Monday, December 17, 2012

Ancient Proverbs and the World Series

According to the Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings, the old adage "history repeats itself" can be traced back to ancient times. The author obviously didn't live long enough to witness a World Series, but if he had, he would have been genuinely pleased with himself as scenes from the 1957 and 1969 Fall Classics played out in remarkably similar fashion.

In Game 4 of the '57 Series, Braves pinch-hitter Nippy Jones persuaded home plate umpire Augie Donatelli to award him first base on a pitch that was initially ruled a ball. Using his astute observational skills, Jones drew Donatelli's attention to a spot of shoe polish on the baseball and offered it as evidence that the pitch had nicked him in the foot. Donatelli was swayed by this appeal and promptly granted Jones a free pass. The call proved to be pivotal as Jones was promptly replaced with a pinch-runner. Trailing 5-4 in the bottom of the tenth, the Braves rallied for three runs to win the game over the Yankees, 7-5. They would eventually take the Series in seven games.

Mets manager Gil Hodges must have been well-versed in Series lore when he provoked a similar ruling in the '69 October showcase. It should come as no surprise to those who subscribe to the old proverb that the play in question involved another man named Jones. With the Orioles leading 3-0 in the sixth inning of Game 5, Mets outfielder Cleon Jones (no relation to Nippy) tried to avoid a pitch in the dirt from Baltimore's Dave McNally. Umpire Lou Dimuro signaled for a hit-by-pitch after Hodges advised him to inspect the ball, which clearly had a smudge of shoe polish on it. Perhaps rattled by the sequence of events, McNally gave up a 2-run homer to the next batter, Donn Clendenon. The Mets won the game, 5-3, claiming the first championship in franchise history.

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