Miss baseball? The rest of this week is jam-packed with great stories and classic games from the last half-century on MLB Network, from the Yankees of the 1970s through the Braves of the '90s. Some of the greatest players and managers in MLB history, as well as some of the most incredible individual games and seasons are in store. Here's a breakdown of MLB Network's program schedule through Sunday.
TUESDAY: "Billy" at 7 p.m. ET, followed by "The Pine Tar Game" at 9 p.m. ET
He was one of the most fiery and fiercely competitive individuals in baseball history, both as a player and a manager. Billy Martin was a key member of the great Yankees teams of the 1950s, winning four World Series as a middle infielder with New York along with legends like Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford. He then served as a manager for two decades, most notably for the Athletics and Yankees.
Martin was embroiled in constant battles with Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, being fired four times and re-hired three times. He also had altercations with players, including Reggie Jackson, but was successful in the late 1970s, leading New York to the American League pennant in '76 and a world championship in '77. "Billy" chronicles Martin's fascinating baseball life, from scrappy middle infielder to volatile and ingenious manager.
One of Martin's most famous in-game moves as a manager came on July 24, 1983, when he took notice of a large amount of pine tar on the bat of Royals slugger George Brett, leading to umpires ruling Brett out after he homered to right field at Yankee Stadium. Brett famously burst out of the dugout in a rage, making it one of the most iconic moments in baseball history. Watch the game in its entirety after "Billy" on Tuesday night.
WEDNESDAY: "MLB's 20 Greatest Games" — Cubs vs. Phillies in 1979 at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. ET, the game itself at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. ET, and "Baseball's Seasons: 1979" at 6 p.m. ET
Imagine being tied, 22-22 (no, that's not a typo) after nine innings. That's exactly what happened on May 17, 1979, when the Phillies and Cubs hooked up for a matinee at Wrigley Field.
Needless to say, there were some incredible individual performances in this game — the Phillies' Larry Bowa had five hits, including a pair of doubles; Bob Boone went 3-for-4 with a double, home run and five RBIs; Garry Maddox was 4-for-4 with a double, homer and four RBIs; the Cubs' Bill Buckner was 4-for-7 with a grand slam as part of a seven-RBI day; and Dave Kingman launched three homers and drove in six.
But in the end, it came down to one swing by Mike Schmidt, who belted his second homer of the game with two outs in the top of the 10th to give Philadelphia a 23-22 lead.
Check out the entire story behind the game, the game itself, and a recap of the entire 1979 season, which culminated with the "We Are Family" Pirates winning it all.
THURSDAY: Remembering Mark Fidrych — "The Bird" at 12 p.m., 4:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. ET; Fidrych's complete game vs. Yankees at 1 p.m., 5:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. ET; and "MLB Network Countdown: 25 greatest personalities" at 3:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. ET.
His career was brief but unforgettable. Fidrych, nicknamed "The Bird" because his coach in the Appalachian League thought he looked like Big Bird from Sesame Street, burst onto the Major League scene with a tremendous 1976 rookie season. Beginning with a spot start for the Tigers on May 15, he stunned the baseball world en route to an MLB-best 2.34 ERA and an AL-best 24 complete games, winning the AL Rookie of the Year Award and finishing runner-up to Jim Palmer in AL Cy Young Award voting.
Fidrych's most famous start came on June 28 against the Yankees at Tiger Stadium, when he tossed a complete-game seven hitter to help Detroit win, 5-1. Afterward, the fans demanded, and got, a curtain call from the eccentric right-hander, who was famous for talking to the baseball and other antics while on the mound. Fidrych even started the All-Star Game for the AL the following month.
Fidrych's fire on the mound flamed out by 1979, when a dead arm cut his season short. He only made nine more MLB starts after that, and after toiling in the Minors for several years, retired at the age of 28 in 1983. Still, he will forever be remembered for that incredible run from 1976-77, when he had a 2.47 ERA and 1.10 WHIP. Learn all about one of the greatest characters the game has ever seen in "The Bird," followed by his famous '78 game against the Yankees and then a countdown of MLB's 25 greatest personalities.
