Tigers vs Yankees: The Chase for the 1961 Pennant

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Trust me, there will not be a repeat in 2022 of the Yankees-Tigers classic pennant race of 1961, staged in a ten-team league. The gift of the wild card was generations away.

For the 1961 season, the American League expanded from eight teams with the additions of the Washington Senators (replacing the Senators team that fled to Minnesota) and the Los Angeles Angels. To keep the schedule balanced with the expanded number of teams, the regular season was stretched from 154 games to 162.

The Yankees won 109 of them, second-most in franchise history to the 1927 Murderers’ Row lineup that won one more with Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. The team would perform so well that they immediately entered into the debate of “greatest Yankee team ever.”

Tigers vs Yankees live on Peacock: How to watch, stream, start time, TV channel for MLB Sunday Leadoff game

The Detroit Tigers with Al Kaline, Rocky Colavito, Norm Cash and Jim Bunning were the Yankees’ closest competition. Kaline had a terrific season, befitting a future Hall of Famer. He was the runner-up in the batting race at .324, led the league in doubles with 41, struck 19 homers, drove in 82 and won a Gold Glove in right field. The Tigers would win 101 games, tying the franchise record set in 1934. Cash would win the batting title with a .361 average and never again bat .300 in the remaining 13 seasons of his career.

The season before had been tumultuous in Detroit. On the eve of the 1960 season, Cleveland traded the reigning American League home run co-champion, Colavito, in exchange for the reigning batting champion, Harvey Kuenn. For his three seasons in Tiger Stadium, Colavito was magnificent, averaging 35 homers and 114 runs batted in.

But that swap was nothing in comparison for what lay ahead.

In early August, the Indians and Tigers TRADED MANAGERS at a time when both clubs were slumping. Cleveland had lost 18 of their last 25 games, Detroit, 12 of 15. Jimmy Dykes went to Cleveland, Joe Gordon, once a coach and scout for the Tigers, was back in Detroit. But he was gone for the ’61 season.

On September 1, 1961, with the Yankees leading by one and a half games,

the Tigers came to Yankee Stadium for a crucial weekend three-game series that would draw 171,503 fans.

RELATED: Every Sunday morning baseball game on Peacock, matchups, what to know

When the Detroit series began, Roger Maris had hit 51 homers and Mickey Mantle, protecting him in the lineup, was at 48. Both clearly had a chance to break the most important record in American professional sports, Babe Ruth’s 1927 record of 60 home runs.

On a sweltering Friday night, the Yankees won the first game 1-0 when Bill Skowron’s base hit through the shortstop hole drove in Elston Howard with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.

The shortstop on that club, Hall of Fame broadcaster Tony Kubek, told me, “Our third base coach, Frank Crosetti, detected that Tigers pitcher Don Mossi would throw a curve. He let Skowron know, and he hit it through the left side for the game winner.”

On Saturday, the Tigers grabbed a 2-0 lead in the first inning on Colavito’s 40th homer. But Maris’ 52nd homer gave the Yankees a 3-2 lead and his 53rd helped punctuate a 7-2 victory. The Yanks defeated Frank Lary, who built an illustrious history defeating the Bronx Bombers, earning the nickname, “Yankee Killer.”

Tigers ace Jim Bunning started the third game Sunday afternoon and surrendered Mantle’s 49th home run in the first inning. Down 5-4 in the bottom of the 9th, Mantle led off and struck number 50. Three batters later, Elston Howard, batting .359, hit a three-run homer to deliver an 8-5 victory and a sweep. Luis Arroyo, the best relief pitcher in the league, won two of the games and saved the other.

The Tigers left town four and a half games back. Just five days later, with the two teams traveling in opposite directions, the Yankees’ lead had grown to ten. The sweep began a thirteen-game winning streak for the Yankees and an eight-game losing streak for the Tigers who departed Yankee Stadium completely demoralized, awed, and buried.

RELATED – Mr. Stats Notes: All Rise for Tigers vs Yankees

Detroit manager Bob Scheffing told United Press International his club was not in the Yankees class. “A tip-off on this Yankees club is that a strong hitter like Bill Skowron bats seventh,” Scheffing said. Skowron would finish with 28 homers and 89 runs batted in.

The 1961 Yankees were a team for the ages. The M&M Boys, Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle, stole the show. Maris broke Babe Ruth’s record with 61 homers and 142 RBIs to win MVP honors while Mantle, injured at season’s end, hit 54 with 128 RBIs while batting .317. Four others — Yogi Berra, Bill Skowron, Elston Howard and Johnny Blanchard — hit 20-plus homers as the team set a major league record with 240. Whitey Ford won the Cy Young Award with a 25-4 season and Luis Arroyo won 15 games in relief and saved 29 others.

