By Father Gabe Costa
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At this writing, we have already seen the elimination of three of the 10 teams which qualified for postseason play this year. And now, as the Dodgers await the next round of games, the remaining six finalists presently involved in division series battle to enter the two League Championship Series. Once those best-of-seven sets are completed, we will at last be treated to the World Series, pitting the National League pennant winner against its American League counterpart.
Theoretically, a team could play 20 postseason games before winning it all. Given all this, I wonder if the World Series has become anticlimactic. It takes so long just to reach the Fall Classic. The weather is almost always a factor and the football season is nearly half over when the last out is recorded. There is an ironic symbolism here: It is almost as if a tiring baseball passes the baton on to an invigorated football, for the gridiron has supplanted the diamond in the minds and hearts of many.
But it wasn’t always this way. There was a time when the World Series was the biggest and best part of what once was the undisputed National Pastime, the game of baseball.
The World Series — you had better savor it, because there was to be no more baseball until the following spring.
- I remember brisk early fall afternoons watching Mickey Mantle roam center field in Yankee Stadium. The gilded hero. There was a chill in the air and a sense of the best playing against the best. The leagues were separate and there was no other Interleague crossing of swords, save for the All-Star Game. Was the National League style of baseball superior to the way the game was played in the other league?
- I would read about the Duke of Flatbush belting out yet another World Series home run. It seemed to me that the World Series should always be the Yankees versus the Dodgers.
- I cringed as Bill Mazeroski broke our hearts, as he hit that home run to end the 1960 World Series. No! No! No!
- Two years later my heart stopped as Willie McCovey’s laser-shot settled into Bobby Richardson’s glove. Yes!!!
- On TV, I would watch Harry Bright become Sandy Koufax’s 15th strikeout victim in the opening game of 1963 Classic, portending October doom for the Pinstripers.
- Did you see Brooksie at Third!?
- Can’t anybody beat Bob Gibson?
- The Mets win it all!!!???
Ah, the days of yore, the days of youth.
Now the World Series games are almost always televised at night. Forget the chill: It’s cold! And when the games are over, it’s late! And the fans are tired, wondering how they are ever going to get up to go to work in the morning.
And that’s not all. You can’t tell the teams — or leagues — without a scorecard. Now, American League “champs” win some games against National League competition, and conversely.
There may be two “leagues”, but there are three divisions in each league; one winner for each division and two “Wild Cards” in each league. That means, of the 30 major-league clubs, exactly one out of three teams makes it into the postseason mix. And the teams with the best records don’t necessarily make it to the World Series.
Looking for tradition? Nah! The Milwaukee Brewers were in the American League and won the league title in 1982, but now they are in the National League. In a sense there is a league quid pro quo,” because the Houston Astros, the 2005 pennant winner in the Senior Circuit, are now part of the American League.
The All-Star Game, of all things, determines which league will have the home-field advantage for that particular year.
And sometimes we still have the designated hitter.
I know. Economics has driven virtually all of these changes.
But I still don’t like the “footballization” of baseball.
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