Hopping in the Wayback Machine for a trip to three World Series past, each celebrating an anniversary this fall and each featuring Mississippi connections. Going back 90 years to 1932, we have New York Yankees vs. Chicago Cubs, a contentious Series swept by the Yankees and made famous by the “Called Shot.” Babe Ruth hit that legendary home run in Game 3. Guy Bush, “The Mississippi Mudcat,” played a tangential role. Aberdeen native Bush, a 19-game winner for the Cubs in 1932, started Game 1 at Yankee Stadium and got shelled: eight runs in 5 1/3 innings. At Wrigley Field for Game 3, in the fifth inning with the score tied at 4-4, Ruth came to the plate. Players on the Cubs bench reportedly were riding Ruth hard; Bush was one of their most vociferous bench jockeys. Ruth made a gesture with a finger, possibly pointing toward center field, possibly pointing at the Cubs’ bench. Accounts differ, but not about what happened next. He homered to right-center field. New York won Game 3 7-5. Bush started again in Game 4. In the first inning, he gave up two hits, hit Ruth with a pitch, yielded a sac fly and walked the next batter. He was pulled. His ERA for the series: 14.29. Three years later, as fate would have it, Bush yielded the last two home runs of Ruth’s career, ensuring that the pair will be forever linked. … Sixty years ago, we have Yankees vs. San Francisco Giants, a seven-game classic that ended in OMG fashion. Jackson native Marshall Bridges, the “Sheriff,” was a relief pitcher for New York. Ex-Southern Miss star Jim “Peanut” Davenport played third base for the Giants. Neither had a great Series. Bridges posted a 4.91 ERA in two appearances, surrendering a grand slam to Chuck Hiller in a Game 4 loss. Davenport went 3-for-22 with one RBI. Both were watching when Yankees second baseman Bobby Richardson snared Willie McCovey’s line drive to end Game 7, a 1-0 Yankees victory, with the winning run in scoring position. … Thirty years ago, in the 1992 Toronto-Atlanta Fall Classic, no Mississippi native or college alum saw the field. But a current Mississippi connection put on quite the show in a losing cause. It should come as no surprise perhaps that Jackson State football coach Deion Sanders, aka “Prime Time,” would thrive on the big stage for the Braves. Sanders played in four of the six games, going 8-for-15 with two walks, four runs, an RBI and five stolen bases. Oh, and he was also playing for the Atlanta Falcons that fall; he skipped a road football game (a 56-17 loss at San Francisco) to play for the Braves in Atlanta on Oct. 18, going 1-for-3 in the Game 2 loss. Strange but true. P.S. The Mississippi connection in this year’s World Series won’t take the field but will have a great view: Laurel native Bobby Dickerson is Philadelphia’s infield coach.
Roy Oswalt, recently elected to the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame, is arguably the best major league pitcher the Magnolia State has ever produced. The right-hander from Weir won 163 games, posted two 20-win seasons, won an ERA title, made three All-Star teams, won an LCS MVP award and pitched in the World Series. His career ERA was 3.36, and he had over 1,800 strikeouts. For what it’s worth, his career WAR is 50.1, which is higher than that of Jack Morris, who went into the National Baseball Hall of Fame last summer. Oswalt was on the ballot for the first time for the 2019 class. As good as he was – and his stuff was unhittable at times — his Hall chances probably aren’t so good. The numbers just don’t rise to that level. Consider this: Guy Bush, the Mississippi Mudcat from Aberdeen, won 176 games – most by a Mississippi native — from 1923-38 and added another 34 saves. Four times he won 18 or more games. His ERA was 3.86, and he played in a hitters’ era. He pitched in two World Series, including 1929, the year he won 18 games and saved eight for the Chicago Cubs. Bush was on the HOF ballot one year and got 1 percent of the vote from the writers. Tough crowd, those writers. There are no Mississippi-born major league players in the National Baseball Hall of Fame – Cool Papa Bell and William Foster were Negro Leagues stars – and while Oswalt will get some voter support, that’s likely to remain the case in 2019. … The HOF ballots were due Dec. 31, and the announcement of new electees will be made on Jan. 22. P.S. Former Jackson Generals Lance Berkman and Freddy Garcia were first-timers on the ballot for 2019 and ex-Gens star Billy Wagner was a notable returnee. A case can be made for both Wagner and Berkman making the grade at some point. No ex-Gens (or Jackson Mets, for that matter) are enshrined in Cooperstown.
Guy Bush, the “Mississippi Mudcat” from Aberdeen, finished his major league career in 1945 with some nice numbers: 176 wins (most ever by a Mississippi native), 542 appearances, 151 complete games. He also allowed 151 home runs, a total that happened to include the last two – Nos. 713 and 714 — hit by Babe Ruth. It happened on May 25, 1935, at Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field. Bush, who spent most of his career with the Chicago Cubs, was pitching for the Pirates. Ruth, who made his legend with the New York Yankees, was in his only season with the Boston Braves. He hit three homers that day in Pittsburgh, the first off of Red Lucas, who was replaced by Bush in the first inning. The last homer of Ruth’s career cleared the right-field roof at Forbes Field, the first ever to do that. May 25, 1935, truly was Ruth’s last hurrah. He played only five more games in the big leagues without getting another hit. Meanwhile, it was a tough day all around for Bush. He logged six innings in relief and the Pirates prevailed 11-7, but he didn’t get the win. Waite Hoyt blew the save after replacing Bush in the seventh inning.
Roy Oswalt, the pride of Weir and Holmes Community College, retired today with 163 career wins and a 3.36 ERA. Forget his struggles the last two seasons. Remember that he made three All-Star Games, twice won 20 games in a year and claimed the National League ERA crown in 2006. Oswalt was drafted by the Houston Astros in 1996 (23rd round), when the team still had its Double-A club in Jackson. Alas, when he reached that level, in 2000, the franchise was in its first year in Round Rock, Texas. Oswalt spent 10 years with the Astros and might’ve enjoyed his finest moments in 2005, when he led the club to its only World Series appearance. Oswalt won three games in four starts in the ’05 postseason. He made one start in the Series and got a no-decision against the Chicago White Sox, who won in four. Oswalt’s MLB win total ranks second among Mississippi-born pitchers, behind only Aberdeen’s Guy Bush, who won 176. Simply put, Oswalt is one the state’s all-time best.