Monthly Archives: October 2016

My Thanksgiving travel tips

I know these are a little early, given that we are still a couple of days away from Halloween. But for those that are traveling for Thanksgiving (I will not be one of those people; yes, I will be working; no, I am not upset by this), I hope you have a fun and safe holiday. But a few things to consider to hopefully make the trip better. I’m going to offer you the following pieces of information, largely based on the testimony of “experts” in the field. Admittedly, take what I’m about to say with a grain of salt, but maybe some of it will be helpful.

1. If you’re flying, dress down at the airport rather than up. What I mean by this is that it’s okay to come in looking a little disheveled. Sweat pants and loafers can save you a lot of time going through security; it’s after you go through that you change clothes. It may look a little weird, but quite honestly, it can’t be that weird if it gets you through faster.
2. The earlier you leave, the better. This one is probably pretty obvious, but sometimes it’s nice to have a reminder. Whether you’re trying to avoid gridlocked traffic or not get your flight delayed, if you use approximately 10:00 a.m. as your deadline, it can get you to your destination a lot faster. For example: my dad and I woke up at 3:00 a.m. and were at the airport by 4:30 for a 6:00 a.m. flight when we took our trip from Indianapolis to Boston. We flew back later on the return leg, and it took us a little longer to get out, but we were still there by midnight. Another time, on a family trip to Belgium, we drove from a town called Overijse to Calais in France, catching the ferry to Dover. We had to be out the door by 3:00, but we were in the best parts of England by about 7:30, when most people were still waking up. This is especially true of really “tourist” places. In his book Don’t Go There!, Peter Greenberg mentioned how he saw the Pyramids of Giza and the Great Wall of China virtually unimpeded because he was en route to the location by 5:00. I know it sounds really exhausting – and it is – but that’s why they have coffee and soda. Also, you have a little more leeway in avoiding big crowds or scorching heat. Additionally, I’ve found that the fatigue is worth it in the end the grand majority of the time. As I’ve said before and I’ll say again, you can’t enjoy where you’re going without getting there first.
3. Schedule-permitting, consider taking a train or bus. Yes, they take much longer to get there, so this one may not be for everybody. Additionally, Amtrak trains tend to have very poor on-time arrival times (Amtrak, to its credit, admits this, and they have less control over this than you’d think because the railroads they travel on have separate autonomy). But I like to ask people: do you go for time or for location? I think it’s an honest question to ask, and sometimes a bus, or particularly a train, can give you some beautiful looks of the landscape. There’s a route from Los Angeles to Seattle that is said to go through Big Sur and California wine country, one of the most beautiful rides in the country. Additionally, you can probably get there for significantly cheaper prices. Compare times and prices from Indianapolis to Boston, by air and by train: approximately $350 round-trip for a flight of 2h15, while it’s only $131 per person for a longer trip, about five hours if you time it right. If we had been willing to leave earlier, we could have taken the trip for about one-third of the price. Sometimes, the wait can be better. After all, the saying goes, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”
4. You may have to go in the opposite direction first. This one largely applies to flying, so if you’re driving, you may not run into this one as much. But it’s still worth considering. Greenberg mentions that for major rushes – Thanksgiving, Christmas, spring break, to name a few – it may be nearly impossible to get a direct flight to your intended destination, or it’ll really cost you if you do. He uses the example of LAX to Honolulu; it’s very difficult to go due west with that start and end point. But you can get there easier if you go east first, then go west; a significant amount of flights to Phoenix and to Honolulu from there. Additionally, if you have time, you may get to add an extra city to your itinerary.
5. Lastly, pack as light as possible. Another one of these that seems somewhat obvious, but we don’t always follow it. Who says you have to have to pack a big suitcase? It can be very time-consuming and obnoxious to check a bag in, so if you can do it, cram everything in one bag and take that and an extra carry-on. I understand this may be impossible if you have a long time to spend over there, but you’d be surprised how resourceful people can be. Going back to the Boston trip, Dad and I only packed one carry-on bag and a backpack. No checking bags through, and no having to search for it at baggage claim. Various sources claim that this can save you anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour to get checked in. Smart packing often equals smart traveling – and happier traveling, too.

As mentioned, I am no expert. Maybe you do all these things, maybe they don’t work, I don’t know. But at least consider it is all I ask. They could save you a lot of stress, even if you can’t necessarily apply them right now.

Travel well.

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2010 World Series: Down by the Bay

The 2010 World Series was the one hundred eighth year overall, and one hundred sixth played, of the modern World Series which began in 1903. Both teams were staring down a deficit of fifty years or more, the Bay Area versus the Heart of Texas. In the end, a 56-year-drought ended, and the city of San Francisco celebrated their first World Series title.

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(The 2010 World Series logo. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.) 

2010 World Series 
San Francisco Giants (NL) over Texas Rangers (AL), 4-1 

Managers: Bruce Bochy (San Francisco); Ron Washington (Texas) 

Hall of Famers* 
None 

*as of 2016 

Series MVP: Edgar Renteria, SS (San Francisco) 

Analysis
Following their title, the Yankees looked to repeat as champions. Most of their core players were back, but older. It would be enough for the wild card, as their division rival Tampa Bay Rays won their second division title in three years. Many expected the Boston Red Sox to contend, but they fell off after an 0-6 start which they were unable to recover from. The following year, they had another painful collapse up their sleeve.

Several other milestones happened during the 2010 season: Starlin Castro became the first player born in the 1990s to play in the major leagues, playing shortstop for the Chicago Cubs. He responded by hitting a home run in his first at-bat. Randy Johnson finally called it quits, his 46-year-old arm finally worn down. But another 40-something pitcher, Jamie Moyer, became the first pitcher to throw a shutout in four decades, beating the Braves 7-0 on May 7. The 47-year-old Moyer also became the oldest pitcher in history to throw a shutout. He actually had two more years left in him, almost making it to 50 in the big leagues. Angel Pagan of the Mets started a triple play and hit an inside-the-park home run, the first time that occurred in 55 years, but the Mets still lost the game 5-3 to the Washington Nationals. After 22 seasons in the Majors, The Kid finally hung them up, as Ken Griffey, Jr. announced his retirement from baseball. And on his ninth ballot, Andre “The Hawk” Dawson made the Hall of Fame, along with manager Whitey Herzog and umpire Doug Harvey. Narrowly missing election was first-ballot nominee Robert Alomar. Many felt that the voters held the spitting incident with home plate umpire John Hirschbeck against him, several writers even going on the record to confirm this. In any event, Alomar got the call one year later.

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(Andre Dawson is elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated.) 

2010 seemed to be the year of the perfect game, with two occurring within twenty days of each other. The first came on Mother’s Day, May 9. Against the Tampa Bay Rays, Dallas Braden took the mound for Oakland. He finished off a 4-0 perfect game, striking out six. For Braden, he would be out of baseball less than a year later.

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(Dallas Braden celebrates his perfect game in Oakland on Mother’s Day. Photo courtesy of New York Times.) 

Just under three weeks later, on May 29, Philadelphia faced off against Florida. The Phillies had signed pitcher Roy Halladay from Toronto via free agency. He won the game 1-0, striking out eleven, throwing the 20th perfect game in MLB history. It was the first time in history that two perfect games were thrown in the same season.

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(Roy Halladay throws during his perfect game against the Marlins. Photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated.) 

With a little more luck, it would have been three. Just four days after Halladay, Venezuelan pitcher Armando Galarraga took the mound for the Detroit Tigers. Against the visiting Cleveland Indians, Galarraga was one out away, facing second baseman Corey Donald. Earlier in the inning, center fielder Austin Jackson made a spectacular catch to keep it alive. Donald hit a ground ball towards first baseman Miguel Cabrera. He flipped to Galarraga covering first base. The throw was in time…but first base umpire Jim Joyce missed the call, and inexplicably called Donald safe. Even Donald’s reaction made it look like he had gotten away with it. Galarraga merely gave a sly grin. But it was credited as a hit. Understandably, fans were furious. Galarraga got the next man out, to finish his “almost” perfect game, needing just 88 pitches to do it.

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(First base umpire Jim Joyce misses the call. Photo courtesy of USA Today.) 

(You can watch all of Galaragga’s near-miss here. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

There was a tragic irony to it all. Joyce was widely considered to be one of the best and most consistent umpires league-wide, if not the best. Joyce watched the video and tearfully admitted, “I cost that kid a perfect game.” To his credit, Galarraga was willing to forgive Joyce, and presented the lineup to Joyce the next night, who was working behind the plate. Joyce had also been the second base umpire for Dallas Braden’s perfect game. By the end of the year, six no-hitters were thrown, including the first no-hitter in Rays history, thrown by Matt Garza.

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(Jim Joyce and Armando Galarraga shake hands in reconciliation, the night after Joyce cost Galarraga a perfect game. Photo courtesy of http://www.cleveland.com)

Heading into September, the surprise team was the Cincinnati Reds in the NL Central. On September 28, outfielder Jay Bruce hit a walk-of home run to center field in a 3-2 victory, stealing the Central from the Cardinals, who would miss the playoffs to the Atlanta Braves. For the Braves, it would be the final time manager Bobby Cox appeared in the playoffs. As for the Reds, it was their first playoff appearance since 1995.

(Jay Bruce wins the NL Central for the Cincinnati Reds. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

However, as it turned out, their playoff stay would be short-lived. Not only would the upstart Phillies sweep them, but the Reds would be on the wrong side of history. Making his postseason debut, Roy Halladay started Game 1. By the time it was over, Halladay had made history as only the second pitcher to throw a no-hitter in the postseason, the first since Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series. Only one runner reached base on a walk to Jay Bruce in the top of the fifth. The final score was 4-0, and the Phillies were off and running. The Reds would blow Game 2, and fail to score in Game 3. Their run was spoiled, and looking back, you can’t blame them.

(Roy Halladay throws his second no-hitter of the year, and the second in postseason history. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

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(Roy Halladay and Carlos Ruiz embrace after “Doc” Halladay fired his no-hitter. Photo courtesy of http://www.philadelphia.cbslocal.com

In the other NLDS, the Giants and Braves faced off against each other. In the first game, San Francisco got a run in the fourth inning when catcher Buster Posey (Rookie of the Year that year) was called safe on a bang-bang play. Outfielder Cody Ross drove him in with a double. It would prove to be the only run of the game, with two-time reigning Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum allowed only two hits and struck out 14, a Giants playoff record.

After an eighth inning rally to score three times, the Braves ended up winning the second game, 5-4. A clutch double play ended the bottom of the ninth, preventing the winning run from scoring. Rick Ankiel, converted into an outfielder, won the game in the top of the eleventh with a home run. He became the only player after Barry Bonds to hit a postseason home run into McCovey Cove in right field.

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(Rick Ankiel’s clutch home run won NLDS Game 2 for the Braves. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

The series switched to Atlanta, with San Francisco holding a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the eighth of Game 3. Then Atlanta scored two runs on a home run by reserve Eric Hinske, playing in the playoffs with his fourth team in four years. But the Braves were let down in the game by three errors – and worse, they all came from the same player, second baseman Brooks Conrad. His third was the worst, as it squirted through his legs, scoring Freddy Sanchez with what proved to be the winning run in the top of the ninth. Closer Brian Wilson (no relation to the Beach Boys singer) put the tying run on but closed it out. In Game 4, Bobby Cox’s managerial career came to an end as the Giants won by the same 3-2 scoreline. Sadly for Cox, he lost a 2-1 lead in the seventh, after Derek Lowe convinced Cox not to take him out. Lowe walked Aubrey Huff, and another error led to two runs scoring later in the inning. Melky Cabrera grounded out to end the game and the series. Fans of both teams saluted Cox, who tipped his cap to the crowd for the last time.

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(Bobby Cox salutes the fans after Game 4 of the NLDS, his final career game. Photo courtesy of Yahoo!) 

Game 1 of the NLCS featured Halladay and Lincecum facing off against each other. Cody Ross hit a solo home run to open the scoring in the third inning, but in the bottom of the inning, Carlos Ruiz homered to tie the score. In the top of the fifth, Ross hit his second home run of the game, and two more runs in the top of the sixth, including former Phillie Pat Burrell haunting his own team. Those were the runs that Lincecum, nicknamed “The Freak,” would need, as a two-run homer by Jayson Werth cut the lead to one. But Brian Wilson got a four-out save, striking out Shane Victorino to end the game.

In Game 2, former Astros star Roy Oswalt evened the series for Philadelphia, winning the game 6-1, with Cody Ross’ home run the only Giants run. All-Star Matt Cain beat World Series hero Cole Hamels in Game 3, with the series shifting to San Francisco. In Game 4, Joe Blanton went for Philadelphia against future World Series hero Madison Bumgarner, this year just a rookie. Trailing 5-4 in the eighth, Philadelphia tied the score when Howard and Werth hit back-to-back doubles. But in the bottom of the ninth, Roy Oswalt was brought in out of the bullpen. Freddy Sanchez lined out to start the inning. But Aubrey Huff singled past Howard, and Posey followed with a single, one of four he had that night. Pinch hitter Juan Uribe lofted a fly ball to left field. Huff tagged up easily, winning the game 6-5. The Giants were one win from the pennant.

(Juan Uribe wins the fourth game of the NLCS with a sacrifice fly. Photo courtesy of YouTube.) 

In Game 5, Halladay evened the matchup with Lincecum, winning 4-2 in San Francisco to keep the Phillies alive. It would head back to Philadelphia.

It looked like Philadelphia might force a Game 7, after starter Jonathan Sanchez (who had also thrown a no-hitter) struggled. After hitting Chase Utley in the third inning, the benches cleared. Sanchez was removed from the game to avoid further trouble, with the score tied 2-2. After several Giants lefties kept the Phillies off the board, Juan Uribe came through for the Giants with a home run in the top of the eighth. It would be the winning run in the NLCS.

(Juan Uribe homers to give the Giants the pennant. Video courtesy of YouTube.)

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(A photo of the Uribe home run. Photo courtesy of http://www.sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com

With one out in the ninth, Wilson walked Jimmy Rollins. Following a fielder’s choice, Chase Utley walked as well. Ryan Howard came up and worked the count full. But Howard struck out and the Giants had won their second pennant in just under a decade. They would be looking for their first title in 56 years.

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(The Giants clinch the 2010 NL pennant. Photo courtesy of http://www.sfgate.com

In the AL playoffs, the Rays had the top seed against the other surprise team, the Texas Rangers, in for the first time since 1999. Few gave the Rangers a chance; they were the only team coming in that had yet to win a postseason series. They had also won only one postseason game, in 1996. After pitching great for Philadelphia the previous year, Cliff Lee gave the Rangers their second win ever, allowing only a solo home run to Ben Zobrist. AL Rookie of the Year Neftali Feliz pitched the ninth, helping the Rangers win the first game, 5-1. It got even better for the Rangers in Game 2, as C.J. Wilson won 6-0 while allowing only two hits, walking two, and striking out seven. Still, the Rays weren’t out of it, winning the next two games, 6-3 and 5-2 at Arlington. Back in Tampa Bay, Lee got his second win, by the same 5-1 scoreline, no less. David Price lost his second game, and Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler hit his third home run of the series. Both Kinsler and Nelson Cruz had three hits in the game. The Rangers had finally won a postseason series, in their 50th season of existence (they were the “new” Washington Senators from 1961-71).

In their first year at their new park, Target Field, many favored the Twins over the Yankees. But it was the same old story – the Yankees swept, winning the first game on a two-run home run by Mark Teixeira in the top of the seventh. Mariano Rivera’s 40th career postseason save helped the Yankees win 6-4. In the second game, Andy Pettitte won his nineteenth career postseason game, his last, and Rivera’s 41st postseason save, a record. The Yankees put the Twins out of their misery with a 6-1 win in Game 3 at Yankee Stadium, with Phil Hughes getting the clinching win. The Twins have now lost twelve straight postseason games, and haven’t made the playoffs since.

