Four Decades Inside The Game The Photographs of Ronald C. Modra
Introduction by Bob Costas Foreword by MLB Commissioner Allan H. “Bud” Selig Essays by Tim Kurkjian, Peter Gammons, Tom Verducci & Leigh Montville
Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks
A BASEBALL LIFE Photography: Ronald C. Modra (ronaldcmodra.com) Art Direction & Design: Peter Klabunde, Ballyard Design (ballyarddesign.com) Editor: M. B. Roberts
ta bl e of c on t e n t s Introduction by Bob Costas . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 Foreword by MLB Commissioner Allan H. “Bud” Selig . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 Reflections by Ronald C. Modra . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
1973-1982 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 Essay by Tim Kurkjian . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
1983-1992 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 00 Essay by Peter Gammons . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 00
1993-2002 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 000 Essay by Tom Verducci . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 000
2003-2012 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 000 Essay by Leigh Montville . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 000
Notes and Acknowledgements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 000
I NT R ODUC T ION by Bob Costas
There have probably been more words written and spoken about the beauty and appeal of baseball than about all other sports combined. Hey, I’ve written and spoken some of those words myself. And yet, when it comes to conveying the hold the game can have on our imaginations, almost all of those words fall short of the power of a truly striking visual image. For over 40 years now, Ron Modra has captured those images and moments with rare skill and understanding. Baseball is a game of atmosphere and anticipation, punctuated by moments of brilliance and excitement. Like the game itself, Ron Modra’s work has texture. From the ease of spring training to the tension of the World Series, from a kid in the stands to Ken Griﬀey, Jr. somehow climbing the fence to pull one out of the stands, Ron Modra captures it with a keen and appreciative eye. The pages that follow are pure pleasure – the best work of a master craftsman and a guy who is one of us – a baseball fan.
Whitey Ford, Mickey Mantle
MLB Commissioner Allan H. “Bud” Selig
FOREWORD by MLB Commissioner, Allan H. “Bud” Selig
For nearly a half-century, my profession and my passion – the great game of baseball – have intersected. The experience has been not just a privilege, but a dream come true. I fell in love with the game in the early 1940s. Although my hometown of Milwaukee was without a team to call its own when I was growing up, I still became attached to baseball. It was a constant topic of conversation and a source of friendships in the sandlots of my neighborhood. I read voraciously about the game and listened to broadcasts on the radio. The game fascinated me – the ballparks, the players, the uniforms, and the traditions in the cities throughout the country. In the summertime, my Mother, Marie, a sixth-grade teacher who was a baseball fan herself, often took me on trips throughout the Midwest and the East Coast. Throughout our travels, most of our time was spent in wonderful museums and the historic American ballparks – Wrigley Field, Fenway Park, and Yankee Stadium. In July of 1949, I spent my 15th birthday watching my hero, Joe DiMaggio, grace the hallowed center ﬁeld in The House That Ruth Built. Every decade since that trip to New York has generated countless 10
memories of my journey in baseball. The 1950s marked the arrival of the Braves to Milwaukee, beginning a joyous era of baseball euphoria in my hometown. The ’60s were a decade of turbulence, change, and heartbreak, as we saw the Braves leave for Atlanta. I then spent more than ﬁve restless years leading the eﬀorts to bring baseball back to Milwaukee, culminating in 1970, when the Brewers were born and a sense of civic pride was rejuvenated. In 1982, we brought the pennant back to Milwaukee. In the 1990s, I became the Commissioner of the sport I love. After a most trying and diﬃcult period for all of us in baseball in the mid-’90s, our game’s renaissance began. Today, a time of prosperity and innovation for the game, our national pastime is enjoying a golden age. As an avid student of history, I have always associated baseball with the passage of time. Babe Ruth is a powerful American symbol of the Roaring ’20s. Joltin’ Joe and The Splendid Splinter, Ted Williams, starred on the ﬁeld before and after their service during World War II. And of course, our sport’s greatest pioneer, Jackie Robinson, made history at Ebbets Field on April 15, 1947, seven years before the landmark
Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision. The virtues that make baseball the national pastime are timeless. Its history is unparalleled. Pillars like Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente, Stan Musial, and many others have passed the torch on to Derek Jeter, Albert Pujols, and Ichiro Suzuki. The great American game now serves as a common bond for people throughout the world, transcending languages and cultural barriers. Most signiﬁcantly, our game continues to link generations. Knowing what baseball meant to my mother, I am moved when I see what the game means to my daughters and granddaughters. There are millions of families just like mine. As our game has changed, its remarkable ability to instill memories and form lifelong bonds with its fans has not. I am most grateful for the unique stature that Major League Baseball holds. I have seen the game grow immeasurably in recent decades. Baseball was once a sport that was staid and hesitant to change. Over the course of time, that mentality became detrimental to the game’s future. I became a proponent of bold action, in the form of Interleague Play, the expanded playoﬀ format, and many other initiatives. Those eﬀorts have helped us succeed in modernizing our game and increasing its popularity while maintaining its unmatched tradition. In this unprecedented era of labor peace,
the last eight years have been the eight best-attended seasons in the history of the sport. Our competitive balance, highlighted by nine diﬀerent World Series Champions over the last 11 seasons, is extraordinary. Through ventures like MLB Advanced Media, MLB Network, and the World Baseball Classic, we have adapted to the times seamlessly and expanded the reach of our sport to incredible heights. I have boundless optimism about what the future holds for Major League Baseball, an institution that is beloved by so many. Our great game now belongs to the world, and I believe its grace will continue to touch the next generation. Knowing ﬁrst-hand the ﬁne work that Ron Modra has done throughout his career, I believe he is perfectly suited to capture the essence of baseball’s evolution and its place in our society. His pictures chronicle the game’s history and illustrate the deep sense of connection that fans have continued to feel for baseball decade after decade. Most of all, Ron’s work is emblematic of the love for the game that resonates throughout so many parts of the world.
A BASEBALL LIFE by Ronald C. Modra
Growing up in a tiny Wisconsin town in the 1950’s, I used to lie in bed at night listening to Milwaukee Braves games through the earpiece plugged into my transistor radio. When the Braves played on the West Coast, the games came on at night, sometimes as late as 10:00 PM. I would ﬁght oﬀ sleep and then eventually doze oﬀ listening to Braves broadcasters Blaine Walsh and Earl Gillespie. “Holy cow! Home run!” Gillespie said when Hank Aaron, my favorite player, cracked another one. I’d hang on as long as I could, usually no more than three or four innings. First thing in the morning, I’d run downstairs to ask my dad who won. Back in 1957 and ’58, when the World Series was played during the day, we were allowed to watch the games at school. That was a huge deal to a nine-year-old who loved baseball and couldn’t stand school. But what I looked forward to most was going to games at County Stadium in Milwaukee. My dad and I were in the stands when Warren Spahn got his 300th win on August 11, 1961. “Spahnny” was a leftie and we could see him perfectly from the cheap seats on the ﬁrst base side. Another time, we went to the game early and I pressed against the fence trying to get an autograph from Eddie Mathews but he wasn’t signing that day. 12
When I was in high school in the mid-1960s, the Braves moved to Atlanta. Then, in 1969, baseball returned to town when Allan H. “Bud” Selig, whom I’ve always called Mr. Selig, bought the bankrupt Seattle Pilots and moved them to Milwaukee as the Brewers. That same year, after working as a color press camera operator for a printer, I started shooting sports for a weekly suburban newspaper. In 1973, I was hired as Brewers team photographer. The job barely paid my expenses; I survived by shooting as many freelance assignments as possible, mainly basketball. The Brewers gig wasn’t making me rich but I considered it my dream job, especially when in 1975, Hank Aaron, who had left Milwaukee with the Braves a decade earlier, returned to town to ﬁnish his career as a Brewer. In February of that year, I drove my old, beat-up, blue and white ’69 Dodge van all the way from Wisconsin to Sun City, Arizona to meet the team at their spring training camp. It took me three days to make the drive in this van that boasted a painted ﬂame on one side. (The ﬂame on the opposite side had been sanded oﬀ by its previous owner). The weather got progressively warmer the farther I got from
Milwaukee. I couldn’t wait to soak up some Arizona sun and especially to photograph Aaron in action. Late one afternoon after practice – it was probably my third day in town -- I was loading equipment into my van, which was the only vehicle left in the parking lot. Everyone else had left for the day. Or so I thought. “Hey!” I heard someone yell. “You going back to the hotel?” I turned and saw Hank Aaron jogging toward me. “Sure,” I said, opening the passenger side door for him. Prior to spring training, I had photographed Aaron twice, but this was the ﬁrst time I was alone with him. My heart pounded as I started up the van. As we drove, I wished someone I knew would pull up beside me and recognize my passenger. I would have killed for a cell phone so I could call my dad, even though cell phones hadn’t been invented yet. Somehow, I managed to speak. I asked Aaron how he felt about being back in Milwaukee. We chatted about the old Braves teams from the 50s. I was telling him about growing up as a fan when he turned, looked over his shoulder and noticed the old mattress in the back of the van, my bed during my road trip. Aaron interrupted me, “Man, did you drive this all the way from Milwaukee?” “Yeah,” I said sheepishly. Aaron eyeballed the rusted interior, the ripped curtain behind the driver’s seat, the burger wrappers on the ﬂoor, the
