Allow me a moment to give a shout out to the Kansas City Royals, who have clinched their first playoff berth since 1985! Go Royals!
On September 26, 1961, Yankees outfielder Roger Maris hit his 60th home run of the season to tie Babe Ruth’s 34-year-old single season record. Since the homer came in the 159th game of a newly-expanded season, however (previous seasons had 154 games), baseball commissioner Ford Frick determined that Ruth would remain the single season record holder.
The entirety of this season seems to have been engulfed by Derek Jeter farewell ceremonies, to which I have only paid half-attention. While I do think that Jeter is a phenomenal ballplayer, deserving of his place in the Hall of Fame, I think I have to agree with Mr. Olbermann on this one: this season-long farewell tribute is a bit ridiculous. On that note, this video also provides a bunch of interesting statistics and Yankees history, in support of Olbermann’s statement.
In a game against the Chicago Cubs on September 23, 1908, Fred Merkle of the New York Giants failed to touch second base while running the bases on a game-winning hit by Al Bridwell to score Moose McCormick from third base. As a result, a force out was ruled at second base, and the game was called as a tie. In spite of numerous appeals, the ruling was upheld.
Later that season, the Cubs and Giants were tied with a record of 98-55 for the season. In a makeup game to determine the NL pennant winner, the Cubs beat the Giants 4-2, and went on to become World Series champions.
Here’s a piece by John Robert McFarland, published in the Elysian Fields Quarterly, in which the Great Bambino steps up to the plate against a great pitcher, known only as “Frosty.” I have to admit, somewhat sheepishly, that the title initially made me expect Frosty the Snowman to take the mound, but that must just be the kid in me. I love the ambiguity of the baseball splitting in half — who knows what the call would be if this were to happen in real life?
The Bambino’s team was mighty,
Nine stories full of fame,
DiMaggio and Gehrig,
Masters of the game.
Lazzeri, Dickey, Berra,
Made pitchers weep at night.
Ruffing, Ford, and Hoyt,
They were a fearsome sight.
Yes, Babe’s team, it was mighty,
All members of the Hall,
But they’d never faced old Frosty,
That master of the ball.
Frosty heaved it with a sentence,
Frosty hurled it with a word,
When Frosty threw the horsehide,
It split lumber like a sword.
Frosty turned his back on walls,
Unlovable as sin,
Frosty turned and faced home plate,
Where they have to take you in.
He took the road less traveled,
As he stopped beside the wood,
Then he turned and faced the platter,
Where the Babe in splendor stood.
The Babe was rapt and ready,
He gave his hat a tip,
Three runners took their leads,
On the bat he took his grip.
Babe pointed to the outfield,
His finger to the sky,
Far beyond the fences,
To the clouds away up high.
Frosty rhymed the spheroid.
Babe took a mighty swing.
The ball was split in even halves,
It was an awesome thing.
Half soared beyond the fences,
Half fell into the mitt.
Half the ball was called a strike.
Half was a home run hit.
Babe trotted ’round the bases,
As half the ball kept climbin’.
Frosty dipped his pen to fans,
Tossed verse upon the diamond.
One a poet with the lumber,
One a poet with the phrase,
One his bat all full of thunder,
One his arm all full of grace.
Howard Johnson and Darryl Strawberry of the New York Mets both made history on September 21, 1987. As the Mets won 7-1 over the Chicago Cubs, Strawberry stole two bases to make himself and Johnson the first set of teammates to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in the same season.
Johnson, meanwhile, slammed his 36th homer of the season to break a 53-year-old National League record of most single season home runs by a switch hitter. The previous record had been set by Cardinals’ first baseman Ripper Collins in 1934, but the Major League record was still held by Mickey Mantle, who hit 54 homers in 1961.