September 12, 2011

Baseball Time Machine: Pick One Game To See

About two weeks ago, a question was posed at the Baseball Reference blog:
If you could attend any game in baseball history, which game would you choose?
I could rattle off two dozen games (easily) that would be a serious contender for the top spot. I think any serious fan could. But what is #1? And do you conduct a rigorous process of elimination or go with the first game you thought of? When I commented at BRef, I went with my first thought:

Saturday, May 1, 1920
Brooklyn Robins at Boston Braves
Brooklyn - 000 010 000 000 000 000 000 000 00 - 1  9  2
Boston   - 000 000 100 000 000 000 000 000 00 - 1 15  2
Leon Cadore (26-15-1-5-6) and Joe Oeschger (26-9-1-4-7) each pitched a complete game.


BRef did not lay out any "rules", so I'm wondering: Would you know the outcome of the game when you went back? I think that would detract quite a bit from the excitement. Therefore, I stipulate that while you are still the 2011 you, you are attending the game as a current event along with everyone else in the stands (though you do have the luxury of sitting in what you consider the best seat in the park!). And maybe you have a slight understanding that 1920 baseball (or 1885 or 1918 or 1964 baseball) is different than what you watch back home.
Sherman, set the WABAC Machine to ...

31 comments:

laura k said...

What a great idea! Easily 10 games come to mind. It will take some to choose one. Meanwhile, I look forward to seeing what other people choose.

laura k said...

Also, I love your choice! It's so you.

Jere said...

Wait, so I choose the game, am sent to it, but then my mind is cleared? But wouldn't I at least figure out that I must be there for a reason? If I went to Ruth's called shot game, I'd feel like an asshole if I wasn't taking pictures right at that moment to prove if he did it or not--and that would be the reason I go in the first place. I'm sick of time travel blowing my mind.

I would love to see the Bernie Carbo game but that's not my final answer yet.

allan said...

Wait, so I choose the game, am sent to it, but then my mind is cleared? But wouldn't I at least figure out that I must be there for a reason?

You are thinking a little too much. You're going to a game, because there is a game that day/night. Maybe you know you are from 2011, so you know it'll be good. You go to the Carbo game because it's Game 6 of the fuckin' World Series!

If your mind wasn't wiped out, how much less fun would Don Larsen's perfect game be? You'd know he gets it from the first pitch! You wouldn't freak out in the inning before Carbo, because you know he's going deep and then an hour or so later, Fisk is going to win it. Where is the tension?


Ruth's called shot was on my list as well. 1932 World Series, Game 3. I would also want to hear what the Cubs players were yelling at him. I'm sure it wasn't "you big piece of cheese" or whatever the old players get quoted in "proper" books as having said.

Jere said...

Some people are gonna choose a 9-run comeback game and go home in the 7th. And then they get back to the 2011 them who yells at them for missing it, and they say "how was I supposed to know, I thought you just sent me back to a random game!" And 2011 gets all pissed and tries again, but they just keep leaving early, over and over and over. [shakes fist at time travel]

Okay, I will stop talking about time travel so we can get back to people's choices.

laura k said...

I also thought of the Called Shot game. Don Larsen's perfect game was high on my list. Neither made the final cut, though.

If I could time-travel to see one game, it would have to be a game in which my all-time favourite player, Lou Gehrig, played.

Gehrig was one of the very greatest players ever, and remains one of the most under-recognized. In his playing days, he was overshadowed by his teammate Babe Ruth. In popular history, he has been overshadowed first by his famous speech and second by his consecutive-game record that stood for 56 years.

In addition to being an other-wordly hitter, Gehrig was the kind of player I would have loved - quiet, all business, a family man, uncomfortable with the spotlight, with that beautiful "smile that he wore like a shield" (Ray Robinson, The Iron Horse).

Lou played in a lot of games, many of them very remarkable. I'm choosing one that would have been unremarkable to most fans, but which must have meant the world to Gehrig: his major league debut.

