Almost 57 years ago to the day on October 8, 1956, Don Larsen threw a perfect game in Game 5 of the World Series. In the next game, the series shifted back to Brooklyn and Clem Labine and Bob Turley took the hill for the Dodgers and Yankees respectively. A couple of hours later both pitchers had combined to throw 18 scoreless innings and the game was headed to extras tied at 0-0.
As so often happened back in the 50’s, both starting pitchers took the hill in the 10th inning. Labine retired the Yankees in order in the top half but Turley couldn’t keep pace in the bottom. After a walk, a sacrifice and an intentional walk, Jackie Robinson (playing in what would be the 2nd to last game of his career) hit a single to left scoring the winning run.
Neither pitcher was perfect like Larsen, but both were dominant and the game ended with the first run of the game being scored on a single to left. This is my favorite type of baseball game and I’ve always said that I would much rather watch a pitcher’s duel over a slugfest. Lucky for me, a 2013 playoff game in Oakland followed the script that the Dodgers and Yankees wrote more than a half century ago.
What a game last night! It had everything there is to love about baseball. Rookie Sonny Gray matched Justin Verlander pitch for pitch and both teams challenged Gray and Verlander over the course of their stellar outings. With long at-bats and strategy decisions magnified, every pitch was vital and both starters answered the call.
Verlander pitched 7 scoreless innings and struck out 11 while Gray tossed 8 scoreless, allowing just 4 hits before the game was handed over to the bullpens. In 1956, both pitchers would have pitched until this game was decided but times have changed.
Nevertheless, it was a thrilling game to watch. Oakland loaded the bases in the bottom of the 9th and Stephen Vogt came to the plate. Like Robinson did in 1957, he hit a single to left and won the game for the home team. The series is now tied at 1-1 and whether either team will advance to the World Series remains to be seen.
If nothing else, it was a thrilling playoff game. October baseball is great enough on its own but the history of the game only adds to its significance. Sonny Gray was born in 1989 and Stephen Vogt in 1984, but die-hard A’s fans will never forget their roles in Game 2 of the 2013 ALDS, just as die-hard Brooklyn Dodgers fans remember Labine and Robinson’s in Game 6 of the 1956 World Series. Baseball is the best.