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Closer Look

Thirty-eight years later, history is repeated in Series

Posted: Friday October 27, 2006 2:43AM; Updated: Friday October 27, 2006 4:03AM
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Curtis Granderson slipped, allowing David Eckstein a leadoff double in the seventh inning.
Curtis Granderson slipped, allowing David Eckstein a leadoff double in the seventh inning.
Ron Vesely/Getty Images
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ST. LOUIS -- The question was inevitable. What did Curtis Granderson know about Curt Flood's famous World Series slip in 1968? "Uh...I was nowhere even close to being born," the 25-year-old Tigers centerfielder said in front of his locker at Busch Stadium on Thursday night. "I try to refresh myself with ESPN Classic every once in a while, but I'm not familiar with that one."

When told of the tale -- how the St. Louis centerfielder's misplay allowed the Tigers to score the game-winning runs in Game 7 --Granderson smiled sheepishly, and offered, "Hey, well history repeats itself a little bit."

Here was another seventh-inning World Series blunder, but this time, for the Tigers faithful it was most certainly a sickening sight: watching Granderson -- a speedy centerfielder with good range -- slip on the moist Busch Stadium grass, allowing David Eckstein's critical double and the Cardinals to score two runs in the inning.

"If I stay up, I make that catch easily," said Granderson, who was wearing a pair of new metal spikes. "It wasn't too wet out there. Actually the conditions were great. Every ball I went cutting right and left I got to just fine. It was just one ball. It was just one plant. When I went to plant to slow myself down, I took a chunk of the dirt, lost my balance, and that was it."

Quipped Jim Leyland when asked about 1968, "I knew that question would be asked tonight. I talked about it afterwards. I said 'I know one of the first questions I get when I go down to the press conference is if I remember Curt Flood slipping', and I do. But right now, I'm not real interested in Curt Flood."

As Sean Casey put it, this was a game the Tigers "should have won." He added, "If you ask everyone they'd say that." Indeed, Jeff Suppan no longer looked like Bob Gibson, the Tigers finally had the right approach at the plate, and received a fine outing from Jeremy Bonderman. But while the Cardinals played mistake-free defense, the Tigers -- a fine defensive club in the regular season -- were atrocious despite conditions on the field that weren't as poor as many believed.

From The Bench

The Tigers are staring at elimination and have the hottest pitcher in the universe ready to go on full rest. And Leyland is going with Justin Verlander -- not Kenny Rogers -- in Game 5? Let the second-guessing begin. "I'm not going to pitch him in this atmosphere," Leyland said after Game 4. "We have to win three ballgames. So I think that pretty much sums it up. If we had to win one game, if it was the seventh game, I'd pitch him. We have to win three games."... Speaking of second-guessing: Tony La Russa has done some masterful work this series but he, too, is making the wrong call with his Game 5 starter, tapping Jeff Weaver over Anthony Reyes. On Reyes' role for the rest of the series, La Russa said: "There's so much uncertainty about how long the series is going to go, with the weather, what days. He's going to throw a bullpen [Friday] and we'll see how long this thing goes. He's not going to start in the St. Louis portion, but there's a chance he would start in Detroit. So we're going to get him ready for that."

Clubhouse Confidential

Adam Wainwright is having a star-making postseason, using this October to showcase his hellacious curve. The young St. Louis closer is having a blast. "I'm having so much fun out there," he said after Game 4. "The biggest problem for me is hiding that. I can barely hid my smile out there." Wainwright is St. Louis' most talented young pitcher, and there will be serious talk this offseason about converting the 25-year-old to a starter. "The decision is completely out of my hands," he said. "And I have no preference. I'll do whatever the team wants me to do. I'll be happy with anything."... How was the extra downtime for the players on Wednesday? "For someone who has extreme ADD, I don't have much time to do anything," said Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge before Game 4. "It's kind of good, though, because you get to talk baseball with some of the guys and some of the pitchers that you don't have time to talk to enough."... Verlander noted that teammate Joel Zumaya is near obsessive when it comes to his radar gun readings. "A guy like Joel, everybody knows he checks the gun in every stadium he's in," he said. "He says in every stadium he knows where the radar guns are and he checks them. If he thinks the radar guns are low, and it gets in his head, there might be something to it, but I don't think that really matters to Joel that much."... Any concern from Verlander about his velocity from Game 1? "I actually feel great," he said on Thursday. "I went out and threw the day after my start and I felt fantastic. Actually I felt better than I did a couple of days-on seven, eight days' rest."...

Bottom Line

Another history lesson for Granderson: in that 1968 World Series, St. Louis had a 3-1 lead as well, only to see the Tigers rally to win it all. "We've got to win three in a row," said Leyland. "Are we capable of doing that? Absolutely. Are we in a good position? Absolutely not."

La Russa's questionable decision to go with Weaver over Reyes gives the Tigers the edge in starting pitching but seeing how sloppy Detroit has been in this series, that advantage likely will not be enough to preclude the city of St. Louis from celebrating on Friday night.