Bob Klapisch has been covering baseball in New York for almost 30 years. Writing for the New York Post, New York Daily News and most recently the The Record. He is also a regular contributor for ESPN.com and FoxSports.com. He has been a voting member of the Baseball Writers Association of America since 1983.
Any Mets fan knows the hangover from the ’86 World Series lasted well beyond the ground ball that whispered through Bill Buckner’s legs. No, that golden era, if any one-off championship can be memorialized as such, lived on for several summers, all the way to 1989.
One of the perks of covering Mariano Rivera’s career was learning not just about his famed cut fastball, but about his soul. We spent many hours dissecting what mattered most to him. Winning championships was at the top of the list, but so were faith and the pursuit of man’s better angels.
Tino Martinez had spent the winter of 1996 promising himself not to let New York suffocate him in its long, powerful tentacles. On the other hand, everything about the Yankees appealed to this young hotshot first baseman who figured he was holding a winning lottery ticket after being traded by the Mariners.
Electronic media introduced itself to baseball in a quiet, unassuming way in 1939, with a single TV broadcast between the Cincinnati Reds and Brooklyn Dodgers. No one knew what to make of the new medium and how it would impact the game’s popularity, at least not at the outset. Little did anyone realize that within 10 years the sport would be consumed not just at the ballpark but in public places like bars, or from the comfort of one’s home while eating a sandwich.
A very smart general manager once told me that of all the pitchers who dominated in the late 1990s to early 2000s, none was as fierce as Pedro Martinez. And that was saying something.
“Think about this list. I’m talking about Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux, Hall of Famers,” he said. “But if I had to win one game down the stretch or Game 7 of the World Series, it’d be Pedro every time. He had more than great stuff. That guy wasn’t afraid of anyone.”
There was a three-hour time difference that separated me and Tom Seaver; breakfast was just finishing back east, which meant it was inhumanly early in northern California where The Franchise was calling from. But we were working on Seaver’s schedule, not mine. Who was I to contest the starting time of our conversation about Nolan Ryan.
I had the pleasure of meeting Julia Ruth Stevens in 2011, when—at the age of 93—she was serving as America’s oldest (and best) historian on the subject of Babe Ruth. If anyone could consider herself an expert on the matter, it was Stevens. She was the Bambino’s stepdaughter and was unembarrassed to still be calling him “Daddy” almost a century later.
Beat writers who covered the New York Yankees in the late 1990s and early 2000s came upon an unmistakable quirk in Joe Torre’s storytelling repertoire: He couldn’t stop talking about Bob Gibson. Torre was an unusually charismatic manager, at least compared to the managers who preceded him (Stump Merrill, Buck Showalter) and certainly the one who replaced him (Joe Girardi). Sitting down with Torre during batting practice was a guarantee of at least one good anecdote a day.
How long does it take for a broken heart to heal? For older Pittsburgh Pirates fans, the answer may be: Forever. At least it feels that way to the ones who’ve never forgotten how the Bucs lost the 1992 NLCS to the Atlanta Braves in the last inning of Game 7. Last play. Last millisecond. Last desperate tag that catcher Mike LaValliere put on the sliding Sid Bream. To the Bucs’ army of loyalists, that memory will last into infinity.