Nets 96, Knicks 89 / Giants 3, Dodgers 2

Before Monday’s Nets-Knicks battle (for first place?!?) that was settled in OT at the Barclays Center, the last game in a major pro sport between a team from Brooklyn and one from Manhattan was September 8, 1957. And just like that, the strains of Neil Young fill my ears, and “I’m driftin’ back….

 

It was a Sunday afternoon in the Polo Grounds. The Dodgers, two-time defending NL champs, were trying to get back into the race and hoped to complete a sweep against the foundering Giants. They had a hoss on the hill, and a 4-game win streak that shrank Milwaukee’s lead from 10 games to 7, with a 3-game set in Sudsville just days away.

Brooklyn’s bags-full threat fizzled in the 1st. But in the 2nd, Don Drysdale worked a 2-out walk, and Junior Gilliam put the Bums on top with a rare home run. (Since slugging .417 over his first two campaigns, with a league-best 17 triples in ’53 and 13 taters in ’54, Gilliam’s power had waned; he would slug just .314 with 2 HRs in ’57.)

Drysdale, a month past his 21st birthday, was bidding for his 15th win in his first full year in the bigs. His last outing was a 12-inning, 169-pitch heartbreaker, sent into overtime on a 2-out, 2-run HR in the 9th by Philly rook Harry (the Horse) Anderson. But before that, he had blanked the Jints on 3 hits, giving him 3 wins (2 shutouts) in 4 tries against them, and he laid three more goose eggs on them at the start of this game.

But that changed in a flash. Willie Mays, enjoying his usual brilliant season — he would lead the NL in WAR for the 3rd time in 4 years — began the 4th stanza with a single. Cleanup man Ray Jablonski picked that moment to pole his annual triple, past Skoonj Furillo in RF, bringing up Hank Sauer.

Now 40, the Honker had been dumped by St. Louis the previous fall, but he was reborn with New York, swatting 26 HRs in just 378 ABs. Drysdale had not fanned the former MVP in 13 prior face-offs, and that would not change now. Sauer launched a 2-run HR to give New York the lead.

Drysdale regained his footing and saw no further trouble, but Brooklyn never could get the tying run across. Rallies in the 5th and 7th died in twin-killings. Line drives found leather in the visitors’ 8th, sandwiching a Gil Hodges single, and a rare theft by Gil went for nought when Marv Grissom whiffed Gino Cimoli.

With 2 gone in the home 8th, Mays shot a “three-ball” into right-center, becoming the first player with 20 triples in a season since 1949 (Dale Mitchell), and the last until 1979 (George Brett). Mays was also the 4th of (now) 7 players ever to hit 20 HRs, 20 triples and 20 doubles in a season.

Reliever Ed Roebuck quelled that fire, buzzing strike three past Jablonski. But the Dodgers went quietly in the 9th, with pinch-hitter Sandy Amoros bouncing out to end the game.

In light of our reason for looking backward, the winning pitcher seems doubly fitting: Curt Barclay, the 6′ 3″ rookie who had declined an offer from the Boston Celtics in order to sign with the Giants. The win gave him a record of 9-7, 3.16, including the only back-to-back shutouts in the final 3 years of the New York Giants. But he would win just once more in his MLB career, victim of shoulder woes that washed him up at 28. Barclay had lettered in basketball at the University of Oregon along with Jim Loscutoff, who won 7 championships in 9 years as a regular with the Celtics.

Leading off the 5th inning, Barclay was hit by a pitch for the only time in his 67 career PAs. Drysdale hit just 7 batters in 221 IP that year, but within 5 seasons he had become the active leader in HBP and held that distinction through his retirement. Only 3 pitchers in modern history have both more HBP and a higher rate than Drysdale: two knuckleballers and one Big Unit.

Both teams’ seasons went south from that day, as perhaps should be expected when the moving vans are in the parking lot. Brooklyn could not gain on the Braves, who cruised to their first Milwaukee pennant. New York dropped 11 of their last 13 games and wound up in 6th place for the second straight year; except for wartime, it was their first consecutive losing seasons since John McGraw took the reins, and a bad start to Bill Rigney‘s managerial career.

Drysdale won his last 3 starts that year to finish at 17-9 with a 153 ERA+, leading NL pitchers in WAR in his first full season. He remains the only Dodger ever to win that many at a seasonal age of 20 or younger. But the first 4 years in LA were a holding pattern for Big D; he won 2 strikeout titles, but his record was just 57-50 with a 3.50 ERA while quartered in the Coliseum. Drysdale fared better at home in those years, but nothing like the dominance to come in Dodger Stadium, where he’d post a lifetime 2.19 ERA (2.45 or less each year from 1962-68).