broken radio. Chuckling, he said, “I think you should leave it here.” Back in Milwaukee that summer, Herb Scharfman came to town to photograph Aaron for Sports Illustrated. Like every sports-loving kid, I grew up reading SI and was a huge fan of Herb’s work. Because I was Brewers team photographer, I got to show him around and we immediately became friends. Herb not only encouraged me, he eﬀectively launched my career when he convinced me to send my “portfolio” (which was a Kodak box full of loose slides and black-and-white prints) to Laurel Frankel, an editor at Sports Illustrated. Every week for two or three months straight, I called to follow up. Finally, probably because they were sick of hearing from me, I got an assignment to shoot a black-and-white picture of Rick Langston of the Oakland A’s for an SI column. SI assignments continued to come my way. But until I went on contract a few years later, (thanks to director of photography, John Dominis, a great teacher who took a chance on an unknown photographer with no magazine experience), my main gig was with the Brewers. As much as I loved working at County Stadium, back then there were no photo positions so if you wanted to get close to the ﬁeld you had to ﬁnd somewhere in the stands to work. Over the years, the Seligs, Mr. Selig’s daughter Wendy in particular, graciously welcomed me, as well 13
as my cameras, into the owner’s box whenever there was room. I even got a little help from local mobster, er, businessman, Frank Balistrieri and family who once oﬀered me one of their season seats on the third base side when they saw me kneeling in the aisle. Although I shot all sports over the years, baseball was always my favorite. I enjoyed shooting football and basketball games and doing portraits and feature stories with tennis players and boxers, but baseball felt like home to me. I loved the game. And I connected with the players. One of my most vivid memories involved working with Mickey Mantle. In the mid‘80s, I was hired to shoot the stills for an instructional video that Mantle was ﬁlming with Tom Seaver and Gary Carter at the Braves/Expos spring training facility in West Palm Beach, Florida. On the day of the shoot, I arrived very early and walked into the empty stadium to scout. As I walked up the steps I noticed a lone ﬁgure sitting in one of the seats, about halfway up the lower grandstand. As I got closer, I could see he was an older man wearing a plain gray baseball uniform and cap. He was resting his chin on his clasped hands and staring out at the vacant ﬁeld. It was Mickey Mantle. As I walked toward him, he nodded at me. “What’s going on today?” I asked. “Oh, I’m just sitting here thinking,” he said. “God, I wish I could still play.” What must it have been like to be Mickey Mantle? The next day, I was sitting with 14
Mantle in the old umpire’s room of the stadium where he was signing about ﬁve dozen baseballs. At one point, he held one up and asked me, “Ron, what do you see here?” “A Mickey Mantle autographed ball,” I answered. “I’ve signed so many of these,” he said. “You’d think everybody in America would have one by now.” Sometimes occupational hazards came with my job. One of the most memorable happened during a shoot with Nolan Ryan in 1986, a year he was making headlines pitching no-hitters for the Houston Astros. For the feature, we wanted to shoot Ryan at his cattle ranch. He only had one day oﬀ between games so I hired a helicopter to transport Ryan, myself, and my assistant, Phil Jache, from Ryan’s front lawn in suburban Alvin, Texas to his ranch in Gonzalez, Texas. It was an incredibly hot, humid summer day and as we were taking oﬀ, the helicopter windows fogged up completely. Everybody stopped talking. My blood pressure soared. My assistant went pale. Ryan looked cool and conﬁdant, but remained silent, as did the pilot. “I can just see the newspaper headline,” I said, as the windows began to slightly defog. “Nolan Ryan dies in helicopter crash. Also killed were the pilot and two other guys.” Even the pilot managed a grin. One of the scariest, but ultimately one of the best assignments I ever had was with my friend, Rich “Goose” Gossage, the legendary Yankees closer. In mid-1994, the players had
gone on strike, which everyone suspected would mean the abrupt and unsatisfying end to Goose’s career because at age 43 he likely wouldn’t be returning in 1995. (He didn’t). As a player who had been active for all the MLB work stoppages, Goose could speak authoritatively about the strike, so SI sent me to his ranch in Canon City, Colorado for a feature. We had a ball ﬁshing and riding horses and bumping over his 50,000 acre spread in a jeep. Then, it came time to do a pitching shot. “C’mon Ronnie, you gotta catch me,” said Goose, attempting to appear growly. I was uneasy. I had no cup. No mask. The man had been clocked over 100 mph. “C’mon,” he said with a grin. “I’ll go easy.” We walked over to a wide piece of dirt and grass near one of his horse corrals. He tossed me a glove and I crouched into position. He bounced one on our pretend plate. Then he threw another one into the dirt. This isn’t so bad, I thought. “Show me what you got, Gooster!” He threw another one. This time hard. It stung the palm of my hand and reverberated through my body. I tossed it back to him. He hurled another, which hit my hand in the exact same spot. I grimaced and tossed it back to him. Again, he pitched the ball to me. Hard. This one ﬂew out of my glove. “Man,” I said. “You almost ripped oﬀ my thumb!” “Yeah,” Goose said. “I was careful not to mess with your trigger ﬁnger.”
I appreciated that. It went a long way with me when players such as Rod Carew, the ﬁrst major star I photographed one-onone, a guy who loved making pictures of his teammates, showed an understanding of my job. Every time I saw him he’d ask me about cameras and ﬁlm. Remember ﬁlm? I photographed Kirk Gibson (using ﬁlm) many times throughout his career. As gruﬀ as he could be towards the media, for some reason he was always nice to me. Maybe it was because we were both from the Midwest and liked to hunt and ﬁsh. (He’d whip out pictures of himself with his kids and a deer they’d shot and say, “Now there’s a picture.”) While working in Chicago one day in 1991, I approached Gibby to shoot his portrait for a project I was doing for Topps Chewing Gum. “Oh,” he groused, “you know I hate doing this bullshit. Where do you want me?” We went to the batting cage where I shot oﬀ about forty snaps…then, I froze. I tried to be nonchalant about motioning to my assistant, but Gibby was on full alert. “Big Mr. Sports Illustrated forgot to put ﬁlm in his camera!” he roared. At least that’s something we don’t have to worry about anymore. Being around baseball players over the years was deﬁnitely unforgettable. Or in the case of Eddie Mathews, it was surreal. I ﬁrst met Mathews in the late 70’s when he came to Milwaukee to reenact the Sports Illustrated inaugural cover shot from 1954, which featured him in mid-swing along with Wes Westrum of the Giants and ump Augie 15
Donotelli. Mark Kauﬀmann, the legendary Life Magazine photographer who became one of my greatest inﬂuences, shot the original picture as well as the reenactment shot to celebrate SI’s 25th anniversary. If you look at the original shot, the bat is blurry. Kauﬀmann told me that back in the 50s, the ASA on color ﬁlm was so slow that he had to balance his camera on the barrel of a bat to make the picture. He brieﬂy stepped onto the ﬁeld to shoot, which photographers aren’t normally allowed to do—then and now. So he improvised a monopod courtesy of a nearby Louisville Slugger. Meeting Mathews with Kauﬀman more than made up for missing the chance to get a Mathews autograph as a kid. Then, the night before the 1983 All-Star game in Chicago, I met Mathews again. It was late in the evening and I was walking through the lobby of the Hyatt Regency with my friend Jim Darby from Easton Sports. We passed one of the smaller hotel bars and I did a double-take when I saw Eddie Mathews sitting on a barstool all by himself. We went in and sat down right next to him. I introduced myself, saying we’d met in Milwaukee a few years back. Mathews was gracious and indulged us as we talked baseball and had a few beers. (He was quite a few rounds ahead of us). At last call, I oﬀered to pay the tab and Mathews said no. “I insist,” he said, bringing out his MasterCard and signing the credit card slip with a 16
perfect “Ed Mathews” autograph, despite his, by that time, less than lucid state. “I do have a favor to ask, though,” said Mathews. “Find the service elevator and help me get up to my room.” Although it was late, the hotel was full of fans and media people and Mathews didn’t want to encounter anyone in the lobby or the main elevator who might recognize him. So Darby and I led him to the service elevator and took him up to his room. I unlocked the door for him and we helped him onto his bed. We took oﬀ his shoes. Then left. In the hallway, Darby and I stopped for a minute and looked at each other. “Did we really just put Eddie Mathews to bed?” There were a few times over the years when being friendly with popular major leaguers was a valuable thing. Perhaps my favorite example of this took place one evening in New York City in 1992 when my wife M.B. and our friend Dennis DeLisle were walking through our neighborhood on the Upper East Side. The route took us directly past Elaine’s, the famous restaurant frequented by famous people such as Woody Allen, George Plimpton and Mikhail Baryshnikov. It was common knowledge that you were supposed to “be somebody” to hang out in Elaine’s. I’d never gone in but that night, Dennis insisted. “You’re somebody, Modra,” he said. “I’m somebody. C’mon!” So we went in. We sat at the bar for ten minutes or so, completely ignored by the bartender. We were about to leave when I
