Tag Archives: Mickey Owen

How random the playoffs are

The 2009 NLDS game 2 against the Cardinals and Dodgers is on MLB Network right now.

If ever there was a good example of how random the playoffs are, it’s this game.  Dodgers lead series, 1-0.  Cardinals lead game 2, 2-1, in the bottom of the ninth inning.  James Loney is up with two outs and hits a flare to left field. The ball is as good as caught by Matt Holliday and he loses it in the lights.  It bounces off his crotch.

Loney gets on second.  The game’s not over, though, and all they need is one more out.  Casey Blake walks.  Then Ronnie Belliard hits a soft line drive that, if it were hit in any other direction in the infield, would have been caught, but it just went right up the middle. A passed ball gets the runners to advance and Mark Loretta hits another soft liner into the outfield to win it.  Dodgers take game 2 and then take the series in game 3.

Holliday had 5 errors on the season–and even though we don’t like errors because they’re judgments, that was the definition of an error.  A replacement player in a vacuum would have caught that.  Plus, his aggregate UZR/150 over his career is positive, which makes it all that more weird.  Then a couple of walks and flare singles drop in and the Cardinals lose the game.

That dropped flyball was literally valued at 1 win.

Holliday’s performance, however, was not valued at -1 win because of that–he hit a home run earlier in the game and that is incredibly valuable.

This is anecdotal evidence, but what I’m trying to say is that dropped balls, passed balls, wild pitches and laughable fielding errors are part of the game.  That they happen in the post-season shouldn’t turn an otherwise good player into a goat.  Just ask Bill Buckner, Mickey Owen and Fred Snodgrass.

Obviously those events aren’t typical.  Baseball is also predictable–there’s a reason why the Yankees have 27 championships.  But let’s not forget that Davids do beat Goliaths for no other reason than dumb luck sometimes and success in the regular season does not guarantee success in the post-season.

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I sponsored Mickey Owen’s page.

First I found out it’s Mickey Owen and not Owens, then I sponsored Owen’s baseball-reference page.

Mickey Owen was the Brooklyn Dodgers’ catcher for a few years in the 1940s.  He wasn’t a particularly good hitter, but he was regarded as a good catcher, setting a record for most errorless fielding chances by a catcher with 508 perfect attempts in 1941.

So you can almost taste the irony that he’s remembered for a passed ball.

Game 4 of the 1941 World Series, Dodgers are down in the series 2-1 to the Yankees, who are in the midst of the Joe McCarthy era.  It looks like the Dodgers are gonna take game 4, up 4-3 in the ninth, to tie the series. Hugh Casey is in to close it out for Brooklyn.  He gets Johnny Sturm to ground out to second and Red Rolfe to ground out to the pitcher.  Tommy Henrich comes up for the Yankees and strikes out, which would have ended the game, but the ball gets past Owen and Henrich is safe at first. Joe Dimaggio singles. Charlie Kelley doubles.  Bill Dickey walks.  Joe Gordon doubles. Phil Rizzuto walks.  The inning finally ends when Hugh Casey gets the pitcher Johnny Murphy to ground out.  Yankees score four.  Murphy pitches the bottom of the ninth and shuts down Pee Wee Reese, Dixie Walker and Pete Reiser.

Yankees took game 5 with ease.  It was their ninth World Series in 12 appearances up to that point; their sixth under McCarthy, who would win eight total as a manager.

Just to add to the patheticness of it all, it was the Dodgers’ first World Series appearance since 1920 (those bums), while their main rivals, the New York Giants, had been to it seven times and won  three just in that same span.

Owen had a great sense of humor about it, even signing the ball that he dropped in his later years.  He played for the Dodgers for a few years after that until 1944, when he served his country in World War II.  After returning home, he found some work

I sponsored his B-R page for two reasons.  One, it was the beginning of the golden age of the Bums.  The Bum identity was created long before that, but 1941 was the first year of a string of World Series appearances featuring a core of players built by Branch Rickey, all losses until the magical 1955 World Series title. The Mickey Owen play was also so Bum-ish.  Imagine your team doesn’t make the World Series for 20 years (in an eight-team division) only to finally get to it and lose a deciding game because the catcher couldn’t snag strike 3.  Only the Dodgers could have lost a World Series on a passed ball–and only the Dodgers could have completely melted down the way they did.

Second, my grandfather Cy, who was working in construction in New York at the time, was listening to the game on the radio and heard it live.  After the game was over, he thought, “Well there’s somebody out there stupider than me” and became a Dodger fan for life.

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Filed under MLB history, World Series history