The Rangers were looking for not only their first pennant, but revenge against Alex Rodriguez. In Game 1, league MVP Josh Hamilton hit a big three-run home run, and veteran third baseman Michael Young doubled in two more to make it 5-0. But in the eighth inning, trailing 5-1, the Yankees rallied. After a run was already in, A-Rod drove in two more to cut the deficit to 5-4. After Robinson Cano tied the game with a single, reserve outfielder Marcus Thames drove in the winning run in a five-run Yankee rally. The Yankees were cockroaches – you couldn’t kill them. Former Cub Kerry Wood was now a set up man, and he pitched the eighth, and Rivera got yet another save, his 42nd and final one of his career.

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(Marcus Thames’ single drove in the winning run in ALCS Game 1. Photo courtesy of http://www.newyork.cbslocal.com

Fortunately, there would be no collapse in Game 2, as once-maligned starter Colby Lewis helped the Rangers tie the series, winning 7-2. Most importantly, it was the first home win in postseason history for the Rangers, and it snapped a ten-game losing streak to the Yankees, dating back to 1996.

Moving to the Bronx, Cliff Lee continued his postseason dominance, throwing 122 pitches in eight scoreless innings. It was only 2-0 until the top of the ninth, but the Rangers had a rally of six runs off of three Yankees relievers. Feliz pitched the ninth, and the Rangers were halfway to the pennant.

Unbelievably, the Rangers moved closer to their dream after Derek Holland won 10-3. Robinson Cano hit a home run that evoked shades of Jeffrey Maier, but it didn’t end up costing the Rangers anything, so we largely forget it now. Were these the real Yankees? About to drop the pennant to the Texas Rangers? New York would prevent Texas from clinching on their field when CC Sabathia picked up the win, 7-2. The Yankees were still in it.

But not for long. The Rangers accomplished their own impossible dream, winning the pennant 6-1. Colby Lewis got his second win, and after completing his own personal comeback, Josh Hamilton won series MVP. With two out, Feliz was on the mound against A-Rod. What had to be one of the sweetest moments of revenge took shape as Rodriguez struck out to end the game, the series, and give the hometown Rangers their first pennant.

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(The Texas Rangers celebrate their first pennant in team history. Photo courtesy of ESPN.) 

Many anticipated a pitcher’s duel between Lee and Lincecum in the first game. It wouldn’t happen, as for the one time during the series, both sides would show their offense. Texas scored a run in each of the first two innings, while San Francisco tied the score in the bottom of the third, thanks to an error, hit batsman, and two hits, with Buster Posey tying the game. In the top of the fifth, the Giants broke the game open, scoring six times. Lee was charged with seven runs (one unearned) in 4.2 innings, taking the loss in the first game. Juan Uribe homered to break the game open. But Lincecum also struggled somewhat, pitching 5.2 innings for the win, but he left with an 8-4 lead. Each team had one last burst, and when it was all over, the opening game ended with an 11-7 scoreline in favor of the Giants. Ian Kinsler popped up to end the first game.

In Game 2, Matt Cain put the Giants halfway to the title, winning 9-0. It was actually a reasonable game until the bottom of the eighth inning, scoring seven runs, all after the first two batters of the inning were retired. With Guillermo Mota on the mound, outfielder Nate Schierholtz made a running catch to end the game.

Moving to Arlington, the Rangers got back in the series by winning the third game, 4-2. Colby Lewis continued to be a good luck charm for the Rangers, pitching into the eighth inning, allowing only solo home runs to Cody Ross and Andres Torres. Texas got two home runs of their own, one of them being a big three-run shot by first baseman Mitch Moreland in the second, knocking Jonathan Sanchez from the game. Josh Hamilton added one of his own. Neftali Feliz got the save, and Texas was only down two games to one.

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(Mitch Moreland homers to give Texas their margin of victory in Game 3. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

In Game 4, Posey and Huff homered, and Madison Bumgarner, only a rookie at the time, would begin his postseason legend by giving the Giants their second shutout victory 4-0. “MadBum” allowed only three hits. The Giants were one win away from the title. Could they finally shake off the ghosts?

Game 5 was a rematch of the first game, Lincecum against Lee. This time, they got the pitching duel they were hoping for. Neither pitcher surrendered anything through the first six innings. Then in the top of the seventh, singles by Ross and Uribe were followed by a sacrifice bunt by Aubrey Huff. Lee bore down and struck out Pat Burrell, with shortstop Edgar Renteria coming up. On the 2-0 pitch, Renteria broke Ranger hearts by rocking a three-run home run to left field. The Giants were nine outs away from the title. Nelson Cruz homered to get a run back, but it was too little, too late for Texas, trailing 3-1 with six outs to go. Particularly painful was that they had the tying run at the plate in that inning.

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(Edgar Renteria’s home run would prove to be the Series-winning hit. Photo courtesy of http://www.mccoveychronicles.com

Neither team scored in the eighth, and the Giants didn’t score in the ninth. Down to their final three outs, the Rangers tried to rally against Brian Wilson. Josh Hamilton struck out looking and frustrated superstar Vladimir Guerrero, playing in his only World Series, grounded out to Renteria at short. It would be up to Cruz. On a 3-2 pitch, Wilson came a little high. Swing and a miss! The Giants had won the championship. The City by the Bay celebrated into the night. And Edgar Renteria, World Series MVP, was once again the clutch hero.

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(The Giants celebrate the 2010 World Series championship. Photo courtesy of San Francisco Citizen.) 

Fun Facts 
Not only was this the Giants’ first championship since 1954, it was the first since relocation to San Francisco, the first title for the city since the 49ers won Super Bowl XXIX in 1995, and their sixth overall.

It was also the first pennant in Texas’s history. Their victory in the 2010 ALDS was not only the first postseason series they’ve won, but the first time the road team won every game in a postseason series.

Edgar Renteria got the Series-winning hit for the second time, driving in the winning run with the Marlins in 1997.

After scoring seven runs in the first game, Texas scored only five runs in the next four combined, and were shut out twice. This was the first such occasion since the Dodgers in 1966 against the Orioles.

At the parade, the transit system BART set ridership records, their highest numbers by over 20%. The parade was also the largest public even ever held in San Francisco.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy won his first of three titles in five years. I mention this because every manager with at least three championships is in the Hall of Fame. He’s likely to get in once he retires.

In Game 4, Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey became the first rookie battery (i.e. pitcher-catcher combination) since 1947, when Spec Shea and Yogi Berra did it for the Yankees.

For the first time since 2001, the NL held home-field advantage in the World Series, thanks to the NL breaking an 11-game losing streak in the All-Star Game.

The two teams had faced off in the first ever interleague game in MLB history, June 12, 1997 in Arlington.

Texas’ Game 3 win was the first for the state in World Series history (the Astros were swept in 2005). The state is still looking for its first World Series title.

Final Thoughts
The Giants had broken through after years of trying. Many Rangers fans were happy just to get there. The following year was different – on the verge of a title, they would pull off one of the biggest chokes in World Series history, perhaps the biggest, in one of the most exciting World Series in history.

References and Sources 
Baseball Almanac
Baseball Reference
Wikipedia
Getty Images
YouTube.
Yahoo!
ESPN
http://www.mlb.com
http://www.mccoveychronicles.com
http://www.philadelphia.cbslocal.com
http://www.newyork.cbslocal.com
http://www.sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com
http://www.cleveland.com
http://www.sfgate.com
New York Times. 
Sports Illustrated. 
USA Today. 
San Francisco Citizen.
2010 World Series Film (MLB Productions)
The Tenth Inning (Ken Burns)
The Baseball Hall of Shame: The Best of Blooperstown (Bruce Nash, Allan Zullo)
Beyond Belief (Josh Hamilton)
Rob Neyer’s Big Book of Baseball Blunders (Rob Neyer)
The Baseball Codes (Jason Turbow, Michael Duca)

2009 World Series: Number five for the Core Four

The 2009 World Series was the one hundred seventh year overall, and one hundred fifth played, of the modern World Series which began in 1903. It was the battle of the New Jersey Turnpike, as for the final time, the “Core Four” of the Yankees – Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, and Mariano Rivera – emerged as champions, and the final appearance of a future Hall of Famer, facing off against an old rival one last time.

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(The 2009 World Series logo. Photo courtesy of http://www.sportslogos.net

2009 World Series 
New York Yankees (AL) over Philadelphia Phillies (NL), 4-2 

Managers: Joe Girardi (New York); Charlie Manuel (Philadelphia) 

Hall of Famers*  
New York: None 
Philadelphia: Pedro Martinez 

* as of 2016 

Series MVP: Hideki Matsui, DH (New York) 

Analysis
After twenty-eight years of waiting, the Philadelphia Phillies were back on top of the sports world, the first title in the City of Brotherly Love in 25 years. Many believed that they were favorites to repeat. Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice made the Hall of Fame, Henderson in his first year, Rice in his fifteenth and final try. Many believed Rice’s troublesome relationship with the media cost him until 2009.

Several big events took place on the diamond. Ken Griffey, Jr. rejoined the Seattle Mariners, ten years after leaving. His second go-round wouldn’t be as productive, but he’d be a Seattle legend. Japan defended its title in the World Baseball Classic, played in March. MLB Network was launched on New Year’s Day. In his final season, Randy Johnson (now with the San Francisco Giants) became the most recent pitcher to reach 300 wins. Only time will tell if he’s the last pitcher to do it. He finished his career with 303 wins and 4,875 strikeouts; the latter number is second on the all-time list. John Smoltz and Pedro Martinez also finished their careers, with the Cardinals and Phillies respectively.

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(The Big Unit reaches 300 wins, beating the hometown Washington Nationals on June 4. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.) 

A big milestone occurred on July 23 at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago. White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle pitched a perfect game against the reigning AL champion Tampa Bay Rays, 5-0. Although manager Ozzie Guillen tempted baseball superstition by bringing in reserve outfielder DeWayne Wise for defensive purposes, the move proved shrewd as Wise robbed Gabe Kapler of a home run to lead off the top of the ninth. For Buehrle, it was his second no-hitter in three years. Incidentally, Eric Cooper was the home plate umpire for both games.

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(Outfielder DeWayne Wise saves Mark Buehrle’s perfect game with a catch in left field. Photo courtesy of http://www.dailyherald.com

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(Mark Buehrle celebrates his perfect game with catcher Ramon Castro at U.S. Cellular Field. Photo courtesy of http://www.chicagonow.com

Performance enhancing drugs became a big buzzword. Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez were both named in reports about HGH and other banned substances, and it was believed that David Ortiz had been named in 2003 (which has since come into question by commissioner Rob Manfred). And on May 5, Dodgers slugger Manny Ramirez became the first big-name superstar to be suspended for 50 games under the new drug testing policy. His career would never be the same after that.

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(Manny Ramirez was suspended for 50 games on May 5, 2009. Photo courtesy of CBS News.) 

Both the New York Mets and New York Yankees opened new parks. The Yankees also had a new addition on their roster, having signed lefty pitcher CC Sabathia in the offseason. He ended up losing the opening game, but after a slow start, the Yankees caught fire in August, sweeping a big three-game series with the Red Sox in August to take first place for good. A clutch home run by first baseman Mark Teixeira was the dagger in Boston’s back. For the record, both teams made the playoffs, the Yankees winning 103 games and the division title and the Red Sox winning 95 games for the wild card. The Mets, meanwhile, didn’t do all that well, going 70-92 for fourth place in the division. Still, one milestone was reached: San Diego’s Jody Gerut became the first player to open a brand new ballpark with a leadoff home run (the Padres beat the Mets that day, 6-5).

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(In a clutch Red Sox-Yankees matchup in August, Mark Teixeira hit a home run to catapult the Yankees into first place. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

Sure enough, the Phillies defended their title in the NL East, their third straight division title. In what would prove to be his final season, Pedro Martinez was brought in, en route to finishing his Hall of Famer career with 219 wins. Most of the Phillies players were still there, although GM Pat Gillick retired and was replaced by Ruben Amaro, Jr.

Despite Manny’s suspension, the Los Angeles Dodgers managed to have the best record in the National League at 95-67. For the second time in three years, the Colorado Rockies won the Wild Card, although there was no late season drama this time, finishing four games ahead of San Francisco for the spot.

Speaking of late season drama, it took place in the AL Central. With four games to play, the Detroit Tigers seemed to have a lock on it, three games ahead of the second place Minnesota Twins. But the Tigers collapsed and the Twins rallied to force a one-game playoff, with Minnesota winning home-field advantage in the final season of the Metrodome. Going into extra innings, the score was tied 4-4. Each team scored in the tenth inning, before Alexi Casilla drove in the winning run in the bottom of the twelfth. Detroit’s collapse is the worst in the final week of the season in history. Detroit superstar Miguel Cabrera was blamed for the collapse, and would check into alcohol rehabilitation in the offseason.

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(Alexi Casilla drives in the winning run in the 2009 AL Central playoff. Photo courtesy of New York Daily News.) 

The Yankees and Twins opened in the ALDS that year. Minnesota opened the scoring in the top of the third, scoring twice on three straight two-out hits. But Minnesota wouldn’t score after that, and the Yankees tied the score in the bottom of the third. Later in the game, A-Rod broke an 0-29 slump with runners in scoring position in the playoffs, dating back to the 2004 ALCS, driving in a run. Hideki Matsui followed with a home run, and the Yankees took the first game 7-2. In the second game, A-Rod shed his reputation as a playoff choker by hitting a two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth of Game 2 off Twins closer Joe Nathan. The Yankees won the game 4-3 in the eleventh inning, on Mark Teixeira’s walk off home run.

(Alex Rodriguez – A-Rod – ties Game 2 of the ALDS with a home run. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

(Mark Teixeira wins ALDS Game 2 with a home run. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

Game 3 was the final game ever played at the Metrodome. Two late innings of two-run scores made it 4-1 Yankees, and Andy Pettitte pitched the Yankees to a sweep.

Unfortunately, baseball wouldn’t get to see a rematch of the old rivals, as the Angels finally got revenge on the Red Sox, sweeping them in three games, the last at Fenway Park, rallying from a 5-2 deficit in the eighth with a three-run rally to stun the Red Sox 7-6. For the first time – but unfortunately, not the last – Jonathan Papelbon couldn’t hold the game down for the Sox, who went down in order. They wouldn’t make it back to the playoffs for four years.

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(The Angels win the 2009 ALDS over the Red Sox. Photo courtesy of ESPN.) 

In the ALCS, the Yankees and Angels faced off against each other. The first two games went New York’s way. CC Sabathia won 4-1 in the opener, and Hideki Matsui was the beneficiary of an RBI single that fell in on the infield, scoring Johnny Damon from second base in the bottom of the first.

Game 2 was one of the most memorable games in ALCS history for the Yankees. Derek Jeter’s early home run made it 1-0 Yankees, and the two teams would trade runs to make it 2-2 headed to extra innings. In the top of the eleventh, with snow flurries beginning to fall, the Angels took a 3-2 lead off of reliever Alfredo Aceves. Then A-Rod homered off of Brian Fuentes to tie the game again. Just like that, Rodriguez had buried years of postseason failures in one year.

(Another Alex Rodriguez home run tied the game in ALCS Game 2. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

Finally, the Yankees broke through in the bottom of the thirteenth, when Melky Cabrera reached on an error, with shortstop Maicer Izturis trying for a double play. It went wild, allowing Jerry Hairston, Jr. to score the winning run.

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(Jerry Hairston, Jr. – #17 – scores the winning run in the 13th inning of Game 2 of the ALCS. Photo courtesy of New York Times.) 

Moving to Los Angeles, the Angels won an exciting Game 3 to avoid the sweep. In the bottom of the eleventh, reliever David Robertson got two quick outs. Then for reasons unexplained, manager Joe Girardi brought in Aceves, who allowed a single to Howie Kendrick and the winning hit, a double to Jeff Mathis that just barely went over the head of Hairston. The Angels were back in it.

(Jeff Mathis doubles to win Game 3 of the ALCS for the Angels. Video courtesy of YouTube.)

