I really wasn’t going to do another one of these.

Simply really. The last one got a lot of positive feedback and, frankly, in a lot of ways, I’ve moved away from baseball (and most other professional sports) to soccer and college athletics, so why not quit while I was ahead? But the death of George Steinbrenner has made me want to “live blog” this particular game: Game 5 of the 1976 American League Championship Series between the Kansas City Royals and the New York Yankees, October 14, 1976. For George, this was his first real triumph as Yankees owner: the first time the Yankees had been to post season in twelve years. For me, it was a watershed game. This was the first Royals team I followed avidly, and the amount of civic pride in their accomplishment was just insane. This particular game started my life lessons that, no matter how much a nine year old wants to believe, sometimes his heroes don’t win. And so, off we go to a chilly October night in the Bronx….

– There is only one way this game can start: Crowd shot, pan left, Voice Over: “Hello again everyone. (Cue Medium shot against green screen) I’m Howard Cosell. Welcome to Yankee Stadium.” Yup, it’s Cosell and his rug. AWESOME.
– Speaking of awesome, I’ll be blunt. I covet one of those canary yellow 1970’s era ABC Sports Blazers. Dearly. If you can get me one, 44R, I will, as the kids say, be your best friend. If I had one, I’d wear it everywhere: interviews, the grocery store, surgery. It would be my shroud. Caveat: It has to have the ABC Sports patch on the left front panel.
– And now, Cosell does his patented “week in review” regarding this series. He was the master of this, and if you can ever find his week in reviews he used to do for Monday Night Football, watch them. Technically, he was working with fire and sticks compared to today’s anchors, but could that man tell a story.
– Hey, KC fans, remember when sitting on the first base side meant there was a 50/50 chance you’d get hit with one of George Brett’s errant throws? He did it twice in the first inning of Game 1. That’s OK, because Thurman Munson threw two into center field in Game 2 to even the series.
– Post wrap up, the coolness factor gets doubled. Guess who is the guest color commentator? Reggie Jackson. Yes, Baltimore Orioles right fielder Reggie Jackson is right next to Howard. Yup, Reg played for the O’s in 1976. To quote the Ol’ Perfesser, Casey Stengel, “You can look it up.” Reggie is tight, as in way nervous. That’s OK, Reg. If memory serves, Howard has a little glass of something off camera to steady your nerves ;)
– And, now Howard turns to the play by play man. Say hello to the voice of College Football, Keith Jackson. Whoa, Nellie.
– They cut to the field for the starting lineups and there is the voice of God, Bob Sheppard, on the PA. Rest in peace, Bob. BTW, Bob gives a little summary of each player’s accomplishment to introduce them. What a guy.
– There is only one Royal really worth talking about in these intros, the coolest Royal ever and arguably the coolest MLB’er ever… Cookie Rojas. With lollipop and horned rim glasses. Cookie rocks.
– Which Yankee gets the loudest ovation? Please. Billy Martin.
– OK, I just had to rewind to make sure my eyes weren’t deceiving me, but if you look closely when they announce Chris Chambliss, you can see there are open flames behind the water cooler in the Yankee dugout. That’s hilarious and, in retrospect, ominous.
– Singing the national anthem is Melba Moore, dressed like she just came from a “Charlie” commercial. Man, did I just date myself with that one.
– Play Ball.
– Yankee starting pitcher and pride of Puerto Rico, Ed Figueroa, is on the hill. It’s his 28th birthday today. Happy birthday, Ed!
– Um, yeah. Up steps George Brett. Did we mention that George OWNED Ed Figueroa. At this point in his career, George was 16/24 against him, a .666 average, with 13 consecutive hits. Whoops. Make that 14, with a double off the right field wall. 1B John Mayberry hits one into right field seats. Happy birthday, Ed. KC 2- NY 0.
– Bottom of the first and Dennis Leonard is starting for KC and rockin’ the Fu Manchu. Trust me, that was not a common look for KC in the 70’s. I was there.
– Leading off for the Yankees is Mickey Rivers, the man who could twirl a bat after a swing like he was in the talent portion of the Miss America pageant. Love Mick the Quick. He just tripled into left, off of a horribly misplayed ball by KC left fielder, Tom Poquette.
– Forgotten Yankee legend Roy White legs out an infield single, driving in Rivers. KC 2- NY 1. Thurman Munson singles and Dennis Leonard doesn’t even get an out before he hits the showers. KC lefthander, current Royals broadcaster, and pride of Sioux City, Iowa (Dad’s hometown), Paul Splittorff, comes in for relief.
– Chris Chambliss sac fly to LF. All tied up. MNF’s Chet Forte is directing this telecast. I’ve got a piece of advice for him: At the commercial break, go tell Reggie “Less is more.” Dude needs to stop talking so much.
