The Greatest Game?
Baseball fans had it pretty good this fall; they not only got a front-seat view of the final day of the regular season, which many have already written down as the greatest finish ever, but they also experienced, with Game Six of the World Series, one of the greatest games ever played.
The St. Louis Cardinals, who initiated the memorable events of September 28 by staying alive for the NL wild card spot with an easy win at Houston (they won it outright a hour later when Atlanta lost to Philadelphia), employed comebacks theatrics over and over again against the beleaguered Texas Rangers, who in consecutive innings were a strike away from wrapping up their very first world titleand failed.
The Rangers led Game Six from start to, almost, finish; when David Freese’s opposite line drive eluded a hesitant Nelson Cruz in right field with two outs and two strikes in the bottom of the ninth, the Cardinals scored twice and tied the game for the first time since it was 0-0 in the top of the first. In the tenth, a two-run shot by the Rangers’ Josh Hamiltonplaying on a groin so bad that he might have been on the disabled list had it been the middle of the seasonregained Texas’ two-run cushion. But like déjà vu all over again, the Cardinals countered again in the bottom of the framewith Lance Berkman’s two-out, two-strike single scoring the tying run after an earlier run had scored on a Ryan Theriot groudner. After the Rangers were denied a chance to reclaim the lead once more off Jake Westbrook in the 11th, Freese played the hero for the second time in three innings when, leading off, he drilled a Mark Lowe pitch to center field and won the game for St. Louis, 10-9.
Some of the greatest World Series games have been delivered in Game Six: In 1975, when Carlton Fisk’s “stay fair” shot down Fenway Park’s left field line did so and kept the Red Sox alive against Cincinnati; or 1986, when the Mets rallied through Bill Buckner’s legs to even the series against Boston; or 2002, when the Anaheim Angels, five runs down and eight outs away from series defeat, rode the Rally Monkey and overcame the San Francisco Giants to force Game Seven.
Game Six will also challenge history’s greatest Fall Classic finales: The decisive 1926 game involving the Cardinals (and a hungover, if not worse, Pete Alexander) facing off against the titanic Yankees; the wild finale between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Washington Senators, a year earlier; Jack Morris’ ten-inning masterpiece for Minnesota against Atlanta in 1991; and the mother of all memorable epics, the 1960 finale between the Pirates and Yankees, capped by Bill Mazeroski’s legendary walk-off homer to win by a score ofechoing Game Six in 201110-9.
Time and perspective will tell how Game Six stands against the above classics and others not mentioned, but one thing is for sure; even beyond St. Louis and Texas, this is a game that will be discussed and talked about for a long, long time.
Amid the Meltdowns, They Clean Up
The St. Louis Cardinals are the benefactors of the two biggest collapses in National League history. In 1964, they surpassed the Philadelphia Phillieswho led the NL by 6.5 games with 12 to playand went on to win the World Series in seven games over the New York Yankees. This year, they trailed Atlanta for the NL wild card spot by 8.5 games in early September (the deficit was 10.5 in August), made the charge past the Braves to get to the postseason, knocked off the Phillies and Milwaukee in the first two rounds and outlasted Texas in the World Series, again in seven games.
Maybe the Third Time Will be the Charm
The Rangers are the first team to lose consecutive World Series since the Braves lost back-to-back in 1991-92.
Why the Rangers Lost
Among other things, Texas gave up a World Series-record 41 walks against the Cardinals. Eleven of those passes directly turned into runs for St. Louis.
Let Us Count the Errors of the Rangers' Lost Ways
Early in the classic Game Six, the Cardinals looked ready to give the game away with a series of embarrassing defensive flubs in the field. But as the game wore on, numerous decisions on the part of the Rangers had us instantly thinking, well, what were they thinking? To wit:
• Why, with the Rangers up 4-3 in the fifth with the bases loaded and two outs, did manager Ron Washington leave starting pitcher Colby Lewis up to hit for himself? If Lewis had been mowing them down like Derek Holland in Game Four, then we get thatbut Lewis was barely hanging in there inning by inning, and the opportunity for a pinch-hitter to deliver a knockout blow to the Cardinals seemed too tantalizing. Even at that moment, we thought Wash should have gone for it. He didn’t, and Lewis struck out on three pitches to end the inning.