The Yankees didn’t let the loss bother them, putting themselves on the verge of the pennant, winning 10-1 in Game 4, with CC Sabathia winning his second game. Several controversial calls would later lead to the addition of instant replay in the playoffs soon after. In Game 5, the Angels scored four times in the bottom of the first, and held that lead until the top of the seventh, when a six-run New York inning gave them the lead, nine outs from the pennant. But this time, the Angels battled back. A groundout led to a run, and soon after, the Angels had a 7-6 lead. Closer Brian Fuentes loaded the bases in the top of the ninth but escaped the jam to send the ALCS back to New York.

But any hopes of an Angels comeback were snuffed in Game 6. Andy Pettitte’s 6.1 innings were enough to stake the Yankees to clinch the pennant 5-2. Mariano Rivera nailed the game down for his 37th postseason save. For the Yankees, it was the fortieth pennant in team history.

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(New York clinches the AL pennant. Photo courtesy of ESPN.) 

The Dodgers and Cardinals faced off, and this time, the Dodgers would prevail after years of frustration, another three-game sweep in the LDS. A two-run ninth inning in Game 2, aided by outfielder Matt Holliday’s error, helped the Dodgers into the NLCS for the second straight year. A 5-1 win in St. Louis clinched the LDS for Los Angeles.

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(Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday makes a decisive error in NLDS Game 2, helping the Dodgers to a 3-2 win en route to a series sweep. Photo courtesy of http://www.dodgersway.com

The Phillies and Rockies faced off for the second time in three years, the only first round matchup this year not to end in a sweep. New addition Cliff Lee pitched the Phillies to a Game 1 victory, 5-1, at home in Philadelphia. But in Game 2, Colorado tied the series by winning the second game 5-4, their last postseason game win to date. It was clear that the Phillies were here to play, and they got a measure of revenge for 2007 by winning both games in Colorado. Game 3 saw Ryan Howard score Jimmy Rollins in the top of the ninth with a sacrifice fly to win the game, and a three-run ninth inning rally in Game 4 pushed the Phillies over the top, with Jayson Werth singling in the winning run on a 2-2 pitch with two out.

(Jayson Werth drives in the winning run in Game 4 of the NLDS. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

The NLCS was a rematch of the previous year, although the Dodgers would get home field advantage this time. Cole Hamels beat Clayton Kershaw 8-6 in the opening game, giving Philadelphia an early series lead. In Game 2, Philadelphia was up 1-0 in the bottom of the eighth, when the Dodgers rallied. Catcher Russell Martin grounded into what should have been a 6-4-3 double play. But Utley threw the ball away, scoring Ronnie Belliard with the tying run. Later in the inning, the Dodgers loaded the bases when Andre Ethier drew a walk to score the winning run. Closer Jonathan Broxton saved the 2-1 victory to even the series.

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(Chase Utley’s costly throwing error in NLCS Game 2 helped the Dodgers even the series. Photo courtesy of http://www.articles.philly.com

Despite the Utley blunder, Philadelphia rebounded to win 11-0 in Game 3, knocking out Hiroki Kuroda early. In Game 4, Philadelphia came into the bottom of the ninth trailing 4-3 with two outs. Against Jonathan Broxton, Jimmy Rollins came to bat with runners at first and second. On a 1-1 count, Rollins smacked a double to right field. Eric Bruntlett and Carlos Ruiz both scored, and the Phillies were one win away from their second straight pennant.

(Jimmy Rollins wins Game 4 of the NLCS by driving in two runs. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

Thanks to a bit three-run home run by Jayson Werth, the Phillies did just that in the fifth game, with Chad Durbin picking up the series-clinching win in relief. It was their second straight pennant and seventh overall.

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(Philadelphia wins the 2009 NL pennant, their second in a row. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

The series opened in the new Yankee Stadium on October 28, the latest starting date in World Series history. Philadelphia took an early lead on a Chase Utley home run, and added a second in the sixth inning, and two runs each in the eighth and ninth. Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee allowed an unearned run in the ninth, with no walks, no earned runs, and ten strikeouts, the first pitcher in World Series history to do so, pitching a complete game in the process. The Phillies looked poised to defend their title with a 6-1 win.

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(Cliff Lee was dominant in Game 1 of the World Series. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.) 

In Game 2, Pedro Martinez faced off against the Yankees for the first time since the 2004 ALCS. Many had remembered the “Who’s your daddy?” chants, and this time, it worked. Although Martinez pitched well, solo home runs by Mark Teixeira and Hideki Matsui helped the Yankees tie the series at one game apiece, 3-1 the final score.

The next three games would be played in Philadelphia. Jayson Werth hit a solo home run to spark a three-run second inning. But the Yankees got two in the fourth and three in the fifth, and single runs in each of the next three innings, with Alex Rodriguez hitting a two-run home run, his first World Series hit, and the first call overturned by instant replay. Andy Pettitte won his seventeenth career postseason game, extending his career record, with New York’s 8-5 victory helping them take the lead. A heads-up play by Johnny Damon also helped the Yankees literally steal a run. In the top of the seventh,

(A-Rod gets his first World Series hit – and home run – in Game 3. Video courtesy of YouTube.)

In Game 4, New York scored twice in the top of the first, but Philadelphia scored in their half to cut into the deficit. Chase Utley’s third home run of the series made it 4-2 in the seventh, and then Pedro Feliz tied it in the eighth with a solo home run. The game moved into the top of the ninth, tied 4-4. Brad Lidge went to the mound.

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(Pedro Feliz ties the game in the bottom of the eighth of Game 4. Photo courtesy of ESPN.)

With two outs, Johnny Damon singled after an at-bat that lasted nine pitches. With Teixeira up, the Phillies put on a defensive shift to try to prevent him from pulling the ball. On the first pitch of the at-bat, Lidge missed low. Damon took off for second. Carlos Ruiz’s throw was low. Then Damon saw third base open. He made a beeline for third, and Feliz was unable to chase him down. Damon was credited with two stolen bases on the same play, another Yankee heads-up play in the postseason.

(Johnny Damon steals two clutch bases in the top of the ninth of Game 4. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

Many believed that Lidge stopped throwing his signature pitch, a slider, in order to prevent a wild pitch. Teixeira was hit by a pitch to keep the inning alive. Rodriguez followed with a double, and Jorge Posada drove in two more with a single to make it 7-4. Rivera earned the save, and the Yankees were one win from the title.

(Alex Rodriguez hits a clutch RBI double to win the game for New York in Game 4. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

Despite this, Philadelphia still had a few tricks up their sleeve. Cliff Lee kept the Phillies alive, earning his second win of the series. Two home runs by Utley helped him tie a Hall of Famer – Reggie Jackson in 1977 – with his fifth in one World Series.

(Chase Utley tied Reggie Jackson in 1977 with five home runs in a World Series. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

Despite this, it wasn’t easy for the Phillies bullpen. Lee left in the eighth, part of a three-run rally to make it 8-5. Ryan Madson attempted to close out the game, allowing the first two runners. Jorge Posada then grounded into a double play to score a run. 8-6 Phillies. Damon singled to bring Teixeira to the plate as the tying run, but Madson struck him out to keep the Phillies alive and send the Series back to New York.

In Game 6, Pettitte and Martinez faced off. It was a bittersweet night for Martinez, in what would be his final career start. Hideki Matsui hit a two-run home run in the second inning, his third of the Fall Classic, and two more in the third, making it 4-1. Martinez was gone after four innings, and despite a home run by Ryan Howard, the Phillies were running out of outs.

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(Pedro Martinez makes his final career start in Game 6, taking the loss. Photo courtesy of Boston Globe.) 

Heading into the top of the ninth, the score was 7-3 Yankees. Mariano Rivera came on to pitch. With one out, Carlos Ruiz drew a walk. But Jimmy Rollins couldn’t come through, and Shane Victorino was the Phillies’ last hope. He would ground out to Robinson Cano at second base. For the twenty-seventh time, the Yankees were world champions. Alex Rodriguez finally had the weight lifted off his shoulder. And the Phillies would fail to repeat.

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(The Yankees win their 27th championship. Photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated.) 

Fun Facts
This was the Yankees’ fortieth pennant and twenty-seventh world championship. They have not made the World Series since.

The Phillies are the most recent NL team to win consecutive pennants.

Jerry Hairston, Jr.  is one of a handful of three-generation baseball stars.

The Yankees are one of the few clubs to win a World Series in the first season in a new ballpark. They did the same thing in 1923 in the first Yankee Stadium.

This was the first time since 2003 that the World Series went longer than five games, the longest drought in its history.

Hideki Matsui is the first and only Japanese-born player to win Series MVP honors. He drove in six runs in Game 6, tying a record for most RBI in one game in a World Series.

Chase Utley tied Reggie Jackson for most home runs in a Fall Classic, with five.

This was a rematch of the 1950 World Series, which the Yankees swept in four games. It was known as the “Turnpike Series” because both teams are along the New Jersey Turnpike.

Yankees utility player Eric Hinske played in the World Series for three straight years, with all three AL East teams. He won in 2007 with the Red Sox, 2009 with the Yankees, and was the final out in the 2008 World Series.

Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas died earlier in the year. The Phillies wore badges with the initials “HK” on them. The following year, longtime Yankees owner George Steinbrenner would pass away as well, having passed control on to his sons, Hank and Hal.

These two teams met in interleague play during the season in Philadelphia. In the three games, Brad Lidge blew the save twice, ending his perfect saves streak, including giving up a go-ahead home run to Alex Rodriguez.

This was the only time that controversial superstar Alex Rodriguez appeared in the World Series.

New York Governor David Paterson was fined over $62,000 after failing to pay for five tickets behind home plate during Game 1.

Cliff Lee is the first lefty to beat the Yankees in the Bronx in Game 1 since Sandy Koufax in 1963. He also is the first pitcher to strike out ten, walk none, and not allow an unearned run, and the first to do it in Game 1 of any postseason series against the Yankees.

For the second time ever, and second time in four years, no pitcher in either league won 20 games in a full 162-game season. Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia won 19 games, and Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright lost his bid for #20 on the last day of the season.

Through 2015, the 2009 Yankees are only the second team in the wild-card era to win the Series after winning 100 games during the regular season. The 1998 Yankees were the first.

This is the only time in the last thirteen World Series that the winning team lost the first game.

For the only time in 25 years, every umpire had worked at least one World Series.

Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard set a World Series record by striking out thirteen times, breaking the record of Willie Wilson in 1980, which ironically was done against the Phillies.

Final Thoughts 
The “Core Four” – Jeter, Pettitte, Posada, and Rivera – now had their fifth ring. But age was beginning to catch up with them. Nothing good lasts forever. Within five years, all five would retire. That fifth championship in 2009 was the last one for all four players.

References and Sources 
Baseball Almanac
Baseball Reference
Wikipedia
Getty Images
YouTube.
CBS News.
ESPN.
http://www.sportslogos.net
http://www.dailyherald.com
http://www.chicagonow.com
http://www.mlb.com
http://www.articles.philly.com
http://www.dodgersway.com
Boston Globe. 
New York Times. 
New York Daily News. 
Sports Illustrated.
The Tenth Inning (Ken Burns)
2009 World Series Film (MLB Productions)
The Baseball Hall of Shame: The Best of Blooperstown (Bruce Nash, Allan Zullo)
Steinbrenner: The Last Lion of Baseball (Bill Madden)
Are We Winning?: Fathers and Sons in the New Golden Age of Baseball (Will Leitch)
The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter (Ian O’Connor)
Yankees Suck! (Jim Gerard)

Autism and words

This one’s going to be painful to write, and perhaps painful to read, but you know what? I think people need to hear this one.

Autism and words often tie together in very complex ways. But for every profound statement, we wind up with primarily sludge. Too often, we throw around terms that, in my opinion, shouldn’t as matter as people make them about to be. Much of my autism is learning to filter out the randomness. Too often, we hide behind the cloak of free speech to put things in an unfiltered way. I try to choose my words very carefully. Perhaps I am “PC” with how I choose to express myself. But at least I’m censoring myself, instead of others, or having them do it for me. In my opinion, there’s something to be said for self-censorship. I haven’t had any big controversies so far. Hopefully, this post doesn’t lead to one.

I’ve found a word that triggers a lot of the negativity that I do feel. It’s not even the “R-word” (you should all know which one I’m talking about). No, for me, the word that sets me off has more positive connotations…at least from a non-disability perspective. I’ll go into more detail shortly, but there is one word I refuse to allow in my presence, at least in regards to how I live my life.

For me, the buzzword is the dreaded “I-word:” Inspirational.

On the surface, it seems like a pretty harmless word. Why would anybody hate it, you may be wondering? Well, the late disability activist and comedian Stella Young, who suffered (although, in an example of what you could call “neurotypical privilege,” suffered is the wrong word here) from osteogenesis imperfecta (OI), what most of us know as brittle bone disease, gave a TEDtalk, and she mentioned how she rejected the term. Young was confined to a wheelchair for much of her life, but ultimately became a disability advocate, particularly in her own community. Less than a year after her TEDtalk, she passed away from complications of her condition at the age of 32. I’d imagine that she must have felt a deep resentment of the word, largely because it seems like people only remembered her for that. You wonder how many people even knew her name. When they looked at her, they didn’t see her. They saw her disability. There’s a tremendously big difference. And by only seeing her disability, they in turn only saw a stereotype.

I carry a scarlet letter in my brain every day. There’s a giant letter “A” that’s always going to be attached to my name. But Hawthorne isn’t going to tell the story that way. So, some of what I’m about to argue will be repeats or paraphrasing of Young’s arguments, and others that have said many of the same thing, and some of it (hopefully) will be my own.

I refuse to be called “inspirational” for the following reasons:

1. Quite honestly, it’s not true. There is nothing inspirational about me. I purposely hide away from a good part of the world. I have trouble in crowds. I reject what most people run toward. I am a coward. I have problems with overeating. I tend to be very obnoxious when I start talking. What exactly is inspirational about that? In fact, I’d use a word of my own for that kind of thing: patronizing. And to lead into point two, what exactly have I accomplished in life? I live by myself, sans significant other for over nine years, no car, part of a maligned generation by a good percentage of the older populace. So, sorry, everybody. I’m still digging, and not finding anything. It sucks, guys. Autism sucks. From a purely biological standpoint, it will never be better. I can’t just take a pill, wake up tomorrow, and it’ll be gone. I will be forced to carry this burden for the rest of my life. And most of the time, it is a burden. I’m no hero, and no matter how hard I try, you will never put me on a pedestal.

2. If, hypothetically, it is true, then the situations in which the word is applied are basically meaningless. It’s really not that hard for me to have a conversation with people, or to wake up and go to work every day. Matter of fact, you could say I pass for “normal.” So, yes, I can do what you all can do. My question I ask you is: Who cares? People make a very common mistake when they use the term, in my opinion. They heap praise and rewards on the person, when in reality they should be lauding the accomplishment. The fact that I did it is not important. What is important is that it got done. That’s a reason why I wasn’t happy in food service – anybody can make a sandwich. It requires very little skill. Even I can read a recipe, apply the right ingredients, and wrap it in a sheet of paper. Similarly, most people can reasonably fold a bed sheet correctly, and most people won’t go looking for applause for it. I may not know much, but one thing I do know is my strengths weren’t being utilized. Particularly at the second job – I was one of the few people with a four-year college degree, which incidentally made me the outcast. In her talk, Young makes a point about being nominated for an achievement award. But in her own words, “There was just one problem: I hadn’t actually achieved anything.” Closer to my own life, I was invited or nominated for several awards in college. But I didn’t pursue them, because I knew something they didn’t: that I didn’t deserve to be nominated. I was just another faceless name that they sent an invitation to in order to meet a membership quota, or at least it felt like that. That’s why I hold my college diploma so dear to my heart. I actually earned it. You have to work really hard for a college degree. That’s something that not everybody can do. That’s actually worth something. So, I have the perfect rebuttal for the phrase, “You’re doing a great job.” I usually say, “Well, anybody can do it.” By using that term, you’re minimizing a lot of what I’ve done, and focusing on tasks that in a broader scheme are often totally irrelevant.

