Sunday, November 1, 2009

Cliff Lee Looked Great in Game One, But He Was No Bob Shaw!

(Editor's note: Warning, this is a very long post! It does end with a short interview with Bob Shaw and a question for all of you bloggers out there.) Considering that this is first and foremost a baseball blog, I guess it is kind of odd that we going into game 4 or the World Series and I still haven’t written a thing about it. I had a story all set to go during game 1, I watched every pitch and while it was going on I was looking up some fun game 1 facts. Cliff Lee was brilliant and even though I am not a fan of his or the Phillies, the further he got in the game, the more I wanted him to hang onto the shutout. During the commercial after the 8th innings I really started writing. The Yankees had never been shut out in a game one in 40 appearances and it looked like it was gonna happen. I started writing my post and it was going to be titled “There’s a First Time for Everything”. Lee was really dominate throughout the game and I thought for sure that he was headed for uncharted territory, that he would be the first pitcher to shut the Yankees down in a Game 1. Bring on the 9th inning and Jeter and Damon led it off with two consecutive base hits to set the table for Mark Tei$$eria. This is where the wheels fell off. Maybe not fell off, but they definitely wobbled a bit. Teixx had two on and no outs and the stage was set for him to have the chance to prove himself as a legitimate big game slugger. As good as Lee was, he couldn’t get one past Teixx and he drilled a weak ground ball up the middle for a textbook double play ball. Unfortunately Jimmy Rollins made a horrible off balance throw that sailed over Ryan Howards head and the shut out was no longer. Jeter scored and Teixx was on first and A-Roid was at bat with a big chance to show that he was for real, too. The Yankees slugger was 0-3 at this point, but I thought for sure that he would deliver. He did, he delivered a weak swing through a curve ball to strike out for out number two. Posada followed his lead and the game was over. Phillies win 6-0 and Cliff Lee had gone the distance, striking out 10 and walking none, allowing just six hits and one unearned run. Afterwards a sportscaster called it one of the top ten pitching performances of all time. Lee looked good, but I beg to differ. He didn’t even get the shutout. Had he blanked the Yankees, he would have joined the ranks of Christy Mathewson, Dizzy Dean, Brett Saberhagen, Sandy Koufax, Mordecai Brown and Jack Morris. Guys who took the big stage and put up donuts all night long. For me, the best World Series pitching performance that I had ever seen came from Jack Morris in 1991, an extra inning shutout, that was top-ten of all time if any game was. Another top ten of all time pitching matchup was game 5 of the World Series in 1959. Sandy Koufax and the Los Angeles Dodgers against Bob Shaw and the Chicago White Sox. The White Sox were down 3 games to one, facing elimination and playing at the LA Coliseum in front of better than 92,000 screaming fans. For 7+ innings, right handed pitching Bob Shaw shut down the Dodgers lineup which included Wally Moon, John Roseboro, Duke Snider, Gil Hodges and Junior Gilliam. Gilliam, the leadoff batter actually had a great night, going 4 for 5, but Shaw shut the Dodgers down. They stranded runners in every inning and when Shaw was lifted in the 8th inning, he had a 1-0 lead. Koufax was perhaps even more spectacular, he held the Sox to just 5 hits in 7 innings and the lone run that they scored crossed the plate when Sherm Lollar bounced into a double play. 18 innings, 6 pitchers and 1 run scored. There were no RBIs, no pies in the face, just one of the most nail bitingly great World Series of all time. The man who got the win, who outdueled Koufax, was know other than Bob Shaw who had gone 18-6 with a 18-6 with a 2.69 ERA during the regular season was the man who came away with the win to keep the Sox alive for one more game. Of course the next game Johnny Podres beat the Sox behind home runs from Chuck Essegian, Wally Moon and Duke Snider and the Dodgers won it all in 6 games, but Bob Shaw, who was otherwise a journeyman pitcher, became a legend that night. He and Billy Pierce and Dick Donavon combined to do what Cliff Lee couldn’t. They threw a shutout in the World Series and beat the heavily favored Dodgers in front of 92 thousand plus Dodgers fans. Bob Shaw was a fascinating figure in White Sox history and I had been trying to track him down for a while, but we never managed to be in the same place at the same time. He lived in Tequesta, Florida which is a small town on the ocean, about 20 miles north of Palm Beach. I had to drive though there on other business and I called Shaw to see if we could work something out. This was in August of 1998. He was set to leave for Las Vegas that day to promote his business Synthetic Turf International at a trade show, but he said that if I hurried, I could chat with