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Septembers To Remember
Peter Gammons
September 14, 1987
With this year's races heating up, we revisit Bobby Thomson, Duster Mails, Fred Merkle and other heroes and goats of autumn
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September 14, 1987

Septembers To Remember

With this year's races heating up, we revisit Bobby Thomson, Duster Mails, Fred Merkle and other heroes and goats of autumn

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1967: The Impossible Dream
The American League had the best four-team race ever, with the Red Sox, Twins, Tigers and White Sox separated by 1½ games with four days to play. Boston, the ninth-place finisher in 1966, beat the Twins the last two days as Yastrzemski went 7 for 8 with two homers and made stellar plays in leftfield. The Tigers lost to California in the second game of a last-day doubleheader to complete the season that brought back a fervor for baseball in New England.

1934: Is Brooklyn Still in the League?
That was how Bill Terry, manager of the defending champion Giants, responded to a question about the Dodgers before the season. New York occupied first place for 127 days in 1934. But the Cardinals, behind the pitching of the Dean brothers, who beat the Giants 12 times during the season, went 21-7 in September. On Sept. 21, St. Louis climbed to within three games of New York by sweeping a doubleheader from the Dodgers. Dizzy Dean threw a 13-0 three-hitter in the opener, and Paul had a 3-0 no-hitter in the nightcap. The Cards then swept the Reds in the last two games of the season, while New York lost a pair to—yes—Brooklyn, which was still in the league.

1964: The Phillies Phold and More
Cincinnati's Chico Ruiz stole home in the 10th inning on Sept. 21 to beat Philadelphia 1-0 and mark the beginning of the Phillies' slide from the penthouse to the outhouse. Meanwhile, St. Louis owner Gussie Busch, who had already fired general manager Bing Devine, decided not to bring back manager Johnny Keane for 1965. Yankee general manager Ralph Houk likewise decided that Yogi Berra was the wrong man to run the struggling Bombers. Well, the Cardinals won the National League pennant, and the Yankees the American; Keane beat Berra in the Series; Keane quit, though the Cards asked him to stay; Berra was fired; Houk hired Keane to skipper the declining Yanks for '65 and fired him in '66; Berra became the manager of the Mets in '72 and won the National League pennant in '73.

1969: The Miracle Mets
The first inkling came in July when Tom Seaver got within two outs of a perfect game against the first-place Cubs in Shea Stadium. A week later spray-hitter (or, rather, non-hitter) Al Weis hit two homers in consecutive New York wins at Wrigley Field. The Mets were 9½ games back in mid-August and 2½ out on Sept. 8 before they swept a pair from the Cubbies in New York. On Sept. 10 they moved into first place to stay.

1942: The Stallions of September
For those who believe that George Steinbrenner's childish fits of hysteria cripple the modern-day Yankees, there's the example of the equally mercurial Dodger boss, Larry MacPhail, who in mid-August 1942 called a team meeting to lambaste his players—even though they led the second-place Cardinals by eight games. St. Louis went 21-4 in September and won the pennant by two games over Brooklyn.

1959: Welcome to L.A.

The Giants had a two-game lead over the Dodgers and the Braves with eight to play. But they lost three straight at home to L.A., and when the Dodgers' Roger Craig (how's that, San Francisco fans?) beat Chicago on the final day of the season, the Giants were eliminated and Los Angeles had forced a playoff with Milwaukee. The Dodgers swept the best-of-three playoff, rallying for three runs in the ninth inning of Game 2 to tie before winning on Felix Mantilla's error in the 12th. The Dodgers went on to triumph in the first World Series that visited a city west of St. Louis.

Mantilla will probably never forget that error, as Stock, Branca and Merkle could never forget, and as Hartnett, Dent, Yastrzemski, Hazle et al. will never be forgotten. Who might it be in '87: Bell? Robby Thompson? Luis Polonia? Steve (Great) Lake? Let's all sit back and watch Greater September.

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