3. It also negatively impacts the person that’s saying it. One of the most commonly used maxims is “The truth hurts.” This is very true, and this is going to be the most painful truth for some of you that are reading this. Fair warning: I won’t pull my punches on this one. When we usually use the term “inspirational,” I think it’s safe to assume that we use it as a synonym for the word “motivational.” The general implication is that hey, because somebody who usually shouldn’t be able to can do it, you should be able to do it, too! But underneath it, I hear that word and I feel sorry for the person that says it. Instead of them pitying me, perhaps I should pity them. Because when I hear it, I hear this: I am unable to motivate myself to live a normal life, so I’m going to use a “different” person to do it for me. Basically, they’re looking for an excuse to feel better about themselves. Well, keep walking, because I’m not here for that. If you’re saying that to me, then I hate to say it, but maybe your life isn’t as great as you think it is. Maybe my methods are the normal ones. And here’s the thing: I actually feel pretty good right now. I have never been in debt. I have a college diploma, a job, and a roof over my head. And why is that? Because I avoided going through the motions: kids, pets, credit cards. I’ll let you in on a little secret from my life: there’s power in apathy. People should be able to inspire themselves. Why do you need somebody else to do it for you?

I have no doubt that people mean well. But just trust me on this – being called “inspirational” is one of the cruelest things you can do for me. You put impossible expectations on me, and the minute I fail to conform to those expectations, I’m off your good list forever. Quite honestly, there’s a reason I hide from the world. And this is one reason why. I get really exhausted of being made into a symbol that I don’t want to be made into. I never understood why people were so insistent of me to make my voice heard. That was never my strong suit. I’m as apathetic as they come on most things.

So, as much as I hate hearing the “R-word,” in a perverse and painful way, it’s closer to the truth than the “I-word.” Neither one is true, but quite honestly: the second one hurts more. At least with the first one, I know that they’re meaning to hurt me.

I am not inspirational, I never will be, and most importantly, I don’t want to be. Get over it. 

The greatest game of all

Everybody has certain days that they remember forever. June 14, 2010 and March 29, 2012 come to mind – my niece and nephew were born on those days. November 4, 2008 – Barack Obama is elected President. May 11, 2011 – college graduation. June 6, 2015- American Pharoah wins the Triple Crown in horse racing. September 11, 2001 – I think we all know.

For my first love, baseball, October 20, 2004 was there – when the Boston Red Sox beat the mighty New York Yankees in the biggest comeback in baseball history. Then on October 27, Boston got its miracle, with the Red Sox winning it all for the first time since 1918. You can accuse me of losing perspective here, but that day as a 17-year-old junior in high school remains the greatest day of my life. I was still relatively new to the heartbreak, and wouldn’t get to Fenway Park for another dozen years (still one of the most magnificent parks in sports, 104 years later). But I just knew it was a match made together. Subsequent titles followed on October 28, 2007 and October 30, 2013. Sports fans never forget these days. They’re ingrained in your brain forever.

Now, I can add October 22, 2016 to those dates. For the first time since the end of World War II, the Chicago Cubs have won the National League pennant. I have to admit, there’s a part of me that’s jealous tonight. While I’m very proud to have been able to celebrate three titles in just under a decade, it would be nice to have somebody to celebrate it with. Baseball is supposed to be the ultimate generational game – grandfathers teach fathers teach sons. Mine was the other way around – my dad only knows baseball through me (much in the same way that I only know soccer through him). He never really picked a team to root for – while it’s probably preventing him from having to go through a lot of heartbreak seeing “his” team lose, there’s also a certain bond he’s missing. I think because of the geographical ramifications, he picked the Cubs…sort of. Because of the geographical bias, there was always a feeling of loneliness of watching my team celebrate winning the whole thing. I saw a photo of a brother and sister (hi Tricia and David, if you’re reading this), both friends of mine in high school, sharing a conference call via Skype with their dad. These ties keep on binding.

When the Red Sox won the pennant, I heard from caustic Yankee fans, who said that they had to win the whole thing for it to matter. There is a certain truth to this. But just getting there is a spectacular thing. As disappointing as it is to lose in  a championship round, somebody’s got to do it. So, I’m not sure what Cubs fans (or fans of the Cleveland Indians, for that matter) are feeling right now. Does it have to be title or bust, or does breaking the pennant drought work for right now? When it first happened to me in Game 4 on October 27, many of my friends asked me if I was okay with being “just another baseball team.” But it was never about that. It was about history. It was about passions, dreams, ending decades of drowning sorrows. In many ways, it was worse in Boston because there was a better literary tradition there (no disrespect meant to many of the great Chicago writers), so many of the best writers were wont to wax philosophical to a degree that the Cubs never had, or at least I never saw it. Even today, you say “Boston Red Sox” or “New York Yankees” or “Chicago Cubs” or whatever – it’s never just another baseball team. There’s too much history for it to classify it that simply.

In a certain way, the World Series matchup between Chicago and Cleveland is the perfect matchup (just like I felt St. Louis was the perfect foil for the Red Sox’s titles in 2004 and 2013). In a tough year, it’s the championship series that America needs. This is the heartbreaking beauty of baseball – one team’s fanbase will end decades of frustrations. But what nobody considers is that, unfortunately, another’s will continue for another year. We all know life isn’t fair. So, as cruel as it is, I hope that people understand that there’s a beauty underneath it. Fans of both teams: watch the games. Cheer. Cry. Yell. Most of all, celebrate the history. Old ghosts are on the verge of being buried – the only question is where? Hopefully, the losing team’s tears will be somewhat happy, and if the bitterness can’t subside, I understand.

Former Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver once said, “In baseball, you can’t sit on the lead and run a few plays into the line and kill the clock. You’ve got to give the other man his chance. That’s why this is the greatest game of all.” I think this series has to be one of the best examples of that. Imagine the agony and the ecstasy. Imagine the viewing audiences. Oh, man. I can’t wait.

The only thing I ask is that neither team sweeps. It wouldn’t be fair that way. Then again, life isn’t always fair. But why does it always have to be that way? I can’t make a prediction. I can’t break either fanbase’s heart. I think in this case, may the best team win.

2008 World Series: Suspend your disbelief

The 2008 World Series was the one hundred sixth year overall, and the one hundred fourth played, of the modern World Series which began in 1903. Many in the City of Brotherly Love had been struggling for a title for twenty-five years. Many believed that a curse had been placed upon them – the statue of William Penn was no longer the highest point until 2007, when Penn’s statue was added to the top of the Comcast Center. Only when the founder was on top again could the city be on top again.

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(The 2008 World Series logo. Photo courtesy of http://www.sportslogos.net

2008 World Series 
Philadelphia Phillies (NL) over Tampa Bay Rays (AL), 4-1 

Managers: Charlie Manuel (Philadelphia); Joe Maddon (Tampa Bay) 

Hall of Famers* 
Philadelphia: Pat Gillick (executive) 
Tampa Bay: None 

* – as of 2016 

Series MVP: Cole Hamels, P (Philadelphia) 

Analysis
During 2008, I turned 21 years old. I was a junior in college. I remember where I was on November 4. My dorm roommate and I went downtown with our floor buddies after history was made. On that night, the world watched as Barack Obama became the first African-American elected to the presidency. In what was undoubtedly a painful concession speech, losing candidate John McCain, the last of a dying breed, commended the man “who will now be my President.” After eight years of controversy under George W. Bush, Obama swept into the White House under his mantra of “the audacity of hope.”

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(Barack Obama takes the stage after winning the general election on November 4, 2008. Photo courtesy of CBS News.)

Several months before that, Michael Phelps set a record with winning eight gold medals in a single Olympics. Part of this was due to a spectacular finish in the 4×100 freestyle relay race, where teammate Jason Lezak came back from a full length back to catch France’s anchor Alain Bernard. It was one of the most excited swimming races people had ever witnessed. Lezak set a world record with a 46.06 split time on the final leg.

(The 2008 4×100 freestyle relay race helped Michael Phelps win eight golds in Beijing. Video courtesy of YouTube.)

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(Michael Phelps poses with his eight gold medals won in Beijing. Photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated.) 

On the diamond, several great players hung it up. Mike Mussina of the Yankees became one of the few pitchers to win 20 games in his final season. After years of close misses, it would be the only 20-win season of Mussina’s career.

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(In his final season – and the final season at the old Yankee Stadium – Mike Mussina won 20 games. Photo courtesy of New York Daily News.) 

Speaking of finales, it would be the final season of the original Yankee Stadium, with a new manager in tow. Former catcher Joe Girardi was named as manager of the Yankees, after they were unable to negotiate with Joe Torre (he would join the Los Angeles Dodgers). Despite this, the Yankees missed the playoffs for the first time in fifteen years, ending their streak of thirteen straight appearances. But they’d be back the next year.

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(The Yankees hire Joe Girardi as manager. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.)

Several records fell: Ken Griffey, Jr. joined the 600 home run club, and would later be sent to the White Sox in an attempt to get to the Fall Classic; John Smoltz got his 3,000th strikeout, and Randy Johnson, back in Arizona, struck out Mike Cameron on June 3 for strikeout #4,673, second on the all-time list; Greg Maddux won his 350th game, and would finish his career this year with 355 wins, combining his stats with San Diego and the Dodgers. Frank Thomas, in his final season, tied Ted Williams and Willie McCovey with 521 home runs. Tom Glavine returned to Atlanta, winning his final two career games, finishing with 305 total. All three were first-ballot inductees in the Hall of Fame. The Boston Red Sox set a record by selling out their 456th consecutive home game on September 8. They also celebrated their second title by doing the same thing they did in April 2005: they hung the championship banner over the Green Monster. The Red Sox would take the Wild Card that year, and Jon Lester, after coming back from lymphoma, no-hit the Kansas City Royals 7-0 on May 19. Second-year second baseman Dustin Pedroia won the MVP Award, a Silver Slugger, and a Gold Glove. First baseman Kevin Youkilis set a Major League record by going 237 games without an error. In Anaheim, Francisco Rodriguez set a record with 62 saves in a single season, breaking Bobby Thigpen’s record set in 1990.

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(The Red Sox unfurl their 2007 championship banner. Photo courtesy of http://www.slowtrav.com

(On May 19, John Lester no-hit the Kansas City Royals at Fenway Park. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

But in the AL East, a new story was emerging. After a decade of losing, Tampa Bay changed their name (from “Devil Rays” to just “Rays”) and their uniforms, moving to a Columbia blue and shade of teal. Led by Rookie of the Year Evan Longoria at third base (no relation to actress Eva Longoria), the changes began wholesale, as manager Joe Maddon led them from a last place finish in 2007 to the division title in 2008. The Red Sox and Rays began a new rivalry this year.

Much of it began on June 5 at Fenway. After several close shaves over the years, the Red Sox finally snapped. Rays pitcher James Shields hit Red Sox outfielder Coco Crisp in the leg with a pitch. Crisp charged the mound, and unlike most baseball fights, tried to get a swing in. It looked like Crisp even made contact as the benches cleared and an actual fight occurred. Eight players combined would be suspended – Shields for six games and Crisp for seven. It drew parallels to the Braves-Padres fight in 1984. After a triumphant come-from-behind win at Tropicana Field (“The Trop”) in September, the Rays would go on to win their first division title.

(The infamous Red Sox-Rays brawl on June 5. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

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(Red Sox batter Coco Crisp throws a punch at Rays pitcher James Shields. Photo courtesy of http://www.boston.com)

For the first time in over a century, both Chicago teams were in the playoffs in the same season. The Chicago Cubs rode manager Lou Piniella to the best record in the National League. They had a memorable game where they were forced to play a neutral site game at Miller Park against Houston following rains from Hurricane Ike. In that game, Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano threw a no-hitter, the first of his career.

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(Carlos Zambrano celebrates his no-hitter. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

Many felt that the Cubs were finally destined to break their drought. After all, the baseball gods wouldn’t have a team go a full century without winning, right? They clinched the division title on September 20, beating their rival Cardinals 5-4. They also clinched home field advantage in the NL playoffs.

That was because the AL won the All-Star game for the tenth straight time, not including the tie in 2002. The final All-Star Game at the old Yankee Stadium ended in the fifteenth when J.D. Drew of the Boston Red Sox homered en route to game MVP honors (it would prove to be his only All-Star game appearance). The AL won when Justin Morneau of the Minnesota Twins slid in ahead of the tag to win 4-3.

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(Justin Morneau of the Twins scores the winning run in the 15th inning of the All-Star Game. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

The Twins were taken down to the wire by the Chicago White Sox. It would culminate in a one-game playoff for the AL Central title. It was scoreless until the bottom of the seventh when Jim Thome homered to make it 1-0, proving to be the only run of the game. The White Sox ended up winning the division, in the final tiebreaker decided by a coin flip.

(Jim Thome gives the White Sox the lead in the one-game playoff in 2008. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

In the NL West, new Dodger manager Joe Torre led the Dodgers to their first division title in four seasons, albeit at 84-78. They also acquired Manny Ramirez from the Red Sox at the trade deadline. Perceived to be unhappy, even after joining the 500 home run club with Boston earlier in the year, Ramirez joined the Dodgers and helped them tremendously down the stretch.

In the NL East, Philadelphia won the division for the second straight year at 92-70. Their rivals in Queens were on the cusp of the wild card, up by 3.5 with seven to play. But again, they collapsed, missing out on the wild card on the final day of the season. It would be a cruel farewell to Shea Stadium; both New York teams would get new stadiums in 2009. Taking their place were the Milwaukee Brewers, who made the playoffs for the first time in the NL and the first time overall since 1982. They had also acquired CC Sabathia from Cleveland in a mid-season trade. Had New York won the wild card, they would have played the Cubs. But because of the rule that the top seed doesn’t play the wild card if they’re from the same division, the Cubs would open against the Dodgers.

It would be the wrong matchup for the Cubs. It actually started well for them, as Mark DeRosa hit a two-run shot to the opposite field. It stayed 2-0 into the top of the fifth inning. The Dodgers loaded the bases for first baseman James Loney. One strike away from getting out of the inning, Ryan Dempster left it slightly low. Loney lifted it over the fence for a grand slam to make it 4-2. Nobody knew it at the time, but it completely demoralized the Cubs. They wouldn’t score for the rest of the game, while the Dodgers got solo home runs from Manny and Russell Martin en route to a 7-2 first game victory.

(James Loney hits a grand slam to break Cubs hearts. Video courtesy of YouTube.)

In Game 2, a five-run second inning by the Dodgers, compounded by four Cubs errors, led Los Angeles to a 10-3 victory headed back home. In one of the most shocking upsets in postseason history, the Dodgers completed the sweep when Japanese pitcher Hiroki Kuroda won 3-1 to clinch the NLDS. It was their first postseason win in twenty years.

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(The Dodgers sweep the Cubs in their home ballpark in the 2008 NLDS. Photo courtesy of losangeles.cbslocal.com) 

In the other NLDS, Philadelphia and Milwaukee went head-to-head. Cole Hamels pitched the opener for Philadelphia, and the Phillies won 3-1, and Brad Lidge, attempting to right old ghosts, got the save. He had been perfect in 41 save chances in the regular season. Lidge didn’t make it easy, allowing a run in the ninth and putting the tying run at second base, but it ended up working out.

In the second game, Milwaukee staked CC Sabathia to an early lead, although he was pitching on three days’ rest. It would prove disastrous, as he would be rocked for five runs in the second inning, including a memorable at-bat from his opposing number, Brett Myers. Myers fell behind 1-2 but kept staying alive and worked out a walk. Later in the inning, Shane Victorino hit a grand slam, and after that, Myers settled down and won the game 5-2.

(Shane Victorino blasts a grand slam off CC Sabathia in NLDS Game 2. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

Milwaukee stayed alive by earning a 4-1 win in the first postseason game in Miller Park. Salomon Torres got the save, although it wasn’t easy. The bases were loaded and nobody was out. The next batter grounded into a double play, but a run was taken off the board because the umpire ruled that Victorino didn’t slide and called interference as a result. Milwaukee was still alive but Philadelphia still had the lead.

But any thoughts of a Milwaukee comeback ended in the top of the first of Game 4. Jimmy Rollins led off the game with a home run on a full count, and in the third inning, Pat Burrell (three-run) and Jayson Werth (solo) hit back-to-back home runs in the third inning. Burrell added another solo shot, giving Joe Blanton all the runs he needed. The Phillies won their first postseason series in fifteen years.

