We're down to the Final Four, and here's the question on my mind.
What's in it for me?
You may have noticed that just like last year, our Final Four teams are made up of of four of the Original 16. (Bearing in mind that the Original 16 is really no such thing, no more than Hockey's Original 6 - they're just the franchises that had been in place for a few decades before the great expansion era of the 1960s.) All four of our survivors have long and glorious histories, featuring multiple trips to the World Series and numerous championships.
And just like last year, what I'd really like to see is a match-up that's never happened before. Can that be arranged?
The Cardinals have won the World Series 11 times in 18 attempts, against nine different AL franchises. Along the way they've faced off against both the Red Sox and the Tigers three times. So they're out. But the three clashes with both AL teams were all memorable. In 1934, the Tigers and the Gas House Gang played a legendary seven game set, which featured Cardinals ace starter Dizzy Dean doing all sorts of wonderful things. Ol' Diz had been doing amazing stuff all year and he closed with a rush to end up with 30 wins (and 7 saves). He pitched 3 CG victories, two of them on one day's rest, two of them shutouts, in the final week of the season to carry the Cards to the pennant. He then tossed a routine CG to win the series opener, 8-3. He then made a pinch-running appearance in the fourth game - and was knocked unconscious, carried off the field by his teammates, when he was hit in the head on a DP relay throw. Imagine that happening to Justin Verlander. That would probably get a modern manager shot, never mind fired. Luckily the X-rays of Dean's head showed nothing, as a famous headline of the day put it, and he came back to pitch the next day only to take a 3-1 loss. But little brother Paul Dean won both his starts, and Dizzy came back to toss a shutout in the 11-0 laugher that ended the series. That was a famous, famous game: it featured an on-field brawl, a near riot, a lengthy delay caused by disgruntled fans throwing stuff (lots of vegetables, oddly enough) on the field. Finally the commissioner, Judge Landis himself, intervened to summarily remove St Louis outfielder Joe Medwick out of the game. This was ostensibly done for Medwick's own safety, although it was probably about getting the game finished before the sun went down. The score was 11-0, after all. The two teams would meet again 34 years later, in 1968, the Year of the Pitcher. Detroit offered up Denny McLain, who had just become the first pitcher to win 30 games in a season since the Tigers' ancient tormentor from 1934, Dizzy Dean himself. McLain had gone a nifty 31-6, and everyone regarded him as the second best starter on display that fall. For St Louis had the most frightening man ever to take the mound, the one and only Bob Gibson. Gibson had posted a 1.12 ERA that very season, completing 28 of his 34 starts. He had also thrown CG victories 5 consecutive WS starts in 1964 and 1967. Gibson kicked things off by striking out 17 Tiger hitters - easily, they had no chance at all against him - in the first game of the series. He made great hitters - Al Kaline, Willie Horton, Norm Cash - look like the Detroit Kitty-Cats. But yet another pitcher, the Tigers' fat lefty Mickey Lolich, kept Detroit in the series as Gibson beat McLain twice. Lolich then matched up with Gibson himself in a tense final game that was scoreless until Curt Flood (a great, great defensive player) mis-played Jim Northrup's deep drive to centre into a two-run triple. After those two tremendous series, the 2006 tilt is hardly worthy of mention. Still, who has forgotten all those errors by the Detroit pitchers. And whatever that was on Kenny Rogers' hand.
The Boston-St.Louis meetings have likewise been memorable. The 1946 Series starred two of the greatest players who ever lived, Stan Musial (who played first base that year) and Ted Williams. Both immortals had a quiet series - the star was St Louis pitcher Harry Brecheen, who tossed CG victories in games 2 and 6. And Brecheen, on in relief in the seventh game was the pitcher of record and got the win when the series decided by one of the most famous plays in World Series history - Harry Walker's RBI double scored Enos Slaughter from first base in the bottom of the eighth, as Boston shortstop Johnny Pesky (allegedly) hesitated for a split second before relaying the ball home from the outfield. (I've seen the video, I think Pesky got a bum rap.) The two teams would meet again in 1967, the year of Boston's Impossible Dream . Boston had prevailed in one of the greatest pennant races of all time, thanks mainly to the greatest pennant race performance of all time. By any player,. In the Annals of Recorded Time. And probably before that, as well. I am speaking, of course, of Carl Yastrzemski, and Yaz and Jim Lonborg kept up their outstanding work in the Series. However, the seventh game pitted the all-but--invincible-in-October Bob Gibson against a Lonborg coming back on very short (two days) rest, and it proved to be a mis-match. The Cards prevailed again. But, in a Series recent enough that I assume most of you remember, it was against the Cards that the Red Sox finally laid some ancient ghosts to rest, sweeping them in 4 games in 2004.
No one remembers that the Boston Red Sox actually won the first five World Series they played in. There's a reason no one remebers - pretty well everyone who witnessed it is dead now. But it's true. The Bostons beat Pittsburgh in the very first WS of them all, back in 1903, behind the pitching of Bill Dinneen and Cy Young. They beat John McGraw's Giants in 1912, one of the greatest series of all time as I'm sure I've mentioned once or twice. The beat the Phillies in 1915, the Dodgers in 1916, and the Cubs in 1918. Yup, the Dodgers. Well, sort of. Actually, it was the Brooklyn Superbas who met the Boston Red Sox in that World Series. A very young Boston LH named Babe Ruth pitched one of the greatest games in WS history, a CG 2-1 victory - in 14 innings. Ernie Shore and Dutch Leonard also made outstanding starts as the Red Sox prevailed in five games. As you're probably aware, after their 1918 triumph, the Red Sox encountered something of a dry spell. You're probably aware, because heaven knows we heard enough about it The Sox would make just 4 WS appearance over the next 85 years and suffer an agonizing defeat each time. The two above to St.Louis were followed by their coming up short in a classic tilt with the Reds in 1975 and the famous, still hard-to-believe loss to the Mets in 1986. (Two outs, a two run lead, no one on base? What could go wrong?)
The Dodgers have played in the World Series 18 times (and they've won just six of them) - but no less than 11 of those match-ups came against the Yankees. Three of their WS titles came by beating the Yankees; besides Oakland, they beat Miinesota and the White Sox in October. They were on the losing end against the Yankees eight times, Oakland, Baltimore, and Cleveland once. And the Red Sox, of course.
The Tigers have made it into the Series less often than the other three teams. They've been to the Series just 11 times, usually against the Cubs (four times) or the Cardinals (three times). They beat the Cubs twice, the Cardinals and the Padres once, have lost in the Series to the Cubs and Cardinals twice, and once apiece to Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and San Francisco.
And there it is. In 112 years, the Dodgers and Tigers have somehow never faced each other in the post-season.
So I think now's the time.
Look, I'll settle for Dodgers-Red Sox. After all, 1916 was a long time ago. I'll cheer the Dodgers finally revenging themselves on the shades of Babe Ruth and Ernie Shore. But I absolutely don't want to see another St.Louis-Detroit series. Yes, they gave us two all-time classics, but now they're just boring the crap out of me. And on no account will I tolerate Boston-St.Louis. Enough is enough, I say.
So say we all?