Bring on the World Series

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The greatest series in ALCS history finally ended, with Red Sox coming out the victor. And while I spent games 4-6 on the edge my seat, knowing the tide could turn with any batter, game 7 was some how anti-climactic. The Sox had already made history just by forcing a game 7, and with Boston jumping ahead to an early lead — 6-0 by the end of the 2nd — this game lacked the drama of the previous three. Sure, everything was on the line this time, but it had been for the past three nights and by the time the final game rolled around, my nervous system had acclimated to it. (As a sidenote, I think my nervous system appreciated that this wasn’t a close game.)
Unlike everyone else in the room, I wasn’t nervous when Francona brought Pedro in in the 7th. A questionable move to be sure, but the Sox were up by 7 runs and I had faith that they would take him out if the lead reduced to less than four. Maybe I was being naive, but that may have been Pedro’s last opportunity to show up the Yankees at Yankee Stadium while wearing the Red Sox uniform. And there was no safer opportunity to allow him to do that. As Jeff would put it, I had already reached zen at that point. I had no doubts that the Red Sox would pull it off.
And then came the strangest moment of the evening for me. Mientkiewicz made the final putout and instead of jumping up and down and cheering like everyone else, I just sat in my chair and took a deep breath. Now, perhaps this is because I didn’t grow up in Boston as a Red Sox fan, but my first thought was “Okay, now who’s ready to pitch game 1 of the Series?” Because as big as it is that they beat the Yankees, as historic as it was that they came back from three games down to do it, winning meant that the season wasn’t over.
Perhaps the difference comes in that I’ve seen this before — twice. I grew up in Minnesota, the home of the Twins, Kirby Puckett, and the Homer Hanky. Granted, I don’t remember much of the 1987 season directly, but I was taken to the Metrodome homecoming after they beat the Tigers in the ALCS and it was pure chaos. I remember clutching my father’s hand and losing sight of my mother and 3-year-old sister amongst the crowd. And I remember the roar of the crowd when they announced each one of the players as American League Champions. A few weeks later they would become World Champions for the first time in Minnesota history. This is quite possibly my earliest professional baseball memory. (I have earlier ones of my parents softball games, the weekly event that defined my youth until I was about seven.)
But what will probably always be the greatest season and World Series for me, was in 1991, when the Twins became the first team to go from last place (1990) to World Series Champions, helped by a club record 15-game winning streak in July. And amazingly, the Braves also became the second (behind the Twins) team to go from last to the World Series in that year. Kirby Puckett made a catch that every kid I knew tried to copy in Game 6 and followed it with an 11th inning homerun to win it and force a seventh game. And then in the game 7, Jack Morris pitched 10 innings of shutout ball, possibly one of the greatest World Series pitching performances since Don Larsen threw a perfect game. About half the kids in my class didn’t go to school the next day — they were attending the parade downtown. Those of us in school spent the day watching the parade on TV, because Mrs. Chazin was perhaps the biggest Twins fan of us all. The season was over and our team was the best and there was nothing left to prove.
Tonight the Red Sox open Game 1 of their last hurdle — the St. Louis Cardinals. Sometimes I get the suspicion that East Coast snobbery has many fans believing that since the Sox beat the Yankees, winning it all is a given — the curse has been reversed. But this a rematch of 1967 and 1946, a perfect opportunity for the curse to live on if it wants to. I, for one, have lost my zen and look forward to an exciting series.
But please, can we have less five hour games this time? I miss my sleep.

