By Father Gabe Costa
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The Fall Classic is finally upon us. The necessary pruning period (10 postseason teams down to two) provided by the Wild Card games, the division championships and the league championships has come and gone.
In many senses, this will be a World Series of contrasts: the “heartland” Kansas City Royals versus the “cosmopolitan” San Francisco Giants. The last time the American League-champion Royals appeared in a World Series was nearly three decades ago, when they trimmed their fellow Missourian Cardinals in a seven-game series.
The Jints, on the other hand, have represented the National League three times already this century. They’ve won two out of three titles since 2002, including a four-game sweep over the Detroit Tigers in 2012.
In some sense, every World Series provides us with new thrills, controversies and memories. In this installment of By The Numbers, I recap 10 Fall Classics — starting in 1958 — which I vividly remember and which, for me, are frozen in time.
1958 (New York Yankees – 4, Milwaukee Braves – 3): This was the first Series I followed. The Bombers trailed the Braves three games to one after the first four contests. With the exception of the 1925 Series, when the Pittsburgh Pirates trailed the Washington Senators by the identical margin — only to come back to win it all — no team had ever managed to overcome this handicap. But the Yankees came through. They won Game 5 at Yankee Stadium and then swept the last two games at the Braves’ home field, Milwaukee County Stadium. When Mickey Mantle caught the final out in center field, I experienced what I had hoped would be repeated many times in the future: the Yankees winning the World Series.
1960 (Pittsburgh Pirates – 4, New York Yankees – 3): 16-3, 10-0, 12-0. These were the scores of the Yankees’ victories in Games 2, 3 and 6, respectively. Yet the “Beat ‘Em Bucs” hung on. They simply would not quit. On Thursday, October 13, Bill Mazeroski hit THAT home run into eternity. Afterwards, it was said that Mantle cried. So did a lot of others who rooted for the Yankees.
1962 (New York Yankees – 4, San Francisco Giants – 3): This series was marked by a lot of rain, alternating wins and the first Yankees-Giants conflict since the Dodgers and Giants went to the West Coast. Showcased were the two best players in baseball, Mantle and Willie Mays. Unfortunately, neither superstar had a great series. Ralph Terry retired the last batter of the series when Willie McCovey’s laser shot went to Yankees second baseman Bobby Richardson, capping a 1-0 victory. It was Terry who was named the Series MVP, an especially satisfying redemption since it was the same Terry who gave up Maz’s home run two years earlier.
1966 (Baltimore Orioles – 4, Los Angeles Dodgers – 0): In the midst of this decade of National League domination (having won the last three World Series), Hank Bauer’s Birds were lights out. They swept the Koufax/Drysdale-led Dodgers while giving up but two runs in the entire series. Playing errorless baseball, they got sterling pitching and were paced by Triple Crown winner Frank Robinson. This club was a precursor to the fine Orioles teams which would soon be skippered by the fiery Earl Weaver.
1969 (New York Mets – 4, Baltimore Orioles – 1): Miracles happen. After dropping the first game in Baltimore, the Amazin’s won four straight. Slick fielding by Tommie Agee and Ron Swoboda and tight pitching by Jerry Koosman, Tom Seaver, Gary Gentry and Nolan Ryan led the way. Series MVP Donn Clendenon batted .357 and had a slugging percentage exceeding 1.000.
1977 (New York Yankees – 4, Los Angeles Dodgers – 2): The Yankees had not been champions since McCovey lined out to Richardson in 1962, and had not won a Series at home since October 5, 1953. All of that was to change with three swings of the bat by Reginald Martinez Jackson. For those of us who were there, it was truly a magical night.
1996 (New York Yankees – 4, Atlanta Braves – 2): Another drought — this time for 18 years — for the Yankees. Appearing for the first time in the Fall Classic since they lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1981, the Yanks faced the Braves, which was being touted as the team of the decades. Led by the trio of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz, Bobby Cox’s team won division title after division title. It seemed like the Yankees were trailing 2-0 in game before they knew what hit them. Yet Joe Torre led his Bombers to victory, and this was the first of four championships in a five-year span.
2000 (New York Yankees – 4, New York Mets – 1): For the first time since 1956, New York City hosted the entire Fall Classic, reprising the term “Subway Series.”Although the Yankees won in five games, the Mets were gritty. With a break here and there, the Mets could have won the Series. But sloppy play and poor baserunning betrayed the Mets. They nearly won the first game, which the Yankees pulled out in 12 innings (thanks to a key walk issued to Paul O’Neill three innings earlier). And by scoring five runs in the ninth inning of Game 2, the Mets almost erased a six-run Yankees lead. A Game 3 victory ended the Yankees’ record of winning 14 straight World Series contests, but Derek Jeter’s home run on the first pitch of Game 4 reversed any momentum the Mets might have enjoyed. A little over 24 hours later, the Yankees were again crowned world champions.
2001 (Arizona Diamondbacks – 4, New York Yankees – 3): Of course everything paled in comparison to the devastation experienced on Tuesday, September 11th of that year. But the American spirit would not die, nor would baseball. This unforgettable series was marked by an unabashed love for our country. There were clutch home runs b Tino Martinez and Scott Brosius. Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson were magnificent on the moud. And the series essentially ended with a throwing error by, of all people, the greatest closer the game has ever seen (Mariano Rivera).
2004 (Boston Red Sox – 4, St. Louis Cardinals – 0): The Curse of the Bambino was officially no longer in effect. Enough said.
Let’s see what happens in this World Series.
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