There is no choice but to lead off once again with a birthday, and how odd but wonderful it is that the Yanks and their fans can celebrate the birthdays of Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford (1928), the “Chairman of the Board,” on back to back days. Whitey is one of two Yankee pitchers who were born October 21, and the two share the day with two Yankee catchers. Ford’s 236-106 record computes to the best winning percentage in the 20th Century, he holds the record at 10 World Series game victories, and Whitey’s 33-inning consecutive-scoreless-inning streak in the World Series that surpassed the one Babe Ruth had posted is still intact. In a 1961 known for Yankee offense he won the Cy Young Award and was the Series MVP. He topped the League in wins three times, in win/loss percentage three times, and in innings pitched twice. Furthermore, I spent a year of my youth erroneously convinced he was my cousin.
The Yanks went a long way toward winning the Subway Series against the Mets, when they came out on top in Game One, 4-3, in 12 innings on October 21, 2000. Paul O’Neill coaxed a 10-pitch walk off Armando Benitez to lead off the bottom of the ninth, and scored the run that tied it on Chuck Knoblauch‘s sac fly. The Yanks prevailed when Jose Vizcaino knocked in Tino Martinez with the game-winner. It was in this game that Timo Perez failed to run on what he assumed was a Todd Zeile home run, and he was pegged out at home on yet another terrific Derek Jeter postseason play.
Bob Watson was the hitting star again, and Goose Gossage got his second save in a row, as the Yanks went up two to none in games by taking Game Two of the 1981 World Series against the Dodgers behind Tommy John, 3-0, on October 21. Watson had two hits and an rbi.
The Yanks closed out the Padres in four straight in 1998, when they won by that same 3-0 score behind Andy Pettitte on October 21. Scott Brosius was named the Series MVP. In a rarity, Yankee closer Mariano Rivera came to bat in the ninth inning after relieving in the eighth. He popped out to second.
One of the best World Series games ever, one that wouldn’t be topped until the Yanks did it twice in 2001, occurred in Game Six of the 1975 Classic between the Reds and the Red Sox. Bernie Carbo tied Cincinnati with a three-run, eighth-inning homer, and Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk “englished” his 12th-inning homer to left fair to even the Series at three games apiece on October 21.
The Yanks fell behind two to none in games when Greg Maddux beat them in the Bronx 4-0 on October 21, 1996. Little did the Braves know that they had just won their last game of that postseason.
And the Reds’ 7-2 win over the Bombers on this day in 1976 closed out their Series sweep over the Yankees. Johnny Bench was the World Series MVP, but Yankee catcher Thurman Munson set a record with six straight singles and batted higher than .500 over the four games.
The Yankees won their second straight World Series game by a 6-1 score and took a two games to one lead in games over the Marlins on October 21, 2003. Derek Jeter had scored both runs as the Yanks led 2-1 until the ninth, when Aaron Boone and Bernie Williams home runs forged the final score.
The Phillies won their lone World Series victory (until 2008) when they beat the Royals 4-1 in Game Six of the 1980 Fall Classic on October 21.
Showing up early for the Yanks’ October 21, 2001, ALCS tilt with the Mariners in New York, I spied Alfonso Soriano in batting practice working on his home run swing to right field. Bret Boone and Bernie Williams traded singleton eighth-inning taters to break up a scoreless duel, setting up Soriano’s two-run walk-off (to right!!!) in the bottom of the ninth. The Yanks won 3-1 and Mariano Rivera got the win.
On October 21, 2016, the Yankees signed free agent righthander Matthew Wivinis to a minor league contract.
A’s Manager Dick Williams quit the club on October 21, 1973, after the A’s beat the Mets in the Series, but owner Charley Finley thwarted his plans to pilot a club elsewhere. Williams had his eye on the one that plays in the Bronx.
The Yanks made a bad trade on October 21, 1981, sending speedy minor league outfielder Willie McGee to St. Louis for pitcher Bob Sykes. Sykes succumbed to injury almost right away, and McGee had a fine career in the Cardinals’ outfield.
Ex-Yankee catcher Elston Howard, who had been traded to Boston early in ’67, retired from baseball on October 21, 1968, after playing two seasons in Beantown.
Hank Greenburg won the AL MVP unanimously on October 21, 1935.