So, Sherman, set the WABAC Machine for June 15, 1923, The Bronx, New York. I'm going to see the St. Louis Browns lose to the New York Yankees by a score of 10-0. Wally Pipp will start at first base as usual, but in the 9th, Henry Louis Gehrig, a few days shy of his 20th birthday, will see his first half-inning of major league play.

fusionmouse said...

Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.

I was a graduate student at USC and a fan of the Dodgers. From the lab I could see the lights of Dodger stadium and listened to the game called by Vin Scully on the radio.

Mickey Hatcher, a fusionmouse favorite, (who played the game with a Little Leaguer's enthusiasm) hit a two-run homer in the first to stun the heavily favored bash-brother driven A's. Mickey ran full speed around the bases he was so excited!!

Canseco later clobbered a grand slam to take the lead 4-2 for the A's (in the process denting the centerfield camera for NBC).

The Dodgers clawed a run back to make it 4-3 and faced Dennis Eckersly in the bottom of the ninth. I couldn't work anymore and sat glued to the radio and staring at the lights from Chavez Ravine.

Eck walked Mike Davis and in hobbled Kirk Gibson... you've probably heard the rest of this story--but this was the moment that I truly fell in love with the game.

Amy said...

Hmm, more rules for me to decipher. So I pick a game that I WOULD have picked because of reasons other than I now know that Fisk hits that home run or Dave Roberts steals that base or Tom Seaver strikes out 20, etc?

So I would probably pick game 7 of the 2004 ALCS. I would know that we had won three in a row and that we had a better than even chance of going to the WS for the first time since 1986.

Or am I not getting the point of this exercise? It was hard enough to start a game thread!

laura k said...

Current and future baseball time-travelers, here is the game in simplified form.

If you could attend any game in baseball history, which game would you choose?

Don't concern yourself with any other technical questions. Just answer that one.

Your said...

Dave Roberts steal.

Amy said...

OK, well, it would be of the first three I mentioned, and probably the Fisk home run in Game Six of the 75 WS. Definitely the most exciting moment of baseball I can remember.

laura k said...

I find it interesting that most people (I think) want to see games they've already experienced through TV and their own memories.

I want to see something that only a time machine could bring me, I want to see Lou Gehrig play baseball. (Granted I could have picked a better game for that, but I purposely picked something unassuming and quiet like he was. Maybe I could talk to him after the game.)

Allan also picked a game he couldn't see any other way.

Amy said...

There is nothing like being there, though, Laura. Having been to the Mother's Day Miracle game, I can tell you that being there is whole other level than watching it on TV.

Plus I am not as aware of all the baseball history that you and Allan are, so those games don't mean as much to me.

laura k said...

Oh my goodness, I know there is nothing like being there! I have been very fortunate to have been at some incredible baseball games, especially in the post-season.

For me, though, the allure of a baseball past that I can never ever see in any way, TV or otherwise, is very powerful.

Amy said...

I realized, of course, that you know that! I was just trying to explain why so many of us would want to have been AT the game, not just watching it on TV.

I guess if I knew more about games that occurred before I was a fan, I might feel as you do. But even for players I know of and admire---like Ruth, Gehrig, etc.---there isn't the same emotion or excitement that I feel for teams and players that I actually followed as a fan.

The Frenkels said...

The bloody sock game.

laura k said...

But even for players I know of and admire---like Ruth, Gehrig, etc.---there isn't the same emotion or excitement that I feel for teams and players that I actually followed as a fan.

For me, in a way, there's more. I'll never feel the way about any player in my lifetime the way I do about Lou Gehrig.

****

Fusionmouse, I love your story! Great that Vin is in there.

allan said...

More choices:

May 2, 1917 - Reds-Cubs. Cincinnati's Fred Toney and Chicago's Hippo Vaughn each pitched nine no-hit innings. The Reds got two hits and a run off Vaughn in the 10th and won 1-0; Toney pitched a 10-inning no-hitter.

May 26, 1959 - Harvey Haddix's 12 perfect innings.

