Monday, February 25, 2008

Milestone Memories

This is the first in a series of recalling memorable moments we witnessed inside the hallowed halls of Yankee Stadium.

The date was Sunday, August 4, 1985 and the Chicago White Sox were in town. Ironically it was one year to the day, that Dale Berra and Bobby Meacham were tagged out at home plate by the Chisox Carlton Fisk. That August 4th was remembered for the bizarre; this one would be remembered for a big step in a Hall of Fame career.

Tom Seaver, whether you liked him or not (we fell into the latter category), was a great pitcher. He would take the mound on that Sunday with 299 career wins in his pocket. But before he would get to face off against Joe Cowley, a Yankees great was to be honored.

Phil Rizzuto had a number of Stadium honors in his day, but this one may have been the most memorable because of the game that followed. Or perhaps it would be for the holy cow that stepped on the Scooter's foot and knocked him over.

For a while it looked like a lack of run support would keep Seaver in search of his 300th win. The Yankees put together a run in the 3rd on singles by Mike Pagliarulo, Rickey Henderson, and Ken Griffey Sr., and despite his usual control problems, Cowley was tossing a shut out as the game entered the 6th inning.

Cowley issued his 5th free pass of the day to lead off man Greg Walker (he would be erased on a ground out by Fisk) and 1-out later Oscar Gamble singled to right, to put runners on the corners. Tim Hullet's RBI double tied the game and sent Cowley to the showers.

Rookie Brian Fisher, who was having an outstanding season, was brought on, but he didn't come through on this day. Ozzie Guillen's infield single gave the White Sox a 2-1 lead before Fisher recorded the 2nd out of the inning. But with a chance to escape further trouble, Fisher walked Rudy Law to load the bases, and Bryan Little made him pay with a 2-run single. The inning finally ended when Law was thrown out at the plate by Dan Pasqua on Harold Baines' single. Then White Sox manager Tony LaRussa was tossed for arguing the call.

With a 4-1 lead, Seaver really bore down in the 6th and 7th innings, retiring the Yankees in order. The Yankees put two men on in the 8th on singles by Meacham and Don Mattingly, but Dave Winfield struck out to end the frame. Then it all came down to the 9th inning. The crowd was torn between seeing a 300th game and getting a come from behind win.

Pasqua lead off the 9th with a single, but Seaver quickly retired Ron Hassey and Willie Randolph for the first two outs of the inning. Pagliarulo then worked a walk to bring the tying run to the plate. Meacham was due up, but Billy Martin sent up slugger Don Baylor to try to tie the game with one swing. And he nearly did just that.

Baylor crushed a ball to left, bringing everyone who wasn't already standing to their feet. But Baylor had just gotten under it, and Law made the put out for the final out. A jubilant Seaver jumped into Fisk's arms and was joined by his teammates.

Seaver would join the Yankees' broadcasting crew following his retirement and the Scooter would never let him forget how he had ruined his day. When the game ended, Scooter was probably already over the GWB on his way to his home in Hillside, NJ. We miss ya, Scooter!

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