The thing that arouses interest in Yankee fans regarding the death of former Cardinals righthander Marv Goodwin on October 21, 1925, is the manner of his passing. One of the original spitballers whose method for getting batters out was grandfathered when that pitch was deemed illegal, Goodwin became the first active ballplayer to die from an airplane crash. And as with Yankee captain Thurman Munson more than 50 years later, Marv was piloting. The story gets weirder still with Cory Lidle‘s fatal crash in October 2006.
Babe Ruth and Connie Mack led an All Star team of players on a tour of Japan beginning on October 21, 1934. Also in the group were Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Charlie Gehringer, Lefty Gomez, Earl Averill, and Lefty O’Doul.
When the A’s took home the World Championship for the second straight year on October 21, 1973, future Yankee Reggie Jackson was named the Series MVP.
Lefty-hitting third baseman Gene Robertson (1981) is the only Yankee player to have died on October 21. Robertson hit one home run and drove in 71 runs while batting 165-for-560 in 173 games for the 1928-1929 Yankees. A 1919-1926 stint with the Browns earlier, and two years with the Braves after, brought his career numbers to 20 and 249.
Lefthanded Reds outfielder Vada Pinson (1995) is the first of three position players, plus two righty pitchers, who comprise the list of noteworthy nonYankee players to pass this day. From 1958-1970, Pinson hit 256 home runs and drove in 1,170 runs; portsided first baseman Dolph Camilli (1997) played six years with the Dodgers, four with the Phillies, and two with the Cubs while blasting 239 long balls and knocking in 950 runs from 1933-1945; and lefty-hitting third baseman/second baseman Jim Bucher (2004) reached 17 fences and collected 193 rbi’s playing with the Dodgers, the Red Sox, and the Cardinals fom 1934-1945. Ed Daily (1891) won 66, lost 70, and saved one game with the Phillies, the Senators, and the Colonels from 1885-1891; and Johnny Rigney (1984) posted all of his 63-64-5 mark from 1937-1942 and from 1946-1947 with the White Sox.
Players Who Have Died This Day
We mentioned that this was the birthday of renowned Yankee southpaw Whitey Ford (1928) in the opener (scroll to the top). The three other Yankee October 21 birthdays start with pitcher Bill Bevens (1916), whose only big-leagues time was for the 1944-1947 Yanks, with whom he posted a 40-36 mark. Bill was selected off the New York roster by the Chicago White Sox in January 1949, and was returned two months later, before the season.
Lefty-hitting catcher Gus Fisher (1885), who notched one hit and scored one run in four games for the 1912 Bombers after playing for Cleveland the year before, was selected off waivers from the Naps’ roster in March 1912.
John Flaherty (1967), the Yankee backup backstop for three years, spent the previous 11 seasons with the Red Sox, the Tigers, the Padres, and the Devil Rays. John showed occasional righty power, but he was most prized for his solid defense, game calling, and handling of pitchers subbing for Jorge Posada. Flaherty had some good years as the starter in Tampa Bay, until he was supplanted and rendered expendable by the arrival of Toby Hall. Earlier he arrived in Tampa by a trade with San Diego for former Yankee reliever Brian Boehringer and Andy Sheets in 1997. An 80-homer, 395-rbi guy over 14 seasons, Flash cleared 12 fences and drove in 41 games with the Yanks.
Other birthdays: the other “non-flaky” Bill Lee (1940), who won 169 while losing 157 mostly for the White Sox from 1934-1947; Ted Uhlaender (1940); Bill Russell (1948); George Bell (1959); Franklin Stubbs (1960); Toby Hall (1940) (see the Flaherty write-up in Yankee birthdays); Bryan Corey (1973); Tim Spooneybarger (1979); San Diego 2004 Rookie of the Year candidate, shortstop Khalil Greene (1979); Gabe Gross (1979); Steve Holm (1979); Jon Coutlangus (1980); Troy Cate (1980); Jim Henderson (1982); Zach Greinke (1983); Casey Fein (1983); Andy Marte (1983); Danny Herrera (1984); Jose Lobaton (1984); C.C. Lee (1986); Justin De Fratus (1987); Danny Barnes (1989); and Jose Ruiz (1994).
Players Born This Day