For those unfamiliar, Willie Mays Aikens used to play first base for the Kansas City Royals. He first came to most people’s attention when he had a breakout performance in the 1980 World Series.
He later came to people’s attention in 1983 when he Willie Wilson, Vida Blue, and Jerry Martin of the Kansas City Royals were convicted of conspiracy to buy cocaine from undercover federal agents and were senteced to 90 days in federal prison. And then, finally and most tragically, he came to people’s attention in the mid 90s when he was arrested for selling crack and was sent to federal prison for nearly 14 years. Then he was forgotten.
He was released from prison in 2008, however, and after that began working in the community and working construction jobs in an effort to make something of a life that had been derailed. Last year, he was hired by his old team, the Kansas City Royals. He was home again, getting a second chance.
Today Amy K. Nelson of SB Nation has a fantastic feature — video and in print — on Aikens, his rise, his fall from grace and his redemption. It’s harrowing and wonderful at the same time and I highly recommend that you give it a read and a view.
For a few days, it looked like Aaron Judge was finally hitting his stride in the postseason. He was still striking out at a regular clip, piling more and more strikeouts atop the 16 he racked up in the Division Series, but he was mashing, too. He engineered a three-run homer during Game 3 of the Championship Series, followed by another blast and game-tying double in Game 4. His one-out double helped pad a five-run lead in Game 5, while his 425-footer off of Brad Peacock barely made a dent during a 7-1 loss in Game 6. And then Lance McCullers‘ curveball found and fooled him, as it did five of the 14 batters it met in Game 7:
The strikeout was Judge’s first of the evening and 27th since the start of the playoffs. No other major league batter has racked up that many strikeouts in a single postseason, though Alfonso Soriano’s 26-strikeout record in 2003 comes the closest. Within that record, Judge also collected three golden sombreros (four strikeouts in a single game), narrowly avoiding the dreaded platinum sombrero (five strikeouts in a single game).
It’s an unfortunate footnote to a spectacular year for the rookie outfielder, who decimated the competition with 52 home runs and 8.2 fWAR during the regular season and was a pivotal part of the Yankees’ playoff run. Thankfully, the image of McCullers’ curveball darting just under Judge’s bat won’t be the image that sticks with us for years to come. Instead, it’ll look something like this: