Saturday, October 25, 2014

National League Semi-Finals

CHICAGO - The 1985 St. Louis Cardinals remain undefeated, as they sweep the ’84 Cubs.  Prior to the Game at Wrigley Field, the tournament director stopped by the WGN-TV booth for an on-air chat with Cubs’ broadcaster, Harry Caray.   The two discussed many topics including the concerns of their critics that both may be past their prime and too old for their respective jobs.  Caray said, “I’ve only been doing this fifty-four years.  With a little experience, I might get better.”  Reagan agreed that age is more a state of mind than anything else, in politics as well as broadcasting, by saying, “Thomas Jefferson once said, ‘we should never judge a president by his age, only by his works’.  And ever since he told me that, I stopped worrying.”

Just before the first pitch, Carey declared, “It is a bee-yooo-tiful day for baseball”. The Cubs broke out under bright sunny skies.  But as the day progressed, the temperature dropped, and ominous clouds rolled in off Lake Michigan.  The sky and the mood at Wrigley darkened.  As temperatures cooled, the Cardinal bats got hot.  Cubs fans went from elated to deflated.  NBC Game of the Week announcer, Joe Garragiola, summed up the hard luck loss, “One thing you learned as a Cubs’ fan: when you bought your ticket, you could bank on seeing the bottom of the ninth.” 

Expectations were high in the windy city for the ‘84 team, who in real life disappointed by losing to the Padres in the NLCS.  While the on field results did not end as hoped by Chicago Cubs fans and their players, the tournament director’s visit seemed to brighten Caray’s day.  “You could tell he was an old radio guy.  He never once looked at the television monitor.”

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NEW YORK - The '85 Mets faced off against the '81 Reds in a rematch of a Quarter Final series from the 1986-1990 George H.W. Bush tournament.  The '86 Mets had easily swept the '90 Reds in the prior meeting, and the '81 team hoped for better results.  The two teams have a volatile history, and prior fights had tournament officials on edge as they hoped the baseball games could play out without the need of involving Dan Velderrain and the APBA Pro Boxing Game.  Confusing things more was the fact that Ray Knight and George Foster were playing for both teams.  If a fight broke out, would they have to punch themselves?  

Doc Gooden dominated the Reds in Game 1, throwing a 5 hit shut out. Ron Darling held the Reds scoreless for 7 more innings in Game 2. But Concepcion's walk-off home run sent the series back to Queens for a decisive Game 3.  In the finale, Darryl Strawberry's two-run homer put the Mets up in the 1st inning.  In the top of the 2nd, Red Ray Knight cut the lead in half with a home run of his own.  In the 3rd, Dave Collins singled, stole second and scored on a Concepcion base hit to tie things up, 2-2.  The Mets pulled back ahead in the 4th, as a double by George Foster and singles from Rafael Santana, pitcher Ed Lynch and Wally Backman put New York up 4-2.  Ed Lynch finished out 6 strong innings, before handing the ball off to Jesse Orosco who shut down the Reds bats in the 7th and 8th innings.  

The Mets closer, Roger McDowell, had suffered the Game 2 loss by giving up the Concepcion walk off, took the mound once again in the 9th looking for 3 outs.  Things started off easy, as Johnny Bench flied out to Darryl Strawberry in right field and Reds fans started making their way toward the exits to avoid watching the Mets celebrate two tournaments in a row at their expense.  Red Ray Knight smashed a double, and trailing by two runs, the decision was made to play it safe with the (S) running Knight.  Ron Oester delivered a PRN-9 that, without the decision to go base to base with Knight, would have resulted in an out at the plate.  Dan Driessen was called off the bench to pinch hit for reliever Joe Price and produced a 33-6 double that plated Knight and Oester and tied the game.  Mike O'Berry had entered in the 7th as part of a double switch and was due up next.  Paul Householder pinch hit for the light hitting O'Berry, and he delivered a 33-0, 54-6 double that scored Driessen and put the Reds up 5-4.  Ground balls to shortstop by Collins and Concepcion ended the rally and the Mets grabbed their bats.

The Reds called on Tom Hume for the save opportunity.  Backman flied out to right field, and Mookie Wilson grounded out to Oester at second, giving the Reds two quick outs.  Keith Hernandez ripped his 4th hit of the series with a single over Concepcion's head.  Darryl Strawberry walked into the box.  With two out and Hernandez standing at first, a 22-6 double or a 33-4 triple would score Hernandez and tie the game.  Worse yet for the Reds, with a 11-1 or 66-1, he would send the ball into the seats and the Mets into the NL championship.  The Reds momentarily considered walking Strawberry, but Carter was on deck with tons of power himself.  Plus the walk would move Hernandez into scoring position and put the winning run on base.  No, Hume would have to face the Mets big right fielder.  Tension mounted, Hume breathed deep, adjusted his glasses and came set.  The dice rolled, 41-24 fielders choice Concepcion to Oester and it was over!  Marty Brennaman emphatically gave his signature call, "And this one belongs to the Reds!" over the 700 WLW airwaves.  

The team I grew up loving as a kid; the team who was cheated from a post season appearance because of the players strike; the team who I've played untold replays and tournaments with in the past with absolutely NO success had knocked off the powerful Mets and would face the '85 Cardinals in the NL Championship.  Red's legendary broadcasters Joe Nuxhall and Marty Brennaman head west on their way to St. Louis for Game 1.

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