September 10, 1999 - Pedro's 17 strikeouts at YS (I was supposed to have been there, grrrrrrrrrr).

September 6, 1912 - Joe Wood/Walter Johnson showdown at Fenway Park (in its rookie season). Red Sox win 1-0.

October 8, 1956 - Don Larsen, 1956 World Series, Game 5.

One of the best exhibition games (mid-1930s?) between MLB white players and Negro Leaguers.

April 15, 1947 - Jackie Robinson's debut.

Whatever game Ruth hit his longest HR in.

April 22, 1876 - First National League game: Boston Red Caps at Philadelphia Athletics.

Game during 1890s in which there is a serious brawl, fans throwing bottles, umpires getting beaten up, etc.

September 28, 1941 - End of season doubleheader in which TSW goes 6 for 8 to finish at .406.

October 3, 1951 - Thomson/Branca at the Polo Grounds.

1918 World Series (all games)

1919 World Series (all games)

2004 ALCS Game 5

2004 WS Game 4

tim said...

10 cent beer night!!!!!

tim said...

that's a classic story, fusionmouse.

i agree with laura. i would want to go to games that have not seen before (as cool as 2004 ALCS-4, 5, 6, 7, 2004 WS-4 would have been, they just don't have the awesomeness as old time baseball!)

in addition to the ones mentioned already, some great choices, i submit the following:

-1919 world series - already mentioned, but if i go back in time, can i bet on the reds in 8? ;)

-dock ellis' lsd no-no

-that 22 scoreless innings game that you guys went to (A&L)

-first ever blue jays game - April 7, 1977 - on snow-covered exhibition stadium

-april 26, 1901 - boston americans vs. baltimore orioles

-any 23-year old cy young pitched game of the 1890 cleveland spiders - featuring Chief Zimmer catching and Peek-a-Boo Veach at first base!

another question - can i use the time machine to go onto one of the trains the old red sox of the deadball era used to take?

laura k said...

another question - can i use the time machine to go onto one of the trains the old red sox of the deadball era used to take?

Oh man, I was going to post something very similar about my Lou Gehrig choice.

Part of why I can pick such an uneventful game is because I just want to see a game of that era. I'd like to see baseball before TV, when men wore suits and ties to games. See the players' baggy wool unis, the parks that I only see in black-and-white. I never went to the original Yankee Stadium, and I wish someone had taken me there. (Would have been so easy to do.) So my wish is more than seeing Lou Gehrig as a young man, it's seeing everything else that would mean.

Second choice: the game Lou hit 4 HRs and very nearly hit a 5th. But that was in Philadelphia, and wouldn't get me a trip to YSI.

laura k said...

September 10, 1999 - Pedro's 17 strikeouts at YS (I was supposed to have been there, grrrrrrrrrr).

...and waited outside the Stadium for that fucker who never showed up with the tickets. Grrrr.

laura k said...

1918 World Series (all games)

I thought this would be your first choice!

I also thought of the Thomson/Branca game. I wish I could have seen the Polo Grounds.

Brad said...

This is such a great question… I suspect I will be thinking about this for days.

I think all of my choices (including runners up) have been mentioned – ’33 World Series, ’19 World Series (would give almost anything to see Shoeless Joe Jackson), ’18 World Series, so many more… but I choose Game 6. For me it is the greatest game ever played and since that is ultimately the question (if you could pick out ONE game to go back in time and attend…) I think that I would pick that one. But there are a couple of other reasons I would pick that over the others: As a Sox fan, I think Pudge’s homer is the most iconic in club history. It would be incredible to say that I was there (and I would probably work it into the conversation pretty much every day for the rest of my life). Also it was at home and there is something very emotional about getting swept up with the crowd and sharing that moment. Finally, the Sox had some of my all time favorite Red Sox players on that team and the Red’s were loaded with future hall of famers. As long as I am picking a game to go to, I might as well see as many HOF’s as I can.

Jere said...

I wouldn't mind seeing Disco Demolition Night--but it was between games of a DH. Are DHs allowed? Don't answer that.

