‘Fall Classic’ has more drama, attention in the past
LOS ANGELES – In long ago fall seasons the World Series staged its rituals during daylight hours. Children could watch the games before being called off to slumberland. The competition from pro football, pro basketball and ice hockey wasn’t as keen.
Baseball was center stage.
There were only 16 teams – eight in both the National and American League.
The media poured out its words, photographs and voluminous pages on baseball.
New York’s Yankees dominated the World Series for the years 1920 through 1964 – playing in 29 World Series and winning 20 times.
In 1947, pinch-hitter Cookie Lavagetto of Brooklyn broke up Yankee pitcher Bill Bevens’ no-hitter in the ninth inning, doubling home two runs as the Dodgers tripped the Bronx Bombers, 3-2, with the help of Bevens’ 10 walks.
The 1956 World Series saw Yankee pitcher Don Larsen rise to instant fame by pitching a perfect game as New York tipped the Dodgers, 2-0.
Along came the “Miracle Mets” in 1969 when New York caught lightning in a bottle and bounced the favored Baltimore Orioles with their youthful pitching stars.
By 1975, there were night games everywhere and the Cincinnati Big Red Machine outlasted Boston in a much-watched Series where the Red Sox were once more denied a World Series title. Carlton Fisk not withstanding, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez, George Foster and company prevailed.
Moving to 1988, the Los Angeles Dodgers used Kirk Gibson’s two-run, pinch-hit home run off Oakland reliever Dennis Eckersley as the rocket-boost to winning that season.
The earthquake in San Francisco in 1989 jarred that World Series against Oakland.
Boston was able to shake off close to a century of futility when it had enough to take the 2004 World Series. With David Ortiz still swinging his potent bat the Red Sox won again in 2013.
And the once-lovable Chicago Cubs found a near-miracle run on Chicago’s Northside in 2016 to bring a world championship to their long-suffering faithful for the first time since way back in 1908.
As the falls came and went in too-fast succession, people tended to forget about the “Streetcar Series” played in St. Louis in 1944 while World War II was being waged. The Cardinals and Browns used the same stadium – Sportsman’s Park – and traded games until the National League Cardinals prevailed in six games.
Before that, there was the 1919 World Series where the Chicago White Sox had a corps of players organized by first baseman Chickie Gandil that “threw” the fixed games that year to hurt the team’s owner, Charles Comiskey, and reportedly split $100,000 they would receive from gambler’s betting against them. Eight players, including Gandil, Shoeless Joe Jackson and pitcher Eddie Cicotte, were banned from baseball for life by Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis.
This year, the Dodgers are in the World Series for the first time since 1988, and they are playing the upstart Houston Astros, the team that eliminated the Yankees in seven games.
More night games, except in Los Angeles where the late afternoon starts will put the batters at a distinct disadvantage because of the heavy shadows around home plate and the brilliant sunshine shining brightly in center field as a background for the discouraged hitters facing pitchers Clayton Kershaw and Justin Verlander.
It’s another World Classic. Will it be competitive for the public’s dollars and attention when challenged by the NFL, the NBA, the National Hockey League and college football?