Bottom of the ninth, two out, his team down 1-0, Giants’ slugger Willie McCovey ripped a line drive in Game 7 of the 1962 World Series. Yankee second baseman Bobby Richardson caught the rocket, lest it crash into his head. McCovey’s screeching out, with Willie Mays on third base and Matty Alou on second, ended the game, the Series, and the Giants’ October dream.
Juan Marichal, the great Giants pitcher, says the 6-foot-4-inch McCovey absolutely scalded that pitch off Ralph Terry. “If Willie had hit that ball in the air,” Marichal said to a reporter, “it would have ended up in the ocean.”
If McCovey had smashed his shot just inches to the left or right of Richardson, Mays and Alou probably would have scored, and the Giants would have won. If McCovey had dinked a blooper down the right-field line, Mays and Alou probably would have scored, and the Giants would have won. Darn the luck; McCovey hit a missile that found a Yankee.
“Wee” Willie Keeler, a foot shorter than “Stretch” McCovey,” famously said, “Hit ‘em where they ain’t.” McCovey did not heed that advice. As if a man swinging a piece of lumber as violently as McCovey did could possibly direct a ball to a vacant spot on the grass.
Billy Beane, the Oakland A’s general manager, calls the playoffs “a crapshoot.” He is referring to the flukiness that goes along with a short series. Sometimes, a weak hitter turns into a temporary slugger. Sometimes, a mediocre pitcher throws the game of his life. And sometimes, a future Hall of Famer like Willie McCovey hits the ball as hard he can hit it, and he still makes an out.
This is a great paragraph from an article written by Michael Baumann at grantland.com. Baumann sums up the quirks of postseason baseball.
Playoff baseball is the process of a team slowly tying its own noose, one strand at a time, over the course of a week or more. The tiniest decisions, bounces, lapses in concentration, umpire’s decisions, and changes in barometric pressure can determine who makes the World Series, and we won’t know how or why it happened until it’s all over. And sometimes not even then.
On Oct. 19, 1962, Willie McCovey did something to keep the Giants from winning the World Series. He hit a screaming line drive right at the second baseman.