‘Mr. October’ knows legends can be born with signature Series
Posted: Wednesday, October 26, 2011 7:01 pm
By BEN WALKER
AP Baseball Writer
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Those massive home runs that Albert Pujols hit at Rangers Ballpark, they’ll be rattling around for years to come. Same goes for those long drives that Mike Napoli delivered.
A huge swing or two or three, a masterful job on the mound, a sparkling play in the field can do more than win a World Series game. They can create a legacy that lasts forever.
Just ask “Mr. October.”
“It absolutely can define a career,” Reggie Jackson said by telephone this week. “I’m not saying whether that’s right or wrong, but that’s how it happens.”
Every fall, in fact. Someone steps up — maybe a monster talent like Pujols, perhaps a good player like Napoli given a chance when the stars align. Might even be a fringe guy — Allen Craig for St. Louis this year, Cody Ross for San Francisco the last time around.
Napoli and the Texas Rangers can close out the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 6 at Busch Stadium on tonight. If they win their first championship, the catcher who was traded twice within a week in January is destined to part of the lore.
For a long, long time.
“What year did Babe Ruth call his shot? 1932? You still see kids out there, calling their shot,” Jackson said. “That game wasn’t on TV, those kids didn’t see it. But they’ve heard about it, they know about it all these years later.”
Jackson hit a Game 7 home run in a 1973 win for Oakland, then earned a nickname for life when he homered three times in the Yankees’ Series-clinching victory in 1977.
Suppose he’d done a little less, say, hit three balls off the wall at Yankee Stadium on that signature night. Would he still be “Mr. October”?
“Probably not,” he said.
Already a three-time NL MVP, Pujols put on what many called the greatest hitting show in postseason history when he tied Series records with three home runs, six RBIs and five hits during the Cardinals’ romp in Game 3.
Those are Pujols’ only hits in the Series so far, with Texas often pitching around him or simply issuing intentional walks. Yet if the Cardinals win the championship, chances are his pulverizing performance will be the featured shots in replays.
In Game 5, Texas manager Ron Washington made Pujols the first player in World Series history to receive an intentional walk with nobody on base, STATS LLC said.
Not everyone gets to savor the big stage. Ted Williams slumped in his lone World Series, fellow Hall of Famer Ernie Banks never got close.
Nolan Ryan made 773 starts over 27 seasons, yet his total Series time amounted to a relief appearance of 21⁄3 innings for the champion 1969 Mets. The Rangers president and part-owner understands the October glare.
“Well, I think there’s expectations that the media and the fan base have with certain players,” he said this week. “You can’t judge on a short series about players, but people’s expectations are Albert Pujols is capable of doing what he did the other night, and that adds to his reputation and expectations.”
Texas fans are hoping Josh Hamilton can provide the same sort of shot.
Published in The Messenger 10.26.11