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(The Phillies clinch the NLDS in Game 4. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

In the opening game of the NLCS, Manny Ramirez narrowly missed a home run in the first inning off of Cole Hamels, setting instead for an RBI double. In the fourth, L.A. made it 2-0 when Blake DeWitt drove in Matt Kemp with a sacrifice fly. But in the sixth, Chase Utley tied the game with a two-run homer, and two batters later, Pat Burrell followed with a home run of his own. That would be enough for Hamels, and Lidge got the save again.

In Game 2, Los Angeles took a second-inning lead, but Brett Myers capped a surprisingly good day at the plate, going 3-for-3. In the second and third innings, the Phillies batted around both times, scoring four runs each time. The Dodgers cut it to 8-5 in the fourth when Ramirez home run, but later in the game, Shane Victorino robbed Casey Blake of extra bases that could have tied the score. Lidge earned his second save of the Series, continuing his perfect season. Dodger starter Chad Billingsley was not only ineffective, but was criticized by teammates for failing to retaliate when Myers came inside.

In Game 3, Hiroki Kuroda made sure to retaliate, and although the Phillies didn’t like it, it proved to be somewhat effective, as the Dodgers earned a 7-2 victory to get back in it. Rafael Furcal hit his first home run for the Dodgers since May 5 in a five-run second inning, and Jamie Moyer was done after only 1.1 innings. Game 3 set a Dodger Stadium record with 56,800 in attendance.

In Game 4, Derek Lowe went for the Dodgers on three days’ rest. Philadelphia got two in the first, while Los Angeles countered with a run back. After the Dodgers took a 3-2 lead, rookie Clayton Kershaw surrendered the lead in the sixth. Casey Blake helped the Dodgers retake the lead with a home run, and an error later in the inning by first baseman Ryan Howard allowed another run to score. A terrific double play by Chase Utley got the Phillies out of the inning. It was still 5-3 into the top of the eighth with Cory Wade on the mound for the Dodgers. But a clutch home run by Victorino tied the game, and after allowing a single to catcher Carlos Ruiz, Wade was relieved by closer Jonathan Broxton. Longtime veteran Matt Stairs came on to pinch hit and rocked his first career postseason home run deep into the right field bleachers, a 7-5 score. The Dodgers couldn’t recover, and Lidge got his third save of the series. The Phillies were one win away from the pennant.

(Matt Stairs hits a clutch home run to win Game 4 for the Phillies. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

In hindsight, it was a moment where nobody on the Dodgers could recover. Another first inning home run by Jimmy Rollins opened the floodgates, and by the third inning, Chad Billingsley was gone. The final score was 5-1 Phillies, with Cole Hamels winning his second game of the series. It was the Phillies’ first pennant since 1993.

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(Harry Kalas makes the pennant winning call for the Phillies in Game 5 of the NLCS. Video courtesy of mlb.com)

The AL playoffs saw Tampa Bay open its first playoff series with a 6-4 win over the White Sox. “Big Game James,” James Shields was excellent, and rookie Evan Longoria went 3-for-3 with two home runs. After Gary Gaetti, he became the second player in postseason history to homer in his first two at-bats. In Game 2, despite an early 2-0 lead, Mark Buehrle couldn’t hold the lead, as Akinori Iwamura homered and Tampa Bay soon was one win away from the ALCS with a 6-2 victory. Chicago staved off elimination in Game 3, winning 5-3 behind lefty John Danks. But in Game 4, Andy Sonnanstine pushed the Rays into the next round, with another 6-2 victory. It would be Ken Griffey Jr.’s last postseason appearance; he would retire two years later.

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(The Rays advance to the ALCS in their first postseason appearance. Photo courtesy of mlb.com)

The Red Sox and Angels renewed their rivalry. Once again, Boston seemed to have the edge, getting a home run from Jason Bay (acquired in the Ramirez trade), and Jon Lester beat future Red Sox pitcher John Lackey 4-1. Jonathan Papelbon earned the save.

Game 2 was a back and forth affair. Boston was up 5-1 at one point, but after Justin Masterson allowed a sacrifice fly to Mark Teixeira, the Angels had tied the score. Jonathan Papelbon was forced to enter in the eighth, and was charged with a blown save. In the top of the ninth, J.D. Drew’s two-run home run gave the Red Sox the lead. Papelbon held his nerve, and Boston was up 2-0 headed home.

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(J.D. Drew is congratulated after homering off of Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

In Game 3, the Angels finally snapped an eleven-game postseason losing streak to the Red Sox, taking the third game 5-4 on an Erick Aybar single in the top of the twelfth inning. In Game 4, the same starters from Game 1 faced off. In the bottom of the fifth, Angels infielder Howie Kendrick bobbled a potential double play ball, allowing Dustin Pedroia to drive in two later in the inning. But down to their final six outs, the Angels rallied, after a passed ball and a single by Torii Hunter to tie the game. In the top of the ninth, the Angels almost took the lead. They had Kendry Morales on third base, when Erick Aybar missed a suicide squeeze bunt. Morales was tagged out, and Aybar couldn’t come through. The game moved to the bottom of the ninth, where Jason Bay stood on second base. Light-hitting infield Jed Lowrie came to bat. He pulled a single to right field. The throw was pretty good, but Bay scored ahead of it, and the Red Sox were back in the ALCS.

(A single by Jed Lowrie sent the Red Sox to the ALCS for the second straight year. Video courtesy of YouTube.)

This was said to be the newer, better rivalry in the AL East. In the opener, Daisuke Matsuzaka took a no-hitter into the seventh inning, and a Lowrie sacrifice fly and Youkilis double gave Boston all the runs they needed. The final was 2-0, with Papelbon getting the save.

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(Dice-K won the first game of the ALCS. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.)

Game 2 saw an ALCS record set with seven home runs. Beckett and Scott Kazmir were both ineffective and it would come down to a sacrifice fly from B.J. Upton in the twelfth inning to win the game for the Rays, 9-8.

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(Baserunner Fernando Perez scores the winning run in Game 2. Photo courtesy of New York Daily News.) 

Moving to Boston, Jon Lester was hit hard in Game 3, allowing four home runs. The Rays won, 9-1. It got even worse in Game 4, as Wakefield was rocked hard 13-4, and again the Red Sox were facing elimination.

Heading into Game 5, things were looking pretty glum. Upton homered in the first, as did Longoria in the third, and Matsuzaka left early. It got worse as an Upton double made it 7-0 with the Red Sox nine outs away from elimination. Even for the Red Sox, who were known for their rallies, this seemed too much.

Then they put runners on second and third against reliever Grant Balfour. Dustin Pedroia got them on the board with a single, and then David Ortiz cemented his legend with a mammoth three-run home run. Suddenly, the Red Sox were back in it at 7-4. Of all the great Big Papi postseason moments, this was one of the most underrated.

(David Ortiz hits a three-run shot to make it 7-4 in the seventh. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

The comeback continued in the bottom of the eighth inning. With a man on, J.D. Drew rocked a two-run shot off of Dan Wheeler. Later in the inning, Coco Crisp drove in outfielder Mark Kotsay with a single, although Crisp was thrown out trying to go to second. It was now 7-7.

The Rays were kept off the board in the top of the ninth. Reliever J.P. Howell retired the first two batters before Youkilis grounded to third. Longoria threw the ball away, allowing Youkilis to go to second. J.D. Drew followed with a ground-rule double to complete the rally. Unbelievably, the Red Sox were still alive and wouldn’t lose the pennant at home. IT remains the largest postseason deficit overcome to win by a team facing elimination.

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(Kevin Youkilis and teammates celebrate after winning Game 5 of the ALCS. Photo courtesy of http://www.boston.cbslocal.com

The series was shockingly headed back to Tampa. For the ninth straight time, the Red Sox won a do-or-die game in the ALCS, backed by Jason Varitek’s first hit of the series, a solo home run that broke a 2-2 tie. The Red Sox added another run to help Josh Beckett win 4-2 and force another Game 7.

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(Jason Varitek rounds third after his go-ahead home run in ALCS Game 6. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

But Game 7 was a different story. Dustin Pedroia hit a solo home run in the first off of Matt Garza, but Boston wouldn’t score after that. RBI hits from Longoria and Rocco Baldelli and a Willy Aybar home run gave the Rays a 3-1 lead in the ninth. David Price, the #1 pick the previous year, earned his first postseason save by getting Jed Lowrie to ground out into a fielder’s choice to Akinori Iwamura at second base. The Rays had won their first pennant.

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(The Rays celebrate their first pennant. Photo courtesy of mlb.com)

So, we had two teams that weren’t the popular choice to make the Series opening at Tampa’s Tropicana Field. The first game saw Hamels against Shields. In the first inning, Hamels was helped by Chase Utley’s two-run home run in the top of the first. It could have been more in the second, as the Phillies loaded the bases, but Upton nailed Victorino at the plate to end the inning.

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(Chase Utley’s Game 1 home run gave Philadelphia a 2-0 lead early. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

In the fourth inning, Carlos Ruiz drove in Shane Victorino to make it 3-0 Phillies. It would prove to be the winning run, as Carl Crawford homered to start a rally. It was the Rays’ first run in their World Series history.

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(Carl Crawford homers to get the Rays on the board. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

Tampa Bay got back within a run when Akinori Iwamura doubled in Jason Bartlett. Relieving Hamels, Ryan Madson pitched a perfect eighth, and Phillies closer Brad Lidge earned the save, extending his perfect season. The Phillies had drawn first blood.

In Game 2, Tampa Bay evened the series with a strong performance by their ace, James Shield, “Big Game James.” Consecutive groundouts by Pena and Longoria got two runs home in the first inning, and Tampa Bay added another run in the second inning. Were it not for a strong throw by Jayson Werth, Rocco Baldelli would have scored and it would have been 4-0.

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(Trying to score in the second inning of Game 2, Rocco Baldelli is thrown out at home plate. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

Tampa Bay did in fact make it 4-0 on a squeeze bunt in the fourth inning, before an Eric Bruntlett home run got the Phillies on the board in the eighth. Philadelphia got another run in the ninth, but it wouldn’t be enough, as Tampa Bay won 4-2. Big Game James pitched the Rays to a series-evening victory.

The next three games shifted to Philadelphia, the first Series games played at the new Citizen’s Bank Park. Delayed by 91 minutes by rain (which would become a common theme of the series), Chase Utley grounded out to score Jimmy Rollins in the first inning. The Rays tied it in the second when Carl Crawford doubled, stole third base, and Gabe Gross drove him in with a sacrifice fly. Rays starter Matt Garza, the ALCS MVP, pitched well, but left trailing 4-1, after Chase Utley and Ryan Howard hit back-to-back home runs in the sixth.

(Chase Utley and Ryan Howard hit back-to-back home runs in Game 3. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

But the Rays rallied, scoring twice in the seventh to make it 4-3, and then a throwing error tied the score in the top of the eighth. In the bottom of the ninth, Eric Bruntlett led off and was hit by a pitch. A wild pitch and a throwing error put him on third. Pitcher J.P. Howell walked the next two batters intentionally, and outfielder Ben Zobrist was brought in to be a fifth infielder. Catcher Carlos Ruiz was up. He hit a dinky 45-foot ground ball to third. Longoria charged. The throw was late and went over the catcher’s head. Bruntlett raced home, and the Phillies won 5-4 without hitting a ball out of the infield in the final inning.

(Carlos Ruiz wins Game 3 with a 45-foot infield single. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

Philadelphia looked to seize the momentum, and put their foot on the gas pedal and never let up. Breaking out of a big slump, Ryan Howard had two home runs and five RBI, and pitcher Joe Blanton helped his own cause, swatting a home run of his own. Jayson Werth added one more for the Phillies, who looked to be in the driver’s seat with a dominant 10-2 victory. For the first time since 1980, they were on the precipice of the title.

(Ryan Howard had two home runs and five RBI in Game 4. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

(Pitcher Joe Blanton homers for Philadelphia in Game 4. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

Back in 1925, the seventh game between Washington and Pittsburgh wasn’t suspended despite hard rains. It would set a precedent for Game 5 in 2008. Through five innings, what would have been an official game, the Phillies led 2-1. In the top of the sixth, the Rays tied the game on a Pena single. And then the rains came – and wouldn’t stop. Under current rules, the game would be forced to be suspended and played from where it last left off – like saving a video game or a paper. It had never happened before in history. No more ties this time. Not in the World Series.

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(The tarp covers the field as Game 5 is suspended for a day and a half. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.) 

The rains continued for another day, before it was finally able to be completed on October 29, two days after it began. Pinch hitting for Cole Hamels, Geoff Jenkins doubled and Rollins bunted him over. Jayson Werth drove him in. But in the top of the seventh, a Rocco Baldelli home run tied the score 3-3.

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(Rocco Baldelli hits a home run to tie the score in the seventh inning. Photo courtesy of Reuters.) 

Later in the inning, Jason Bartlett was on second with two outs. Iwamura singled on a weakly hit ground ball to second. Chase Utley could have had a play at first base to end the inning. But he didn’t throw to first. Bartlett gambled. Utley fired home instead, and Ruiz made the tag, ending the inning and keeping the score tied. Utley’s heads-up play likely saved the series for the Phillies. It was the back-breaker for Tampa Bay.

(Chase Utley’s clutch defensive play likely saved the Series for the Phillies. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

In the bottom of the seventh, Pat Burrell led off with a double for Philadelphia. Eric Bruntlett came in to pinch run. Shane Victorino moved him to third with a groundout. Third baseman Pedro Feliz followed with a single to give Philadelphia a 4-3 lead. It would prove to be the winning run in the Series.

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(Pedro Feliz drives in the Series-winning run in Game 5. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

Philadelphia also had help in the eighth inning, on a clutch 6-4-3 double play. J.C. Romero held the lead, and after Philadelphia didn’t score in the eighth, Tampa Bay came up for their last chance.

Evan Longoria popped up to Utley at second. Then Dioner Navarro singled. Pinch runner Fernando Perez proceeded to steal second. The tying run was in scoring position with one out. But Ben Zobrist lined out to Victorino in right field. Pinch hitter Eric Hinske was the last hope for the Rays. On the 0-2 pitch, Lidge came low. Swung on and missed! The Phillies had won their first title in 28 years, after having their dreams suspended by rain for two days.

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(The victorious Phillies lift the Commissioner’s Trophy. Photo courtesy of New York Times.) 

Fun Facts
This was Philadelphia’s first championship in any sport since 1983, when the 76ers won the NBA title. Rumor had it that once the statue of William Penn was highest in the city, Philadelphia would win again (it happened the previous year). For the Phillies, it was their first title since 1980, their second overall, and most recent to date as of 2016.

In 2007, the Phillies had become the first team in North American professional sports team to lose 10,000 games.

This was the first and only pennant for the Rays in their history. James Shields got their only win to date in Game 2. It was their first winning season in franchise history.

Game 4 is referenced in the 2012 film Silver Linings Playbook, where Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) convinces Pat Sr. (Robert De Niro) she is that Pat Jr.’s (Bradley Cooper) good luck charm, after mentioning Ryan Howard’s two home runs.

In the 2007 offseason, Philadelphia pitcher Brett Myers set up a great practical joke on fellow pitcher Kyle Kendrick, then a rookie. Myers convinced the front office, manager Charlie Manuel, reporters, and even Kendrick’s wife to play along. The prank said that Kendrick would be traded to Japan for a fake pitcher named Kobayashi Iwamura (a combination of Rays second baseman Akinori Iwamura and competitive hot dog eater Kobayashi). Once he found out the joke, Kendrick was asked how he’d get back at Myers. He replied, “I don’t think I can. That was too good.”

For all of the Phillies’ superstars, only GM Pat Gillick is in the Hall of Fame, being inducted in 2011.

Brad Lidge redeemed himself from 2005, finishing his perfect season – 48 saves in 48 tries.

