Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Top 10 World Series

The 2016 World Series begins tonight. Each team has a great story: The Chicago Cubs are trying to win their 1st World Series since 1908; the Cleveland Indians, their 1st since 1948. Each team plays in a great city. Each team plays in a great ballpark: The Cubs in Wrigley Field, the Indians in Progressive Field.

Do I care who wins? Not really. Neither team is unworthy. I love Chicago, while I merely like Cleveland. (Yes, I have been to both. More than once.) So that might make me more likely to support the Cubs. But the Cubs' manager is Joe Maddon, who built the Tampa Bay Rays in his own classless image; and their general manager is Theo Epstein, who built the cheating Boston Red Sox of 2003-16. So that might make me more likely to support the Indians.

I just hope it's a good World Series. Even better, a great World Series.

What makes "a great World Series?" Which ones are in the Top 10? I decided to determine this.

My only requirement is that the Top 10 World Series must all go to at least a Game 7.

"What do you mean, 'at least,' Mike? Isn't Game 7 the limit?" Ordinarily, yes, but there have been exceptions. In 1903, 1919, 1920 and 1921, it was a best-5-out-of-9, instead of the usual best-4-out-of-7. And there was one other time it went to a Game 8, in 1912. (That one does make the list, and I will explain.)

For the purpose of this post, it doesn't matter who won such a Series, although how they did it is certainly going to be important. Here are some big factors:

* Compelling teams. Better yet if both of them were. Note that, while I am a Yankee Fan, the Yankees winning said Series is not going to be a factor. Besides, I want to be as unbiased as possible, as I know that not all of my readers are Yankee Fans or even from the New York Tri-State Area. There were seasons in which the Yankees, for all their greatness, were not especially interesting. Future Hall-of-Famers, feisty managers, wisenheimer owners, great Pennant races having gotten the teams there, cities that really needed a winner, and an upset (either to get into the Series or to win it) are welcome.

* Close games. The more out of the 7 that were close, the better. Games going to extra innings, better still.

* Game 7 itself should be a classic.

* Home runs help.

* So do great pitching performances.

* It's better to have been in a "real ballpark" instead of a "football stadium," and real grass is a plus. (Sorry, 1970s and '80s, you years of my childhood.)

* My personal feelings are not important here. If the Yankees lost, or weren't in it, or if the Mets or Red Sox were, it doesn't matter.

There are 35 possible nominations. I'm not counting 1920, since that went to 7 of a possible 9. (A "Borg World Series," for my fellow Trekkies.) So that's 34.

Semifinalists: 1909, Pittsburgh Pirates over Detroit Tigers (being Honus Wagner vs. Ty Cobb wasn't enough to save it); 1931, St. Louis Cardinals over Philadelphia Athletics; 1945, Detroit Tigers over Chicago Cubs; 1946, St. Louis Cardinals over Boston Red Sox (neither Ted Williams nor Stan Musial did particularly well, and only 2 games were close); 1958. New York Yankees over Milwaukee Braves; 1962, New York Yankees over San Francisco Giants (the 2nd and last Mantle-Mays matchup, despite a 1-0 Game 7, wasn't nearly as interesting as you might think); 1965, Los Angeles Dodgers over Minnesota Twins; 1967, St. Louis Cardinals over Boston Red Sox; 1968, Detroit Tigers over St. Louis Cardinals; 1979, Pittsburgh Pirates over Baltimore Orioles; 1982, St. Louis Cardinals over Milwaukee Brewers; 1987, Minnesota Twins over St. Louis Cardinals (the 1st indoor Series doesn't make the Finals); 1997, Florida Marlins over Cleveland Indians (Game 7 was an 11-inning classic, but the rest of the Series wasn't all that interesting); 2014, San Francisco Giants over Kansas City Royals (best Game 7 since 1991, but otherwise rather ordinary).