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8 responses

  1. Ah, the Pedro move. I think your analysis is right on, but, was one of the people in the room who was sweating bullets at that moment, I’d like to point out that the problem with the Red Sox is that, despite their (recent) prowess, they often are able to find ways to screw things up. Bringing Pedro in seemed like a perfect way to do this, and I think Sox fans have a good imagination for the possible ways that games could end disastrously due to stupid mistakes or decisions. At that moment, I was seeing all sorts of awful scenarios played out in my head, the most painful of which was us fulfilling the wish of every single Yankee fan in that ball park at that moment: losing at the past minute once again because of Pedro. I can see why Francona might have done it to appease Pedro, but you have to admit that the record of acts done for that reason is generally not good. He’s a great pitcher, but he’s a loose cannon, and a big liability, and you don’t want a key game riding on his whims.
    But, as Wally kept saying that night, we had a big enough lead that we shouldn’t have worried so much. The worry, I think, is that if you relax in a game against the Yankees, you can set yourself up for defeat. We’ve seen it happen before — you can’t give these guys an inch if you want to win. With the Pedro factor and the Yankees factor put together, it’s easy to see how Red Sox fans would still be nervous, even with a solid lead. The citizens of Red Sox Nation are optimists in the sense that they will always have that hope, that faith; but they are pessimists in the sense that they can always imagine ways in which their team might let them down once again.
    All that aside, I’m happy to report that, with 12 hours’ sleep under my belt, I’m feeling much more prepared for Game One of the World Series. Let’s get out there and reverse that curse.

  2. RHODE! Sweet.
    But let the record show: Pedro isn’t as loose a cannon as all that. He came on the field and the Yankees – who have seen a lot of Pedro Martinez – shelled him for a little while. That happens. But at that point the Sox were up what, 10-1? Then 10-3? It’s not like he’s going to give up two consecutive grand slams, one of them to Tony Clark. Sure, Mothra hit him hard, but Mothra hits pretty much everybody hard. That’s why he’s an enormous post-nuclear insect-monster who destroys large parts of Japan with his science-magical powers!
    The real question is what happens now. The Sox and Cardinals haven’t seen nearly as much of one another as the Sox and Yanks – which will do the pitching staffs good. And if memory serves, the Cards’ pitching stable is all righties, which will benefit Ortiz, Varitek, etc. (Same for the Sox though, right?) And then Ortiz’s fielding is a liability, and Foulke’s been working hard, but Wakefield’s rested, and anyhow he’s a goddamn Clydesdale [sic?] horse, and Damon’s out of his slump, and Manny’s still an astounding hitter and he’s due and tonight none of the prognostications matter because
    Curses aren’t real.
    Never were.
    Good post, Erin.

  3. Welcome the Blogosphere, Erin. I like your stylesheet. It even puts Scottoway’s Shades-of-Grayscale to shame. Like the name too.
    I predict 28-21, Sox tonight. Higher than the Pats game tomorrow.

  4. Where do I begin? hmmmm… well, first, actually the homecoming Erin refers to wasn’t the coronation of World Series champions, but winners of the American League pennant… the Twins were dire underdogs as they ended the season with only 85 wins. It had been 32 years since the Twins had won a pennant and the town went nuts. But there was little hope that this team of post-season overacheivers had much of a chance against the Cardinals.
    Fortunately, this was an era prior to the post-game riot and 60,000 fans spontaneously appeared at a haphazardly scheduled welcome home. And while there was much World Series fever, I’m not sure it was a town of believers. We’d seen our share of defeat snatched from the jaws of victory, 1967 being a prime example. And the worst part about that year is that the Twins know how to beat St. Louis.
    Now 27 years since the ’87 Twins, Boston has it’s shot at the Cardinals again. And I know why they’ll win… it’s the Twins factor.
    Sure there’s the curse of the bambino, but there are other curses in baseball or “factors” that go into who wins. In baseball history, there are two givens: a) the Cubs won’t win the World Series and b) neither will the Red Sox.
    There’s also a codicil to those postulates. You can pick who will lose the World Series by counting the number of ex-Cubs on the rosters. Most ex-Cubs, you lose.
    But there’s another specifically related to the St. Louis Cardinals. If there are more players on the opposing team who have ties to the Twins, the Cardinals lose. With Ortiz, Dougie M, and Varitek (drafted by the Twins), the Red Sox should win in five. Bill James knows these kinds of statistics and it’s why the Red Sox picked up the best fielding firstbaseman since Kent Hrbek and then refused to play him.
    The only thing that could beat the Twins factor is that Terry Francona is an ex-Cardinal and given the way he set up the Sox rotation, well, you kind of wonder whose side he’s on.

  5. Holy crap. At first glance, I thought that was *my* dad commenting, and I was wondering why he suddenly knew so much about the Minnesota Twins. And then I was wondering why you were addressing him as “Dad.”
    And then I understood. But those few seconds were really freaky.
    (My dad is also Russ. Hence the confusion.)