Five future Hall of Famers participated in that game: Mays for the Giants, and Drysdale, Pee Wee Reese (now playing 3B), Duke Snider, and skipper Walter Alston for the Dodgers. Roy Campanella, in what would become his final season, was getting some time off that day; four months later came the car crash that left him paralyzed. Sandy Koufax might have warmed up in the bullpen; all year he had swung between relief and starting. He would start Brooklyn’s next game, in Chicago, where he was knocked out after one frame. Gail Harris sat on the bench; his big moment was still 2 weeks away.

P.S. The Nets’ win was paced by a trio of players with baseball-sounding names: C Brook “Don’t Call Me Javy” Lopez rang up 22 points, PG Deron Johnson Williams fired home 14 assists (some from the warning track), and RF PF Reggie Jackson Smith Darrell Dwight Evans harvested 14 caroms. Of course, I think everyone has a baseball-sounding name — even Ndamukong “Gus” Suh(r).

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23 Comments on "Nets 96, Knicks 89 / Giants 3, Dodgers 2"

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Doug
Editor
As impressive as Sauer’s 1957 season was, he didn’t even have the best HR per PA rate among NL 40 year-olds that year. These are the only seasons with a better season HR per PA rate (min. 10 HR) than Sauer’s 1957 mark. Rk Player HR PA Year Age Tm G AB R H 2B 3B RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS Pos 1 Ted Williams 29 390 1960 41 BOS 113 310 56 98 15 0 72 75 41 .316 .451 .645 1.096 *7 2 Carlton Fisk 19 298 1988 40 CHW 76 253 37 70 8 1… Read more »
Doug
Editor
Here is the 20-20-20 2B-3B-HR club that John referred to. Rk Player HR 2B 3B Year Age Tm G PA AB R H RBI BB SO SB CS BA OBP SLG OPS Pos 1 Willie Mays 35 26 20 1957 26 NYG 152 669 585 112 195 97 76 62 38 19 .333 .407 .626 1.033 *8 2 Jim Bottomley 31 42 20 1928 28 STL 149 667 576 123 187 136 71 54 10 .325 .402 .628 1.030 *3 3 Jimmy Rollins 30 38 20 2007 28 PHI 162 778 716 139 212 94 49 85 41 6 .296… Read more »
Bryan O'Connor
Editor

Granderson in Detroit in 2007: 23 HR, 101 1B, 38 2B, 23 3B, .388 wOBA
Granderson’s avg season in NY: 36 HR, 72 1B, 20 2B, 7 3B, .362 wOBA

Is that short porch keeping his career alive?

Richard Chester
Guest

For whatever it’s worth Bob Thurman was the first player to hit a HR on his 40th birthday, 5-14-57. Also at 37 he was one of the oldest ML rookies.

Doug
Editor

Also the only one to do so as a pinch-hitter.

Joe Morgan’s 40th birthday game is the best: 4 for 5, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 0.625 WPA.

Phil
Guest

On a music-related message board where I post, I’ve been advocating for “Driftin’ Back” as the greatest Neil Young song since “Over and Over” 20+ years ago.

Dan McCloskey
Editor

Wow, I’m psyched! People are talking about the current Neil Young album on High Heat Stats. Although my vote is for “Walk Like a Giant” as the best song on the new one, and “Country Home” as my favorite from “Ragged Glory.”

Jonas Gumby
Guest

Whenever I hear the phrase “current Neil Young” I instantly have this image of him and Dave Grohl playing “Rockin’ in the Free World” live in concert, and it makes me depressed. I’ll take “Mellow My Mind” Neil, or anyway the one that keeps jive alive in TO.

Lawrence Azrin
Guest

#13/ Dan –

(Neil Young’s latest CD) – The only two that are obvious to me:

Dock Ellis – “Psychedelic Pill” (supposedly picthed a no-hitter under the influence of LSD)
Barry Bonds – “Walk Like A Giant”

Dan McCloskey
Editor

Both correct, Lawrence. Two of the other three have more to do with the players’ names than anything else. They’re actually quite unclever (not a word, I realize) clues.

bstar
Guest

Well, I appreciated the NBA shout-out on this post, possibly being the only pro basketball fan on here. Great game between the Nets-Knicks. (OK, I only watched the 4th quarter and O.T., but still…)

Phil
Guest

I used to dig Joe Mauer
I used to dig Joe Mauer
Hey now now, hey now now
I used to dig Joe Mauer

Then the big contract came along
And turned him into José Reyes
Hey now now, hey now now
I used to dig Joe Mauer

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