Finalists: 1925, Pittsburgh Pirates over Washington Senators (the rainy Game 7 keeps it out); 1926, St. Louis Cardinals over New York Yankees; 1934, St. Louis Cardinals over Detroit Tigers (Dizzy Dean couldn't keep it in the Top 10, whereas a Game 7 blowout keeps it out); 1956, New York Yankees over Brooklyn Dodgers (a Game 7 blowout keeps the Don Larsen Series out); 1957, Milwaukee Braves over New York Yankees; 1964, St. Louis Cardinals over New York Yankees; 1971, Pittsburgh Pirates over Baltimore Orioles; 1985, Kansas City Royals over St. Louis Cardinals (a Game 7 blowout ruined it); 2001, Arizona Diamondbacks over New York Yankees; 2002, Anaheim Angels over San Francisco Giants; 2011, St. Louis Cardinals over Texas Rangers.

Why not 2001? True, Game 4 went 10 innings and had the Tino Martinez and Derek Jeter home runs. Game 5 went 12 innings, and had the Scott Brosius home run. And Games 3 and 7 were 1-run. But Games 1 and 6 were blowouts. Bank One Ballpark (now Chase Field) is a horrible stadium for baseball. And, as we now know, that Series was tainted by the D-backs' steroid use. Plus, more than any other Series except 1975, fans of the losing team talks about that Series more than fans of the winning team, who must want to yell out, "We won! Talk about our team!"

Top 10 World Series

10. 1960, Pittsburgh Pirates over New York Yankees. The Yankees had Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford and Roger Maris. The Pirates had Roberto Clemente, Bill Mazeroski and Cy Young Award winner (when it was for both Leagues) Vern Law. Yankee Stadium and Forbes Field.

The Pirates wins were by 1 run in Games 4 and 7, 2 runs in Game 1, and 3 runs in Game 5. And, of course, Game 7 was that classic back-and-forth contest won by Bill Mazeroski's walkoff, the most consequential home run of all time. But the Yankees' wins were blowouts: 10 runs in Game 3, 12 in Game 6, and 13 in Game 2. That keeps this Series from the top spot.

But I chose this one despite the fact that the Yankees lost it. See? I can be objective. However, I wasn't born yet, and don't remember it. Yankee Fans who do still treat the Mazeroski homer as their "Bill Buckner Moment." Even though the 9th inning of Game 7 in 2001 is closer to being our "10th inning of Game 6 in 1986."

9. 1924, Washington Senators over New York Giants. The Giants had Frankie Frisch, the Senators the aging but still effective best pitcher of the 1910s, Walter Johnson. The Polo Grounds and Griffith Stadium. Games 1 and 7 went 12 innings. Games 2 and 6 were 1-run games, and Game 3 was a 2-run game.

8. 1986, New York Mets over Boston Red Sox. The Mets had Gary Carter, Keith Hernandez, Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden. The Red Sox had Wade Boggs, Roger Clemens and Jim Rice. Fenway Park and Shea Stadium.

Game 6 went 10 innings, and had the most stunning 10th inning since Game 8 in 1912. Game 1 was 1-run, while Games 5 and 7 were 2-run. Game 7 was still in doubt until the 8th inning. But blowouts in Games 2 and 3 keep this one from ranking higher.

See? I chose this one despite it being Mets and Red Sox. And, for the record, at the time, I rooted for the Red Sox. That's how much I hate the Mets. You can see what good it did me.

7. 1972, Oakland Athletics over Cincinnati Reds. The A's had Catfish Hunter and Rollie Fingers, but not Reggie Jackson, who was injured scoring the Pennant-winning run. The Reds had Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan and Tony Perez. The Oakland Coliseum and Riverfront Stadium.

This Series featured Gene Tenace's home runs, Joe Rudi's great catch, and those great Oakland green & gold uniforms and their mustaches. Every game but Game 6 was a 1-run game, and the Swingin' A's beat the Big Red Machine despite not having Reggie, their best player, available -- ending the "Team of the Seventies" argument. The only thing stopping this from being a serious contender for the #1 slot is the stadiums.

6. 1975, Cincinnati Reds over Boston Red Sox. The Reds had Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan and Tony Perez. The Red Sox had Carl Yastrzemski, Luis Tiant and Jim Rice. Fenway Park and Riverfront Stadium.

