The first World Series I really remember seeing part of was the 1985 World Series, but I was just five years old and didn’t even know baseball yet.
It wasn’t until a few years later – 1989 – that I became fixated on every little thing about baseball. Baseball cards, throwing a ball against the siding until it got dark, watching any game that might come on TV. The Royals fell just short, but I watched the series with intent. Of course, this was the Battle by the Bay between Oakland and San Francisco, and it’s most known for the earthquake that postponed Game 3 (which, by the way, inspired an excellent Grantland piece).
That offseason, the Royals signed Mark Davis and Storm Davis, and every preseason publication picked them to overcome the mighty Oakland A’s, but of course it didn’t happen. That year, I watched the World Series partly at home, where I dreamed up an idea where Major League Baseball should let ten-year-olds onto Major League Rosters so I could play in the playoffs. How that would happen, I don’t know, but it’s what I wanted. The Reds won, Billy Hatcher was unstoppable, and I remember seeing the last few innings on a portable TV at a restaurant while traveling with my parents on trip for my dad’s slow-pitch softball team.
But it was the 1991 World Series that really struck me. I’ve told this story before, and you should remember that as the Worst to First series between Minnesota and Atlanta. Five games decided by one run. Kirby Puckett‘s Game 6 walkoff homer in extras. Ron Gant getting pulled off of first base by Kent Hrbek. Lonnie Smith getting deked out of a base. Jack Morris‘s ten inning Game 7 shutout.
And after that game, they did the wrapup, showed the locker room, the trophy presentation, and then, as the broadcast came to an end, they played a narration from A. Bartlett Giamati, former Commissioner of the “Green Fields of the Mind”.
After a tense, legendary series, and reaching an age where I had seen a good amount of games and was forming some opinions (and I think it was Joe Posnanski who said once that “baseball is never as special as when you’re ten years old – and well, it’s pretty special at 11, too), the narration stuck with me and now, after every World Series, after we’re left with just the leaf-clogged drains and the cold, I go back and read it, and listen to his own reading of it.
It’s not a happy piece. It tells of the end of a season when the realization that summer is gone and your team is out. And Giamatti references, almost with a touch of jealousy, those people who were smart enough to grow out of sports and can escape that void that a baseball-less winter can bring.
Of course, nowadays, there’s more coverage of winter ball and Caribbean Leagues to bide the time. The hot stove season is its own industry anymore. There’s always discussion to be had. But the hope of a winning streak, of a player figuring it out, those things are always there, and that’s what Giamatti speaks of – that hope for the illusion that it will work this time, that this is the year.
The Boston Red Sox beat the St. Louis Cardinals Wednesday night for their third World Championship of the last decade. The baseball season is over. The Royals did alright. They hung around the wild card until the last week of the season, but it seemed they could have done more with a few breaks. It was an odd year. A game was snowed out. Another was postponed due to a manhunt in Boston. They ended a game in St. Louis at 4 a.m. George Brett returned to the dugout.
There’s plenty to be excited about, but the work towards next year starts tomorrow. Players will come and go. But the calendar will seem to slow to a crawl as we all count down to February and the start of a new spring training.
But for now, as I’ve done before, let me share with you the words of Giamatti. I think you’ll appreciate them.
And if you’d like to read them at the same time, that link is right here.