• Why, in the eighth inning with two outs, did shortstop Elvis Andrus decide to ignore the easier play with a force at second on a Yadier Molina grounder and make the longer throw to firstwhere Molina beat it out? Fortunately for Andrus, the Cardinals did not score in the inningbut they came close, leaving the bases loaded.
• Why, in the bottom of the ninth and two outs, did Nelson Cruz not go hell-bent towards the right field wall on David Freese’s opposite line drive rather than approach with defensive hesitation? By doing the latter, Cruz never was able to get the ball within his range. If he had done the former, maybe he takes a lickingbut he could have won the series for the Rangers and been remembered for making one of baseball’s most memorable catches.
• Why, in the bottom of the tenth, did Washington intentionally walk Albert Pujols? We get that Pujols is the most dangerous hitter in the game today, but putting him on first also puts the winning run on for the Cardinalsand brings up Lance Berkman, no cream puff with the bat, and batting left (his stronger suit) to pitcher Scott Feldman’s right-handed arm. Berkman singled to bring him John Jay, the runner on second, to tie the gameagain.
From Relief to Disbelief
How crazy was Game Six? The Rangers were tagged with not one, not two, but three blown saves. Alexi Ogando blew Colby Lewis’ slim lead in the sixth inning; Neftali Feliz blew a two-run lead with the Rangers a strike away from winning it all in the ninth; and Scott Feldman essentially did the same an inning later.
Giving Fans Their Money's Worth
The Cardinals played in their 11thGame Seven in franchise history, tying the Yankees for the most in World Series history. With their 6-2 win over Texas in the decisive contest, the Cardinals are now 8-3 in such games; the Yankees are 5-6, falling below .500 when it lost at Arizona in 2001.
Home Field Advantage Counts
The Cardinals’ Game Seven win over the Rangers was the ninth straight by a home team in World Series annals. The last road team to win a decisive game in the Fall Classic came in 1979 when the Pittsburgh Pirates clinched at Baltimore.
Home Field Advantage Really Counts
Many may hate the fact that the All-Star Game decides home field advantage for the World Series, but participating players need to heed the deed to win; ask C.J. Wilson, the Texas starting pitcher who was charged with the loss in this year’s Mid-Summer Classic, helping the Cardinals to play the sixth and seventh games at St. Louis rather than in Arlington.
Feeling Like a Quarter-Million
Somewhere, someplace, the guy who stood to win $250,000 on the Cardinals after betting $250 on 999-1 odds back in September must have lost his mind when Freese’s home run cleared the center-field fence to win Game Six.
Setting a Record, Denying Another
Freese’s two-run double in the first inning of Game Seven gave him 21 RBIs for the postseason, setting an all-time record. Later in the game, St. Louis left fielder Allen Craig robbed Texas’ Nelson Cruz of a home runand a shot at another record: A ninth postseason homer.
A Cry For Craig
Freese rightfully received the adoration of writers who made him the World Series MVP, but a strong shout-out should go to Craig, who arguably deserved it just as much. Craig delivered a pinch-hit RBI single that gave the Cardinals a seventh-inning lead which they would hold in Game One; he did the exact same thing in Game Two, giving the Cardinals another seventh-inning lead they would not be able to hold; homered in Games Three, Six and Seven; and robbed Cruz of that home run late in Game Seven that may have put a lid on a possible Ranger comeback bid.
Slumping, But Only in the Box Score
Outside of his majestic 5-for-6, three-homer performance in Game Three at Arlington, Albert Pujols had just one hit in 19 at-bats against the Rangers in the World Series. Nobody would have frowned too heavily upon Pujols even had the Cardinals lost the series; he walked six times, got hit another time, and his lone hit was his crucial one-out, ninth-inning double that ignited the first improbable rally for the Cardinals in Game Six.
The Crystal Ball Pays Off
Good call by Fox in Game Five, presaging Adrian Beltre’s on-one-knee home run in the sixth inning for Texas by showing a clip of a similar home run he hit last year while playing for the Boston Red Sox.
Now Playing at TGG
In our latest installment of the They Were There section, TGG's Ed Attanasio chats with the oldest living ex-major leaguer, 100-year old Connie Marrerocurrently living in his native Cuba.
The Comebacker’s Greatest Hits
Click here to look at the TGG Comebacker archive going back to the start of the 2007 season.