In the World Series, the Yankees faced Cincinnati, who had grabbed first place in the National League for good in early August, and overwhelmed them in five games by a cumulative score of 27-13.

Bobby Richardson, the 1960 World Series Most Valuable Player, who,

to this day, remains the only MVP to play for the losing team, played all 162 games in 1961. He won a Gold Glove at second base and had nine hits in the five games, batting .391.

RELATED: 2022 MLB on Peacock schedule: How to watch, live stream Sunday morning baseball games online

The Yankees second baseman told me “I enjoyed World Series. That Detroit series was like a Series for us. It meant a lot, we gave it World Series-type attention and were able to come out on top. Al Kaline was the most consistent player I played against in my career. He was outstanding. I played at the right time with the right team.”

But Richardson takes a dim view of the current post-season set-up, expanding this fall to a dozen teams. “When I think of baseball today, because of the way it is set up, the winner of the World Series is not necessarily the best team in baseball, Richardson said. “When we played, it was the winner of the American League against the winner of the National League. It was just so much better.”

While the Yankees would win three more American League pennants from 1962-64, the Tigers would not contend again until 1967.

These many years later, Bobby Richardson remains grateful to be part of a team for the ages. “I played at the right time with the right team.”

For his doubleplay partner, Tony Kubek, the ’61 club “has to be considered one of the best teams in baseball over the long haul.”

How to Watch Tigers vs Yankees on Peacock

Aaron Judge and the first-place New York Yankees host Miguel Cabrera and the Detroit Tigers from Yankee Stadium on MLB Sunday Leadoff live this Sunday, June 5 at 11:30 a.m. ET on Peacock. This week’s MLB Sunday Leadoff coverage begins with the pregame show at 11 a.m. ET on Peacock. NBC Sports’

CC Sabathia, the 2007 Cy Young Award-winner and 19-year MLB veteran, including 11 seasons with the Yankees, will join Ahmed Fareed as an analyst on the MLB Sunday Leadoff pre- and postgame shows. Sabathia, who won the 2009 World Series with the Yankees, was a six-time All-Star, earned 251 career wins, and is one of three left-handed pitchers in Major League history with at least 3,000 strikeouts (Steve Carlton and Randy Johnson). Sabathia currently co-hosts the R2C2 podcast.

How to Watch:

Date Show Time (ET) Platform
Sun., June 5 MLB Sunday Leadoff Pregame 11 a.m. Peacock
Sun., June 5 Tigers vs. Yankees 11:30 a.m. Peacock

Mr. Stats’ Notes: Playoff picture starts to take focus

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This is the time of year that baseball turns from a marathon to a sprint. The Toronto Blue Jays are steps ahead of other teams for a spot in the postseason. Toronto finished one game out of the playoffs a year ago. Will this year be different?

On Sunday, in a game streamed on Peacock beginning at 12 pm eastern, the Blue Jays will play the Pittsburgh Pirates.

In 2021, the Jays finished one game behind the Yankees for the Wild Card; and 39 games better than the division rival Orioles. Can Baltimore pass Toronto in the final weeks to nab the third and final Wild Card?

It’s time to sharpen up the predictions to pick out some potential October matchups and storylines.

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Wouldn’t it be something if…the Pittsburgh Pirates win the World Series?

Well, not the 2022 Pirates.  But several former Pirates.

The 2017 Pirates team had Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon in their starting rotation. By 2018, Cole was gone but Clay Holmes was in the Bucs pen.  If the New York Yankees win the 2022 World Series, it will almost certainly be with heavy lifting being done by Cole, Taillon, and Holmes. Jameson (12-4, 3.97) leads the Yankees in wins. Cole is their ace. Holmes should be the closer.

And if the New York Mets win the World Series this year, they will lean heavily on two other Pirates from those Clint Hurdle-managed teams. The Mets don’t hurdle through the National League without Starling Marte and, to a lesser degree, Trevor Williams.  Marte is slashing .309/.359/.511 with 41 extra-base hits in 93 games since May 1, and for the season his bWAR is 3.7. Williams, meanwhile, has not allowed a run in a career-high 24.0 straight innings. Trevor has a 0.88 WHIP, a .190 opponent’s average and a .483 opponent’s OPS during that span.

Pittsburgh fans can find someone to root for even if the San Diego Padres win the World Series (Joe Musgrove), or the Atlanta Braves (Charlie Morton) repeat.

