Whirled Series

October 27, 2009 . . . .

 That perfect Yankee-Phillie World Series matchup is the final chapter of the 60 storied seasons that began the year those same two teams first played each other for keeps in the 1950 World Series, swept by the New Yorkers.  Yet astoundingly, these six amazingly full decades have not in the least altered two facts astonishingly frozen in baseball history, whether written adverbially in 1950 or 2009:  The Bronx Bombers continue to have won the most undisputed (league’s best regular season record, i.e., true pennant, and majors’ best post-season record, i.e., World Champs) major league championships, and the “Fightin’ Phils” still have never won a one!  (See “Futility Streaks,” Art of the Article link.)  Even an inspired Philadelphia victory over the New Yorkers would not give them and their fans, at long last, their first ever, clear-cut, unchallengeable triumph.

 Let’s use and peruse that ’50 series, the “closest sweep” in fall classic annals (until the White Sox whitewash of the Astros in 2005) to return to Chicago for a worthwhile reminiscence:  the, if not infamous, famously unknown “Meeting of the Casimirs.”  The N.L. MVP in 1950 was none other than Phillie reliever supreme, major league save leader Casimir James “Jim” Konstanty (whom his future team Yankees edged 1-0 in his surprise Series opening start).  On July 11 in Comiskey Park that same season, former White Sox All Star Casimir Eugene “Cass” Michaels, now a Senator, doubled and scored for the A.L. as a pinch hitter, while Konstanty hurled a hitless, two-strikeout inning for the N.L. stars, marking the only time the only Casimirs in baseball history played (flawlessly, to boot) in the same All Star Game!

 Digressing again from that fortuitous digression just brought to us by MLB, we must return to New York City and the matter at hand.  The Phillies, coming full circle to avenge their 1950 “Whiz Kids” defeat, would bring home a second significant, if smaller success:  they can become the first team since the Yankees of the ’90s to repeat in the three-tier playoff era (and the first in the 21st century) and, in beating the posh Pinstripers head-to-head in 2009, would definitely deserve justifiable kudos, proper props and heavy hat-tipping for turning it all around, as well as continued encouragement for their now nearly Sisyphean task to really (and finally) “win it all”–next year!

Part II – New York Rites to Free Mason from Oblivion–
and A Fond Grim Reminder . . . .

 The Brian Doyles and Buddy Biancalanas of the world (I wouldn’t even mention Dusty Rhodes and Chuck Essegian but for the fact I just did), despite their unfathomable World Series numbers, have to stand (or lie) statistically with Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson et al. when it comes to unfailing success in October.

 That 1.000 BA, 5.000 OPS that stares back at us from the Classic’s ledger was first achieved by a defensive replacement who homered in his only career World Series at bat.  Jim Mason’s third-game 1976 Yankee Stadium home run against Cincinnati was a rare bright spot for the Yanks, who were summarily swept by the Big Red Machine.

 This perhaps doubtable achievement became Halloweenly redoubtable when it was eerily matched 29 years later by another defensive replacement in game 3 of a World Series sweep, when Geoff Blum shockingly homered in his one at-bat for the altogether shocking White Sox champs (see Ghosts of Octobers Past)!

 Jim (“Don’t Call Him James”) Mason, however, remains as the only man in baseball mystery to have homered in a World Series in his only post-season plate appearance, at once a perfect autumn opening and closing act . . . .

*          *          *          *          *

 Remembering another Yankee this October who in not making a World Series mark made his mark.  For can you imagine a Yankee All Star in the ’50s playing in five seasons for the Bombers but never in a winning World Series?  Highly mathematically improbable, to say the most!  But Bob Grim, after winning 20 games for the winningest Casey Stengel team of all (which, equally improbably, despite winning 103 games, missed the Series entirely, finishing in second place to the ready-to-be-swept 1954 Indians), pitched in the losing New York series of ’55 and ’57 and did not appear in the ’56 and ’58 victory runs.  So how should we remember fondly Grim?  Only as the only pitcher ever to both win 20 games his first season (1954) and be a major league save leader (1957) over the course of his career.  Who could ask for a more select company than our long-forgotten October star-crossed star, Robert Anton Grim.

 Speaking of missing World Series, I suddenly am thinking of a great player (and guy) who, while never playing in one, literally made Series history!  Do you know this bit of baseball essentia?  By dint of hint:  in 1929, seven of the top eight A.L. batting leaders were future Hall of Famers, but the man who led them all was not!  Who was he?  He co-starred with Joe E. Brown in the baseball film, “Slide, Kelly, Slide” (he was a classically trained singer), learning all the angles of the camera and eventually creating the official World Series film anthology we still so treasure today.  Of course, the answer is the great batting coach (and a champion at .369, alas, without playing in a championship game) Lew Fonseca.  A unique individual on and off the field, there can be none in lieu of Lew.

 Thanks for the World Series memories . . . .

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