By Thomas Best
Last week I began an overview of one of the best books you will ever read about the history of the World Series. This is Tyler Kepner’s The Grandest Stage: A History of the World Series. This 2022 publication has so much to absorb and you will enjoy every page.
Last week I left off with hitters who excelled in the World Series. Let’s turn next to the tales of pitchers who rose to the occasion in October. The legacy of Babe Ruth as a pitcher with the Red Sox was secured when he tossed a 14 -inning complete game victory against the Cubs in his first pitching match-up in a World Series. And, how impressive was Lefty Gomez of the Yankees who was 6-0 in his games. Harry Brecheen [Brick-EEN) in 1946 went 3-0 with a 0.45 for the Cardinals against the Red Sox. Twenty years later he was the pitching coach for the Orioles when his pitchers tossed 3 shutouts against the Dodgers. Or, consider Madison Bumgarner who was 4-0 with a 0.25 ERA and a save with just one run scored in 36 innings of pitching. But perhaps the best pitching performance in a World Series: In 1905, Christy Mathewson over six days threw three shutouts for his Giants. He faced 94 batters and only one got as far as third base.
Kepner also dives into some interesting myths and perspectives about the World Series. For instance, did the 1919 White Sox lose the World Series because they threw games to satisfy gamblers or were the Reds that year just better? Kepner claims the Reds had a great team chemistry and simply outplayed the White Sox. Equally engaging is the controversy about whether Babe Ruth “called his shot” in the 1932 World Series against the Cubs. Charlie Root, the Cubs pitcher that day claimed all his life to his dying day that Ruth did something different at bat. Kepner believed him. Finally, and this one hurts: Kepner claims that despite umpire Don Denkinger’s blown call in game #6 that would have given the Cardinals the 1985 championship, the Royals deserved to win. The Cardinals batted just .185 and scored just 13 runs.
There is so much more. Can you ever forget the hobbled Kirk Gibson and his unlikely home run for the Dodgers in the 1988 fall classic. And here’s one of my favorite stories: that of Bill Wambsganss who had the only unassisted triple play in series history in 1920.
Kepner closes his book with such sections as who won the world series MVP in various years, and who should have won, the greatest World Series games played; best singers of the National Anthem, slogans of winning teams (Cub fans will remember “We Never Quit” for 2016), unofficial mascots during the games (Cardinal fans will certainly remember the “rally squirrel”), and greatest players who had only one World Series to their name and then didn’t shine as they would have liked. The best example here would be Ted Williams with the Red Sox in 1947. Williams hit a lowly .200 going 5 for 25 in their loss to the Cardinals( an admission to note: Williams was hurt).
This book is a don’t miss for baseball fans. Thank you for listening.