2022 MLB on Peacock schedule: How to watch, live stream Sunday morning baseball games online

Wouldn’t it be something if…the Cardinals beat the Mets in the postseason (with Adam Wainwright getting the final outs)?

In 2006, the Mets won 97 games. The Cardinals won 83 games. But the two teams met in the NLCS, and in Game 7, the Cards had a 3-1 lead entering the bottom of the ninth. Rookie Adam Wainwright closed it out, slamming the door and eliminating the Mets by striking out Carlos Beltran with the bases loaded to end the game.

Wouldn’t it be something if all these years later, the Cardinals once again eliminated the heavily-favored Mets in the deciding game with Wainwright (9-9, 3.09) on the mound!

And if that happened…

Wouldn’t it be something if…the Cardinals beat the Yankees in the World Series (with Jordan Montgomery eliminating his former team)?

Jordan Montgomery was traded from the Yankees to the Cardinals in exchange for Harrison Bader. Montgomery, in his first five starts for St. Louis, is 4-0, with 1.76 ERA and a WHIP of 0.815. How great would it be for Monty, who started the season as the Yankees’ No. 3 starter, eliminates New York.

Of course, October is a long way away. Perhaps Harrison Bader will run down a long blast by Nolan Arenado or Paul Goldschmidt to save a game for the Yankees.

I know what you’re thinking. Even if the Cardinals make the World Series, the Yankees may fall in the ALCS to the Astros. And if that were the case…

RELATED: Does Pujols deserve more respect?

Wouldn’t it be something if…the Cardinals and Astros meet in the World Series, a rematch of the 2004 NLCS (when St. Louis won) and the 2005 NLCS (when Houston won)?

Albert Pujols was the MVP of the 2004 NLCS versus the Houston Astros. Albert batted .500 (14-28 AB) with 1.000 SLG, 1.563 OPS, and 4 HR in the series! Imagine if he has a surge in the very late stages of his career. In the 2005 series, he hit a ninth-inning blast off Brad Lidge that’s a signature highlight in a career full of them.

I know, the Cardinals are a long shot. The Mets have a much better chance of reaching the World Series. So:

Wouldn’t it be something if…Buck Showalter finally makes the World Series in his 21st year as a Major League manager…and loses the Series when the Yankees bring in a reliever named (check notes…) Zack Britton to slam the door on Buck’s Mets?

Well before Timmy Trumpet, Showalter once had an elite reliever in his stint with the Orioles, Zack Britton. In 2016, Britton saved 47 games in 47 save opportunities. The Orioles won 89 games in 2016, and played in the one-game Wild Card in Toronto. The elimination game was tied 2-2 after five innings. And six innings. And seven innings. And eight innings. And nine innings. And ten innings. Buck kept waiting for his Birds to score a run, to bring in the great Britton to close out the Jays. Trouble is, he never did get Zack into the game, and eventually Ubaldo Jimenez lost the game for Buck in the 11th.

Just a thought. If there’s an opportunity to get Edwin Diaz late in a tie game on the road, do it. If you go down, go down with your best.

RELATED: Rogers: Mets are ‘built for postseason’

Wouldn’t it be something if Buck Showalter finally makes it to the World Series against the Astros and Dusty Baker? One of them has to win, right? Please tell me someone has to win.

Is it even remotely possible that Dusty’s team blows another series lead? Baker shouldn’t have lost the 2002 World Series to the Angels, or the 2021 World Series to the Braves. He shouldn’t have blown a 2-0 series lead to the Giants in a 2012 best-of-five series. He shouldn’t have blown a three-run lead with five outs to go in Game 7 of a 2003 series to the Marlins. And only Dusty — poor Dusty — can have a lead after four innings of a winner-take-all game, bring in Max Scherzer — and still lose the game and series, as Dusty’s Nats did against the Cubs in 2017.

Wouldn’t it be something if the 2022 World Series were a rematch of the 2017 World Series? Only this time, Clayton Kershaw pitches on a level playing field, if you know what I mean. Man, it would be great to see Clayton start a game in Houston.

Remember what happened when Kershaw started Game 5 of the ’17 series in Houston? Clayton was unhittable in Game 1 of that series at Dodger Stadium; but in Game 5, Kershaw blew a 4-0 lead in the fourth inning, and a 7-4 lead in the bottom of the fifth.

I know Kershaw found redemption in the 2020 World Series in Arlington, Texas against Tampa Bay. But I want more. I want Clayton to shut down Altuve, Bregman, and Gurriel in Houston. In a World Series. Wouldn’t that be something?

And if the Astros defeated the Dodgers, I would feel so glad for Dusty Baker, who would have a World Series championship as a player for the Dodgers (in 1981) and as a manager against the Dodgers (41 years later, in 2022).

