It is a phrase that comes up every four years. It describes an event that comes from out of the blue which can dramatically affect a presidential race.
It's known as "The October surprise", but this phrase can be applied equally to October baseball. In Yankee lore, maybe the best example of an October surprise came in form of light hitting infielder named Brian Doyle.
In September of 1978, the Yankees were hosting the Cleveland Indians in the final weekend of the regular season. In that first game, Yankee second baseman Willie Randolph pulled a hamstring muscle trying to beat out a ground ball. As a result, Randolph was out for the rest of the season.
Manager Bob Lemon decided to use a platoon at second base consisting of right handed hitting veteran Fred Stanley and left handed hitting rookie Brian Doyle.
A native of Cave City, Kentucky, the 23 year old Doyle was known primarily as a utility infielder with a good glove and a little bit of speed. Any offense he contributed was considered a bonus. He hit 192 in 39 regular season games. Little did anyone know that this unheralded man would be crucial in helping the Yankees win a World Series title.
After beating the Red Sox on that memorable Monday in Fenway Park in Boston, the Yankees were off to Kansas City, where they would meet the Royals in the ALCS for the third consecutive year.
Doyle did his part, batting 286 in three games with one RBI, as the Yankees beat the Royals for the third straight time. Then it was on to the World Series, and a second straight matchup with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Doyle only had one hit through the first four games as the Yankees came back from down 0-2 to tie the Series two games each. Suddenly, Doyle's bat came alive as he got three hits in their 12-2 Game Five victory over Los Angeles behind starter Jim Beattie's complete game.
Proving that was no fluke, Doyle picked up three more hits, including a two run double, in a 7-2 victory at Dodger Stadium. For the Yankees it marked their 22nd World Series title.
Overall, Doyle hit .438 as he went 7-16 in six games with two runs batted in and four runs scored. Some people thought that he should have won the World Series MBP Award, but that honor went to teammate Bucky Dent.
Eventually, Doyle would revert back to his role of utility infielder, and his career as a player would be a short one, but he would be remembered by Yankee fans for his heroics.
Just like in presidential politics, you never know what-or in this case who-might appear to dramatically alter the course of baseball history in the tenth month. But don't take my word for it. Ask the Royals and Dodgers.