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.
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.
It’s not very often that your senses are overwhelmed by sound and fury when you encounter a wall of noise so thick it’s pointless to speak. When no one can hear you. When you cannot hear yourself. When you mortgage away the rest of the night to the ringing in your ears.
George Lee “Sparky” Anderson, the manager of baseball’s greatest teams of the mid-1970s, stepped into the press conference room after putting finishing blows on the New York Yankees in the 1976 World Series and the Cincinnati Reds’ emphatic four-game sweep. This was no small takedown: The Bombers were an excellent team, having won 97 games, finishing 10½ games ahead of the second-place Baltimore Orioles, and were catalyzed by Billy Martin’s first full year as their manager.
You can walk back through history a million different ways in 2017, starting with a Google search. Step into the portal and you realize what infinity really means—there’s no limit to the data that surrounds us. It’s a historian’s dream, especially in sports.
It was early 1989, almost three years since the most surreal moment in Mookie Wilson’s professional life. No one in New York had to be reminded. For any Mets fan, the ’86 World Series still had the effect of a hallucinogenic drug. And as for Mookie . . . well, he was a walking advertisement for the impossible. Honest and homegrown, Mookie was on a first-name basis with an entire city, and one of the principals in a surprise ending that’s remembered to this day.