In Africa, the Rangers Will Always be Champs
When we saw the Cardinals breaking out the celebratory apparel after winning the World Series in Game Seven, we thought to ourselves: What do they do with the caps and t-shirts honoring the “World Champion Texas Rangers”? Obviously, the stuff was done well in advance of the end of the series, right? Well, Yahoo! Sports must have heard our query, because within minutes we found this story on their site detailing how children of third world countries in need have the “other” apparel donated to them through various charity organizations. The merchandise keeps the kids clothed, a very good thingbut gives them a faulty perspective on baseball history. We mean, how many kids in Zambia will be heartbroken to learn that the Tampa Bay Rays didn’t win the 2008 World Series? (And do they realize how much money can be made by putting that stuff on eBay for sports collectable hounds back in America to grab?)
The Little Bum, He's a Millionaire
The notoriety has bumped up Buckner’s checking account more than he ever could have imagined. He told the Boston Globe that he made more money during the reunion weekend, signing autographs and making other appearances, than he did in his rookie year (when he earned $10,500)and he once made $70-80,000 during one weekend alone signing balls, pictures, etc. Only in America.
Being labeled a goat for the ages can sometimes have its benefits. At a 25-year reunion of the legendary 1986 World Series between the New York Mets and Boston Red Sox this past week, Bill Bucknerthe man who let the ball go through his legs and allowed the Mets to win Game Six and stay alive in the seriesseemed to be quite at peace over his dubious place in baseball history. There’s a reason for that.
My Bittersweet Lord
Josh Hamilton told reporters after Game Six that his tenth-inning home runwhich gave the Rangers their second two-run lead in the clutch, only to again lose itwas presaged by the Almighty. “The Lord told me it was going to happen before it happened,” Hamilton claimed, “’You hadn’t hit a home run in a while. You’re about to right now.’” Apparently, God didn’t add, “Oh, by the way, Freese is going to hit one, too.”
When You're Hot, You're Hot
The Cardinals’ official celebratory rally at Busch Stadium, held on Sunday two days after winning the World Series, sold out 90 minutes after the end of Game Seven.
To the Losers, Not Much
The Rangers were hoping for a championship parade before hundreds of thousands. They had to settle for 60 at DFW when they flew back in town in the wee morning hours following their Game Seven loss at St. Louis.
The Wrong Call
In the pivotal eighth inning of the pivotal Game Five at Arlington (before the super-pivotal Game Six at St. Louis), we wondered why Cardinal manager Tony LaRussa brought in reliever Lance Lynn simply to intentionally walk the only batter (Ian Kinsler) he would face; Lynn apparently wanted to know, too, given the body language between he and LaRussa after delivering four outside pitches to Kinsler.
Turns out, according to LaRussa, he never asked for Lynnbut that’s just part of this bizarre sequence. At first, LaRussa called the Cardinal bullpen to have Marc Rzepczynski and closer Jason Motte warm up, but on the other end of the line, coach Derek Lilliquist only heard Rzepczynski’s name. Quickly seeing this, LaRussa rang Lilliquist again and told him to get Motte up. Instead, Lilliquist told Lynnwho threw 47 pitches two days earlier and was only supposed to be used in an “emergency”to start throwing. (Since when does Lynn rhyme with Motte?)
Meanwhile, the Rangers were building a threat, loading the bases with one out in a tie ballgame. With the dangerous Mike Napoli next to hit, LaRussa called for Motteonly to then discover that it was Lynn warming up. LaRussa had no choice but to stick with the left-handed Rzepczynski, who served up a two-run double to the right-handed Napoli that all but decided the game.
The Same Call
Fox’s Joe Buck channeled his late father by calling David Freese’s 11th-inning, game-winning home run in Game Six with the words, “We will see you tomorrow night.” Jack Buck, working national radio, said those same exact words in a duplicate situation during the 1991 World Series when Kirby Puckett won Game Six with a walk-off home run (also in the 11th inning) and kept the Minnesota Twins alive for Game Seven against Atlanta.
Cardinals Over Kardashian
Game Six, with no major sports competition on the airwaves, bumped up to roughly 12.0; the buzz of that incredible game created a slight windfall for Game Seven, which drew a 13.4still nowhere near 1970s levels, but impressive in that it was bigger than the combined ratings of the other three major networks. The 13.4, by the way, translates to 25 million viewers.