Laura, I don't get what you mean about Gehrig being under-recognized. You say he was overshadowed by two of his own accomplishments, one which epitomizes who he was on the field and the other off. That--along with the "disease named after him" thing--seems like the ultimate in recognition. I feel like if you ask someone to name some all-time greats, they say "Ruth, Gehrig..." and go from there. (And yes, the fact that people always seem to say Gehrig AFTER Ruth shows how he was overshadowed by the Babe--I do agree with that part.) So maybe I'm just missing your point.

(Also, for those of us who lived on 94th between 1st and 2nd, we saw recognition of his birth every day, ha.)

Amy said...

Laura, I understand wanting to step back in time in many contexts, not just baseball. It would be fascinating to see the world of 80 years ago, 180 years ago, 1800 years ago. But if I had a chance to time travel, I probably wouldn't pick a baseball game as the place to spend my few hours in a different era. Seeing a bunch of players I didn't know or care about in funny uniforms might be amusing for a bit, but then I'd want to go see other things.

On the other hand, if I could only time travel TO a baseball game, like Brad, I still think I'd pick the Fisk home run game and scream my bloody head off. (Remember that was my first year as a Sox fan and that living with a Yankee fan, I had to live that moment without another Sox fan to share it with!) I would love to relive that moment with 30,000+ other Red Sox fans.

It is interesting to see how we all have different fantasies about all this!

laura k said...

You say he was overshadowed by two of his own accomplishments, one which epitomizes who he was on the field and the other off. That--along with the "disease named after him" thing--seems like the ultimate in recognition. I feel like if you ask someone to name some all-time greats, they say "Ruth, Gehrig..." and go from there.

I'll explain what I mean more fully.

I believe that the measure of Gehrig's baseball greatness - that specifically - is very under-recognized. His farewell speech is not a measure of that, obviously.

IMO, neither was his consecutive-game streak. That streak was quite unbelievable, and it probably says a lot about Gehrig as a person. But Gehrig's baseball talent was both more, and more important, than that streak. If he had taken a day off now and again, his hitting accomplishments would still make him one of the very best players in baseball history.

ALS being bizarrely called Lou Gehrig's Disease for so many decades has nothing whatsoever to do with Gehrig's accomplishments as a baseball player, IMO. That was about his fame, the speech and the movie that was made of his life, which popularized an edited version of the speech. (Personally, I find it quite bizarre and am relieved that these days most people call the disease ALS.)

It's true that people mention his name, but I'd be very surprised if most who do so actually know much about Gehrig's many off-the-chart records as a hitter.

I guess the short answer would be: I think Gehrig has wide name recognition - partly because of the disease and the speech - but that's different than recognition for baseball accomplishments.

laura k said...

Lou Samples:

Wiki

B-Ref

(Ryan) said...

The Exhibition game at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Sneak away in the 1st, kill Hitler, set up a high interest bank account, file a few dozen semiconductor patents, and hopefully get back in time to see the walk-off HR in the 7th.

laura k said...

Godwin sighting!

Tony said...

A great question, Allan. Obviously any of the 2004 ALCS wins would be up on my list, but having actually watched them on TV kind of mitigates that (not a lot, but a little). Some of my other choices have already been mentioned - the Shot Heard Round The World, Larsen, Gibson, etc.

I think I'd take a page out of Crazy '08, though, and go either to the pennant-deciding game (not the Merkle game) or to the Joss-Walsh showdown. The pennant-deciding game has so much going for it - the end of one of the greatest races (if not the greatest) ever, the old Polo Grounds and a kick-ass atmosphere, Christy Mathewson trying to save the pennant, a John McGraw-managed team, the greatest Cubs team ever with that famous infield, the specter of Merkle hanging over everything. As for Joss-Walsh, seeing a perfect game in person is about as cool as it gets, IMO, and when the other pitcher strikes out 15 in a complete game loss, in the heat of a tight pennant race, that makes it all the cooler. Plus, y'know, the whole "this happened a century ago" thing.