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Series history full of disputes and controversy



Published: Thu, October 26, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



Game 5 was postponed by rain and will be made up tonight in St. Louis.

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Kenny Rogers has company. This is hardly the first World Series to be smudged by one strange play or disputed decision.

There was Mike Piazza's shattered bat six years ago, Don Denkinger's missed call in 1985 and Reggie Jackson's brazen base-running at Yankee Stadium in '78.

Yup, for nearly a century, the World Series has been marked by controversy time and time again. Go all the way back to 1907, when Detroit nearly won Game 1 before it was stopped because of darkness and the Chicago Cubs capitalized with a four-game sweep.

Wonder if anybody's still smarting over that in Motown.

The Tigers, of course, are in the middle of another ruckus this October. The moment that television camera zoomed in on the palm of Rogers' pitching hand in Game 2, the 2006 World Series was forever changed.

Freeze frame. A brownish smudge, clearly visible.

Was it pine tar, or just an innocent clump of dirt? Was he a cheater, or just sloppy? And is it OK to cheat just a little bit if the other guy might be doing it, too?

The debate continues

The debate rages on and it's not going away -- no matter how much that infuriates St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa and Detroit skipper Jim Leyland.

"In a classic of this sort, everything gets magnified," Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda said Tuesday. "One big play makes a difference in a Series. And those are the things that they'll remember."

Maybe that's a good thing for baseball.

"Controversy is always going to be part of the game. And I think it should be," said former Cincinnati second baseman Joe Morgan, also a Hall of Famer. "We're human beings. We're going to make mistakes, and you remember those mistakes."

Morgan got the decisive hit in one of the greatest World Series ever played, helping the Reds squeak past Boston with a Game 7 victory in 1975.

Earlier in that Series, there was a wild play in front of home plate. Carlton Fisk of the Red Sox nearly collided with Cincinnati pinch-hitter Ed Armbrister, who was blocking the catcher's path as he tried to field a 10th-inning bunt in Game 3.

Reds capitalized for win

Fisk made a wild throw past second and Boston argued vehemently for an interference call, to no avail. The Reds took advantage for a 6-5 win.

Three years later, Jackson planted himself in the baseline between first and second, stuck out his hip and deflected a throw by Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Bill Russell in Game 4.

An incensed Lasorda, the Dodgers' manager, argued unsuccessfully for interference and the Yankees rallied to tie the Series. New York went on to win in six games, and the memorable play still angers Lasorda.

"Sure it does, because it was deliberate and he had no right to do what he did. But you've got to give the guy credit, he thought enough about doing it," Lasorda said. "That would have been the third out."

Another famous call came during Game 5 in 1969, when New York Mets manager Gil Hodges brought umpire Lou DiMuro a ball with shoe polish on it to persuade him that Cleon Jones had been hit by a pitch from Baltimore's Dave McNally.

And in '85, Denkinger was the first-base umpire who incorrectly called Jorge Orta safe in the ninth inning of Game 6, setting up Dane Iorg's two-run single in Kansas City's 2-1 victory over St. Louis. The next night, Bret Saberhagen and the Royals won the title, 11-0.

"Black Sox" banned

Of course, the biggest scandal in postseason history developed when eight players on the 1919 Chicago White Sox, including "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, were charged with throwing the World Series against Cincinnati. They later became known as the "Black Sox" and were banned from baseball for life by commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis.

Piazza's broken bat became the focal point of the 2000 Subway Series when Yankees ace Roger Clemens fielded the splintered barrel after a foul ball and threw it toward Piazza as he ran for first base.

The two already had a testy history after Clemens beaned Piazza during the regular season, and that jaw-dropping moment in Game 2 overshadowed The Rocket's outstanding pitching performance.

Obscured splendid outing

Similarly, the smudge on Rogers' palm somewhat obscured his splendid outing Sunday night. And it got worse when the Series shifted to St. Louis, where Cardinals fans at Busch Stadium chanted "Cheat-er! Cheat-er!"

The 41-year-old left-handed pitcher, who has thrown 23 scoreless innings this postseason, is scheduled to start Game 6 if the Series goes that far.

If the Cardinals win the championship, the Rogers flap might fade. Or perhaps something even crazier will occur.

"To this point it's defined by it, but there's so many things that can happen between now and the end of the Series that it could change," Morgan said.

After all, it's happened before.

Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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