Though the World Series doesn’t have the TV ratings pull it once didback in the 1970s, when it topped out with a 35 rating, there were roughly only ten channels to choose from and no Internet, PlayStation, Netflix, Facebook, etc.this year’s Fall Classic between the Cardinals and Rangers pulled in decent numbers under the circumstances. Game Four outpaced NBC’s Sunday Night Football matchup between the New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts (that the Saints won, 62-7, made it easier for people to switch over to Fox) and Game Five easily outdrew Monday’s ESPN Monday Night yawner with Baltimore and Jacksonville; ratings for both Series games were roughly at 10.0.
Red Sox fans won’t have John Lackey to kick around in 2012. The beleaguered pitcher, who finished the 2011 season with a 6.41 earned run averageand somehow managed a 12-12 record out of itwill undergo Tommy John surgery and miss all of next season. Expect more signs of relief than agony from Red Sox Nation over this one.
Behind the Greed Door
Bibi Jones, a porn actress who goes by the stage name of Britney Beth, disclosed to a Boston sports talk radio station this past week that she was hired by Phoenix-based sports agent Terry Bross to help attract up to ten baseball players as clients by hanging out with themsometimes using the tricks of her professional trade to lure them over. The only name she gave: Atlanta second baseman Dan Uggla. (We checked to make sure that Uggla’s second-half blitz with the batafter an utterly poor first halfdidn’t begin with a road trip to Arizona; it didn’t.) And what is Bross saying? Nothing, for now.
It's Not Your Turn, Mr. Boras!
Scott Boras just can’t shut up when the time calls for it. In 2007, the superagent rudely tried to trump the World Series when, during Game Four between Boston and Colorado, he announced that Alex Rodriguez would be opting out of his contract with the Yankeesdrawing the ire of the commissioner’s office and not exactly pleasing Rodriguez, who later fired him. This past weekmore wisely during an off-day for the Series but, still, during itBoras told the New York Post that he wanted to tear up the Yankees’ final two option years on second baseman Robinson Cano’s contract and renegotiate. A day later, he said he was joking. Oh, we’re sure the Yankees were chuckling…with him.
Going Low on Stow
Lawyers for the Los Angeles Dodgers, prepping up for the upcoming legal bankruptcy showdown with Major League Baseball, scored no public relations points whatsoever when they inferred this past week that Bryan Stow, savagely beaten up on Opening Day in the Dodger Stadium parking lot, was partially to blame for the incident. “You’re saying to the jury, ‘They (the Stow family) are saying we’re 100 percent liable,’” said attorney Jerome Jackson to the Los Angeles Times, “but does that mean (Marvin) Norwood and (Louis) Sanchez, who beat this guy up, have no liability? And, does it mean Mr. Stow himself has no liability?’” A lawyer for Stow fired back: “Oh, so here it is, let’s blame the innocent guy for the lack of security at Dodger Stadium…(Frank) McCourt’s taken millions out of the Dodgers and he and his attorneys know the end is near.”
Ilan Grapel, a native of Queens and a big New York Met fan, was one part of a prisoner swap between Israel and Egypt that took place this past week; Grapel had been held by Egyptian authorities for alleged spying activities while working for a legal aid group in the aftermath of the country’s regime change. When released and greeted by his mother and U.S. Congressman Gary Ackerman; Grapel was told by Ackerman that, while incarcerated in seclusion for five months, the Mets won the World Series. Grapel beamed at the news, before being told: “Only kidding!” Perhaps the only thing that would have been more cruel was Grapel being told that Fred Wilpon had sold.
They Said What?
Reuters headline: “Victorious LaRussa enhances Hall of Fame credentials.” So, with two world titles already under his belt and a third-place spot on the game’s all-time manager win listall before the Cardinals’ triumph on Fridayand he’s not yet a lock for Cooperstown?
TGG Goes to CafePress
We’ve always gotten raves for how we look at This Great Game, and now you can own a piece of the brand. We’ve opened a page at the popular CafePress site, with apparel, mugs, clocks and other items dressed in the TGG brand now available. We don’t just throw the logo and be done with it, adding in some fun baseball trivia. We even have a boy brief for the ladies that says on the backside: “If baseball is on your mind at this point, we’re just what you need.” Now you can show the world that you’re a baseball expert...and you’ll look good, too. Check it out now!