Series MVP Cole Hamels received a no-decision in Game 5 because of the delay. If he had won, he would have been the first pitcher in one postseason to win five games. J.C. Romero got the win, one of two wins he got in the series.

Game 5 was the first suspended game in World Series history.

Final Thoughts 
Philadelphia was back on top. It seemed to be ready to continue. But in the Bronx, the “Big Four” had one last title in them, in a matchup along the New Jersey Turnpike.

References and Sources 
Baseball Almanac
Baseball Reference
Wikipedia
YouTube.
Getty Images.
CBS News.
http://www.slowtrav.com
http://www.mlb.com
http://www.boston.cbslocal.com
http://www.sportslogos.net
http://www.thepeoplehistory.com/2008
http://www.losangeles.cbslocal.com
Reuters. 
New York Times 
New York Daily News. 
Sports Illustrated 
St. Petersburg Times. 
Boston Globe. 
The Tenth Inning (Ken Burns)
Silver Linings Playbook (David O. Russell film)
2008 World Series: The Official Film (MLB Productions)
The Complete World Series (Eric Enders)
The Baseball Hall of Shame (Bruce Nash, Allan Zullo)
Are We Winning? Fathers and Sons in the New Golden Age of Baseball (Will Leitch)
The Underground Baseball Encyclopedia (Robert Schnakenberg)
Living on the Black (John Feinstein)
The Baseball Codes (Jason Turbow, Michael Duca)

2007 World Series: Twice is just as nice

The 2007 World Series was the one hundred fifth year overall, and one hundred third played, of the modern World Series which began in 1903. After 2004, would Boston have to wait another generation or two to win their next title? As it turned out, Red Sox Nation would only have to wait three years until it happened again.

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(The 2007 World Series logo. Photo courtesy of http://www.sportslogos.net)

2007 World Series 
Boston Red Sox (AL) over Colorado Rockies (NL), 4-0 

Managers: Terry Francona (Boston); Clint Hurdle (Colorado) 

Hall of Famers* 
None 

*as of 2016 

Series MVP: Mike Lowell, 3B (Boston) 

Analysis 
Coming into the 2007 season, many story lines were preparing to come into play for Major League Baseball. The defending champion Cardinals suffered another tragedy, as pitcher Josh Hancock was killed after driving drunk and crashing his car. The Cardinals would fail to make the playoffs for the next two years.

In their first year of eligibility, both Cal Ripken, Jr. and Tony Gwynn made the Hall of Fame. A notable omission was Mark McGwire, whose legacy was perhaps tainted by PED allegations. Coming into the season, new reports for first positive tests forced tests to remain confidential. Barry Bonds was rumored to have received his first positive test in January.

Although they’re largely anonymous, umpire Bruce Froemming tied the record for most years as an umpire – 37. He also became the oldest umpire in history at the age of 67 on April 20. Later that season, the Tribune Company would finally sell the Chicago Cubs.

On April 22, on a nationally broadcast game on ESPN, the Red Sox and Yankees were playing each other. In the third inning, Yankees lefty Chase Wright allowed four consecutive home runs to Manny Ramirez, J.D. Drew, Mike Lowell, and Jason Varitek. They needed all of them to win 7-6. Wright would be sent down to the minors.

(The Red Sox hit four home runs in a row off Chase Wright. Video courtesy of YouTube.)

To rival each other, each team had signed a pitcher from Japan. Boston had bid the highest for Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka. Although he would never quite reach the heights they had hoped for him, Dice-K responded with 15 wins in his first season. To entice him further, the Red Sox also added reliever Hideki Okajima, who would make the All-Star team that year. The Yankees attempted to match their rivals, although it would be a disaster. Their signing, Kei Igawa, would win only two games in his Major League career, and his career was over one year later.

In what would prove to be his final season, Houston Astros second baseman Craig Biggio reached the 3,000 hit club. His breakthrough hit came at home against Colorado, although it was a little ignominious, as he was thrown out trying to stretch his hit into a double. The first player ever to move from catcher to a middle infielder, Biggio would make the Hall of Fame in 2015.

(Craig Biggio joins the 3,000 hit club. Video courtesy of YouTube.)

One of the biggest offensive outbursts in Major League history came in Baltimore. While praised for its beauty, Camden Yards was also decried as being too hitter-friendly. In a game on August 22, after falling behind 3-0, the visiting Texas Rangers scored….and scored…and scored some more. By the time it was over, the Rangers had set an American League record by scoring 30 runs. Yes, you read that correctly.

(The Texas Rangers score 30 runs in a game on August 22. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

After years of public scrutiny, Barry Bonds had managed to tie Hank Aaron’s record of 755 home runs. On August 7, he came to bat at home against Mike Bacsik of the Washington Nationals. In front of the hometown crowd, Bonds connected for 756, surpassing Aaron. Aaron was not in attendance but sent a prerecorded message of congratulations. But after all the controversy, it seemed like nobody cared. Writer Howard Bryant mentioned that it wasn’t a moment you’d wake your son up for. Bonds’ antagonism made him a villain, not a hero to adoring masses. At the end of the season, the Giants would cut ties with Bonds. He never played again, finishing with 762 home runs.

(Barry Bonds hits 756 to break the home run record. Video courtesy of YouTube.)

It would be a year of finales for several others. Mike Piazza, Roger Clemens, and Curt Schilling would all play their final seasons. Piazza made the Hall of Fame in 2016, with Clemens and Schilling still on the ballot. Clemens made his final go-round by returning to the Yankees. This time, it was an unmitigated disaster. He ended up at 354 wins and over 4,000 strikeouts, but it was clear that the 45-year-old had little left in the tank. Baseball’s cyclical nature kept going in motion.

For all of the controversies, the game continued. The Red Sox would play some of their best baseball in a long time. For the first time since 1995, they would win their division, although the acquisition of former NL Cy Young Award winner Eric Gagne would be somewhat of a disaster. Nevertheless, it was done at the expense of their rivals. On September 28, the Red Sox won 5-2 against the Twins to reduce the magic number to one. If the Orioles could beat the Yankees at Camden Yards that night, the Red Sox would win the division. Fans stayed behind to try to do it. In the ninth, the Yankees were winning, 9-6. But Jay Payton broke Yankee hearts when his bases-clearing triple tied the game. In the bottom of the tenth, the Orioles loaded the bases. Melvin Mora was up. The Red Sox were watching from their clubhouse. Utility infielder Alex Cora called out, “Bunt!” Sure enough, Mora laid one down, scoring the winning run. The Red Sox had won the division. The Yankees would settle for the wild card.

The National League saw two dramatic pennant races decided on the final game of the season. Before the season started, Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins called the Phillies the best team in the NL East. But it didn’t look that way, as their rival New York Mets held the division lead. In August at Wrigley Field, Tom Glavine won his 300th game, a feat that only Randy Johnson has accomplished since. With Pedro Martinez set to come back from injury, the Mets looked to repeat as division champions.

(Tom Glavine celebrates his 300th win at Wrigley Field. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

With seventeen games to play, the Mets led the Phillies by seven games. The Phillies had also blown a game in September to the Braves, who finished third. But then the Mets slowly and painfully fell apart. They lost five of six against the fourth-place Washington Nationals, while the Phillies caught up, including a four-game sweep of the Mets. Heading into the final game of the season, both teams had an 88-73 record. For the Mets, 303-game winner Glavine went at home against the last place Marlins. After a leadoff walk, Glavine got Dan Uggla to ground out. It would be the only out Glavine recorded. Then the deluge came. It was 4-0 with one out and the bases loaded when pitcher Dontrelle Willis came to bat for Florida. Glavine hit Willis with a pitch to make it 5-1. He was done, and Willie Randolph pulled him.

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(Mets manager Willie Randolph takes the ball from Tom Glavine, completing the Mets collapse in 2007. Photo courtesy of New York Daily News.) 

Before the inning was over, two more runs would score. New York trailed 7-0 before they even came to bat. Although they got a run, it was the only one they got. They lost 8-1 as Philadelphia played their game. Seeing the barrage of runs, Philadelphia used it as momentum, winning their game 6-1, stealing the division. Many consider it the worst collapse ever. Rollins was not only proven right, but he won MVP honors that season, and it also had sweet revenge for the Philly Phold of 1964. Gotham had fallen.

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(The Phillies celebrate their 2007 NL East title. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

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(The headline says it all for Mets fans. Photo courtesy of New York Daily News.)

The other big race came down to the wild card. Two division rivals, the San Diego Padres and Colorado Rockies, went into a one-game playoff in Colorado. Cy Young Award winner Jake Peavy got the start for San Diego, while Colorado countered with Josh Fogg, nicknamed “Dragon Slayer” for his big games against big pitchers. It was a back-and-forth game, with San Diego tying the game 6-6 in the eighth after Brian Fuentes blew his seventh save for the Rockies. It stayed tied into the top of the thirteenth, before San Diego took an 8-6 lead on a Scott Hairston home run. But the Rockies were resilient. They had won 14 of their last fifteen games to get into the playoff. They had three outs left against Trevor Hoffman.

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(Scott Hairston hits a home run to give the Padres an 8-6 lead with three outs to go in the one-game playoff. Photo courtesy of ESPN.) 

Hoffman quickly fell apart. He allowed a double to Kaz Matsui, and rookie Troy Tulowitzki hit one of his own. Then Matt Holliday – the runner-up to Rollins for the MVP honors in a controversial vote – tripled to score Tulo and tie the game. Rockie stalwart Todd Helton was walked intentionally.  Jamey Carroll followed with a line drive to right field. Brian Giles caught the ball and Holliday attempted to score. The throw came in to catcher Michael Barrett. It looked like he had blocked the plate. But in a controversial call, home plate umpire Tim McClelland called Holliday safe. Despite protests, the call stood. The Rockies had won the wild card, their first playoff appearance since 1995.

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(Although it looks like catcher Michael Barrett has the plate blocked, Matt Holliday scores the winning run for the Colorado Rockies. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

It would be an anticlimactic playoff run. Despite their first playoff appearance in 1993, the Phillies would be swept by the Rockies, and the Western Division champions Arizona Diamondbacks swept the Chicago Cubs. The drought in the North Side would reach 99 years.

In the NLCS, the Rockies pulled off a shocking four-game sweep to win the pennant. New closer Manny Corpas closed it out, and the Rockies had their first pennant. But one thing that may have hurt them is that they’d have an eight-day layoff in between games. Still, they had won 21 of 22 going into the World Series.

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(The Colorado Rockies win their first NL pennant. Photo courtesy of mlb.com.) 

In the AL playoffs, Boston swept the Angels, outscoring them 19-4. 20-game winner Josh Beckett opened with a 4-0 victory, allowing four hits, no walks, and eight strikeouts. In Game 2, it was 3-3 in the bottom of the ninth. With a man on and two outs, Mike Scioscia walked David Ortiz intentionally to prevent him from doing damage. But this time, Manny Ramirez was waiting. He hit a dramatic walk-off three-run homer to give the Red Sox a dramatic 6-3 win.

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(Manny Ramirez wins Game 2 of the ALDS with a walk-off home run. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

Curt Schilling pitched the Red Sox back into the ALCS with a 9-1 victory, the Angels only run coming in the ninth inning against reliever Eric Gagne. Many hoped for a rematch with the Yankees.

But the upstart Cleveland Indians took the first game 12-3. Although he won fewer games, CC Sabathia edged out Beckett for the Cy Young Award and came through with a 12-3 victory. In Game 2, New York led 1-0 in the eighth when a new weapon emerged. Rookie pitcher Joba Chamberlain tried to hold the lead, when little bugs known as midges swarmed the field. Yankee manager Joe Torre asked to pull his team off the field. But after a short delay, the umpires ordered the teams to resume play. Chamberlain walked Grady Sizemore, and then a wild pitch sent him to second. The bugs kept swarming. After a sacrifice bunt, another wild pitch scored Sizemore. It was Chamberlain’s first blown save of his career.

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(Yankee pitcher Joba Chamberlain was affected by the bugs, blowing the save. Photo courtesy of http://www.cleveland.com

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(Grady Sizemore scores the tying run in the eighth inning, with Chamberlain covering. Photo courtesy of http://www.cleveland.com

In the bottom of the eleventh, Cleveland loaded the bases. Up came Travis “Pronk” Hafner, against Luis Vizcaino. Hafner’s single won the game 2-1, heading to the Bronx.

(Travis Hafner wins Game 2 versus the Yankees. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

The Yankees stayed alive with an 8-4 victory in Game 4, in what would be the final start of Roger Clemens’ career. He left trailing after only 2.1 innings, whereas rookie Phil Hughes picked up the slack to win the game. But Cleveland knocked out the Yankees 6-4, with closer Joe Borowski striking out Jorge Posada. Two milestones were set – it was the final playoff game at the old Yankee Stadium. And George Steinbrenner’s patience with Joe Torre had finally run out. There would be a new manager in 2008 in the Bronx.

(The Cleveland Indians advance to the 2007 ALCS. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

The first game of the ALCS matched the two aces, Beckett against Sabathia. Despite the Indians getting a home run from Travis Hafner to start the game, Beckett took the head-to-head matchup, 10-3. In an era where home runs ruled, the Red Sox didn’t hit a single one, with a four-run third inning catapulting Boston to victory.

In the second game, Schilling and Fausto Carmona faced off. Neither pitched fared well, and it was 6-6 going into extra innings. In the top of the eleventh, Éric Gagné came in to pitch. The former Dodger closer had struggled in his new setup role with the Red Sox, and he promptly surrendered Game 2. Former Boston hero Trot Nixon, now on the other side, drove in what proved to be the winning run. It started a seven-run inning, an ALCS record. The series was tied 1-1.

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(Former Red Sox hero Trot Nixon starts the winning rally in ALCS Game 2. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

Moving to Game 3 in Cleveland, Daisuke Matsuzaka fell to Jake Westbrook, 4-2. Many called for Terry Francona to start Beckett on short rest, but Tim Wakefield got the ball instead. After four scoreless innings, the Indians jumped on Wakefield for seven runs in the fifth inning. Despite three straight Boston home runs, a first in ALCS history, Cleveland held on to win 7-3, and was one win from the pennant. Much like Boston, Cleveland felt cursed as well. Their last title had been in 1964.

There’s a maxim in life, and sports in particular, that says, “Let sleeping dogs lie.” In other words, don’t rile up your opponent. The Indians didn’t listen. Heading into Game 5, the PA system played the song “It Ends Tonight” by the band All-American Rejects. CC Sabathia was on the hill for Cleveland. It seemed likely. But it wasn’t a good idea to fire up Josh Beckett. The Red Sox, already mad, began to seethe when Beckett’s ex-girlfriend, country singer Danielle Peck, was invited to sing the national anthem. Beckett claimed it was old news, but during her performance, Beckett is claimed to have turned to Francona and said, “I broke up with her, you know.”

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(In one of Cleveland sports history’s most boneheaded moves, Danielle Peck sings the national anthem before Game 5. Photo courtesy of Boston Herald.) 

Although each team traded a run in the first inning, Beckett put on arguably the finest performance of his life. It was still 2-1 in the seventh before Boston added five runs in the seventh and eighth. Beckett set a career high in the postseason with 11 strikeouts, and Kevin Youkilis homered. Boston stayed alive with a 7-1 victory. Beckett was Hulk-like – you wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.

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(Josh Beckett went eight strong inning to keep the Red Sox in it. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

The series shifted back to Boston for Game 6. Curt Schilling retired Cleveland in the first inning. In their half, the Red Sox loaded the bases with two outs. Sixth-place hitter J.D. Drew came up. Throughout his career, Drew had been maligned for his lack of heart, although he certainly had the talent. He had been criticized as a bust in Boston for his $14 million contract. But this time, he had his moment in the sun, smacking a grand slam to center field. It sparked a rally (including six in the third that chased Fausto Carmona) that helped Boston win 12-2 to force a seventh game. For many Red Sox fans, it carries the same weight as the Dave Roberts steal in 2004.

(J.D. Drew’s grand slam sparks the Red Sox in Game 6. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

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(After his grand slam, Drew was mobbed by his teammates at home plate. Photo courtesy of Boston Globe.) 