RELATED: Astros ace Justin Verlander placed on IL with calf injury

Wouldn’t it be something if someone other than the Astros or Yankees made the World Series?  Wouldn’t it be something if the Mariners defeated the Yankees?

Time for a little history lesson. In 2001, the Mariners had a historic regular season, winning 116 games. But they lost the ALCS to the Yankees in five games. In Game 5 at Yankee Stadium, with the Yankees blowing out Seattle 9-0 and eventually eliminating them 12-3, the Bronx crowd chanted “Over-rated” at the Mariners.

Classy, I know. But wouldn’t it be something if the tides were reversed a generation later, and the heavily-favored Yankees fell in Seattle, with the Pacific Northwest crowd serenading the Yankees with the “over-rated” chant?

Wouldn’t it be something if…Rays manager Kevin Cash refuses to take out a starting pitcher that is on his game?

Wouldn’t it be something if…Bryce Harper finally was part of a winning playoff series? Harper appeared been in four Division Series as a member of the Nationals, and lost all four. 

Wouldn’t it be something if…Francisco Lindor makes the World Series against his former Cleveland team and manager Terry Francona?

As the rock group Green Day sang, “Wake Me Up When September Ends.”

MLB schedule 2022: Every Sunday morning baseball game on Peacock, matchups, what to know

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Sunday baseball is officially coming to Peacock this May! 18 MLB games will be featured on the streaming service starting with the Chicago White Sox vs. Boston Red Sox game at Fenway Park on Sunday, May 8 at 11:30 p.m. ET. See below for the full Sunday baseball on Peacock schedule.

Sunday Baseball on Peacock schedule

Date Time Matchup
May 8 11:30 a.m. ET Chicago White Sox at Boston Red Sox
May 15 11:30 a.m. ET San Diego Padres at Atlanta Braves
May 22 11:30 a.m. ET St. Louis Cardinals at Pittsburgh Pirates
May 29 11:30 a.m. ET San Francisco Giants at Cincinnati Reds
June 5 11:30 a.m. ET Detroit Tigers at New York Yankees
June 12 11:30 a.m. ET Oakland Athletics at Cleveland Guardians
June 19 Noon ET Philadelphia Phillies at Washington Nationals
June 26 Noon ET New York Mets at Miami Marlins
July 3 Noon ET Kansas City Royals at Detroit Tigers
July 10 Noon ET Los Angeles Angels at Baltimore Orioles
July 17 Noon ET Kansas City Royals at Toronto Blue Jays
July 24 Noon ET Chicago Cubs at Philadelphia Phillies
July 31 Noon ET Detroit Tigers at Toronto Blue Jays
August 7 Noon ET Houston Astros at Cleveland Guardians
August 14 Noon ET San Diego Padres at Washington Nationals
August 21 Noon ET Chicago White Sox at Cleveland Guardians
August 28 Noon ET Los Angeles Dodgers at Miami Marlins
September 4 Noon ET Toronto Blue Jays at Pittsburgh Pirates

How to watch the MLB on Peacock                              

Baseball is back and for the first time ever MLB games are coming to Peacock this May, featuring a total of 18 Sunday match ups. Click here to sign up for Peacock and watch MLB games live on Sunday mornings!

The first MLB game on Peacock will take place on Sunday, May 8 at 11:30 a.m. ET as the Chicago White Sox battle it out with the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. The game will also be available on the NBC broadcast network.

In addition to MLB games, Peacock will also feature a new MLB hub which will include access to highlight packages and award-winning documentaries from the MLB Film & Video Archive.

Opening Day for the 2022 MLB season takes place on Thursday, April 7 and the league will stick to its original slate of 162 games despite a 99-day-lockout. For more on the 2022 MLB season click here.

See below for additional information on how to watch MLB on Peacock.

How can I watch baseball on Peacock and what devices are compatible?

Peacock is currently available on the Roku platform; Amazon FireTV and Fire tablets; Apple devices including iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Apple TV 4K and Apple TV HD; Google platforms and devices including Android™, Android TV™ devices, Chromecast and Chromecast built-in devices;  Microsoft’s Xbox One family of devices, including Xbox One S and Xbox One X; Sony PlayStation4 and PlayStation 4 Pro; Samsung Smart TVs; VIZIO SmartCast™ TVs; LG Smart TVs; Comcast’s entertainment platforms including Xfinity X1, Xfinity Flex, and XClass TV; and Cox’s Contour and Contour Stream Player devices. To learn more about Peacock and how to sign up, visit PeacockTV.com.