looked towards the door and saw former Cardinals and Mets star Keith Hernandez walk in with the actor Richard Harris. They sat down at a nearby table and I told M.B. I was going to go say hello to Keith. “Please don’t,” she said. “This is already too embarrassing. Let’s just go.” But I knew and liked Keith and wanted to say hi. So I went over. When he saw me, Keith stood up and lifted me into the air in a giant bear hug. He bounced me up and down a few times shouting, “Ronnie f-ing Modra!” at the top of his lungs as Richard Harris grinned up at me. We talked for a few minutes, mostly about his acting aspirations, (this was right before he played himself in the now classic Seinfeld episode), then I let him get back to his dinner. When I returned to the bar, M.B. and Dennis had drinks and the bartender was friendly and responsive. Oddly enough. People are passionate about sports around the country and worldwide and I’m incredibly fortunate to have traveled (often with my longtime assistant Paul Schiraldi), to many, many places covering athletes and events in China, Russia, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, England, Germany, Sweden, France, Italy, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Canada, Mexico, South America and throughout the Caribbean, including Cuba. For me, it always comes back to baseball and experiencing the game outside of the U.S. has been a particular thrill for me. To see the orderly celebration of fans in the stands in Japan (where they perform
organized cheers and pass their empty cups and sushi trays to the aisle for pick-up), or the scrappy young players making do with bare bones equipment in the Dominican, or young kids in Cuba, passionate baseball fans wearing decades-old, threadbare American baseball caps passed down from defunct teams from the 1950s and 60s -- these are scenes I will never forget. Luckily for baseball fans, including my colleagues who contributed the heartfelt essays in this book, there is always spring training. It comes around each year and in my opinion, it never gets old. Much like photographing baseball. It’s always fresh. In some ways, shooting baseball reminds me of ﬁshing. You wait and wait. Innings pass with nothing. Then when you least expect it, there’s a big hit or a tangled play at the plate. If you’re patient, it will come your way. It’s your job to catch it and preserve it. I still love doing this job. I still get a thrill out of going to the ballpark in the summer afternoons and evenings and photographing the new crop of stars including Bryce Harper, Buster Posey, Stephen Strasburg, and others. A Baseball Life represents my life’s work and was put together brilliantly by designer Peter Klabunde at Ballyard Design, who as a fan and historian of the game, was uniquely qualiﬁed for this project. I hope you enjoy it.
TIM KURKJIAN Remembers the 70’s
The 1970s provided the perfect intersection of a 14-year-old, hopelessly addicted to baseball, and a decade that gave us some of the greatest players in the history of the game. While my friends were out drinking beer and chasing girls, I was playing APBA or Strat-O-Matic, alone in my room, talking to myself, keeping the stats for tabletop games, and anxiously waiting for the Saturday Game of the Week on NBC. When the World Series was on I ran all the way home from school to watch it and when family vacations were planned that was ﬁne with me as long as they didn’t conﬂict with the All-Star Game. The 1970 World Series enhanced my incredible love for the game. One of my two local nines, the Baltimore Orioles, beat the Cincinnati Reds, in ﬁve games. The MVP of the Series was Brooks Robinson, who made a half dozen terriﬁc plays, which didn’t surprise me. By that stage of his career, I had seen him so many times that I had perfected his every movement, including his batting stance where he would pull on that exceptionally small bill of his helmet. Ten years later, I met Brooks Robinson, who remains the nicest, most likable superstar player ever. Soon after Robinson retired, a sportswriter friend, Gordon Beard, introduced him at a banquet by saying, “In New York, they named a candy bar after Reggie Jackson. Here in Baltimore, we name 20
our children after Brooks Robinson.’’ By 1971, I had perfected Roberto Clemente’s distinctive running style. I had seen him play in person only once, at an exhibition game in Washington, and remember screaming out loud at both a rocket line drive he hit to right center ﬁeld and a tremendous throw he made from right ﬁeld to third base. Clemente was breathtaking to watch as he won the MVP of the 1971 World Series, which made Jan. 1, 1972 even more painful: that morning I walked down the steps where I was met by my dad, who told me that The Great One had died in a plane crash. I cried then and I cried earlier in 1971 – all because of baseball – when my beloved Washington Senators left town for Texas, my childhood team gone. I hear fans from certain cities complain that their team stinks and never contends, and I tell them that a bad team is much better than no team. The Senators were terrible, but they brought me such pleasure; left ﬁelder Frank Howard and shortstop Eddie Brinkman and manager Ted Williams were my guys. Years later, Rick Stelmaszek, a former Nats catcher, told a story about the day in spring training when a rundown drill went bad. An argument ensued about the proper way to execute the rundown play. Williams, the second greatest hitter of all time, was called in to break the tie. He impatiently listened
to each side, threw hands in the air and said, “(----) it, let’s hit.’’ I nearly cried during the 1973 World Series when the great Willie Mays, my childhood baseball hero, fell down on the warning track, trying to make a catch. I chose not to make that my lasting memory; instead, I will remember him gliding through the outﬁeld, making that basket catch that has never been duplicated, hitting 400-ft. home runs and running the bases with such incredible grace, his cap ﬂying oﬀ as he dashed from ﬁrst to third. Many years later, I would interview Willie Mays and Hank Aaron, with me in between, thinking, “I am standing in between the two greatest living baseball players.’’ Aaron provided a memory that I will never forget on April 8, 1974, the night he hit home run No. 715, passing the greatest player ever, Babe Ruth, on the all-time list. Braves reliever Tom House caught the famous home run ball in the bullpen. “Before the game, our relievers chose spots to stand beyond the fence,’’ House said. “It went by seniority. Cecil Upshaw had been there the longest, so he took the spot next to the left ﬁeld foul pole because Hank loved to hook the ball down the line. I was the youngest, so I got the spot way out in left center. Then the ball was hit, and it was headed right at me. I never had to move. It came right to me. I ran it in to home plate to present it to Hank. When I got there, he was crying. I’d never seen him cry. I think it was a reaction to all the pressure of the chase
being over.’’ The greatest game I had ever seen came in 1975, Game Six of the World Series, the Red Sox against the Reds, the famed Big Red Machine. Room 412 of dormitory Bel Air B at the University of Maryland erupted when Carlton Fisk waved his towering ﬂy ball into fair territory, winning the game, 7 – 6, in 12 innings. Sparky Anderson, who managed the Reds in that series, would tell me many years later, “Even though we lost, there haven’t been too many better games in major league history. I was honored just to be a part of it.’’ I can still see Joe Morgan dropping a single in front of the charging Freddy Lynn to win Game Seven. I also will never forget the Big Red Machine’s demonstrative sweep of the Yankees in 1976, the snapshot being third baseman Pete Rose, maybe 80 feet from home plate, catching a bullet line drive from Mickey Rivers, then spiking the ball as he ran oﬀ the ﬁeld at the end of an inning. It was classic Pete Rose, deﬁant, competitive, indomitable, the same Pete Rose that volunteered to me many years later, at a baseball card show, “I bet you didn’t know that I have played in more winning games than Joe DiMaggio played games.’’ Yankees got their revenge, winning the World Series in 1977 and 1978, behind, among many others, Reggie Jackson, who saw three pitches, from three diﬀerent pitchers, and hit three consecutive home 21
runs in the clinching Game Six in 1977. I will never forget the playoﬀ game in 1978 at Fenway Park, won by the Yankees, 5 – 4; Goose Gossage got the save by getting the last eight outs, absolutely unheard of today. The key hit of the game was a three-run home run in the seventh by Yankee shortstop Bucky Dent, who was using Mickey Rivers’s bat. “Mickey was the spark of our team,’’ Dent would later tell me. “Every September, I’d go to Mickey and say, ‘Mick, we have to get in the playoﬀs. I need the playoﬀ money. You have to get us there.’ And he’d say, ‘OK, Bucky. I need that money, too.’ Then he’d go out and play like hell, and we’d win the pennant.’’ By 1979, I was a sportswriter at the Washington Star newspaper, trying to learn a fascinating business. I was in the newsroom when the news crossed that Yankee catcher Thurman Munson had died in a plane crash. First Clemente, then Munson. The Yankees played the Orioles at Yankee Stadium the next night, and during the national anthem and the moment of silence, the Yankees left the spot behind home plate vacant as a tribute to their captain. Orioles pitcher Mike Flanagan, who was there that night, would tell me years later, “No one wanted to play. It was so sad. I looked in the stands. Everyone was crying.’’ Flanagan’s Orioles made it back to the World Series in 1979, but lost to the “We Are Family” Pirates, who came back from a 3 – 1 deﬁcit to win the Series – they remain the last World Series team to win Game Seven 22
on the road. They were led by Willie Stargell, whose two-run homer in the sixth inning won the game, the last game of a sensational era of baseball. There are so many vivid memories of the 1970s, most never to be forgotten by a hopelessly hooked teenager. It gave us Mark “The Bird’’ Fidrych, who talked to the ball, rubbed the dirt on the mound, and was as good a pitcher as there was in the game in 1976. Today, every game is on TV, but when Fidrych pitched on ABC’s Monday Night Baseball during the height of his popularity, I wouldn’t have missed that for anything in the world. The 1970s gave us Rod Carew, who Curt Gowdy of NBC told us “was born on a train in Panama. His middle name is Cline because it was Dr. Cline that delivered him.’’ It gave us Carl Yastrzemski, Harmon Killebrew, Steve Garvey, and three straight championships by the A’s of Charles O. Finley. It gave us Frank Robinson, of whom Brooks Robinson said, “He taught us how to win.’’ It gave us Al Kaline, Jim Palmer, Steve Carlton, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, and Joe Morgan, the best small player ever. It gave us Johnny Bench, the greatest catcher of all time. It gave us the 1971 All-Star game, which featured 19 Hall of Famers, as well as the famous home run that Reggie hit oﬀ the light transformer in Detroit. It was a quite a decade, and quite a marriage between great baseball and a great baseball fan.