It would be Matsuzaka against Westbrook in the finale. Through the first three innings, the Red Sox held a 3-0 lead, with Matsuzaka allowing only one hit. But single runs in the fourth and fifth inning got Cleveland on the board. For Matsuzaka, he would go five innings, going just enough to earn the victory.

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(Daisuke Matsuzaka went five innings to get the win in Game 7 for Boston. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

Going into the top of the seventh, it was still 3-2. With one out and Kenny Lofton at second, Franklin Gutierrez came to bat against Hideki Okajima. Gutierrez singled past Mike Lowell at third base. It was here that Fenway Park’s geometry came into play. The ball caromed off the wall, deflecting towards Manny Ramirez. Not known for his defense, and given Lofton’s speed, it should have tied the game. But third base coach Joel Skinner held up Lofton at third. Still, Cleveland had runners at first and third with one out with Casey Blake up. Any well-hit ball would tie the game, or perhaps give Cleveland the lead. But Blake grounded into a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning. For many in Cleveland, it was a continuation of the curse. It’s known in Cleveland as “The Stop Sign.”

(Joel Skinner holds Kenny Lofton at third base. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

Casey Blake’s nightmare game continued as he made an error, allowing rookie Jacoby Ellsbury to reach. Fellow rookie Dustin Pedroia came up, the AL Rookie of the Year that year. He homered to give Boston a 5-2 lead with six outs to go. The Skinner mistake was looming large.

(Dustin Pedroia’s home run makes it 5-2 Boston. Video courtesy of YouTube.)

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(Dustin Pedroia watches his Game 7 home run leave the park. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.)

Then in the eighth, Cleveland completely fell apart. Boston scored six more times in the eighth, with Pedroia coming through again with a double that cleared the bases. This was followed by Kevin Youkilis hitting a home run that ricocheted off the Coca-Cola bottle than hung over the Green Monster. By the time the inning was over, the Red Sox led 11-2.

(Kevin Youkilis homers off the Coke bottle in left field. Video courtesy of YouTube.)

With Jonathan Papelbon on in the ninth, Cleveland put a runner on in the ninth. Casey Blake was the last hope. He hit a fly ball too the deepest nook of the ballpark in center field, almost 420 feet away. In center field, defensive replacement Covelli “Coco” Crisp raced after it. He caught the ball, and although he collided with the wall, the Red Sox had won their second pennant in four years. The Indians had been outscored 30-5 in the final three games. For the second straight ALCS, Boston won do-or-die games, seven in a row dating back to 2004. Josh Beckett deservedly took home ALCS MVP honors.

(Coco Crisp’s catch wins the AL pennant for the Red Sox. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

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(The Red Sox win their second pennant in four years. Photo courtesy of http://www.boston.cbslocal.com

The Fall Classic would open at Fenway Park. The hot-hitting Rockies would go cold after an eight day layoff. Josh Beckett struck out the side in the first inning. Against Colorado Game 1 starter Jeff Francis, Dustin Pedroia led off. He took an 0-1 pitch over the Green Monster. Boston was off and running again. They would make it 3-0 by the end of the inning.

(Dustin Pedroia’s home run – his first World Series at-bat – led the Red Sox in Game 1. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

After getting his fourth strikeout in four batters, Beckett faded a little bit, allowing doubles to Garrett Atkins and Troy Tulowitzki. It was 3-1 Boston, but Colorado’s offense would score no more. Boston got the run back after Ortiz drove in Youkilis. The onslaught continued as Francis was knocked out with a seven-run fifth inning. The final score was 13-1 Red Sox. Beckett was his dominant self, striking out nine in seven innings. Colorado’s run was over.

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(Boston ace Josh Beckett went seven innings in Game 1. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.)

In Game 2, Curt Schilling would make his final career start. Colorado took their first – and only – World Series lead in the first inning when Todd Helton drove in a run with a groundout. It stayed 1-0 into the fourth inning when Jason Varitek hit a sacrifice fly to tie the game. Then Series MVP Mike Lowell drove in what proved to be the winning run with a double in the fifth inning.

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(Mike Lowell’s fifth inning double won Game 2. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

Schilling would leave after 5.1 innings. Outspoken at times to the chagrin of many Bostonians, he had pitched Boston to the title in 2004, and now as he left the mound for the final time, he tipped his cap to the Fenway faithful, turning it over to the bullpen. Hideki Okajima came in and gave the Red Sox 2.1 innings of perfect relief, before Papelbon came in with two outs.

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(In his final career game, Curt Schilling tips his cap to the crowd at Fenway Park during Game 2. Photo courtesy of Boston Globe.) 

It looked like Colorado’s offense was about to come to life. Matt Holliday singled against Papelbon, his fourth hit of the game. Then Papelbon caught him leaning too far. He threw to first base. Picked off! The inning was over on a pickoff. The Red Sox held in the ninth, and headed to Denver up 2-0 in games, winning 2-1.

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(Matt Holliday is picked off first base by Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

Game 3 was the first World Series game in Denver. Daisuke Matsuzaka again went five innings, putting the Red Sox one win away from the title again. In the third inning, Boston broke through with six runs, with Dice-K driving in two runs of his own, his first career hit. That made it 5-0 Boston against Dragon Slayer Josh Fogg. Boston was again the driver’s seat.

(Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka gets his first career hit, a 2-RBI single in Game 3. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

Normally, Boston’s bullpen had been steady all season. But against Matsuzaka and reliever Javier Lopez, the Rockies got two in the sixth inning to get on the board. In the seventh, Mike Timlin gave up consecutive singles before Okajima came in. Although he had been great in the second game, Matt Holliday greeted him with a three-run homer. All of a sudden, it was one-run game. The Rockies that had comeback so many times in September looked to be doing the same.

(Matt Holliday’s home run gets the Rockies within a run in the seventh inning of Game 3. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

But these Red Sox showed that champions close. Brian Fuentes and the Rockies bullpen allowed three runs in the eighth, after rookies Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia sparked Boston in the late innings. Another run in the ninth made it 10-5, and once again, the Red Sox were on the brink of the title. Still, many Colorado fans felt that after 2004, anything was possible.

For the hopeful clincher, Boston asked Jon Lester to pitch. For Lester, it was an emotional road back, having come back from lymphoma earlier in the year. In the top of the first, Ellsbury started the rally, doubling before Big Papi drove him in with a single. Colorado pitcher Aaron Cook hung in as long as he could, before Mike Lowell’s heads-up baserunning made it 2-0 in the fifth on Varitek’s single. Lester would go 5.2 shutout innings, completing his own personal comeback.

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(Mike Lowell scores the second run in Game 4. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

In the seventh inning, Lowell continued his tear, hitting a solo home run to force Aaron Cook from the game. That made it 3-0 Boston with nine outs to go. Brad Hawpe hit a home run to get Colorado on the board.

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(Mike Lowell homered in the seventh inning of Game 4. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

(Video footage of Lowell’s home run. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

In the eighth inning, pinch hitter Bobby Kielty led off and came through with a home run of his own to make it 4-1 Red Sox. It would prove to be the Series-winning run, as Garrett Atkins hit a two-run shot off Okajima to make it 4-3 with one out in the eighth. Papelbon came in and escaped the eighth with no further damage.

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(Bobby Kielty celebrates his home run in the eighth inning. Photo courtesy of http://www.zimbio.com

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(Garrett Atkins homers to get the Rockies to within a run. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.)

It would come down to the bottom of the order in the last of the ninth. Catcher Yorvit Torrealba grounded out to Pedroia at second. Then on an 0-2 pitch, Jamey Carroll smacked a fly ball to deep left field. It looked like it might tie the game. But at the warning track, Jacoby Ellsbury ran it down. The Red Sox were one out away again. It would be up to pinch hitter Seth Smith. Smith worked the count to 2-2. Papelbon threw a fastball. Series over! The Red Sox had won their second title in four years.

(Jonathan Papelbon strikes out Seth Smith, giving the Red Sox the championship. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

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(The Red Sox celebrate the World Series championship in 2007. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

Fun Facts 
Terry Francona became the first manager to win his first eight World Series game. As of 2015, he has not lost a World Series game.

This was the second Red Sox championship in four years, their seventh overall, and Colorado’s only pennant to date.

Mike Timlin is the first non-Yankee to win three or more titles in the Division Series era. He won two with Toronto in 1992 and 1993, and two more with Boston.

Boston set a World Series record with 18 doubles.

Red Sox rookies Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia set several records in Game 3: they each had three hits (Ellsbury had four); they were the first rookies to bat 1-2 in the lineup in the World Series, driving in four runs and three runs combined.

Hideki Okajima was the first Japanese pitcher in the World Series in Game 2. In Game 3, Daisuke Matsuzaka became the first Japanese pitcher to start and win a World Series game.

Colorado’s Internet servers were believed to have been breached for their World Series ticket sales; it got so serious that the FBI had to get involved.

Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon started a slightly dubious tradition: in each clinching win, he would do his own interpretation of Michael Flatley’s Riverdance.

Terry Francona joined Bill Carrigan as the only Red Sox manager to win multiple World Series.

The Rockies became the second team to be swept in a World Series after sweeping the LCS, and the first in the National League. The first was Oakland in 1990.

In a strange coincidence, Willy Taveras batted lead off in two World Series – 2005 with Houston and 2007 with Colorado. Both times, his team was swept.

In their final seven games, the Red Sox outscored their opposition 59-15.

Game 1 is the largest margin of victory is the highest in World Series history. The Red Sox set a Game 1 record for runs (13), getting the final eleven with two outs, and tied a record with nine extra-base hits.

Ryan Spilborghs of the Rockies is one of the few players of Belgian descent to play in the World Series.

During Game 4, a controversial announcement was made: Alex Rodriguez announced through his new agent Scott Boras that he would opt out of his contract. While he re-signed, it was considered uncouth to do it during the Series, and he also had not notified New York GM Brian Cashman yet when he did so. The Yankees also insisted that Boras not be present during negotiations.

Game 3 was the 600th game in World Series history.

Final Thoughts
After over a year of investigation, a groundbreaking report came out in December. The Mitchell Report, baseball’s investigation into steroids and other illegal drugs, would be published. Within several months, no-names and superstars alike were named. Among them were Barry Bonds, and one notable big name nobody had ever considered before: Roger Clemens. Over the next few years, he’d try to salvage his reputation. But the argument was clear: was anybody clean anymore?

References and Sources 
Baseball Almanac
Baseball Reference
Wikipedia
Getty Images
YouTube
ESPN.
http://www.zimbio.com
http://www.mlb.com
http://www.sportslogos.net
http://www.cleveland.com
http://www.boston.cbslocal.com
The Tenth Inning (Ken Burns)
2007 World Series Film (MLB Productions)
Boston Globe.
Boston Herald
.
New York Times. 
New York Daily News.
Sports Illustrated.
The Complete World Series (Eric Enders)
The Rocket That Fell to Earth (Jeff Pearlman)
God Save the Fan! (Will Leitch)
The Yankee Years (Joe Torre, Tom Verducci)
Francona: The Red Sox Years (Terry Francona, Dan Shaughnessy)
Red Sox Rule: Terry Francona and Boston’s Rise to Dominance (Michael Holley)
The Baseball Hall of Shame: The Best of Blooperstown (Bruce Nash, Allan Zullo)
The Baseball Codes (Jason Turbow, Michael Duca)
The Ultimate Book of Sports Jerks (Michael Freeman)
The Underground Baseball Encyclopedia (Robert Schnakenberg)

2018 FIFA World Cup: Qualification updates

Who would qualify as of today (October 17, 2016).

UEFA (9+1) 
Russia (host)
France (Group A)
Switzerland (Group B)
Germany (Group C)
Serbia (Group D)
Montenegro (Group E)
England (Group F)
Spain (Group G)
Belgium (Group H)
Croatia (Group I)

Advancing to playoffs 
Sweden (Group A)
Portugal (Group B)
Azerbaijan (Group C)
Republic of Ireland (Group D)
Poland (Group E)
Italy (Group G)
Greece (Group H)
Iceland (Group I)

Eliminated: Lithuania (Group F)

AFC (4+1) 
Iran (Group A)
Uzbekistan (Group A)
Saudi Arabia (Group B)
Australia (Group B)

Advancing to fifth place game
South Korea (Group A)
Japan (Group B)

CAF (5)
DR Congo (Group A)
Nigeria (Group B)
Ivory Coast (Group C)
Senegal (Group D)
Egypt (Group E)

CONCACAF (3+1) 
Final Round
United States
Panama
Honduras
Costa Rica
Mexico
Trinidad and Tobago

CONMEBOL (4+1) 
Brazil
Uruguay
Ecuador
Colombia

Advancing to playoffs
Argentina

OFC (0+1) 
Begins in November

Final group 
Group A
Fiji
New Caledonia
New Zealand

Group B
Papua New Guinea
Solomon Islands
Tahiti

Inter-confederation playoffs
5th place AFC vs. 4th place CONCACAF
OFC Winner vs. 5th place CONMEBOL

Predicted early playoffs (with same teams) 
Italy vs. Poland
Iceland vs. Republic of Ireland
Greece vs. Portugal
Sweden vs. Azerbaijan

South Korea vs. Japan

Costa Rica vs. AFC 5th place
OFC Winner vs. Argentina

2006 World Series: Tenfold

The 2006 World Series was the one hundred fourth year overall, and one hundred second played, of the modern World Series that began in 1903. After 24 years, the St. Louis Cardinals won their first title. But this is remembered for being the worst team by record to win the World Series to date, so their tenth title overall is remembered for strange reasons.

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(The 2006 World Series logo. Photo courtesy of http://www.sportslogos.net

2006 World Series 
St. Louis Cardinals (NL) over Detroit Tigers (AL), 4-1 

Managers: Tony La Russa (St. Louis); Jim Leyland (Detroit) 

Hall of Famers 
St. Louis: Tony La Russa (manager) 
Detroit: Ivan Rodriguez  

Series MVP: David Eckstein, 2B (St. Louis) 

Analysis 
2006 is most remembered for one moment in sports, and it took place in Germany in July. During the World Cup final between France and Spain, French midfielder Zinedine Zidane shocked the world and his teammates by headbutting Italian midfielder Marco Materazzi. Having previously scored on a penalty in the game, the 34-year-old Zidane was in his final match, club or international. He was red carded and Italy and France tied 1-1, with Italy winning 5-3 on penalties for their fourth championship. Many believed that the pain left over from Zidane’s childhood in the slums of Marseille played a factor. In his book Soccer Men, author Simon Kuper recalls many of the black and Muslim players refusing to cheer their captain for carrying France; as his argument goes, France hadn’t returned the favor. Perhaps because of this, the video site YouTube was founded. (Many thanks for allowing me to use videos.) I graduated high school, had my first serious girlfriend, and started college at Indiana University. Martin Scorsese would finally win his Oscar for directing The Departed.

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(The infamous Zidane headbutt on Materazzi. Photo courtesy of CBS Sports.)

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(The poster for The Departed, one of my top five movies. Photo courtesy of IMDb.)

On the diamond, baseball’s version of the World Cup, the World Baseball Classic, debuted. Led by national legend Sadaharu Oh, Japan took the first title by beating Cuba in the final. Future Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka would be on the team.

Before the season started, commissioner Bud Selig would ask former Senator and U.S. Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell to investigate the issues of steroids and other PEDs. One year later, the Mitchell Report would be released, to damning results. Later that year, pitcher Jason Grimsley would be suspended for using human growth hormone (HGH).

Several stars set records. Barry Bonds passed Barry Bonds for second on the all-time list when he hit number 715 off of Byung-Hyun Kim. Only Hank Aaron stood between him and immortality.

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(Barry Bonds hits his 715th home run to pass Babe Ruth for second on the all-time list. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling and Mets pitcher Pedro Martinez each won their 200th game, and Kenny Rogers joined on June 18. Schilling and Martinez also joined the 3,000 strikeout club that year.  New state legislature gave the Minnesota Twins a new stadium to open in 2010. Under the lease, the team could not be folded by Major League Baseball or relocated until 2040 at the earliest.

