By Thomas Best
Over the last two weeks, I attempted to both inform and entertain you with my recollections of watching the 1968 World Series. I initially thought I would end this discussion after reliving that Cardinals versus Tigers’ fall classic. However, my kind wife, Pam, gave me a wonderful book for my birthday: The Grandest Stage: A History of the World Series. Therefore, over the next two weeks, I want to wrap this topic with some of author Tyler Kepner’s keen insight to this most fascinating sports topic.
The World Series has been played since 1903. Beginning with a match of what was then nine games between the Pittsburgh Pirates of the National League and the newly formed Boston Pilgrims (now the Red Sox) of the American League, the upstart Pilgrims won the series with five game victories to three. This was just the start of a baseball tradition which has been held every year since; that is, except on two occasions. In 1904, no series was held as the National Champion New York Giants believed it was beneath them to have to play a team from the still young American League. Only one other time a World Series was not played. I bet you remember when.
The World Series has long been a spectacle of full of amazing stories and unexpected results. Every Cardinal fan, like myself, remembers David Freese’s monumental game #6 in the 2011 World Series when his triple with two strikes in the bottom of the 9th inning and extra inning home run sent the Redbirds to a decisive game #7. Those older than myself may well recall the greatest pitching performance ever in a world series. This was in 1956 when the Yankees Don Larsen pitched a perfect game. Regarding unexpected results, did you not that Willie Mays never hit a round tripper in a series. What about great Hall of Famers who never even made it to the World Series. That list would include Ernie Banks, Rod Carew, Ken Griffey, Jr., Ryne Sandburg, and Ichiro Suzuki. And what about plays never seen during a World Series. For instance, no player has ever hit for a cycle and no series have ever ended with a runner being thrown out at the plate.
You can also refer to Kepner’s fact-packed book regarding batters who were able to embrace the greatness of the World Series stage and became baseball heroes. While Micky Mantle still holds the record with 18 World Series homeruns, Reggie Jackson will always be “Mr. October” for his mammoth homeruns and .755 slugging percentage. Lesser-known Phil Garner of Pittsburgh hit .500 with 12 hits in 24 at-bats in the 1979 series—the highest average ever. The Cardinals’ Lou Brock hit .464 in 1968 with a 13 for 28 batting effort. More impressive was Brock’s .516 on-base percentage that same series and his overall .391 batting average over three World Series in the 1960s.
Let’s end my review here and pick up again next week. Thank you for listening.