Monthly Archives: July 2008

ART OFFICIAL WINS MEADOWLANDS PACE IN 1:47, SECOND FASTEST MILE EVER, DEFEATING THE “UNBEATABLE” SOMEBEACHSOMEWHERE

                                                                            Kallas Remarks By Steve Kallas   

On Saturday, July 19, at the Meadowlands, Art Official and driver Ron Pierce shocked the harness racing world as they left to the lead. gave it up to the undefeated superstar Somebeachsomewhere (Paul MacDonell) past the unbelievable 51.4 half, and then pulled the pocket and wore down the leader to win the $1.1 million Meadowlands Pace in 1:47, the second fastest race-mile in the history of harness racing.

    

As the gate pulled away, Mucho Sleazy (Dave Miller), Art Official (Pierce) and Bullville Powerful (Yannick Gingras) blasted out for the lead while Somebeachsomewhere (MacDonell) protected his post two position by staying two-wide around the first turn.  Mucho Sleazy made the lead and Art Official took the top past the 26 flat first quarter.  Then the race got interesting as Bullville Powerful ranged up on the outside and Somebeachsomewhere followed him.  But Pierce wouldn’t let Bullville Powerful go (after the race, Pierce would say Bullville was “laboring” to reach him) and that caused MacDonell to go three-wide down the backstretch with Somebeachsomewhere to engage the leader past the staggering 51.4 half-mile.

    

Somebeachsomewhere then made the top and Art Official sat the pocket during the 27.2 breather (if there is such a thing) as the leader hit the three-quarter mark in a mind-boggling 1:19.1.  Pierce, having braved up his horse in the pocket, actually seemed to pull the pocket around the final turn, then ducked back in briefly, then pulled the pocket again in the stretch.  This began a stirring stretch drive as the two horses left the rest of the field five lengths in their wake.  Both were dead game but Pierce reached up and gave Art Official a couple of whacks with the whip as he surged forward in the deep stretch to beat the unbeatable Somebeachsomewhere by a neck in 1:47, the fastest three-year-old race mile in the history of harness racing.  Only aged-horse Holborn Hanover’s 1:46.4 ranks ahead of Art Official’s 2008 Meadowlands Pace.

    

Share the Delight (John Campbell) hugged the inside from his post one and finished third, beaten five-and-a-quarter lengths.  Mucho Sleazy got fourth money and Sand Shooter (Tim Tetrick) finished fifth.

    

After the race, Pierce said he was confident in his horse:  “I felt confident in the stretch.  He swelled up and when I tipped him, the question was then to catch Somebeach.”  Pierce and Art Official did just that before the Meadowlands crowd of 17,000 on a very hot night (89 degrees at first post).

    

Somebeachsomewhere was awesome in defeat.  After 10 consecutive victories, he was viewed to be the next super horse.  And he still might be, as he raced a fabulous race, despite being beaten by a horse who parked two horses to 51.4.  After the race, his driver, Paul MacDonell, said: “Yannick [Gingras, driver of Bullville Powerful] left me out longer than I wanted to be.  In the stretch, I still had a lot of horse.  I give Somebeachsomewhere all the credit and Art Official all the credit.”

     

Art Official won his sixth race in 27 lifetime starts for trainer Joe Seekman and owner Sawgrass Farms, LLC of Lockport, Illinois.  The Art Major colt passed the million dollar mark in lifetime earnings, which now stand at $1,000,88

 

 

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved. 

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AFTER VIEWING A RARE SHOWING OF DON LARSEN’S PERFECT GAME, SOME THOUGHTS ABOUT THE GAME ITSELF

                                                   Kallas Remarks By Steve Kallas   

It was a fascinating time this past Thursday at B.B. King’s Restaurant in Times Square in New York City as they screened, for only the second time in 50 years according to the promoters, the sole remaining footage of Don Larsen’s perfect game in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Yankees.  Not for sale anywhere, this was a rare gem for any baseball fan to watch.

    

With the first of five reels from the game still missing, the film actually starts in the top of the second with one out and Gil Hodges at the plate.  What follows here are some thoughts on watching the greatest-pitched game in baseball history (if you want to dispute that, go ahead – but there has never been a perfect game pitched in a bigger spot than the World Series).  Indeed, legendary (and Hall of Famer) broadcaster Bob Wolff, who actually did the game on radio on October 8, 1956, was present at the showing and told Jonathan Lehman of the New York Post that “This is number one.  From a standpoint of individual performance, Larsen is the best I’ve ever seen.”   

    

What strikes you first is the simplicity yet completeness of the broadcast.  While the only view of the pitcher was from behind home plate, there were never, EVER graphics to clog up the screen during play.  It would be great for some of today’s “TV guys” to watch these old games because, while, today, there is a great desire to appeal to the non-baseball fan, to somehow (in the minds of the TV “experts”) make it more interesting by adding bells and whistles and moving things and colorful things and graph after graph after meaningless graph, etc., the game’s the thing (then, and it still should be now).