The Alou Family
Johnny Bench, Willie Mays
Alex Grammas, Paul Molitor, Robin Yount
Hank Aaron, Dusty Baker
Rod Carew, Joe Garagiola
Paul Molitor, Robin Yount
Roy White, Pedro Garcia
1975 All-Star Game
George Brett, Rod Carew
Ben Oglivie, Larry Hisle, Sixto Lezcano, Gorman Thomas
Charlie Moore, Pete Vuckovich, Jim Wynn, Sal Bando
Hank Aaron, Mickey Mantle, Billy Martin, George Bamberger
George Hendrick, Walter Alston, The Brew Crew
George Foster, Dave Parker, Cecil Cooper, Lee Lacy
Jim Kern, Lou Brock, Ted Simmons
8 0 ’s
PETER GAMMONS Remembers the 80’s
The decade of the 1980s was baseball’s end of the innocence. Oh, there were two labor stoppages, the Pittsburgh drug scandal, the Shakespearean peaks and caves of Pete Rose, an ill-conceived collusion aimed at freezing bidding for free agents, and the procession of four commissioners, but the game still had a traditional feel while adjusting to the free-agent system that went in place in 1976. No one hit 50 homers, and when Andre Dawson hit 49 in 1987 and a kid named Mark McGwire hit 49 in 1987, it all seemed innocently heroic. There were ﬁve World Series that would be replayed for decades to come, because of a missed call in 1985, a missed ball in 1986, the indoors of 1987, Kirk Gibson’s 1988 blast, and the tragedy and heroism of players such as Dave Stewart in the aftermath of the earthquake of 1989. It was a decade that unveiled arguably the two greatest leadoﬀ hitters of all time in Rickey Henderson and Tim Raines. It debuted pitchers we thought would be historic, and some were—Fernando Valenzuela, Dwight Gooden, Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson, Tom Glavine. It was the dusk of 300 game winners – Steve Carlton, Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan, Don Sutton, Phil Niekro. 86
And it was played in traditional, functional stadiums whose entertainment was limited to the game, and the game only. The most memorable scoreboard moments came in the 1983 World Series when Eddie Murray’s home run oﬀ Charles Hudson hit Murray’s name on the board at Philadelphia’s Veterans Stadium and in the sixth game of the 1986 series when the Shea Stadium board congratulated “the 1986 Champion Red Sox.” Of the 28 parks in use when the decade ended in 1989, only six are still in use, and two of them, Boston’s Fenway Park and Chicago’s Wrigley Field, are tourist landmarks that have stood at their street corners since before World War I. Because free agency was so new, owners were convinced only the big markets would win. Hence they tried rigging the marketplace, yet from 1980 through 1989, the only team to win two world championships was the Dodgers. The winningest single season team was the ’84 Tigers. Mike Schmidt hit the most homers (313), Eddie Murray drove in the most runs (996), Jack Morris won the most games (162), and the lovable Cubs (’85 NLCS) and the Red Sox (’86 World Series) pulled the curses out of their historic closets. And, in the end, because of what we later learned of Pete Rose, his breaking of Ty Cobb’s
hit record in 1984 and the way he couldn’t just let it be a single – he had to hustle to second base – his isn’t the lasting memory of the decade. That would be three particularly memorable home runs by Kirk Gibson. The ﬁrst came on June 14, 1983 at Tiger Stadium, oﬀ Boston pitcher Mike Brown, a titanic blast that cleared the transformer atop the right ﬁeld roof—the transformer Reggie Jackson hit in the ’71 All-Star Game— by nearly 20 feet and landed in a lumberyard across Woodward Avenue. The second also came at Tiger Stadium, in Game Five of the
Campbell called Bowen, the outﬁelder said he was hurt and the Tigers asked for another player. The strike was avoided for that season and Bowen remained at Pawtucket. Fortunately, it was a memorable season, highlighted by George Brett’s run at .400 that lasted well into August. Brett played only 117 games, but hit 24 home runs and ﬁnished at .390. The Royals won the American League West and Brett earned MVP honors despite the time missed and the great year put up by Milwaukee’s Cecil Cooper, who batted .352 with 122 RBIs.
World Series, a shot oﬀ Padres Hall of Fame reliever Rich Gossage, which for all intents and purposes closed out the series and completed the Tigers’ 111 – 59 season. The third, of course, came at Dodger Stadium oﬀ Dennis Eckersley, which Jack Buck described with, “I don’t believe what I just saw,” and Vin Scully called as, “In the season of the improbable, the impossible has happened.” There were labor storm warnings over the 1980 season. Owners wanted some constraint on free agency, which had been won with the Messersmith-McNally decision back in January of 1976. It appeared that there might be a labor stoppage in June when Boston made a minor deal with Detroit. At that time, the minor league outﬁelder the Red Sox was sending the Tigers, Sam Bowen, feared that if he went to the majors and there were a strike, he would lose income. So when Detroit General Manager Jim
There was a seeming fairness to the end of the season, when the Royals and Phillies met in the World Series. Each had won their divisions in 1976, 1977, and 1978, only to lose in the Championship Series, the Royals thrice to the Yankees, the Phillies to the Reds in 1976, and the Dodgers in both 1977 and 1978. Kansas City swept the Yankees in three games, winning the ﬁnale in Yankee Stadium on Brett’s dramatic three-run homer oﬀ Goose Gossage in the seventh inning, a majestic shot into the third deck in the old stadium. The Houston Astros got to the playoﬀs by winning a one-game playoﬀ over the Dodgers, then engaged Philadelphia in a memorable ﬁve-game series. The deciding ﬁfth game went into the seventh inning tied 2 – 2, when the Astros scored three times to go up 5 – 2, followed by the Phillies scoring ﬁve in the top of the eighth before holding 87
on to an 8 – 7 win. This set the stage for a six-game Phillies-Royals World Series that featured the two great MVP and eventual Hall of Fame third basemen, George Brett and Mike Schmidt, who had hit 48 homers in the regular season. There were two unforgettable moments: in Game One, when a pop ﬂy ticked oﬀ Philadelphia catcher Bob Boone’s glove, Pete Rose snuck in to snare it for the out, and in Game Four, when the Royals were evening up the series at two games apiece, Phillies reliever Dickie Noles threw a pitch at Brett’s head that seemingly stopped the series in time. The Royals didn’t hit again, and Hall of Famer Steve Carlton won Game Six and the Dallas Green-managed Phils had their championship. As of 1981, the labor tension hadn’t calmed, and when the owners insisted on increased compensation for players signed as free agents, the players struck on June 13. Driving from Anaheim to the Los Angeles airport the next morning, Red Sox veteran Carl Yastrzemski explained that he really did not understand all the issues, only that he respected Marvin Miller, the head of the Major League Players Association, and that he didn’t think the work stoppage would last longer than a couple of weeks. But Major League Baseball didn’t resume until August 9th with the All-Star Game in Cleveland; 713 games—38 percent of the schedule—were lost. 88
Around that same time, national media gathered in Pawtucket, R.I. to see the end of a 33-inning game between Pawtucket and Rochester, the AAA aﬃliates of the Red Sox and Orioles, a game that began on Easter, was stopped and resumed weeks later. Two future Hall of Famers, Cal Ripken and Wade Boggs, played in the game, the longest pro baseball game in history, which was won in that 33rd inning on a single by a minor league lifer named Dave Koza. Hey, it was something to write about. When the season resumed, a new format was devised in which the season was divided into two parts, similar to the minor leagues, with the ﬁrst and second half winners meeting in a series leading into the League Championship Series. It was a ﬂawed format, as the Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals had the best records for the shortened season, but did not make the postseason. It did, however, mark the only postseason appearance by the Montreal Expos, who lost in the ﬁfth game of the NLCS when Rick Monday homered oﬀ Steve Rogers. The next time there was a major labor shutdown was August of 1994, when the Expos of Pedro Martinez, Larry Walker, et al. were in ﬁrst place at the time of the strike. When baseball resumed, thanks to a court order in April, 1995, Montreal had sold oﬀ several of its best players. The franchise was never the same, and eventually the team was moved to Washington.