– Top of the 2nd and they start talking about Royals SS, Fred Patek. Apparently, Freddie liked to snack and KC management had him on a regimen in which he was weighed every week and he was fined $100 for each pound over 145. Can they do that today? For the record, Freddie was only 5’ 4”.
– Buck Martinez, an original 1969 Royal, singles in Cookie Rojas to put the Royals up, 3-2. Just before his hit, we are treated to Keith Jackson putting on the hairshirt and admitting he had been mispronouncing Martinez’ name incorrectly the entire series. Even funnier is that apparently Reggie Martinez Jackson has been mispronouncing his last name as well. It’s either Mar-TEEN-ez or MAR-ten-ez. My head hurts.
– So, what do we see when we come back from the ad break to the bottom of the 2nd? A certain bald someone with his back to the camera, wearing a ridiculously expensive Chinchilla coat that would get him doused with red paint today. HC lets us know its Telly Savalas. Duh, Howard. BTW, he and Telly were actually quite close in real life, no joke.
– OK, top of the third, and Howard announces that they are going to be showing taped segments with the Cincinnati Reds (the NL champs) talking about who they’d like to face. First up will be, according to HC, “Peppery” Pete Rose. Shouldn’t that be “Perp” Pete Rose? (rim shot) Thanks. I’ll be here all week. Tip your waitresses.
– Sure enough, Pete shows up in the bottom of the third, wearing a pair of Foster Grant sunglasses and with his signature Moe Howard haircut. He wants to face the Yankees.
– I’ve got to say this, and now is as good a time as any. I always hated the Steinbrenner renovation to old Yankee Stadium. I understand why he did it, but they just butchered the park, particularly because you could still see the original, rather iconic, dimensions. That, and I hated those blue walls. Anyway, back to the game.
– Bottom of the third and the Yankees break through. Rivers singles, White singles, Munson drives Rivers in with a single. KC 3- NY 3. They stop the game because, according to Howard, Yankee fans are throwing “confetti” on the field. Howard, what you call “confetti” we called “Charmin” in KC. Nice try, Cosell.
– Fielder’s choice on Chambliss, Roy White scores, NY 4- KC 3.
– Top of the fourth, and Cincinnati Red Bob Bailey shows up and casts his vote for the Yankees. Keith mentions that Bob is “no longer that svelte young man that came out of Long Beach, is he?” Translation: Lay off the Chili Five Ways and Falstaff, Bob, you’re a professional athlete. Apparently, Cincinnati management was a little more lenient that KC management when it came to post game snacks. HC piles on, “Bob was supposed to be one of the great Pittsburgh Pirates of all time. That didn’t happen.” Ouch. What he must have said to Frank and Dandy Don after a few pops on Monday night would be worth hearing.
– Bottom of the fourth, and now, we see Telly’s face. Back at corporate, Fred Silverman is yelling “He’s on CBS, you morons. Cut away!” Keith announces they’ve started a trash can fire in the Yankees bullpen to stay warm. Golly, who needs the Bowery?
– A brief excursion on the merits of fielding first basemen reminds me of one of the all time great baseball nicknames. The Pirates used to have a horrible fielding first basemen back in the 60’s named Dick Stuart. His nickname? Dr. Strangeglove.
– Finally, at the 1 hour 29 minute mark, George Steinbrenner’s name is evoked for the first time. Apparently, George was unhappy with Mickey Rivers’ efforts in Game 4 and had a “private meeting with him after the game”. Mickey is now 3-3 in this game. That Steinbrenner magic ;)
– Oh, that is hilarious. Quote from Reggie Jackson regarding Steinbrenner, “It always amazes me that someone who never played the game can tell someone how to play it.” Gee, Reg, how’d that work out when YOU were a Yankee? And then “Don’t come down to the clubhouse and tell ME what to do.” They should just play this part for Reggie today and let him sit back and go. I’d pay money to hear it.
– Bottom of the fifth. Don Gullet of the Reds also votes for the Yankees. Says they’ve already been to New York once 3 years ago to play the Mets, so now he’d like to see Yankee Stadium. Don, let me refresh your memory. That Mets-Reds playoff was famous for two things: Pete Rose and Bud Harrelson getting into a fight at second base and your Reds getting punked by a Mets team that was barely .500. Sure you want to go back?
– Man, if Cosell is pouring drinks for Reggie, then I’ve learned that Reggie is a chatty drunk. Cosell can’t get a word in. Let me repeat that, Cosell can’t get a word in.
– Then again, Reggie gets a few choice ones in. Talking about Chris Chambliss, Keith mentions that, for all his athletic accomplishments, his wife owns him on the golf course. Reggie adds, “That’s right, Debra, from Arizona. (Pause) A pretty blonde”. Means nothing today, but in 1976, mixed marriages were still pretty explosive. Thanks for the truth bomb, Reggie. Roone Arledge just got some calls from the southern affiliates.
