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The Fall Classic
And so we have reached the culmination of baseball’s on-field annual cycle: The Fall Classic, aka The World Series. This year brings two teams that might be unfamiliar to most fans, one a team reaching its first-ever World Series, the other a storied franchise that won their first World Series in 1905 but that hasn’t won in its home in California since it moved in 1958.
The Texas Rangers not long ago, in fact earlier this season, were a franchise in trouble, in fact in bankruptcy. They were conceived as the Washington Senators prior to the 1961 season: an expansion team to fill the void created when the original Washington Senators moved to Minnesota and became the Twins. The Senators did not prosper during their years in D.C. and in 1972 they moved to the Dallas-Fort Worth region and became the Texas Rangers. Former President George W. Bush headed an ownership group that bought the team in 1989 and he got bond issues passed that built Rangers Ballpark at Arlington, propelling himself into the Texas Governor’s Mansion and eventually the White House. Now Pittsburgh sports lawyer Chuck Greenberg and Team President and Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan own the club and their recent blockbuster deal with Fox Sports Network, some $1.6 billion over 20 years for broadcast rights in the nation’s fifth-largest media market, puts them in a position to compete on the highest levels with the other big-market clubs in the AL. This deal will commence in 2014 and it means they will be able to offer Cliff Lee a deal that may keep him out of Yankee pinstripes.
The Rangers have many appealing players including likely AL MVP Josh Hamilton, a great human-interest story, outstanding veteran Michael Young, future Hall-of-Famer Vladimir Guerrero and exciting young players like Ian Kinsler, Nelson Cruz, and Elvis Andrus. Pitchers C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis also bring compelling stories to the field, Lewis, who won two games in the ALCS versus the New York Yankees, played two years in Japan to get his game together and Wilson moved from relief to become their top winner as a starting pitcher, no easy task.
The San Francisco Giants have one of the richest histories of any club: founded as the Gothams in 1883, they became known as the Giants in 1885. They have won 21 National League pennants over those 128 seasons, including five World Series crowns, but haven’t won since 1954 when they were in New York. The Giants have 23 players enshrined in the Hall of Fame, more than the St. Louis Cardinals (16) or even New York Yankees (15).
In 1904 the Giants won the National League Pennant, but manager John McGraw refused to play the Boston Red Sox in the World Series. The Red Sox, who also won the AL gonfalon in 1903, had upset the NL champion Pittsburgh Pirates in the inaugural World Series and McGraw was unwilling to risk possible defeat. It marks 1904 and 1994 as the only seasons since 1903 with no World Series, and both of those years created negative repercussions and harmed fan interest greatly. The owners of the AL and NL (fiercely independent at that time) concluded that the World Series was too important and would be played henceforth over any objections from individual teams. McGraw led his Giants against Connie Mack’s Philadelphia A’s in 1905 and beat them in five games, with every game a shutout.
These Giants have an underdog air about them, with a lineup composed of castoffs, retreads and rejects, except, of course, for the wonderful rookie Buster Posey, who may win NL Rookie of the Year honors and seems destined for greatness. They are headed by their pitching staff, led by “The Freak”, two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum and their fierce closer Brian “Fear the Beard” Wilson.
Will there be a parade down Market Street this year? One thing is certain, fans in cities who have never experienced a World Series triumph are going to experience one this year.
And that is pretty special, if you ask me.
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