Oct 21

This Series Could Be Special

For as long as I have loved baseball, first as a Little Leaguer with an active imagination, and then as a journalist covering the game I was not good enough to play on the major league level, the World Series always held a special place for me.

I remember bits and pieces of the 1969 Series, but confess I was shocked like most of the country. I admit to playing hooky from school to watch the 1970 Series, but maybe it served me right because I pulled for the Reds.

searchMy favorite Series was the 1975 Red Sox-Reds. Although disappointed in the outcome, it was compelling because of it went seven and Game Six was arguably the best game in history. There was Bernie Carbo’s game-tying homer; Carlton Fisk’s game-winner; and Dwight Evans’ game saving catch.

One of the great stories coming from that Series was Pete Rose telling Fisk something along the lines of, “this is a great game, isn’t it?’’

Next up was Twins-Braves with the classic Jack Morris-John Smoltz Game 7. If not the Fisk game, maybe this was history’s best.

I covered all the Yankees’ titles under Joe Torre, but the most dramatic of them was one they lost, in 2001, to Arizona. Go figure, perhaps the worst throw of Mariano Rivera’s career was after fielding that bunt in the ninth inning of Game 7.

A lot of historic homers were hit in that Series, but my favorite moments the fans chanting Paul O’Neill’s name; the bald eagle Challenger scattering the Yankees before the anthem; and George Bush throwing a ceremonial pitch perfect strike.

Each Series has its defining moment or story line, and I can only imagine what it will be this year.

Some match-ups are more compelling than others, but Giants-Royals – regardless of what ESPN says – will be a Series worthy of our attention. There was actually a Sports Center lead-in actually daring to ask if these teams “deserved,’’ to be there.

The fact is, baseball itself bears responsibility for the appearance of an “unworthy’’ match-up because it tampers with the integrity of its season with interleague play and the unbalanced schedule forcing teams to run different courses to the finish line.

However, these teams, based on being a wild-card entry, each played an additional game. They took on all comers – each having to beat the team with the best record in their league.

They also play the game the way it should be, with pitching, defense, timely hitting and solid bullpens. Both can also hit the long ball when needed, but neither survive by the homer, which is refreshing.

I believe this one has the capability of going seven, which defines “classic,’’ to me. Both teams have reason to believe they can be considered a team of destiny.

I can’t wait to find out which one.

Aug 09

Last night is why we watch

It was a habit I picked up as a Little Leaguer, and that is to hang around until the last out. As a reporter, I had no choice, but as a casual viewer there were times I shut things down when the game got out of hand, which has happened more than a few times in recent seasons.

The Mets: Primetime entertainment last night reminds us of what's good.

But, not so much this year, and definitely not last night.

There’s a resiliency about these Mets that make up for their void in talent. There is a likable quality to this team because they overachieve. They hustle where previous Mets teams did not.

Mike Pelfrey was frustrating as he squandered a three-run lead, and then the bullpen blew up. Normally, that would be the story line, but this time the offense – which had been stagnant – responded and thankfully made us forget about Pelfrey.

Normally, when the Mets get hit with a four-spot in the eighth, it is time to look away, but they quickly put two on with one out, and there was the curiosity factor with Mike Baxter coming up.

Of course, I wanted to see the local kid. He’s a good story, and I always root for good stories. His double and Ronny Paulino’s sacrifice fly made it a two run game. They made it worthwhile to keep watching.

I thought about Scott Hairston’s homer in Washington, and Lucas Duda’s ninth-inning, game-tying homer the other day. OK, they still lost, but the situation was there again and it made me wonder.

Jason Pridie singled, and one out later, so did Justin Turner, who is becoming one of my favorite players to watch this year. He hung in on Heath Bell’s breaking ball and dumped it into left. It was a pitch that could easily have eaten him up.

David Wright singled in a run, and all of a sudden the winning run was on second after another wild pitch by Bell.

Up again was Duda, who for some reason reminds me of Lucas McCain of The Rifleman TV series. There’s the name, Lucas, of course, but Duda is bull strong like the McCain character. Connors, by the way, played briefly for the Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Dodgers before turning to acting.

The Mets are counting on Duda for power, but it was great to see him go with the pitch and take it up the middle. Professional hitting at its best.

It has been a summer with a growing injury list, the saga of the Mets’ finances and the future of Jose Reyes and where he’ll take his tender hammy next year.

But, for one night at least it was good to get away from all that and watch the Mets show their heart.

After all, games like last night is why we watch, and maybe it was the first game for somebody who became hooked on your ball club.

Last night was a game that reminded us why we are baseball fans and that the baseball clock ticks in outs, not minutes.

And, when outs remain, so does hope.