– Bottom of the sixth, Howard decides to rebut Reggie’s earlier comments about Steinbrenner. Regarding the meeting with Mickey Rivers, “He’s not telling him how to play, Reggie, he’s motivating the man.” How Cosell never got around to running for Senator from Connecticut, a threat he made many times in the 70’s, is beyond me.
– Yanks get a run. Rivers bunts, White sacrifices him over, Munson drives him in. Classic Billy Martin baseball. NY 5- KC 3
– Player salary reference: In questioning the wisdom of pitching to Munson, Reggie mentions that he (Munson) makes $150,000/year. When questioned by Cosell about that number, Reggie responds “If he isn’t making that, he in spitting distance.” Munson was the first Yankee captain since Lou Gehrig. Today, Alex Rodriguez makes a little over that for showing up for 1 game.
– Man, could Carlos May choke up any more on the bat? His top hand isn’t that far away from the label. Well, he just drove in Chris Chambliss, who singled and stole second, thanks to a trademark crappy throw from George Brett. E-5. Grounds crew gets to clean up another crate full of toilet paper from right field. NY 6- KC 3.
– Reggie is using so many clichés, he begs a philosophical question: How many clichés are there, certainly a finite number? Reggie has said nothing of any originality all game, but he has neither repeated himself nor stopped talking. How does he do that and how did he not run for office?
– Top of the eighth. Ed Figueroa is still in there, having really settled down. Spoke too soon, Al Cowens singles and Billy pulls him. Grant Jackson in relief. Pinch hitter Jim Wohlford hits a bloop single into center and George Brett sends the second pitch he sees into a different area code. NY 6-KC 6. The only noise in Yankee Stadium is the sound of hot dog wrappers in the breeze.
– Bit of reputation reclamation. In KC, people tend to remember relief pitcher Mark Littell for what is going to happen in the bottom of the ninth. Littell got the Yanks out 1-2-3 in the 8th, getting rid of hot hitters Mickey Rivers, Roy White and Thurman Munson. Howard just said it’s really hard to hit homeruns off of Mark Littell. Thanks, Howard.
– Top of the ninth, Howard asks Reggie if he can remember every one of the 281 homeruns he has hit so far. Reggie says yes, then reminds us all that home run hitters drive Cadillacs. Or Pontiacs. Reggie is a little confused about this and so am I: Why would they buy GM?
– Ouch time. Freddie Patek fouls one off of Munson’s throat. This was before catcher’s masks had any protection down there. How Munson stayed in the game after that is beyond me.
– Best line of the game: Reggie, talking about slugger Lee May, asking him if he’s concerned about getting hits at Oakland because they kept the grass so high. Lee’s response: “Reggie, where I want to go, the grass don’t grow.” Lee May, your baseball Poet Laureate.
– OK, I’d totally forgotten this, but the top of the 9th ended on a horrible call by Joe Brinkman. Had he properly called Al Cowens safe at second on that force play, George Brett would have been up with the bases loaded. That call was the real game-changer. But, let us go on to “The Moment”
– Bottom of the 9th. Chambliss’ at-bat delayed once again by RF Hal McCrae having to pick up toilet paper in the outfield, something he had to do every inning of this game. Just wait 2 minutes, Hal. Now, the umps have to go out and pick up beer bottles, or as Howard somewhat oddly calls them “dangerous instrumentalities”. Eh, it’s been a long game and there’s not a lot of good grammar at the bottom of a bottle of gin. Bob Sheppard reminds the crowd not to throw bottles on the field. Ah, New York in the 70’s. Whatta town.
– First pitch to Chambliss. Gone. Into the right center field bleachers, just a monster shot. Back in Kansas, a nine year old Chris Gondek sheds a tear and begins to understand Camus.
– Now for a call back to my previous “live-blogging” post. Remember when I joked that, once the Mets won the 69 Series, neither the NYPD nor the Shea Stadium Ushering staff showed up to control the crowd? Well, as soon as that ball cleared the fence, the gates opened up and NYPD swarmed out… and still got trampled by the fans. Chris Chambliss just got chop blocked rounding second, by a Yankee fan. A cop had to help him step on third, and frankly, I’m not sure he did. I know he didn’t touch home, He couldn’t have, because I think the fans had dug it up by the time he got there. Sweathogs rule!
– OK, the Yankees are fighting to get OFF the field. I’ve seen both Chambliss AND Nettles punch fans to get to the dugout. You can’t see the infield because of the riot. NY 7- KC 6. Welcome to the World Series, Mr. Steinbrenner.

Just an incredible game with an even more incredible ending, A classic moment for both franchises.

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