This is the one so many people talk about, mainly because of Sox fans hyping it, even though they lost it. Game 6, the most-talked-about game in World Series history, went 12 innings, and had several thrilling moments, ending with Carlton Fisk doing the Fenway Twist. Game 3 went 10 innings, and featuring the alleged interference by Ed Armbrister. Games 2, 4 and 7 were 1-run games. Game 7 was won in the 9th. The only game that wasn't close was Game 1, and that featured Luis Tiant pitching a shutout and singling and later scoring the decisive run.

The one thing that keeps this Series from legitimate #1 consideration is Riverfront Stadium. No football stadiums. No artificial turf.

5. 1955, Brooklyn Dodgers over New York Yankees. The Yankees had Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford. The Dodgers had Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider and Roy Campanella. Yankee Stadium and Ebbets Field.

Game 1 was 1-run, and Games 2, 5 and 7 were 2-run. Game 1 featured Robinson's steal of home. Game 7 featured Johnny Podres' shutout and Sandy Amoros' catch. And this Subway Series ended with Brooklyn's 1st World Series win -- and, as it turned out, their only one before the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles.

Yes, I chose this one, even though the Yankees lost it. Although, as with 1960, I wasn't born yet, and don't remember it.

4. 1991, Minnesota Twins over Atlanta Braves. The Twins had Kirby Puckett and Jack Morris. The Braves had Tom Glavine and John Smoltz -- but not, yet, Greg Maddux and Chipper Jones. Game 3 went 12 innings, Game 6 went 11, and Game 7 went 10 -- we will probably never again see a pitcher allowed to try what Morris accomplished: Pitch 10 shutout innings in Game 7 of a World Series. Games 2 and 4 were 1-run, and only Game 5 was more than 3.

This one, even before an epic Game 7, was being talked up as maybe the best World Series ever. However, being played at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium and the Metrodome, all by itself, would be enough to keep this one out of the top spot.

3. 1912, Boston Red Sox over New York Giants. The Giants had the best pitcher of the 1900s, Christy Mathewson, while the Red Sox had the best outfield of the 1910s: Duffy Lewis, Tris Speaker and Harry Hooper. The Polo Grounds and Fenway Park.

Games 1, 3 and 5 were 1-run games, and Game 4 was a 2-run game. Game 2 was called due to darkness after 11 innings. The Series was tied 3-3 after Game 7, so a Game 8 was necessary, and it went 10 innings, with the Giants scoring 1 run and the Red Sox 2, thanks to a pair of fielding blunders by the Giants.

2. 1947, New York Yankees over Brooklyn Dodgers. The Yankees had Joe DiMaggio. The Dodgers had "rookie" Jackie Robinson. Yankee Stadium and Ebbets Field.

Game 4 had Cookie Lavagetto breaking up Bill Bevens' no-hitter with 1 out to go. Game 6 had Al Gionfriddo robbing DiMaggio of at least a double with a sensational catch. Games 3, 4 and 5 were within 1 run; Games 1 and 6 within 2; and Game 7 was 5-2, but still very much in doubt at the end. And, given the opponents, this was a Subway Series.

1. 1952, New York Yankees over Brooklyn Dodgers. The Yankees had Yogi Berra and the young Mickey Mantle. The Dodgers had Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider and Roy Campanella. However, each team's best pitcher was serving in the Korean War: Whitey Ford of the Yankees and Don Newcombe of the Dodgers. Yankee Stadium and Ebbets Field.

Game 7 featured Billy Martin's catch of a Robinson popup that no one could see because of the late-day Autumn sun shining through the deck of Ebbets Field. Game 5 went to 11 innings, Game 6 was also within 1 run, and Games 1, 3, 4 and 7 were within 2. Only Game 2 was a blowout. And, of course, this was a Subway Series.

No, the Yankees being victorious had nothing to do with me choosing the last 2 as the top 2. Yes, being Subway Series did have something to do with it.

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