him until his airport limo picked him up. I put the pedal to the floor and arrived at his home just in time. I knew that I had less than an hour with the man, but wanted to get acquainted with him before we got right down to interview mode, so some coffee was poured and baseball was talked. Before I get into the short little mini interview, here is a quick introduction on the right handed pitcher who went by the name Robert J. "Bob" Shaw. He broke into the big leagues at age 24 in 1957 with the Detroit Tigers. That year he went 0-1 in 7 relief appearance. Midway though the next season he was traded to the Chicago White Sox. He was 5-2 for them in 40 games that year, starting only 5 times. He spent parts of 4 seasons with the Go Go Sox but none were better than their American League Pennant winning campaign in 1959. That was the Sox’ first World Series appearance since the Black Sox scandal in 1919, it took them 40 years to get back to the big one. Shaw split his time between the bullpen and the rotation that year, but by the end of the season he had solidified his role as their number 2 starter behind Early Wynn. During the regular season he was 18-6 with a 2.69 ERA. He led the AL in winning percentage and tossed 8 complete games and pitched in 230 innings. He appeared in 47 games, notched 3 saves and 3 shutouts on the way to the AL Flag. His career would last for 11 seasons before he retired at the age of 34 after a disappointing year with the Chicago Cubs in 1967. Over those 11 seasons he won 108 games against 98 losses with a 3.52 ERA. He wasn’t an overpowering pitcher by any means, but he was a fast worker who let the ball be put in play, but never really hit the barrel of the bat. He was a similar pitcher to Mark Buehrle. He was a workhorse pitcher and the more he worked, the better he got. He only topped 200 innings three times during his career and those were his three best years and his win total never dipped below 15 and his ERA never went higher than 2.80 when working that often. That ERA came in 1962, his lone All Star appearance. He went 15-9 for the Braves with 12 complete games that year. He also won 11 games for the miserable Mets in 1966 and hit a home run for the Giants in 1965. All that was good, but he became part of baseball folklore on Tuesday October 6, 1959 when he outdueled Sandy Koufax in front of 92,706 fans crammed into the Los Angeles Coliseum while the White Sox faced elimination, down 3 games to one. Shaw had grown up in the Bronx and had watched Joe DiMaggio, Whitey Ford, Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra all come through in the fall. On that night it was his turn and without a Superman effort, the Sox season would be done. He held the Dodgers to 9 hits over 7.1 innings, allowing 1 walk and striking out one. It wasn’t a spectacular stat line, but it was a spectacular performance. Now that you know a little bit about the man, the interview is almost redundant, but since this tape is 11 years old and still plays, I will post it anyway. Over the years, Shaw had been accused of throwing a spitball, but I didn’t have the chance to ask that question on tape, but I did bring it up and I remember his response. Something along the lines of “No, I never threw a spitter, but it is really funny to me that you are bringing that up considering your parents hadn’t even met when I played my final game”. I would have loved to be able to get in touch with Mr. Shaw to ask him his prediction for this 2009 World Series. I would bet that he would be pulling for the Phillies. He loved the underdog and he loved to see the Yankees go down. Without any further adieu, here it is, from August 19, 1998…
Collective Troll: What was your fondest memory of pitching on the big stage in the 1959 World Series?
Bob Shaw: The excitement of the players, their families and the fans. The combination of that made it the most excitement that I had ever felt. It was a thrill just to be there, but getting to make two starts with that many people watching was amazing, I just wanted to do well and not make a bunch of mistakes with so many people watching.
CT: In 1959 you led the league in winning percentage and finished third in Cy Young voting behind your teammate Early Wynn. Of all of your victories that year, which ones stand out the most in the regular season?
BS: I grew up in the Bronx and I lived in Garden City, Long Island so it was always special to play and beat the Yankees.
CT: Was it exciting to be in a pennant race with the Sox in 1959?
BS: It was very exciting playing on a winning team where everyone had a winning attitude. You would feel confident that you can pull off a win in the late innings even if you were behind. Everybody wanted to win so badly on that team, everyone picked everyone else up, so if you lost a game, it was a team loss, not one guy.
CT: What was the toughest team on you personally that year, in 1959?
BS: The Baltimore Orioles always had my number. Brooks Robinson, Bob Boyd, Walt Dropo and Gene Woodling. They just hit me well all the time.