FRIDAY: "MLB Presents: The 1995 Mariners, Saving Baseball in Seattle" at 10 a.m, 12:30 p.m., 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. ET; 1995 ALDS Game 5 at 2:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. ET; "MLB's 20 Greatest Games" at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. ET; "Baseball's Seasons: 1995" at 1:30 p.m. ET
The Mariners were on the brink of relocation in 1995. But then came one of the most magical seasons in baseball history. The M's featured some the most exciting players in baseball, including Ken Griffey Jr., Edgar Martinez and Randy Johnson. But they needed something special, and that's what they got. With just over a month remaining in the regular season, Seattle found itself 10 1/2 games behind the Angels in the AL West. The Mariners then reeled off victories in 21 of their final 31 games to force a tiebreaker for the division title with California at the Kingdome. Johnson was masterful, striking out 12 in a complete game to help lift Seattle to its first division crown.
Next came the AL Division Series against the Yankees, which didn't start out well, as the Mariners fell into a 2-0 hole in the best-of-five series. Seattle returned home and won two straight at the Kingdome to force a decisive Game 5. With the game tied at 4 heading to the top of the 11th, Randy Velarde delivered a go-ahead single for New York. Facing elimination, the Mariners staged one of the most iconic finishes in memory — Joey Cora and Griffey opened the bottom of the 11th with back-to-back singles, bringing up Martinez, who lined a double down the left-field line that scored both to send Seattle into the AL Championship Series. The miracle season propelled the movement to keep baseball in the city, with a new stadium opening four years later.
Twenty-five years later, watch the retelling of that team's amazing story, followed by the classic game itself, as well as "MLB's 20 Greatest Games" on Game 5. And for a taste of what's to come Sunday, check out "Baseball's Seasons: 1995," which of course includes the Mariners' great run, but also the "Team of the '90s" finally winning a World Series title.
SATURDAY: Remembering the "Bucky Dent game" — Yankees at Red Sox 1978 division tiebreaker at 3:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. ET; "MLB's 20 Greatest Games" — 1978 AL East tiebreaker at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. ET; and "Baseball's Seasons: 1978" at 2:30 p.m. ET
At the All-Star break in 1978, the Red Sox led their AL East rivals, the Yankees, by 11 1/2 games in the division. For a franchise that was in year No. 60 since its last world championship, a period over which New York had won 21, things were looking great. Until they weren't. The Yanks went 54-25 in the second half to catch Boston, forcing a tiebreaker for the division crown on Oct. 2.
The Red Sox were clinging to a 2-0 lead in the top of the seventh at Fenway Park, when Bucky Dent launched a two-out, three-run homer over the Green Monster in left field to vault the Yankees out in front. Dent was the ninth batter in the lineup, and entering that plate appearance, had four home runs all season. Boston suffered heartache yet again in a 5-4 loss, and the Yankees went on to defeat the Dodgers in the World Series, in which Dent hit .417 and was named MVP.
Watch one of the greatest games in baseball history, followed by "MLB's 20 Greatest Games" on the contest and "Baseball's Seasons: 1978" to recap that great season.
SUNDAY: "Atlanta Rules, The Story of the '90s Braves" at 12 p.m., 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. ET; 1992 NLCS Game 7 at 2:30 p.m. ET; "MLB's 20 Greatest Games" on 1992 NLCS Game 7 at 1 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. ET; and "My Most Memorable Game" with Tom Glavine (1995 World Series Game 6) at 11:30 a.m. and John Smoltz (1991 NLCS Game 7) at 11 p.m. ET.
The Braves, led by the best starting rotation in baseball, became "The Team of the '90s" by winning eight division titles during the decade, finally winning it all in 1995. Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz led the staff, with a combined seven NL Cy Young Awards between them (four for Maddux, two for Glavine and one for Smoltz). The trio baffled hitters and led Atlanta to the World Series in 1991, '92, '95, '96 and '99.
"Atlanta Rules, The Story of the '90s Braves" chronicles the rise of the club from a last-place finish in 1990, to a dynasty by the middle of the decade. That's followed by Game 7 of the 1992 NLCS between the Braves and Pirates, in which Atlanta won in dramatic fashion to punch its ticket to the Fall Classic for the second straight year. That will be followed by Glavine and Smoltz recounting their most memorable games. Don't miss a day of celebrating one of the most dominant clubs in recent memory.