Friday March 18, 2022
Ralph Terry (1936-2022)
Ralph Terry was on the mound for two of the greatest moments in baseball history.
The first was Bill Mazeroski's homerun that ended the 1960 World Series. That's a no-doubter. Mazeroski is the only player who ever did what every kid dreams of doing: hitting a Game 7, bottom-of-the-ninth-inning homerun that wins the World Series. And Terry was the guy who served it up.
The second moment, two years later, ended another World Series but it was kind of the opposite. In the '62 Series, the Yankees kept winning the odd games (1, 3, 5), the Giants countered with the even games (2,4, 6), and Terry started Game 7 for the bad guys. At that point, Terry had an unYankee-like 1-4 World Series record,†but through five innings of Game 7 he was perfect: 15 up, 15 down, and the Yanks took a 1-0 lead in the 5th on Tony Kubek's double-play grounder. The first hit off Terry came from, of all players, pitcher Jack Sanford, who singled with two outs in the 6th. Willie McCovey got the second hit: a triple with two outs in the 7th. Neither man scored. It was still 1-0 going into the bottom of the 9th when Matty Alou led off with a single. The next two guys struck out, but that brought up the best player in baseball, Willie Mays, who doubled to right. How Matty Alou didn't score from first, I don't know. I've heard Maris made a good play in right. Anyway, that brought up McCovey again, who, on a 0-1 pitch, lined a rocket to right fieldóbut right at second baseman Bobby Richardson, who was perfectly placed, one could say “shifted,” on the far side of second, closer to first, really. And the inning, game, season and series were over, along with you could say, Terry's ignominy. Imagine if that had gotten through. That's all Terry would be known for: losing Game 7s. Instead, it's the ying and yang of it.††
So why was that McCovey/Richardson moment so great? Because it inspired Giants fan Charles Schulz to pen this classic strip in the off-season:
The date on that one is Dec. 22, 1962.†
More than a month later, Jan. 28, 1963, he added another:
I always thought there were three such stripsógoing to one foot higheróbut it's just the two. Even so, they're great. Every fan of every losing team relates. I certainly did after Super Bowl XLIX.
Terry had been recruited by many teams, including the Cardinals, but signed with the Yankees. Then he got caught in that NY-KC traffic. The 1950s Kansas City Athletics were a virtual farm-system team for the Yanks, and in June '57 he was sent down (along with Billy Martin, who was considered a bad influence on Mickey Mantle), and in May '59 he was recalled. His best season was probably '62, when he started 39 games, went 23-12, and led the league in wins, innings pitched, and homeruns allowed. He was good the next season, too, leading the league in WHIP, but he fell off in '64 and was traded to Cleveland ignominiously in October as a PTBNL (Player to be named later). In '66 he was traded back to the KC A's, and in August was purchased by the NY Mets, who, at the time, had a thing for ex-Yankees. He was released and signed and released for good in May '67. In†his last game, he pitched in relief, two innings, and was perfect: six up, six down. The last batter he faced was one of the most fierce hitters in baseball: Dick Allen. He struck him out swinging.†
Born in Big Cabin, Oklahoma, Terry died on Wednesday in Larned, Kansas, from complications after an icy slip-and-fall this winter. He was 86.