Likely Heroes in a Game 7 Are the Most Unlikely Ones
It is Bill Mazeroski hitting a home run in the Pirates’ last at-bat off the Yankees’ Ralph Terry, the Cardinals’ Enos Slaughter scurrying on his mad dash from first to home on Harry Walker’s single to beat the Red Sox, Sandy Amoros making a spectacular catch against the Yankees’ Yogi Berra and doubling off the runner to save the Brooklyn Dodgers.
It is the Yankees’ Bobby Richardson nabbing a Willie McCovey line drive to save a shutout for Terry, the Reds’ Joe Morgan looping a ninth-inning single over the Red Sox’s Jim Burton to score Ken Griffey, the Arizona Diamondbacks, in their last bat, improbably getting to Yankee closer Mariano Rivera.
It is Game 7 of the World Series. We will have one tonight in, of all places, Anaheim.
The Angels, who in years gone by have been one game, one out, one pitch from the World Series, are now one game from winning it. The Giants, a proud franchise that won the World Series when based in New York, are one game from winning it for the first time since they moved to San Francisco.
It is a chance for the Giants’ Barry Bonds to finally win it all. It is a chance for Angel players such as Garret Anderson, Darin Erstad, Tim Salmon, Troy Glaus and Troy Percival to fulfill the promise that most of the nation outside of Southern California -- outside of Orange County, really -- didn’t know they had.
If past Game 7s are an indication, though, one of those players will not be the hero tonight.
In 1991, a pinch-hitter, Gene Larkin, hit a bases-loaded single off Atlanta’s Alejandro Pena to give the Twins a 1-0 victory. At least his mighty swipe reached the outfield. Four years earlier, another Twin, Greg Gagne, won the game against St. Louis with a slow roller down the third base line with the bases loaded. When the Dodgers won Game 7 in 1965 behind a three-hitter by Sandy Koufax, the hitting star was Sweet Lou Johnson.
Will the Giants win tonight with a home run by Bonds? Or by Shawon Dunston, who for six innings Saturday night at Edison Field looked like he might be the star with his two-run home run in the fifth? Will the Angels win tonight with a double off the wall by Glaus? Or because a pinch-runner like Chone Figgins, as he did Saturday night, force Bonds into an error in left field?
The questions Saturday night for the Giants and Angels, especially, the Angels, focused on who would pitch tonight.
Angel Manager Mike Scioscia was asked that before Game 6, assuming, of course, his team would win to force a Game 7.
“We’ve given it a ton of thought,” he said, referring to himself and pitching coach Bud Black. “I’ve got smoke coming from my ears.
“Buddy Black, he’s hoarse from talking to me.... We’ve worked this thing every which way you can work it, even the scenario of Buddy Black coming in to pitch a game.”
Giant Manager Dusty Baker said before Saturday night’s game that he would start Livan Hernandez if Game 7 were necessary. Several hours later, after the devastating 6-5 loss in Game 6, Baker hadn’t changed his mind, but considering that Hernandez was hit often and hard by the Angels on Wednesday night in their Game 3 victory at San Francisco, the Giant manager has a contingency plan.
“We feel comfortable with Livan,” he said. “But tomorrow, we’re going to go with everybody.”
Then he added, “I’m curious to see who they’re going to go with tomorrow.”
Scioscia didn’t keep him waiting long for the answer, the smoke apparently having cleared. He announced that he would start rookie John Lackey.
It is Ramon Ortiz’s turn to start, but he has an injured wrist. It would be wrong, however, to assume that he won’t pitch at all. Injured wrist or not, he will be in the bullpen.
So will Jarrod Washburn, the ace who didn’t pitch like one when he started in the Angels’ 16-4 loss Thursday in Game 5. So will Francisco Rodriguez, even though he threw 46 pitches Saturday night in relief. Percival even might be called on to get more than four outs. Scioscia’s contingency is the same as Baker’s. Everybody is available, except Bud Black.
Considering the state of the pitching staffs, and considering the hitting prowess of the teams, a reasonable prediction for tonight’s game would be that it will be high scoring. One would be advised to bet the over.
But even though it is a Game 7, the ultimate game, the game that the television executives said they needed to wake up the rest of the country to the fact that there is a big event occurring out here on the Left Coast, there is no guarantee that it will come close to challenging Game 6 for drama and excitement.
Sixth games in the World Series are often more memorable than seventh games. Carlton Fisk’s famous home run was in a Game 6. Bill Buckner’s error was in a Game 6.
Scioscia said this Game 6 was better than Game 1 in 1988, the one won by Kirk Gibson’s home run. For a former Dodger, one who played a key role in that game, to say that, well, that’s treading on sacred territory. It’s also a game that has sustained us in this part of the baseball world for 14 years. If Saturday night’s game can do that, then maybe it doesn’t matter if Game 7 is as exhilarating. But we can hope.
Randy Harvey can be reached at email@example.com.