The labor battles continued well past the strike that ended all strikes in the season of 1994. In August 1995, there was another strike, beginning the day after Tom Seaver won his 300th game in New York, but, with the intervention of American League President Lee MacPhail, the work stoppage lasted only three days. When the Players Association did not separate and fold under the threat of strikes and lost paychecks, Commissioner Peter Ueberroth concocted one of the most failed labor concepts in sports history. Back in 1968, following the Dodger holdout by Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale, the union and owners negotiated an agreement that provided that neither side would hold joint negotiations. “Players shall not act in concert with other Players and Clubs shall not act in concert with other Clubs,” read the agreement. Ueberroth convinced owners and general managers to act in concert—in violation of the Basic Agreement—to hold down salaries. Following the 1985 season, only four of the 35 free agents changed teams. Stars like Kirk Gibson, Phil Niekro, and Tommy John did not receive oﬀers from any teams other than their 1985 employers; George Steinbrenner actually made an oﬀer to White Sox catcher Carlton Fisk, but pulled it oﬀ the table after a meeting with Chicago owner Jerry Reinsdorf.
After the 1986 season, the owners succeeded in the short term. In ’87, the average salary declined for the ﬁrst time as free agents Jack Morris, Tim Raines, Roger Clemens, and others sat until re-signing with their former teams, and Andre Dawson took a pay cut to sign with the Cubs, for whom he would hit 49 homers and win the Most Valuable Player Award. The success was illegal and short-lived. Eventually the 198586 class saw seven players allowed “second look” free agency, which is how Gibson ended up signing with the Dodgers. Eventually, in November 1990, the three combined collusion cases would cost owners $280 million. “You stole $280 million from the players,” Commissioner Fay Vincent told his owners. To regain some of the lost revenues, owners decided to expand (to Florida and Colorado in the ﬁrst shift), which eventually turned out to be another mistake because it raised the competition for major league free agents and amateur talent, and lessened the number of potential markets when teams were trying to shake down their communities for help building stadiums. Vincent also pointed out that collusion left the owners so embittered that it led to the Great Strike of 1994 that cancelled the World Series, a strike that once and for all taught owners that the players union would not crack, and in the next 18 years, not only was there no work stoppage, but under 89
Commissioner Bud Selig revenues increased seven-fold. Reﬂecting the aﬄuent elements of other parts of society, baseball had its own drug scandal. There were brushes with drugs that essentially went uncovered in other cities, but the main scandal came out of Pittsburgh, where a caterer named Curtis Strong was charged with multiple counts of distributing cocaine. The ensuing trial dragged major league players—and the game—into court with sordid details. But nothing was more sordid in that decade than the trials and tribulations of Pete Rose. Now, one can argue that the best player of the decade came from the group of Rickey Henderson, Mike Schmidt, George Brett, Dale Murphy, Dwight Evans, or Eddie Murray, but no one made more headlines than Rose. He was the workingman’s idol, ever-hustling, ever-hungry, tenacious, combative, and fun. After leading the Phillies to the 1980 world championship—his third ring after the 1975-76 Reds championships—he was traded from Montreal to Cincinnati in August of 1984 to be player-manager of his hometown team. On Sept. 11, 1985, he broke Ty Cobb’s record of 4191 hits (a record later thought to be 4189). Later in the decade, allegations of betting on Reds games surfaced and, as evidence mounted, on August 24, 1989, Rose accepted permanent ineligibility from Commissioner 90
A. Bartlett Giamatti. Eight days later, exhausted from the Rose ordeal, Giamatti suﬀered a massive heart attack at his home in Martha’s Vineyard and died, leaving the sport and society a massive void that Fay Vincent attempted to ﬁll. Back to the upbeat, in September 1981, “Fernando Mania” erupted on the ﬁeld, which helped carry the Dodgers into the World Series—where they defeated the Yankees in six games. In the ’82 season, the Cardinals and Brewers took the World Series to a dramatic seventh game. Milwaukee was known as “Harvey’s Wallbangers,” named after Harvey Kuenn, who took over as manager after 47 games, a tremendous oﬀensive team that featured four future Hall of Famers: Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, Don Sutton, and Rollie Fingers. The Cardinals were Whiteyball, a franchise built around speed and defense and the brilliant mind of eventual Hall of Fame manager Whitey Herzog. The series featured the two Hall of Fame shortstops, Yount and Ozzie Smith, and the two HOF closers, Fingers and Bruce Sutter. Unfortunately for Milwaukee, the Brewers would not make the postseason for another 27 years. The next two World Series were won easily by the Orioles—with Ripken, Murray, and Jim Palmer—over the Phillies and the great Tigers team of 1984 that began 35 – 5 and swept away Kansas City and San Diego in October, winning seven of eight games.
But the last ﬁve World Series of the decade were truly memorable. In the meanwhile, two young pitchers rose to the stage, seemingly to accept the mantle handed down by 300-game winners Seaver, Nolan Ryan, Niekro, and Sutton. In 1985, Dwight (Doc) Gooden of the Mets went 24 – 4. The following year, Roger Clemens of the Red Sox also went 24 – 4, providing overtures that would resonate through the game for another generation. In 1985, the Royals, with George Brett and a bunch of young pitchers led by Bret Saberhagen, were down 3 – 1 to Toronto when they rallied to win. Then they were down 3 – 1 to the Cardinals, and in Game Six in Kansas City appeared to have lost to their I-70 rivals. When Kansas City’s Jorge Orta grounded to ﬁrst baseman Jack Clark leading oﬀ the bottom of the ninth with St. Louis ahead 1 – 0, Clark ﬂipped to pitcher Todd Worrell who beat Orta to the bag. Umpire Don Denkinger, long respected by his peers, simply missed the call; the bases eventually became loaded with two out, Dane Iorg hit a pinch hit, two-run single, and the Royals lived to a Game Seven, which they won. Cardinal fans tormented Denkinger for years. But that was nothing compared to the series of 1986, when the trains of Clemens and Gooden collided. Both championship series were heroic, Boston overcoming a 3 – 1 deﬁcit to the Angels, and the Mets winning an unforgettable six-game series over the
Astros. And when they got to the World Series, Clemens and Gooden did not win a game; they met in Game Two, and were not involved in the decision. However, Clemens started Game Six at Shea Stadium with the Red Sox up 3 – 2 in games, trying for their ﬁrst World Series title since 1918. Clemens had a 3 – 0 lead through three innings, only to watch a long night turn into history. He had a 3 – 2 lead through seven innings. When the Red Sox came to bat in the top of the eighth, Clemens had a blister on his pitching hand that had popped and was bleeding. He actually grabbed a bat to hit. “When I asked him if he was all right, he said the blister only bothered him when he threw his sliders, all the hits oﬀ him were on sliders, so he’d go to fastballs,” pitching coach Bill Fischer later related. Manager John McNamara pinch hit for Clemens and later told the media that his pitcher asked out of the game, a charge that became a heated dispute between manager and pitcher that has never been resolved despite Fischer’s backing of the pitcher. The Mets, of course, tied it in the eighth, David Henderson’s homer in the tenth began a two-run rally, then with two outs in the bottom of the tenth and Calvin Schiraldi one strike away from winning it all… “Congratulations, 1986 World Champion Red Sox” ﬂashed on the Shea Stadium megaboard … 91
It was 0-and-2. Gary Carter singled. Kevin Mitchell singled. Ray Knight singled. Enter Bob Stanley. Mix-up on what was supposed to be a sinker that ended up a cross-seam fastball that went to the screen for a passed ball and a tie game. And Mookie Wilson hit a roller up the ﬁrst base line …Stanley couldn’t get to the bag …Bill Buckner tried to scoop and dive for the bag …the ball went through his legs … When the media elevator at Shea Stadium got to the bottom ﬂoor and its doors opened, there was Mike Torrez in front of the Boston media. Torrez, who eight years earlier had given up the Bucky Dent homer in the 1978 playoﬀ game, looked at his old friends and declared, “I’m oﬀ the hook.” Eighteen years later, the Red Sox beat the Cardinals in St. Louis to win the 2004 World Series, and Buckner would take his turn oﬀ the hook. The Mets still had to come from three runs down against Bruce Hurst in Game Seven to win what would be their last championship on a team built around Gooden, Carter, and Darryl Strawberry that seemed to be on its way to history, but that became another set of stories, mostly sad. Still, they had that title. The next year’s series was a tale of two games, outdoors, indoors, Busch Stadium vs. the Metrodome. “I think this place may be a little small for some of our pitchers,” Herzog said, returning to Minneapolis for Game Six. 92
He was right. The Twins brought the Twin Cities its ﬁrst World Series, something repeated in 2001. Then in 1998 came Gibson’s historic homer oﬀ Eckersley in Game One in Dodger Stadium. It was, as Scully called, the impossible in an improbable season in which the Dodgers were nine games out at the All-Star break and won a dramatic series from the Mets, highlighted by Mike Scioscia’s Game Five homer oﬀ Gooden and the sight of Orel Hershiser hurdling the Shea Stadium bullpen fence to come relieve and save his team. History will never forget the Gibson moment, but this Dodger championship was the year of Hershiser. From August 30 to September 28, Hershiser did not allow a run for a record 59 innings. In the NLCS, he started two games and came out of the pen to record the ﬁnal out of Game Four. When it came to the World Series, he shut out the mighty Bash Brothers and the A’s in Game Two. Asked after that game if he were worried about all the innings in September and October threatening his career, Hershiser said, “I will only have the opportunity to go this way once in my life, and I will ride it and enjoy it.” Hershiser pitched a complete game in Game Five to ﬁnish the series. In the coming years, he had shoulder surgery. “I experienced something few have,” he said several years later. Indeed, he experienced history.
