The Saturday marathon between Washington and San Francisco was so good that I barely clicked on “Chinatown” on the Sundance Channel. That is saying a lot.
Just asking but now many actors have made three iconic movies like “The Thomas Crown Affair,” “Bonnie and Clyde” and “Chinatown?” But even Faye Dunaway had to wait for commercial breaks between the Giants and Nationals.
That game had its own Nicholson and Dunaway – Tim Hudson and Jordan Zimmerman, pitching late into the game, almost like latter-day Gibsons and Koufaxes, at least for one night. (Matt Williams blew the game, probably the series, by yanking Zimmerman with two outs in the ninth.)
Last week I lamented that I would miss the daily soap opera of the only team I watch regularly, the erratic little Mets. There is something to knowing the pluses and minuses of players, day after day. But 18 innings among out-of-towners takes care of some of that. After 18 innings, I had vastly more respect for the bat-handling prowess of Washington’s Anthony Rendon, and the long-man relief pitching of Yusmeiro Petit of the Giants, whose name I had never quite managed to notice until Saturday night.
Petit pitched so long and so well, six innings, no runs, that I found myself thinking of other long-relief jobs – young Nolan Ryan pitching seven innings in relief for the Mets in the 1969 league series.
The accumulation of post-season memories (and the overkill of fairly meaningless statistics shoveled at us by the Fox people) reminds me that baseball is a different animal now. The accomplishments of Bob Gibson and Sandy Koufax stand out because they happened in the clear sunlight of the World Series, not the murky, ever-changing circumstances of the so-called post-season.
It comes up because obviously Clayton Kershaw just had a truly great season, but I am glad I covered Gibson and Koufax in their shining primes because the memories give me the residual impression that they were special and unique. I resist coronations of players who have a few great years. The other day, somebody suggested that if Andrew McCutchen had another MVP season, we could talk about the Hall of Fame. Let me toss a few names at you – Mark Fidrych, Fred Lynn, Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry.
So now Kershaw has had two consecutive wretched starts in the post-season. I don’t think the competition is that much better in October. Rather, the season grinds on and on, wearing down its best pitchers. Baseball is truly a marathon now. Back when Gibson and Koufax excelled, the 60’s, baseball was a mile race.
Gibson willed the Cardinals in the final scary days of 1964, and then managed to start three times in a seven-game victory over the Yankees. Before the post-season dance began in 1969, he started nine games in three Series, pitched eight complete games, with a 7-2 record and a 1.89 ERA. He never had to slog through layers of post-season before the now-coda of a World Series.
Koufax pitched eight times in four World Series, from 1959 through 1966, starting seven, finishing four with a 0.95 ERA and a 4-3 record. (The Dodgers couldn’t hit much in some of those years.)
Plenty of time to think about Koufax and Gibson while watching a wonderful 18-inning drama. Somehow I never clicked over to find the “she’s-my-sister/she’s-my-daughter” moment in “Chinatown.” The game was that good.
David Vecsey's sweet tale of distant love before the Web, now NYT Podcast, narrated by Griffin Dunne. Please see:
George Vecsey is Hofstra University's Alumnus of the Month! Read a Q&A with George here.