One day in October
As it it turns out, Oct. 17 is an auspicious day in the history of the Astros and their manager Phil Garner. It was Oct. 17, 1960, when the National League awarded Judge Roy Hofheinz title to the new Houston franchise, christened the Colt .45s, which started play at the outset of the 1962 season.
It was on Oct. 17, 1979, that Garner’s Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the Baltimore Orioles at old Memorial Stadium to win Game 7 and the World Series, the last one for both Garner and the Bucs.
"I didn’t realize that, but tell me more," Garner said with a laugh in the interview room prior to Monday night’s climactic Game 5 of the NL Championship Series against the Cardinals, who came into the game at Minute Maid Park trailing 3-1 in the best-of-seven series.
Garner was the Pirates’ second baseman that evening in Baltimore and had a hit, a walk and a run scored in four plate appearances. The final score was 4-1.
"But I didn’t win the game," Garner said. "A guy named Willie Stargell hit a home run."
The late Stargell smacked a two-run homer during the sixth inning off Orioles starter and losing pitcher Scott McGregor. "Pops" also had a fourth-inning double and went 4-for-5 with the homer, a double and a pair of RBIs.
It was one of those series. The Orioles came out of the middle three games in Pitsburgh’s Three Rivers Stadium with a 3-2 lead, but were then outscored 8-1 by the Pirates in the final two games at home. Garner started all seven games, played every inning and had a monster series, batting .500 (12-for-24 ) with four doubles and five RBIs. But Stargell, the future Hall of Famer, was the series MVP, giving him the trifecta for 1979: MVP of the World Series and the NLCS and a regular-season tie with Keith Hernandez.
So much for 1979. Perhaps not so much for Oct. 17. Stargell passed in 2001 at 61. Garner is 55 and on the precipice again 27 years later. — Barry M. Bloom, MLB.com