The ﬁnal World Series of the decade would also go down in history, far diﬀerent history. It was the Bay Bridge Series between the Giants, who had beaten the Cubs in a hot, seven game NLCS, and the A’s, who blew away the American League with Henderson, Eckersley, Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, Tony La Russa, and friends. The A’s won the ﬁrst two games in Oakland, and were preparing for Game Three at Candlestick Park when at 5:04 the earthquake hit. At ﬁrst, few realized what was happening; Oakland shortstop Walt Weiss and coach Rene Lachemann were running in the outﬁeld and were unaware of the quake. When the shaking stopped, the crowd cheered, but the game could not be played. In human terms, the fact that this was the series between Bay Area teams saved hundreds if not thousands of lives, because the traﬃc at 5:05 PM normally would have been backed up for miles on the road to and from The Bay Bridge known as The Cypress Structure. Bob Welch, who was to pitch the game, was the only player on either team who lived in the city of San Francisco. He raced his car back into the city and ran the ﬁnal mile to his house in The Marina fearing danger to his infant daughter. Ten days later, the series resumed, and the A’s won both games. The morning after Dave Stewart had won Game Three, he was serving coﬀee and doughnuts to workers beneath the collapsed Cypress Structure still
searching for bodies. Stewart was the last hero of The ‘80s. Some of his teammates would eventually be ﬁngered in the Steroids Era, but when the Athletics closed out the decade, Stewart was baseball’s giant October ﬁgure. If that indeed was the end of the innocence, it ended beneath a collapsed stretch of road, with a man born and raised in Oakland serving coﬀee and doughnuts to fellow heroes.
94 Fernando Valenzuela
Willie Wilson, Steve Garvey, Pedro Martinez
98 Scott Brosius, Rick Sutcliffe, Tim Raines
Will Clark, Harold Baines, Oil Can Boyd
Lee Smith, Mickey Hatcher, Lou Whitaker
Bruce Sutter, Rick Sutcliffe, Doc Gooden, Steve Howe
Dodger Spring Training, Bo Jackson, Omar Vizquel
Gaylord Perry, Keith Hernandez, Dale Murphy
Cal Ripken, Jr.
Ken Griffey, Sr. & Jr.
Carlton Fisk, Tom Seaver
Ellis Burks, Mike Gallego
Len Dykstra, Bobby Bonilla, Shawon Dunston, Mookie Wilson
Tony Pena, Edgar Diaz
9 0 ’s
TOM VERDUCCI Remembers the 90’s
revealed his poorly kept secret. Indeed, the
which became a gloriﬁed version of home
home run race was the equivalent of an
run derby. The Athletics, for instance, often
illusionist sawing his assistant in half. It
didn’t even bother with having the third-
made for great entertainment, but it
base coach give signs; they had no use for
was absolutely too good to be true. We
Neither before nor since has baseball
in baseball, and Barry Bonds was a whippet
bunts, stolen bases, and hit-and-run plays
suspended cynicism as it happened – even a
looked so diﬀerent at the end of a decade
who stole 52 bases for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
when the aim was simply to bludgeon
bottle of the steroid precursor androstene-
opponents with the long ball.
dione found in McGwire’s locker that
than from the beginning as it did in the
When the decade closed, baseball and
1990s. In just 10 years, baseball expanded
those who played it were transformed.
twice, cleaved the American and National
Small-market teams were becoming irrel-
baseball welcomed the Arizona Diamond-
Leagues into three divisions each, added a
evant, the Yankees had become a modern
backs and Tampa Bay Devil Rays – the
wild card playoﬀ entrant in each league,
dynasty (an imprimatur that would have
record book was blown to bits by McGwire
year. Eight of those sluggers were later
introduced interleague play, pushed a
belonged to the Braves but for New York’s
and Sosa, who so captivated the nation with
linked to performance-enhancing drugs.
commissioner out of oﬃce, folded league
prowess), and Bonds, having watched Mark
their power that teams opened their ball-
umpiring and administration into the oﬃce
McGwire and Sammy Sosa own the game on
park gates early and staﬀed concessions
When McGwire, after hugging Maris’s
of the commissioner, suﬀered two work
size and strength alone, dove deep into the
stands so that fans could watch them take
family, was asked at his season-ending news
stoppages, including one that forced the
dark arts of BALCO, the Bay Area drug lab,
batting practice. Sosa hit 20 home runs in
conference about the lasting power of his
cancellation of the 1994 World Series, more
to metamorphose his body at age 34 into
June alone. McGwire, in the grand ﬁnale to
achievement, he said, “Will 70 homers
than doubled revenues and tripled salaries,
something freakishly large and eﬃcient.
the ﬁreworks show, whacked ﬁve home
ever be broken? Could be. But I know how
Baseball lost its democratic roots and
runs in his last 11 at-bats. He won the duel,
grueling it is. Will I be alive to see it? Maybe.
became a big man’s game. In the 1990s, the
70 – 66, as both men blew past the record
If it is, I want to be there.”
It was, to borrow quite literally from the
rate of home runs jumped by an astounding
61 home runs of Roger Maris from 1961.
most profound enhancements of the times,
44 percent. Oﬀense began to leap with the
baseball on steroids. Growth by any measure-
expansion year of 1993, when the Colorado
at his news conference after hitting number
28-steal season of 1998 went largely
ment, right down to the head, foot, and
Rockies and Florida Marlins were added. It
70. “It's felt like every eye in America was on
unnoticed, would make himself bigger and
biceps sizes of many players, happened
skyrocketed in 1996 – the ﬁrst full season
me. I'm amazed that I stayed in my tunnel
better than all of them. In what would
after the 1994-95 players strike – when three
vision so long. It proves you can overcome
be the ﬁnal season before the players
teams, the Orioles, Mariners, and Athletics
almost anything with the strength of your
association agreed to random drug testing,
the small-market Cincinnati Reds won the
broke the major league home run record.
Bonds hit 73 home runs in 2001.
World Series, the small-market Kansas City
Until 1996, the record for most players
Royals carried the game’s largest payroll
hitting 40 home runs in one season was
anabolic strength he had gained from
run race, the Yankees stamped themselves
($23.8 million), the New York Yankees and
eight, set back in 1961. But in 1996, 17 players
steroids – and would not mention it for
as one of the greatest teams of all time.
Atlanta Braves were the two worst teams
hit 40 home runs.
another 12 years, when the magician ﬁnally
Including the postseason, they won a record
and opened eight ballparks that redeﬁned the fan experience.
