Friday, October 10, 2008

Lolich's '68 World Series One For The Ages

It's been 40 years to the day, and I think it'll be 40 more, at least. In fact, it may not ever happen again.

"It" is what Mickey Lolich did for the Detroit Tigers in the 1968 World Series.

On the surface, it might not seem like one of those unbreakable records that are so fun to debate over a cold one and some pretzels. But then you stop to think about it, and it becomes clear: it's doubtful that anyone will match what Lolich did in '68 for the Tigers.

1968 may have been Denny McLain's year -- in the regular season -- with his 31 victories and ERA below 2.00. But the WS belonged to Lolich. The portly lefty started three games, completed them all, won them all, and for good measure pitched Game 7 on two days' rest to save the Tigers' bacon.

Why is this so impressive? And why is it unlikely to ever happen again?

An enduring image: Lolich leaps into Bill Freehan's arms after registering the final out of the 1968 Series

First, how many pitchers even start three World Series games in this day and age of five-man rotations? Unless you have some rainouts in there, AND the series goes seven games, you're unlikely to see three starts by any one pitcher. Then, how many will throw three complete games? That's even less likely.

Lolich's numbers were mind-boggling: 27 IP, 20 H, 21 K, 6 BB, 1.67 ERA, 3-0 record. He only allowed two home runs, just one more than he himself hit. It was about the most no-brainer MVP win in Series history.

The story of how Lolich ended up going the distance in Game 7, just three days after throwing nine innings in Game 5, is legendary. Manager Mayo Smith asked Lolich if he could give the team "a few innings" in a Game 7 start. Lolich, with his famous rubber arm, said yes. Then after those "few innings", Smith asked Lolich, in the dugout, if he could go one more. Lolich said yes. After that inning, the game scoreless with Bob Gibson on the mound for the Cardinals, Smith again asked Lolich for one more inning. And Lolich obliged. Then the Tigers rallied for three runs in the top of the seventh inning, breaking the 0-0 tie. So Smith asked Lolich to finish the game. Lolich, of course, said yes, figuring he had all winter to rest. Lolich suspected that Smith never intended to lift him, and that the "few innings" thing was a ruse from the get-go, not that Lolich minded.

So what do YOU think? Will another pitcher ever match Mickey Lolich's 1968 World Series performance?


Blogger Brian said...

The ONLY way you're going to get 3 wins, let alone 3 complete game wins, by a starter in a WS is as you said - there needs to be a lot of rain.

One other factor that would seem to preclude this from happening is the division series in addition to the LCS. Mayo got to set up his rotation because the Tigers clinched early enough and there were no playoff games to go through. Of course, in Mayo's plan, Denny would have gone games one, four, and seven, but Lolich's performance trumped that.

Even if you had a guy like Beckett at your disposal (Beckett from the last couple post-seasons, not tonight), if he were scheduled to pitch games 2 and 5, no manager would ever even think to chance asking him to go on two days rest in today's game. The closest anybody has come to that was Schilling starting game 7 for the D-backs with the idea that maybe Randy Johnson could go a few innings if neccesary on almost no rest.

So the long-winded answer to your question is... no.

9:53 PM  

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