CT: The White Sox had a very solid coaching staff that year…
BS: Ray Berres is the best pitching coach that I have ever been around. I owe a great deal to Ray Berres and Al Lopez, too. Lopez trusted me with the potential elimination game, game 5. He had all the confidence in me and I couldn’t let him down, he was a great manager. Ray Berres’ knowledge of mechanics and his ability to teach is uncanny. I don’t think I would have ever had any success if not for him. I was really lucky that as a young pitcher still, that I was able to learn from Berres and Lopez, too. They were both catchers and they knew pitchers well.
CT: What about spring training in Sarasota and Florida, was that a good experience for you?
BS: I must say that I enjoyed both Tampa and Sarasota more than any other place. The people in all of the spring training towns in Florida were very friendly and knowledgeable. I really liked the Columbia Restaurant in Sarasota and I think it is still there. I almost bought a lot in Sorrento Shores.
CT: Did you enjoy your time with the Sox? Do you still keep in touch with any of the guys?
BS: I did thoroughly enjoy playing in Chicago, for the White Sox, but unfortunately, I rarely see any of my old teammates.
CT: What is the one thing you are most remembered for, and what would you like to be remembered for?
BS: Fortunately it’s a good thing and the same thing. I will always be known as the guy who beat Koufax 1-0 in the World Series.
CT: Aside from the Sox, what was your favorite team to play for?
BS: The San Francisco Giants. That team in 1965 had Willie Mays, Orlando Cepeda, Willie McCovey and Jesus Alou. Our pitching rotation was Juan Marichal, me, Gaylord Perry, Warren Spahn and Jack Harshman. There were 5 Hall of Famers on that team and a lot of stars.
CT: You mentioned that you played with Mays and McCovey; you also played with Hank Aaron-it had to be nice having those guys on your team. You did have to face some of the best hitters of all time in the American and National Leagues. Who was the greatest hitter of all-time and who were some of the toughest guys to get out for you?
BS: Well, Ted Williams was the greatest hitter ever. Two guys who aren’t in the Hall of Fame, but were always tough to get out no matter what were Jackie Brandt and Tito Francona.
CT: As a pitcher, was it better or more exciting for you to face Hall of Fame caliber batters because of the challenge?
BS: Yes, it was definitely more exciting to face a great hitter, but you still had to get everyone out.
CT: How about as a batter, who was the toughest pitcher you ever faced?
BS: The best pitcher I ever faced, maybe the best I ever saw was Sandy Koufax. I got a hit off of Johny Podres in game two, and I really wanted to hit Koufax. He struck me out though. Another guy who I never had any luck against, who gave everyone a really tough time was Ryne Duren of the Yankees. I’ve enjoyed our conversation, but I have a plain to catch and the limo is here. Give me a call and we’ll finish this up later.
CT: Thanks Bob, have a safe trip!
We did follow it up eventually, but those tapes are long gone. Fortunately his memory of that fateful 1959 season is alive and well. The Go-Go Sox are a team that has always fascinated me and the grand stage of the 1959 World Series is one of the best I can think of. The great Hall of Fame players involved the 90,000 plus fans and the unlikely heroes. The fact that big Ted Kluzewski had as many RBI (10) in the World Series as he had in the regular season speaks volumes on big-game players stepping their game up for the big stage. There have been many, but Kirk Gibson keeps on coming to mind… I can’t believe that I didn’t watch the World Series last night, that has to be a first for me. I have sat in front of the TV mesmerized every year since 1977, but this year, these match-ups just don’t grab me. CC Sabathia didn’t look too good in game 1, but tonight he has a shot at redemption against Joe Blanton and the Phillies. May the best team win, I really don’t care… What do you guys consider the best World Series pitching performances to be? Gotta go to work, troll out.


  1. I've got a Bob Shaw interview saved, too. I talked to him before the White Sox went to the World Series in 2005.

    Best WS pitching performances? Jack Morris has to be at the top from what I've seen. Orel Hershiser was pretty good in '88, too!

  2. I've seen a lot of great pitching performances in the World Series, but the one that stands out is Game 4 of the 2005 World Series. Brandon Backe against Freddy Garcia. The game was won on small ball in the eighth for a 1-0 victory. The entire series could have gone either way, but the last game was the most nerve wracking.

    Led by Garcia, the Sox staff shut down every threat in that final game to sweep the Astros. It was a thing of beauty to witness.

  3. Wouldn't just be easier just to put a disclaimer on your blog rather than a long post warning before every post??