This was the snapshot of baseball in 1990:
Steroids had taken full root in the game,
When another expansion hit in 1998 –
summer was easily dismissed – because the show was too enjoyable. Thirteen players hit 40 home runs that
Maris’s record had stood for 37 years.
His record held up for just two years.
“I'm absolutely exhausted,” McGwire said Bonds, chagrined that his 37-homer, 122-RBI,
He made no mention, of course, of the
Against the backdrop of the 1998 home
125 games while winning the second of their
manager Bobby Cox built a quasi-dynasty of
1990s created a “tournament” style post-
Yankees in last place ended with
four championships in a ﬁve-year span.
their own with the kryptonite of the Steroid
season that created more randomness than
Steinbrenner clutching another World Series
Under manager Joe Torre and a cast thick
Era: masterful starting pitching. Greg
ever before in October. Teams now had to
trophy, proud owner of a modern dynasty
with homegrown, humble stars – most
Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz
ring up 11 wins over three rounds of playoﬀs
and, with its $88.1 million payroll, the most
especially, the Core Four of Derek Jeter,
made for one of the greatest rotations ever
to become World Series champions. The
expensive team in baseball.
Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, and Jorge
assembled. From 1993 to 1999, Maddux,
inclusion of the wild card even gave second-
Posada – the Yankees won with such exquisite
Glavine, and Smoltz combined for 340 wins,
place teams a shot at a title – a path to a
is to win now,” Steinbrenner said in the
championship ﬁrst blazed by the 1997
winning clubhouse. “With the extra rounds
fundamentals and cool that Oakland general a .634 winning percentage and ﬁve of the manager Billy Beane remarked, “It was as if
seven NL Cy Young awards in those years.
Florida Marlins, a world champion that had
of playoﬀs, it’s ﬁve times as hard to win as it
they beat you playing in tuxedos.”
Only Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson,
ﬁnished a whopping nine games out of ﬁrst
used to be. This team has as much heart as
Thirty-seven major league players hit at
two more pitchers whose brilliance was all
place in the NL East. With their backdoor
any team I’ve had.”
least 29 home runs in 1998, and yet, none
the more breathtaking given the oﬀensive
entry, the Marlins denied the Cleveland
In just four years coming out of the 1994-
of them played on the best team ever
era, managed to keep the Braves from a
Indians, a team that would attest to the
95 strike, revenues in baseball had doubled,
assembled in the free agent era. Tino Martinez
seven-year streak of Cys.
diﬃculty of navigating Octobers in the new
from $1.4 million to $2.8 million. The average
salary nearly tripled, from $589,000 to $1.7
led New York that year with 28 home runs. It was a long way from 1990, when the
In 1995, the Braves parlayed that pitching into the ﬁrst world championship in Atlanta.
The Indians made the postseason ﬁve
Yankees, with Bucky Dent and Stump Merrill
“Team of the ‘90s” read the inscription on
straight years – including once, in 1999, with
running out lineups with Alvaro Espinoza
their World Series rings. But the Braves
the ﬁrst major league team in 61 years to
and Oscar Azocar, lost 95 games. The Yankees would end the decade without another ring. were so adrift then that fans at Yankee
The Yankees twice stopped the Braves
score 1,000 runs –and yet were knocked out
from a consolidating second title, beating
rounds: the Braves, Orioles, Marlins,
Fay Vincent banned owner George
them in the 1996 and 1999 World Series.
Yankees, and Red Sox.
Steinbrenner for paying a known gambler
Coupled with Fall Classic losses to Minnesota
to turn up dirt on one of his own players,
in 1991 and Toronto in 1992, Atlanta joined
course of October baseball with apparent
Dave Winﬁeld. Of course, Steinbrenner and
the 1910-19 New York Giants as the only
ease. The Yankees ended the decade with a
the Yankees would return with more
franchises to lose four World Series in one
preposterously great 18 – 1 run in postseason
bravado than ever.
play, including a streak of 12 straight World
decade dawned, losing 97 games. But they
“The Yankees,” Smoltz said after getting swept by New York in 1999, “are a model of
ﬁnished the decade with more wins than any how to win.” other franchise – just not enough in October
Under Bud Selig, who stepped into the
to escape the shadow of the Yankees.
commissioner’s role when owners tired of
General manager John Schuerholz and
Vincent in 1992, Major League Baseball in the
million. Baseball, as both a business and pastime, had never grown so big and so fast. It was a whole new ballgame, and nobody played it better than the New York Yankees.
by ﬁve diﬀerent teams in three diﬀerent
Stadium cheered the night commissioner
The Braves were even worse when the
“People don’t understand how hard it
And yet New York navigated this obstacle
Series wins to equal the record of their Murderers’ Row predecessors. (The Yankees would extend the streak to 13 in 2000, when they won another title.) The decade that began with Steinbrenner getting tossed from the game and the 167
Cal Ripken, Jr.
Derek Jeter 195
Jose Canseco, Gary Sheffield, Tony LaRussa, Jim Leyland
Michael Jordan, Bobby Cox, Joe Carter, Jim Thome
Atlanta Braves - 5 Aces
Jeff Blauser, Darren Daulton
Sandy Alomar, Jr.
Brian Harper, David Justice
World Series Celebrations
Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez
Mariano Rivera, Family & Friends
Sammy Sosa, TBD
LEIGH MONTVILLE Reviews the 2000’s
The basic piece of research comes from
card. The Dunkin’ Donuts logo is at the bottom. The back, the rubberized part, is what
which is covered with other stuﬀ. The side.
allows the card to be attached to a ﬂat surface,
Slipped between postcard pictures of Tom
like the side of someone’s refrigerator.
Waits, George Orwell, Pat Conroy, two
Eight years. Yes. Just like this.
zebras, and all the bars of Dublin, Ireland;
I am sure there is something else that
a magnet of a surfboard with the Jamaican
happened during that curiously unnamed
ﬂag on the front and another magnet with
decade that began in 2000 – the oughts? –
Albert Einstein on the front and a good-
but I am not the one to talk about it in great
sized photo of two smiling children, my
detail. Barry Bonds and all of those jet-fuel
grand children, so brilliant, so young, and
home runs? The great, bittersweet, post-9/11
a note to self to buy eggs, English muﬃns
drama at Yankee Stadium in 2001? Roger
and toilet paper, yes, here it is…2004
Clemens and all of those jet-fueled strikeouts?
World Champions. The Boston Red Sox. Yes. The Angels in 2002? The Marlins in 2003? The Phillies in 2008, 2009? Albert Pujols?
Dunkin’ Donuts, a Boston-based purveyor Randy Johnson? A-Rod? Prince Fielder? I’m of sugar-glazed health foods, distributed
sorry. Even the Red Sox, winning the Series
this rubberized reminder of the one sports
again in 2007, seems to be no more than
moment that ever really, truly has mattered
simple accounting. More baseball. Great
in the city, in New England, hell, in all of the
stuﬀ, perhaps, but sports-page stuﬀ.
Western world. Three inches by six inches,
The 2004 win was the end of a crusade…
this basically is a card containing the scores
The answer to a prayer…
of all 14 post-season games in the Red Sox’
The answer to a pile of prayers accumu-
march to their ﬁrst World Series title in 86
lated over years, decades, generations, the
years. The background color is green. The
answer to novenas and trips to the wailing
scores for the 2004 Division Series, the
wall, the answer to pilgrimages and promises
ALSCS and then the Series are printed in
and deathbed declarations…
white. A Red Sox logo is at the top of the 216
the local baseball team. “They killed our fathers, now they’re coming after us.” The 2004 win was about life and death.
the side of my refrigerator. Not the front,
Eight years it has been here. Yes. Eight.
Boston warning about falling in love with
“Watch out, boys,” was the traditional
description of the situation. The famous and infamous succeeding stops along the timeline – from the lost playoﬀ game against the Indians in 1948,
Too strong? OK, maybe not LIFE and DEATH, straight through assorted troubles with the but certainly about happy life and happy
Yankees, the ’75 Series loss in seven games,
the Bucky Dent playoﬀ loss, the Buckner
The story has been told so many times in
moment in ’86, straight to the Aaron Boone
the past eight years that the reaction of the
homer in extra innings, seventh game of the
rest of the country to it has moved from
playoﬀs, in 2003 – brought out my own
congratulatory smiles to boredom to ﬂat-
metaphysical doubts. My father died, my
out hostility. The Red Sox are on television
mother died, friends and acquaintances and
more now than Dr. Oz and Rachel Ray
a string of family dogs died without ever
combined. Every time they pass the New
celebrating a Red Sox championship. I was
York Yankees on the street Joe Buck and
old enough to see myself joining their group.
