Lesser known players often rise to occasion at World Series time

Surely, someone by the name of Mike Schmidt, Gary Matthews, Steve Carlton, Eddie Murray, Cal Ripken, or Mike Boddicker is going to make off with the Most Valuable Player Award in this year's World Series.

Ever see anyone who could mash a baseball like Schmidt; or was more consistent in a playoff series than Matthews; or could come back with only three days' rest and pitch the way Carlton did against the Dodgers?Philadelphia can't get enough of these guys.

Well, Baltimore also has its heroes. Boddicker may be only a rookie pitcher with a baby face, but the way he changes speeds has made lungers out of some of the best hitters in baseball. Meanwhile, it's practically a foregone conclusion that either Ripken or Murray is going to be the American League's regular season MVP.

Now that we've got you properly set up, consider that this year's World Series MVP is almost as likely to come from some lightly-regarded starter who hit only .250 during the regular season, with maybe one or two home runs.

For examples there's no need to go any further back than last year, when St. Louis catcher Darrell Porter, a .231 hitter the regular season, won the award. And although plenty of big names have starred in the Series over the years, there've been a number of other occasions when a lesser light outdid all of them.

When New York Yankee manager Casey Stengel decided to pitch Don Larsen against the Brooklyn Dodgers in the fifth game in 1956, it was probably no more than a calculated risk. During the regular season Larsen had won only 11 games, and as the Yankee starter in Game 2 he had lasted fewer than two innings. But with the Series tied at two games apiece, Larsen not only won that pivotal contest, he pitched a perfect game - the only time this has ever happened in World Series history.

Remember when Al Weiss, a .215 hitter for the New York Mets, batted .455 against Baltimore in 1969? Or when Oakland's Gene Tenace, who had appeared in only 82 games in 1972, smashed four home runs against Cincinnati?

Or going back a bit further, there was a young second baseman named Billy Martin who hit .257 and never got much attention on a Yankee team with names like Mantle, Ford, and Berra, but who banged out a record 12 hits including two homers, two triples, and a double to lead New York to its 1953 victory over the Dodgers.

Occasionally, in baseball, a Red Skelton gets to play Hamlet, or a banjo hitter plunks out the William Tell Overture.

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