    

What you notice early on is that umpire Babe Pinelli, calling his last major league game, called a number of what seemed to be outside strikes against both teams.  There are numerous instances of players stepping out of the box to complain to Pinelli, presumably that the pitch just called a strike was outside.  This, of course, puts into context the final pitch of the perfect game (a called strike three on pinch-hitter Dale Mitchell) which many still feel was a ball outside.  When you watch the game, you won’t be surprised that this final pitch was called a strike (of course, Larsen was pitching a perfect game as well so you’d expect him to get the benefit of the doubt from Pinelli).

    

But there are a number of other fascinating things that happened during the game.  In the fourth inning, for instance, after missing twice outside to the dangerous lefty hitter Duke Snider, Larsen came inside and Snider hit a moon shot into the upper deck in Yankee Stadium that was foul by what seemed to be about five feet or so.  In the next inning, Sandy Amoros (who had made the World Series-saving catch the prior year against the Yankees) also hit a foul home run described as missing by “inches” by legendary broadcaster Mel Allen.  Either one of those shots could have changed, not just the perfect game, but the complexion of the World Series (they were wrapped around Mickey Mantle’s fourth inning home run off the very tough Sal Maglie which gave the Yankeesa a 1-0 lead).

    

There were some great defensive plays on both sides.  The best, not shown in this film (it happened in the at-bat before Hodges in the second), was a line drive by Jackie Robinson off the glove of third baseman Andy Carey and picked up by shortstop Gil McDougald who threw to first to just get Jackie (I’ve seen this play somewhere else, so film of it does exist).  There was the excellent running catch by Mickey Mantle in the fifth off a Gil Hodges rocket to left-center.  Hodges would also line out hard to Andy Carey in the eighth.  McDougald made a fine play in the hole to throw out Junior Gilliam in the seventh.  Frankly, most of these plays have been lost to history until this film was uncovered (bought at a flea market in 1990 and now owned by Rare Sportsfilms).

    

For the Dodgers, shortstop Pee Wee Reese made a fine running catch of a Yogi Berra bloop down the left field line in the bottom of the second.  In center, Duke Snider made an even better catch off a ball hit by Berra in the fifth, charging a ball that looked like it was down (of course, no replays were shown in this game – you saw the play once and that was it).  All of this was in support of an excellent game pitched by Sal Maglie, who gave up five hits and two runs (both earned) in a stellar complete-game pitching performance against the tough Yankee lineup.  We’ve heard over the years what a nasty curveball Maglie had and there’s ample evidence of that in this game as he struck out five and had the Yankees off balance and sometimes bailing out for most of the game.

    

Other little tidbits include:  Hank Bauer stood so close to home plate while Maglie was warming up for the bottom of the fourth that he (Bauer) had to back away when Maglie threw an inside warm-up pitch (it didn’t look intentional but who knows with Sal “The Barber” Maglie).  Later-to-be star catcher Elston Howard actually warmed up Larsen before the top of the fifth.  Today, you would never see a hitter that close to home during warm-ups and you would never see an actual player (future MVP or not) warm up a pitcher before an inning. 

    

Also, in the sixth inning with Mantle up, first and third and one out, broadcaster Vin Scully reminded the audience that there’s “always a possibility of a squeeze play” with Mantle up – think how the game has changed when an announcer refers to the reigning Triple Crown winner as a guy who might bunt (yes, Mantle was a great bunter but you can barely get the eight or nine hitter to bunt today).  Interestingly, Mantle, who had hit a home run in his prior at bat, pulled the ball down the first-base line where the great Gil Hodges fielded it, stepped on first and started an unusual 3-2-5-2-5 double play (yes, I kept score).

    

Of course, to get back to today’s TV coverage, you would never see a player before his at-bat to start an inning (like Bauer) or a catcher warming up a pitcher before an inning (like Howard) because the networks would be in commercial   In fact, today you hope they don’t miss the first pitch of the actual inning getting back late from another commercial.  Indeed, Gillette, the sponsor for the game in 1956, actually had a couple of commercials on the screen where you could still see the pitcher throwing his warm-ups and the infielders taking their practice throws before the inning would begin.  What a concept!  Maybe someone will copy that idea today (good luck waiting for that).

    

And let’s not forget those great announcers.  Mel Allen, who was the Yankee broadcaster for decades, did the first half of the game.  Vin Scully, the Fordham graduate who started with the Brooklyn Dodgers, moved to Los Angeles with them and is still doing Dodger games today (amazing), also was excellent in the second half of the game.  The promoters, for the ninth inning, used Bob Wolff’s radio call for the conclusion.  Wolff’s call is the famous “a no-hitter, a perfect game” for Don Larsen that you’ve heard for decades.  It certainly remains fresh today.  What was interesting, as Mr. Wolff discussed this past week, was how no announcer would actually say that Larsen was pitching a no-hitter or a perfect game.  Vin Scully would say things like “Larsen has retired 15 men in a row” or “24 consecutive batters,” but that was as close as one would come in the superstitious world of baseball.  In the ninth, Bob Wolff, on the radio side, talked about the amazing thing that was happening at Yankee Stadium but never uttered the actual words until after Larsen struck out pinch-hitter Dale Mitchell (the only substitute in the game for either side) to complete the impossible.