Tim McCarver seem to be there to report
My children, hell, could see themselves
the action. Everything becomes a cliché if
joining the group.
hit enough times with a hammer. Except, of course, if you are doing the hammering. I was 61 years old when the events of
An illustration of this negativity came from the clinching game of the division series in 2004, three straight from the California Angels. I went to the game, great
2004 took place. I had been breast fed the
seats, with my grown daughter. The Red
Red Sox long, long ago and had followed
Sox had a 6-2 lead in the seventh inning,
their many calamities through the many
the patrons at Fenway Park starting to get
years. I was too young for the disappoint-
giddy. Then the Angels loaded the bases.
ment of 1946, Ted Williams befuddled by
My daughter looked at me. I looked at her.
the St. Louis Cardinals, but I knew a slightly-
“Don’t say it,” she said. “Don’t say how
older man who listened to that World Series you have that bad feeling.” on the radio as a child, prayed the rosary
during that ﬁnal seventh game. He said the
The words were not out of my mouth
result, Enos Slaughter scoring from ﬁrst on
before Vladimir Guerrero took one of those
a single, was the ﬁrst time he questioned
exaggerated all-or-nothing swings and the
the existence of God. That was the perfect
ball traveled out of the park in a mighty 217
Yes, Mike Trout seems to be a very good
then Bill Muellar singled him home and then
Words were not necessary. This was our
Ortiz hit another two-run, walk-oﬀ homer in
Bottles of champagne that had been
heritage. These were the Red Sox.
the bottom of the 11th for the 6-4 win. And
saved forever, passed from fathers to sons
Giants certainly have made us take notice.
then the 2004 Red Sox never lost again.
and maybe passed again, were now opened.
A bunch of teams have not. That would be
Toasts were drunk. Visits were made to
a list topped by the Marlins of Miami. The
The fact that David Ortiz hit a two-run hitter in the bottom of the 10th to win the
How to describe the change? Black became
player. Bryce Harper, too. The San Francisco
game, 8-6, and the series, 3-0, and send
white, night was replaced by day, down by
cemeteries. Half the graves seemed to have
question of PEDs continues to haunt the
everyone in a dancing tither did not matter.
up. A giant switch had been pulled some-
a Red Sox pennant planted next to them, a
modern game. Et tu, A-Rod? Ryan Braun?
The true Red Sox moment had come in
where somehow, created a zap that
Red Sox hat atop a tombstone, something.
The importance of statheads continues to
the seventh. My daughter knew it and I
changed the karma of the hometown base-
A note often was attached, the message
grow, mathematics threatening to replace
knew it and most of the people in the
ball team. Curt Schilling won that Bloody
that ‘We ﬁnally did it’ and ‘you should have
the naked eye, the intuitive hunch. WAR,
ballpark knew it.
Sock game in Yankee Stadium. The closeout
wins above replacement, conquers all.
The fact that the Yankees, the opponent
game was a 10-3 rout. Done. The World
Nobody knew exactly what to do. There
The debate about admission to the Hall of
in the following ALCS, won the ﬁrst three
Series was a perfunctory 4-0 sweep of the
was a softness, a thankfulness to the
Fame continues as the all-time home run
games of the next series, the ﬁnal one by
St. Louis Cardinals. Done again.
celebrations that could be used only once,
champion and the all-time hits leader still
the laughable score of 19-8, seemed to be
Just like that.
never to appear again. In my case, a Yankee
sit outside, banned for diﬀerent trans-
part of that familiar pattern. Nothing good
“The greatest comeback in baseball
fan nemesis, Charlie Costanzo, a friend
gressions. The Cubs still are on a crusade.
would ever happen with this team. Nothing
history,” Red Sox owner John Henry said.
since grammar school, called with sincere
The Yankees are in their new stadium…
had changed. The newest wait until next year apparently had arrived. This feeling stayed, indeed, was fortiﬁed, straight into the ninth inning of Game Four. The Yankees had a 4-3 lead, closer supreme
were more personal, quiet.
whoosh. She looked at me. I looked at her.
congratulations. After all those years of just
All very interesting.
’49 team,” general manager Theo Epstein
killing each other, his side always winning,
said. “I hope Ted Williams is having a
mine never winning, this was a moment.
Baseball is baseball.
He didn’t know how to act either.
The life and death questions in Boston,
“This is for the ’03 team and the ’78 and
“We stuck together,” Boston matinee
Mariano Rivera on the mound, three outs
idol and center ﬁelder Johnny Damon said,
away from converting the 86-year champion-
“and erased history.”
ship drought into an 87-year championship
Just like that.
drought. And then Kevin Millar, the mouthy
The celebrations were unlike the cele-
“I’ve never thought about it coming out this way,” he said. “It’s very strange.”
Massachusetts have been answered forever. The proof is on the side of my refrigerator.
One moment. One time. None of that feeling is left in Boston now. The important story has been told. Baseball
leader of the Sox, drew a walk. And then
brations for any American sports event that
is baseball now and Boston and the Red
Dave Roberts was brought onto the ﬁeld
I ever have seen. There was plenty of the
Sox are simply another city and team
to pinch-run for Millar. One throw to ﬁrst.
usual stuﬀ involving drinking and crowds –
involved in the daily stock report of wins
Two throws. Three. And then Rivera threw
a sad moment when an Emerson College
and losses, batting averages and ERAs and
to the plate and Roberts took oﬀ, running,
student died in the midst of the craziness
rumors on the sports pages.
running, sliding into second base head ﬁrst,
outside Fenway Park after the ﬁnal win over
safe by whisker, no more than two, and
the Yankees – but the unique moments
The newest decade in the 2000’s – the teens? – is mostly a curiosity as it unfolds. 219
Roy Halladay, R.A. Dickey
Chipper Jones, Ozzie Guillen, Robinson Cano, Casey Kotchman
Alex Rodriguez, Ichiro Suzuki
Josh Hamilton, Johan Santana
Joey Votto, Randy Johnson, ? ? ?
Jose Reyes, Pablo Sandoval, Dustin Pedroia, Vlad Guerrero
Darwin Barney, Giancarlo Stanton
Alex Rodriguez, C.C. Sabathia, Yadier Molina, Al Leiter
Adeiny Hechavarria TBD
Adeiny Hechavarria, Didi Gregorius
B.J. Upton, Justin Upton, Marcell Ozuna, Manny Machado
Ernie Banks, Ted Williams
Wade Boggs, Ted Williams, Don Mattingly
CONTRIBUTORS Ronald C. Modra A Sports Illustrated photographer for 23 years. Modra has seventy SI covers to his credit and several images featured in Sports Illustrated’s 40 Best of All Time as well as The Century’s Best Sports Photos. He is also the two-time winner of the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Best Photo of the Year award. Bob Costas Arguably the best-known and best broadcaster in the business, Costas is revered for his encyclopedic knowledge of sports, baseball in particular. The man who carries a Mickey Mantle baseball card in his wallet has won numerous awards including four National Sportcaster of the Year awards (from the National Sportscaster and Sportswriter Association), The Curt Gowdy Award, and three Emmy Awards for outstanding sports announcing.
Peter Gammons As a longtime Sports Illustrated writer turned TV analyst, Gammons is well known by baseball fans for his contributions to ESPN’s Baseball Tonight. Among his many other awards, Gammons was presented with the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for meritorious contributions to baseball writing at the 2004 National Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.
Leigh Montville During his time at Sports Illustrated, author and former Boston Globe columnist Leigh Montville distinguished himself as one of the magazines most versatile writers and a favorite contributor to the 24-hour sports news network, CNN/SI. His best-selling books include Ted Williams: The Biography of an American Hero and The Big Bam: The Life and Times of Babe Ruth.
Tim Kurkjian Kurkjian got his baseball kick-start as the Texas Rangers beat writer for the Dallas Morning News. He was a Sports Illustrated senior writer from 1989- 1997, before joining ESPN in March 1998 as both a reporter for Baseball Tonight and a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.
Allan H. “Bud” Selig Former Milwaukee Brewers team owner and passionate baseball historian, Bud Selig, was named acting Commissioner of Baseball in September of 1992. He was then appointed Commissioner in July 1998 and has successfully helmed MLB ever since.
I’d like to thank all the photo editors, art directors, public relations people, managers and especially the players who have helped and inspired me during this forty year (and counting) journey.
Tom Verducci Sports Illustrated senior writer Tom Verducci worked the sports trenches for Newsday for a decade before joining SI in 1993, where he became the magazine’s go-to baseball writer. He frequently contributes inside information and analysis to SI.com and talks baseball on the MLB network. His bestselling books include The Yankee Years, co-written with former Yankees manager, Joe Torre.
My deepest thanks to designer Peter Klabunde, whose superb art direction and dedication was crucial to this project. And ﬁnally, thanks to my wife, M.B. Roberts, for her editing and constant encouragement. Ron Modra
Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks