The NY Mets are in the World Series! Roll that around in your mind a few times. At the start of the season the Mets’ ownership and management were being criticized by their own fans as cheap, incompetent and dysfunctional. Why wouldn’t they spend to bring in talented players? Where were the highly touted minor leaguers fans had been promised for years? Why should fans even bother going to Citifield. You’re all familiar with the back story and with what happened. Key minor leaguers, such as Syndergaard and Conforto, were brought up and have contributed. Significant players, such as Cespedes, Johnson and Uribe were acquired at the trade deadline. The team jelled beyond all but the most optimistic expectations to win the NL East Division, beat the Dodgers and the Cubs in the playoffs, and here they are in the World Series. As they used to say in Brooklyn, “Who’d a thunk it!”
The WS will begin on Tuesday, October 27 in Kansas City. If it goes the full seven games it will conclude on November 4. KC last won in 1985, the Mets in 1986. This will be the 111th edition of the “Fall Classic,” as it is sometimes called. Some WS facts:
- The first modern WS was played in 1903. It was arranged by the owners of the two league champions. Boston beat Pittsburgh to win the first world championship.
- There was no WS in 1904 as the owner of the NL champion Giants refused to play the champion of the “upstart,” “inferior” AL.
- Beginning in 1905 the two leagues arranged the WS, and it has been played every year since then, except for 1994 during the players’ strike. Neither war nor earthquake has cancelled it.
- The first night game was Game 4 of the 1971 WS in Three Rivers Stadium between Pittsburgh and Baltimore.
- In 1989 Candlestick Park in San Francisco, the site of Game 3, was damaged by a massive earthquake before the game, which shook the Bay Area. The Series was delayed for ten days, but not cancelled.
- The leagues used to alternate home field advantage, but beginning in 2003 the league that won that year’s All-Star Game has earned the odd home game.
- The AL has won 63 of the previous 110 Series (58%).
- The Yankees have made the most appearances (40) and won the most championships (27).
- The team with the highest regular season winning percentage has only won the WS 49% of the time.
- Only one WS MVP has been a member of the losing team (more on that later).
There have been many memorable WS. All fans have their favorites. Personally, I have six, which I will profile below. These were not only exciting in their own right and featured a memorable play, but also had some significance to the sport in addition to the game itself. So, in chronological order:
- 1955 – Brooklyn wins its first and only WS – Despite having tremendous teams featuring various future Hall-of-Famers, every time the Dodgers played the Yankees in the WS they lost. A key hit here, a key error there, same result. The Dodgers were living up to (or down to) their unofficial nickname – the “Bums.” Year after year, the Dodger fans’ famous refrain was “Wait until next year.” Well, this year it was the Dodgers that made the key play. In the decisive Game 7 Sandy Amoros, an unheralded utility player who had been inserted into left field as part of a “double-switch,” made one of the most amazing catches in WS history to save the game, and the Dodgers won 2-0. “Next year” had finally arrived, and a ten year old boy on Long Island became a Dodgers fan for life. As one NY paper touted the next day “Who’s a Bum?!”
- 1960 – Pirates Beat Yanks – This was an odd Series. The Yankees were clearly the better team. They outperformed the Bucs in every category. They won their three games by a combined score of 38-3! Bobby Richardson, the second baseman, was named MVP, the only time a player from a losing team has been so honored. But, the Bucs won four close games and the Series. The seventh game was, perhaps, the best of all WS games. It doesn’t have the cache of other famous games, because it was played in the afternoon before a relatively small tv audience, rather then in prime time. Not only was it close; it had several twists and turns and memorable plays. Also, it was the deciding game and featured a “walk-off” homer by the Pirates’ Bill Mazeroski in the bottom of the 9th inning. Ironically, Maz was a light hitter, known primarily for his fielding. Many people believe that homer was responsible for his getting voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Another outcome was that the Yanks fired their manager, Casey Stengel, which made him available to become the first manager of the Mets two years later.
- 1969 – The Mets win their first title – On paper this was a huge mismatch. The AL champion Orioles had won 109 games and blown through the playoffs. They were very strong in all three areas – pitching, hitting and defense. The Mets, though sporting the best record in the NL, were still viewed by many as lovable losers. Indeed, they had finished ninth the previous year. Only the most optimistic fans gave them much of a chance. Yet, they got the key hits and made the key plays in the field. They not only won but did so in five games. Many old-time Mets fans see some parallels between that team and this year’s.
- 1975 – Fisk “pushes” his home run fair, but Reds win – The Reds were considered to be the superior team. Known as the “Big Red Machine” because of their powerful offense they had won 108 games during the regular season and swept the Pirates in the NL playoffs. But, Boston was a popular and exciting underdog. The Series became memorable because of Game 6. The Reds led three games to two and 6-3 when the “Saux” tied the game with a pinch hit three-run homer. Then, in the bottom of the 12th Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk led off with a drive down the left field line. Clearly, it had the distance, but would it go fair or foul. TV replays showed Fisk standing at home plate waving his hands to the right as if to “push” the ball fair. It was fair winning the game. That was a seminal WS and tv moment. But, the Reds spoiled the Cinderella story by winning the next day 4-3.
- 1985 – KC wins with an “assist” from the umpire – This was known as the I-70 or “Show-Me” Series because St Louis and KC were both in Missouri and were connected by Interstate 70. St. Louis seemed to have the Series won. They were ahead three games to two and 1-0 in the bottom of the ninth inning when disaster struck. The first base umpire, Don Denkinger, missed an obvious call, ruling a KC runner safe when tv replays clearly showed him to be out. But, this was before replay reviews, and the erroneous call stood. Given the extra out KC went on to win the game and the next day as well winning the Series. Tough break for the Cards, but they still had their chances to win. All they had to do was get out of the inning or win Game 7. Champions have to be resilient.
- 1986 – Mets win, barely – On paper, the Mets were the better team and were big favorites. But, they lost the first two games at home. They won Games 3 and 4 to even the Series, but proceeded to lose Game 5 and were trailing in Game 6 by 5-3 in the bottom of the tenth with two out and none on. Then, they staged the most unlikely of rallies. Three straight singles with two strikes on the batters and a wild pitch tied the score. Next Mookie Wilson hit a routine ground ball to first base, which, inexplicably, rolled between Bill Buckner’s legs and under his glove. The winning run scored, and the Mets won Game 7 as well. WHEW! That rally proved the old baseball adage. “The game is not over until the last out.” Baseball is the only sport in which the clock does not run out on the trailing team. Regardless, you get your “last licks.” Many fans, especially Mets fans, consider that Game 6 to be the best WS ever.
This series will match the dominant Mets starting pitching against the equally-dominant KC bullpen. No one knows what will happen, including the so-called “experts.” Fans know that you play the game on the field, not on paper. In a short series anything can happen. History tells us that an unlikely hero or two will emerge to lead his team to victory. Who will it be? Your guess is as good as mine. Enjoy the Series.
LETS GO METS!!