    

In the end, however, it was all about Don Larsen.  Pitching with his new “no wind-up” motion (Bob Wolff was funny when he stated you always said, “‘Here’s the wind-up and the pitch,’ but on that day I couldn’t because there was no wind-up.”).  This seemed to give Larsen better control and help keep the Dodgers off-balance.  Larsen struck out seven in his masterpiece and four of the first five, in the first four innings, were called strike three by umpire Pinelli.  His control was awesome and he only threw 97 pitches.  His gem was perfectly unbelievable and unbelievably perfect.  Go figure.

    

As they often say in baseball, the beauty of the game is that, when you watch a baseball game, you have a chance to see something that you’ve never seen before.  Well, on October 8, 1956, Don Larsen gave the 64,519 (paid attendance) something that had never happened before in the World Series and probably will never happen again.  Thankfully, there’s now most of the game for people to see how it really happened in the greatest game ever pitched – by the “imperfect” man, Don Larsen.

    

       © Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.
    
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FIX THE NO-HITTER RULE NOW!!!!

                                                                            Kallas Remarks By Steve Kallas   

By now you know the story about Jered Weaver and Jose Arrendondo of the Angels no-hitting the Dodgers for eight innings this past weekend and losing the game 1-0.  But what you may not know is that, back in 1991, none other than Fay Vincent headed a committee named the “Committee for Statistical Accuracy” (you can’t make this stuff up) which unilaterally decided, among other things, that a no-hitter couldn’t be a no-hitter unless a pitcher (or pitchers) pitched at least nine innings of no-hit ball.

    

What’s the stupidity level of this?  Well, it’s very high, to say the least.  Criticized at the time for defying common sense (after all, if you give up no hits you’ve pitched a no-hitter, right? Well, right for the first 100 years or so of baseball – possibly wrong after 1991), about 50 no-hitters were “unrecognized” as no-hitters as a result of this committee’s “work” (yes, these guys were “experts” in the field of baseball statistics).

    

How did this come about?  Well, you Yankee fans will remember the fiasco of Andy Hawkins pitching an eight-inning no-hitter against the White Sox on July 1, 1990 and losing 4-0 (now that’s hard to do).  Throw in a few rain-shortened five or six inning no-hitters and the powers-that-be decided something had to be done.  Shortly after the new no-hit rule came into being, Matt Young of the Red Sox did what Hawkins did – he pitched an eight-inning no-hitter against Cleveland and lost 1-0.  What had been a no-hitter since the dawn of baseball was no longer a no-hitter in the eyes of the Committee for Statistical Accuracy and, thus, Major League Baseball.

    

Which takes us to this past weekend.  This should be what it is – a combined eight- inning no-hitter for Weaver and Arrendondo.  But the powers-that-be seem to blow it off because it’s only the third time it’s happened since 1961 (so what?).  Some of the beauty of baseball is in the stats – more so, obviously, than any other sport.  But a no-hitter is a no-hitter is a no-hitter.  You could certainly differentiate them in the record book as eight inning no-hitters versus nine inning no-hitters.  But to recognize one no-hitter (nine innings) as a no-hitter and another no-hitter (eight innings) as not a no-hitter is intellectually stupid.  This isn’t brain surgery, fellas.

    

And here’s the really interesting thing in the no-hit analysis.  When Young and Hawkins threw their respective eight-inning no-hitters, they were (correctly) credited with complete games.  After all, as the visiting team, their team would have to get up nine times since they were losing.  By definition, the home team (who had been no-hit) didn’t have to get up nine times because they won the game.

    

Maybe you didn’t know this, but whenever a pitcher pitches eight innings and loses (i.e., he doesn’t pitch the ninth because he pitches for the visiting team that loses after the top of the ninth), he’s credited with a complete game.  Thankfully, the Committee for Statistical Stupidity didn’t change that one as well.  For example, Roy Halladay of Toronto was given credit for a complete game on April 23 of this season while losing 5-3 and pitching “only” eight innings.

    

The inconsistency is obvious.  All a visiting pitcher can do is pitch eight innings if his team is losing.  He can’t pitch nine (or more) unless his team ties up the game or goes ahead.  This is intro to baseball stuff.  So, too, in the no-hit situation, the visiting pitcher can only pitch eight innings.  It’s not his fault.  So Andy Hawkins in 1990 and Matt Young in 1992 both were credited with complete game losing efforts.  Neither, however, by today’s standards, pitched a no-hitter.  Beyond stupid.

    

It’s not too late to fix this (after all, Andy Hawkins’ no-hitter was viewed to be a no-hitter until the “Committee” said it wasn’t).  Simply recognize no-hitters for what they are – no-hitters – and have a list of eight-inning no-hitters or nine-inning no-hitters or rain-shortened no-hitters or any list you want to make with respect to no-hitters.  Once that is done, then the Committee for Statistical Accuracy would be statistically accurate.           

    

That’s not too much to ask for, is it?

 

 

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved