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.
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.
I’m only half-kidding when I say I’ve been covering baseball since the Paleozoic Age; it just feels that way sometimes. Nevertheless, decades of my professional life have been spent in the press box, which makes historical comparisons credible, if not easy. So when I’m asked about the best postseason run I’ve ever covered, I draw on an archive that includes the ’86 New York Mets, the ’91 Minnesota Twins, the ’96 New York Yankees, and the ’04 Boston Red Sox.
It was early in spring training 25 years ago when New York Mets General Manager Al Harazin summoned the beat writers to his office for a friendly word of advice. Actually, the message wasn’t so friendly and the advice was closer to a warning. But Harazin’s point couldn’t have been clearer: Watch your step with Eddie Murray, the free-agent first baseman who had been signed by the team over the winter.
“Eddie doesn’t suffer fools gladly,” Harazin said. “I’ll leave it at that.”
The year was 1954, when anyone paying close attention might’ve realized the Dodgers had their eye on the door, ready to leave Brooklyn. Not that team president Peter O’Malley came out and said so, but in retrospect the hints were everywhere.