You probably missed it, but last Saturday former big league catcher Jim Pagliaroni passed away at the age of 72.
Pagliaroni played 11 years in the majors, batting .252 in 849 games, with 90 home runs. He played for the Red Sox, Pirates, A's and Pilots.
Pags was a journeyman, really, but one day in 1961 he etched his name into the consciousness of Washington baseball fans forever.
The first time baseball expanded was in 1961 when they added the Los Angeles Angels and the "new" Washington Senators, as the old club had relocated to what would have been the other expansion site, Minneapolis-St. Paul. Mickey Vernon was hired to manage the club, and the expansion draft produced an interesting, if not altogether compelling, collection of veterans and prospects.
When the new Nats arrived in Boston for a 4-game weekend series on Friday June 16, they were 30-30, the break-even point. They were higher in the standings than the club that had left town. and we all felt pretty good about it.
In game one of the series Washington got off to a 6-0 lead after just 3 innings, but Boston put up 8 runs in the fourth and went on to win 14-9.
The next day the Senators were up 5-1 in the 5th inning, but the Sawx went ahead with one in their half of the fifth and 4 more in the sixth, to win the game 6-5.
Then came Sunday, June 18, a doubleheader, with the first game game televised back to DC on Channel 9. A sweep would put the ballclub back at .500, and in the opener, it looked like they might be on their way.
Up 5-3 after 5, both clubs scored 2 in the sixth, and headed into the ninth with DC up 7-5. In the top of the 9th, Washington batted around, scoring 5 times, to take a 12-5 lead into the bottom of the inning.
Boston's last ups began inauspiciously. Vic Wertz grounded out 1-3, Don Buddin singled to right and Billy Harrell struck out. Two outs, man on first. Young lefty Carl Mathias on the verge of his first big league win. But then, without warning, something happened.
Chuck Schilling singled to center, Buddin to second.
Carroll Hardy singled to center, scoring Buddin, Schilling to third, score now 12-6.
Gary Geiger walked, loading the bases.
Dave Sisler replaces Mathias on the mound and walks Jackie Jensen, scoring Schilling, 12-7.
Frank Malzone walked, scoring Hardy, 12-8, bringing Jim Pagliaroni to the plate.
You guessed it, Pags goes deep, a grand slam, game tied at 12.
Vic Wertz comes to the plate for the second time this inning and walks, and Marty Kutyna replaces Sisler.
Don Buddin gets his second single of the inning, Wertz to second.
Russ Nixon pinch-hits for Billy Harrell and singles to right, Wertz scored.
Game over, Red Sox 13, Senators 12.
Pagliaroni's hit was the key, obviously, and the lack of a shutdown reliever didn't help either. Watching the game with my dad in Annandale, VA, I was one stunned 10-year-old.
Second game, the Nats battle back from a 5-2 defiicit to tie the game, and extra frames ensue. Neither team scored from the 9th through the 12th, and in the bottom of the 13th, Pagliaroni leads off against Tom Sturdivant.
Here we go again.
Boom. Screen-above-the-Green-Monster shot, game over, Boston completes the sweep with a 6-5 win.
Pagliaroni has a 5 RBI day, with every one a critical part of both victories.
Rest in peace, Pags. And if you run into Mickey Vernon, tell him what he should've had Sisler throw on that long ago Sunday afternoon.