rodriguez said in Barstool Sports’ “Pardon My Take” podcast. “And the karate chop went a little too far and I got his forearm… It was worth the try.”

 

Jeter scored, but the umps ruled the play dead and Rodriguez out. Why? After scouring the rulebook, apparently, you can’t force an error by assaulting opposing players… not unless you’re playing “Slugfest.”

Despite Rodriguez’s heroics, the Red Sox won Game Six… and Game Seven… and then their first World Series in 86 years.

 

Oct. 23, 2005 – The Podsednik Walk-Off

 

In 2003, Scott Podsednik had his breakout season. He was fast—super-fast, stealing 43 bases and getting caught 10 times. And he could hit for a high average (.314). His power, on the other hand, wasn’t a strong suit. Yes, he managed nine dingers that season. But Podsednik’s lack of power ranks in the upper echelon of 21st-century hitters.

Since his debut in 2001, Podsednik had 42 homers in 4,346 regular-season PAs. That stat is the 13th-fewest for all hitters with at least 4,000 PAs during that span, beating out sluggers like Mark Grudzielanek (55 HR in 4,075 PAs) and Rajai Davis (62 HR in 4,607 PAs).

In 2005, Podsednik had his one and only All-Star season, slashing .290/.351/.349 with 80 R, 25 RBIs, 59 SB to 23 CS with no home runs. That year, the White Sox had the fifth-most homers (200) of any team. No thanks to Podsednik.

But baseball is weird. We all know that. And come October, Podsednik would have one of the most important home runs in White Sox history.

This 99-win Chicago team, headlined by Paul Konerko and Mark Buehrle, steamrolled their way through the playoffs. They swept the reigning champion Red Sox in the ALDS. Then, they crushed the Angels in the ALCS, winning the series in five games.

For the first time since 1959, the White Sox played in the Fall Classic. Their opponent: the Astros.

Houston three-headed monster of Roger Clemens (1.87 ERA in 211.1 IP), Andy Pettitte (2.39 ERA in 222.1 IP) and Roy Oswalt (2.94 ERA in 241.2 IP) was, well, frightening.

But the White Sox were a supersonic locomotive hell-bent on winning their first World Series since 1917.

Game One was a back-and-forth brawl, with the White Sox taking the lead three separate times in the first four innings. Ultimately, Chicago won 5 – 3, with the critical run coming on Joe Crede’s homer off Wandy Rodríguez.

Game Two, which was hyped as a pitchers’ duel between Buehrle and Pettitte, started off similarly. Houston took a lead in the second off of Morgan Ensberg’s solo shot, then Chicago claimed it in the bottom half of the inning, and finally Houston tied it up 2 – 2 in the third.

Lance Berkman, who has a knack for clutch World Series hits, put the Astros up 4 – 2 with a two-run double in the fifth.

But in the seventh, Houston ran into trouble. Reliever Dan Wheeler was wild, loading the bases after giving up a double, walk, and HBP. In came Chad Qualls to save the day. But he had to get through Konerko first.

 

6 – 4 White Sox lead. Could their star rookie-reliever Bobby Jenks put the game away?

The answer: No, not with José Vizcaíno at the plate.

 

Tie game. The Astros turn it over to their own elite reliever, Brad Lidge. Of course a week earlier, Lidge had suffered severe trauma due to the bat of Albert Pujols. But surely this All-Star flamethrower could get through a 1 – 2 – 3 of Juan Uribe, Podsednik, and Tadahito Iguchi, right?

Uribe went down on a fly-out to center. Podsednik also hit one to center… but this ball carried a bit farther… and it kept going and going and going until…

 

“I saw it leave and I let out this… fist pump and this yell. This genuine, emotional yell from as deep as it gets,” Podsednik later reflected. “In that yell was thoughts of my father when I was younger. There were thoughts of the nine-year grind in the minor leagues, all the injuries… I just had all these thoughts of all those years pour out, and then I knew that all that was for a reason.”

 

Photo By Icon Sportswire | Feature Graphic Designed by James Peterson (Follow @jhp_design714 on Instagram & Twitter)

Alex Kleinman

Journalist who loves the Yankees and the Bears. One gives me strength, the other leads me to existential dread. When I'm not obsessing over baseball, you can find me at a concert, hiking in a National Park or chasing my dog, Frankie, who has probably stolen one of my socks.

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