Later in the year, longtime pitcher Greg Maddux would be traded by the rebuilding Cubs to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Cubs would finish last and fire Dusty Baker.

The big story took place in the NL East. For the first time since 1990, the Atlanta Braves would fail to make the playoffs. A 6-21 June spelled doom, and their record of 14 division title was snapped. The champions in the NL East resided in Queens, as the Mets won their first division title since 1988. Elsewhere in New York, the Yankees continue their run. The Red Sox would fail to make the playoffs, after New York swept them in a rare five-game series at Fenway Park (several rainouts had forced this to happen). They had also lured away Red Sox star Johnny Damon to the Bronx. It also didn’t hurt that one team had a triumphant return to the playoffs. Although a late collapse handed the division to the Twins, the Detroit Tigers would clinch the wild card, their first playoff appearance since 1987.

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(Detroit celebrates after clinching a playoff berth for the first time since 1987. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

After a two-year hiatus, the Oakland Athletics won the West to return to the playoffs. The Dodgers clinched the Wild Card, and in the NL West, the San Diego Padres took their second straight division title. In September, closer Trevor Hoffman broke Lee Smith’s career saves record, reaching the magic number of 479.

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(Padres closer Trevor Hoffman in action. He would set the record with 479 saves in a career. Photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated.)

Hoffman also was the unlucky recipient of an unwanted record. Trailing by four runs in a game on September 18, the Dodgers rallied for four straight home runs to tie the game. Later in the game, former Red Sox star Nomar Garciaparra won the game with another home run, 11-10.

(The Dodgers rally in the ninth with four straight home runs on September 18. Video courtesy of YouTube.)

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(Nomar Garciaparra’s walk-off home run won that game for the Dodgers. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.)

Facing the Padres in the NLDS for the second straight year would be the St. Louis Cardinals, who won their third straight Central Division title. This time, however, it wasn’t easy, finishing at 83-78, the only team with a winning record in the division. San Diego came in as the heavy favorites.

Opening in San Diego in Game 1, the first game saw a rematch of Chris Carpenter against Jake Peavy. Scoreless into the fourth inning, Chris Duncan singled, followed by another spectacular Albert Pujols home run. St. Louis scored a third run later in the inning.

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(Albert Pujols homers in Game 1 of the 2006 NLDS against the Padres. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

The Cardinals got single runs in each of the next two innings, and San Diego only got one run in the sixth. St. Louis won 5-1 to steal home field advantage. In Game 2, maligned pitcher Jeff Weaver shocked San Diego by winning 2-0. Both runs scored in the fourth inning. Preston Wilson doubled, Albert Pujols singled, and later scored on a single by Jim Edmonds. The Cardinals were headed home in the driver’s seat.

But in Game 3, San Diego finally got their first win against the Cardinals in the postseason. Russell Branyan started a three-run rally and survived a home run from So Taguchi to win 3-1. Hoffman got the save to keep San Diego alive. They haven’t won a playoff game since.

The underdog Cardinals won the series in the fourth game. Despite two first inning runs, San Diego wouldn’t score again after that. St. Louis rallied for two of their own in the first, and a four-run sixth inning ended the scoring, the Cardinals winning 6-2 to advance.

Many figured that the Mets and Yankees would have another Subway Series, especially since both teams led their leagues in wins. It looked like New York would do that, as they opened against Los Angeles. Former Yankee Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez was supposed to start Game 1 for the Mets, but a pulled muscle sidelined him for the rest of the playoffs. Although he wouldn’t pitch long enough to earn the win, rookie John Maine allowed only one run in 4.1 innings. In the second inning, a play rarely seen occurred. The Dodgers had runners at first and second with none out. Russell Martin drove a ball off the wall, with Jeff Kent tagging up in case former Dodger Shawn Green caught the ball. The ball went over Green’s head, and both Kent and J.D. Drew went for the plate. The throw came into catcher Paul Lo Duca at home plate, himself a former Dodger. Kent dove in, trying to score. Out! Right behind him, Drew made a desperate dive for the plate. Out again! A most unusual double play cost the Dodgers two runs, although the Dodgers scored later in the inning. But the heads-up play by Lo Duca prevented it from being worse.

(Paul Lo Duca tags out two Dodgers at home plate. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

Those two missed runs would come back to haunt the Dodgers, as they’d lose 6-5 after putting closer Billy Wagner in trouble in the ninth. Future Hall of Famer Tom Glavine won the second game at Shea Stadium, 4-1. At Dodger Stadium for Game 3, the Mets completed the sweep with a 9-5 win. It would be a rematch of the 2000 NLCS.

A rain day allowed a fresh Tom Glavine to pitch Game 1 for the Mets. He helped the Mets to a 2-0 Game 1 victory, with former Astros postseason hero Carlos Beltran hitting a home run. After the first game, Albert Pujols riled the Mets up by saying Glavine was off his game. Although Glavine didn’t respond, others denounced Pujols, including his own manager Tony La Russa.

St. Louis showed their resilience in Game 2. Carlos Delgado’s three-run homer in the first inning started the scoring. After three innings, the Cardinals were able to tie it at 4-4. The Mets got single runs in the fifth and sixth innings, taking a 6-4 lead. But in the top of the seventh, another postseason hero – Scott Spiezio – tripled to tie the game. The score remained tied 6-6 in the top of the ninth. With lefty Billy Wagner on the mound, La Russa pinch hit lefty hitter Chris Duncan with Japanese star So Taguchi. The move paid off as Taguchi led off the inning with a home run, and two more runs in the inning helped the Cardinals even the series, 9-6.

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(So Taguchi wins Game 2 of the NLCS for the Cardinals with a home run. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

Moving to St. Louis for the next three games, the Cardinals won Game 3 5-0 behind Series MVP Jeff Suppan, who helped his own case with a home run of his own.

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(Pitcher Jeff Suppan rounds third after homering in Game 3. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

The Mets tied the NLCS 12-5 in Game 4, sparked by a six-run sixth inning that sparked mid-season acquisition Oliver Perez to victory. Seven home runs were hit, tying an NLCS record.

In Game 5, part of Pujols’ prediction was proved true, as Weaver beat Glavine, 4-2, to give the Cardinals a 3-2 NLCS lead heading back to Queens. Pujols responded with a home run of his own. New York had to win both games to win the pennant.

Back at Shea in Game 6, Jose Reyes led off the first inning with a home run off Chris Carpenter. It sparked the Mets to a 4-2 win to force a seventh game.

(Jose Reyes homers to ignite the Mets in Game 6. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

Game 7 remains one of the most exciting in postseason history. A David Wright single drove in Carlos Beltran to give the Mets a 1-0 lead against Jeff Suppan. In the top of the second, a squeeze bunt from Ronnie Belliard tied the game. Oliver Perez made a big pitch in the fifth to retire Pujols. With one out in the sixth, and a man on first, Scott Rolen came up to bat. He swung and hit a deep fly ball to left field, with outfielder Endy Chavez giving chase. He leaped up for the ball. Caught! Chavez pulled back a home run with one of the greatest catches in postseason history. He threw the ball back in to double off Edmonds for an inning-ending double play. Following this, Chavez did two curtain calls for the Mets faithful.

(Broadcaster Gary Cohen calls the catch made by Endy Chavez. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

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(Endy Chavez makes the catch – and the advertising behind him seems only appropriate. Photo courtesy of New York Times.) 

In the bottom of the sixth, the Mets loaded the bases with one out. Jose Valentin and Chavez couldn’t come through, however, and the score remained tied. It remained that way through the seventh and eighth.

In the top of the ninth, Aaron Heilman was on the mound for the Mets. With Scott Rolen on and one out, catcher Yadier Molina came up. On the first pitch, he hit a fly ball to left field. Again, Chavez went back. This time, though, there was no chance. It was gone, and St. Louis led 3-1 with three outs to go.

(Yadier Molina homers to give the Cardinals the lead. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

The Cardinals sent rookie Adam Wainwright to close it out. Valentin and Chavez singled. Wainwright got two outs, then walked Lo Duca to load the bases. It would be up to Carlos Beltran, perhaps the greatest “Cardinal killer” of them all over the past few years. Wainwright got ahead of him 0-2. Wainwright came slightly outside with a curveball. Strike three! Beltran was finally subdued by the Cardinals, and they had won their second pennant in three years. This time, they’d go in as underdogs. For the Mets, it was the final playoff game at Shea Stadium.

(Adam Wainwright strikes out Carlos Beltran to win the 2006 NL pennant. Video courtesy of YouTube.)

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(Yadier Molina celebrates the Cardinals winning the pennant. Photo courtesy of ESPN.) 

In the AL playoffs, the Yankees dispatched the Tigers in the first game of the ALDS. Taiwanese pitcher Chien-Ming Wang sparked the Yankees to an 8-4 win the the opener, with five Yankees runs in the third being the difference. In Game 2, new acquisition Johnny Damon homered to give the Yankees a 3-1 lead in the fourth. It would be the final lead in the series. After Rookie of the Year Justin Verlander sputtered for Detroit, Curtis Granderson capped a rally with a triple in the seventh off Mike Mussina. The Tigers held on to win 4-3 and even the Series.

Comerica Park in Detroit hosted its first playoff game in Game 3. Kenny Rogers, who had been inconsistent in the postseason, pitched 7.2 shutout innings, beating Randy Johnson 6-0 in what would be the Big Unit’s final playoff appearance. The Tigers upset the Yankees 8-3 in Game 4, winning their first playoff series since 1984. Further tragedy awaited the Yankees in between rounds. Pitcher Cory Lidle had pitched two innings, allowing two runs. Four days later, he crashed a small plane he was learning to fly into an apartment, killing both Lidle and his flight instructor, Tyler Stanger.

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(The building where Cory Lidle crashed his plane. Only two casualties were suffered – Lidle and his teacher. Photo courtesy of http://www.airsafe.com

In the other ALDS, the A’s won their first playoff series since 1990, and their only one in the Billy Beane era to date. Minnesota hasn’t won a postseason game since 2004. It would be a rematch of the ALCS in 1972.

Despite Oakland having home field advantage, Detroit won the first two games on the road, 5-1 and 8-5 respectively. Justin Verlander picked up his first postseason victory in Game 2. In Game 3 in Detroit, Rogers continued his comeback trail with a 3-0 victory, putting the Tigers one game from the pennant. Defensive replacement Mark Kiger came in for Oakland, the first player ever to make his Major League debut in the postseason.

In Game 4, Oakland took an early 3-0 lead through four innings. But two runs in the fifth and one in the sixth helped Detroit tie the game. It stayed tied in the bottom of the ninth. Closer Huston Street got two quick outs. But then two straight singles brought up Magglio Ordóñez. On Street’s 1-0 pitch, Ordóñez lifted a fly ball to left field. Walk-off pennant winning home run! The blast lifted Detroit to a 6-3 win and a four-game sweep to the pennant. As the saying went, “Tigers roar in four!” It was their first pennant in 22 years.

(The Detroit Tigers win the AL pennant. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

It would be the third meeting between the two teams, the first in 1934 and the next in 1968. The Tigers came in as heavy favorites. In Game 2, rookies Anthony Reyes and Justin Verlander faced off. Detroit used a double and a single to take the lead in the bottom of the first inning. But St. Louis tied the game on a Scott Rolen home run. He more than atoned for his 0-15 performance in 2004. In the top of the third, Chris Duncan drove in Yadier Molina to give St. Louis a 2-1 lead. With Verlander on the mound, they opted not to intentionally walk Albert Pujols. It would be a mistake, as Pujols homered to right to make it 4-1 St. Louis. It was his first World Series home run.

(Albert Pujols hits his first World Series home run. Video courtesy of YouTube.)

Reyes was nothing like the rookie that he was. He retired seventeen in a row at one point, and the Cardinals helped his cause. In the sixth, Pujols led off with a walk. In what would set a trend for Tigers pitcher, Pujols should have been picked off first, but Verlander’s throwing error sent him to third. Jim Edmonds singled to make it 5-1. Rolen followed with a ground-rule double, removing Verlander from the game. With Juan Encarnacion at bat, he grounded to third baseman Brandon Inge. Edmonds came to the plate and Inge threw home, but it got past Ivan Rodriguez for an error. That made it 6-1. He tried to take the return throw, but got in Scott Rolen’s way for another error on an obstruction call, and a second error was called on one play. Rolen scored automatically and it was 7-1. The Tigers got a home run from Craig Monroe in the ninth, but that was it. The underdog Cardinals took the first game, 7-2.

Kenny Rogers was suddenly Detroit’s big-game pitcher. He set down the Cardinals in order in the first, with game time temperature at 44 degrees. But soon it was discovered that Rogers had a strange substance on his hand. Many believed it was pine tar, which would explain his sudden success. The umpires talked to him, and Rogers washed it off to avoid further controversy.

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(If you look closely, you can see that Kenny Rogers apparently has pine tar on his pitching hand. Photo courtesy of New York Times.) 

Whether or not Rogers was cheating, it didn’t matter, as he allowed only two hits in eight shutout innings. The Tigers offense helped him out as Craig Monroe hit his second home run, and Carlos Guillen finished a home run away from hitting for the cycle. With a 3-0 lead in the ninth, closer Todd Jones came in to save it for Detroit. Suddenly, he ran into trouble. St. Louis got a run and had the bases loaded before a fielder’s choice ended the game. The series was tied at one game apiece.

The next three games moved to St. Louis. After missing the 2004 Series due to injury, Chris Carpenter was brilliant in Game 3 for St. Louis, pitching eight innings of shutout ball. Another Tiger pitcher fielding error – on a force out from reliever Joel Zumaya – and a wild pitch helped the Cardinals’ cause, and they won 5-0.

Rain pushed back Game 4 by one day. Sean Casey’s home run helped stake the Tigers to a 3-0 lead in the third inning. The Cardinals got a run of their own in the third, thanks to David Eckstein driving in Aaron Miles. A Yadier Molina double made it 3-2 in the fourth. In the seventh, Eckstein drove a fly ball to center field. Curtis Granderson slipped, and it went over his head for a leadoff double.

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(Curtis Granderson slips, opening the floodgates for St. Louis in Game 4. Photo courtesy of CBS Sports.) 

One batter later, So Taguchi laid down a sacrifice bunt to pitcher Fernando Rodney. The throw sailed over Casey’s head, scoring Eckstein and tying the game. For the fourth straight game, a Tigers pitcher committed an error.

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(Fernando Rodney throws away So Taguchi’s bunt in the seventh inning. Photo courtesy of Game 4. Photo courtesy of San Francisco Chronicle.) 

Later in the inning, the Cardinals took the lead when Preston Wilson singled in Taguchi. This time, the Tigers rallied to tie the game when Brandon Inge drove in Ivan Rodriguez. But in the bottom of the eighth, the Cardinals took the lead again when David Eckstein doubled in Aaron Miles to score the winning run. Shockingly, the Cardinals were one win away from the title.

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(David Eckstein drives in the winning run in Game 4. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

The rains continued in Game 5, but there would be no delays this time. Justin Verlander was trying to save Detroit, but he was sloppy in the first, allowing three walks and two wild pitches. Only a great play by Carlos Guillen saved a run from scoring. In the second, Eckstein’s infield single scored Molina to give the Cardinals a 1-0 lead.

Former Tiger Jeff Weaver was trying to show his old team they made a mistake by passing on him, and he pitched well. But his defense almost let him down. In the fourth inning, Ordonez lofted a pop fly to center field. Chris Duncan dropped the ball after Jim Edmonds almost ran into him, sending Magglio to second. Sean Casey followed with his second home run, and the Tigers led 2-1. But with one out, the Cardinals put runners on first and second. Weaver tried to bunt the runners over, and Verlander fielded it. But one last time, the fifth time in five games, a Tigers pitcher made a crucial error, threw wild to third, tying the game and sending the runner to third. Eckstein grounded out to give the Cardinals the lead, what would prove to be the Series-winning run. Later in the seventh inning, Eckstein scored on a single by Edmonds, the much-needed insurance run they got. Jeff Weaver went eight innings, avenging his former team. In the ninth, Adam Wainwright came in to pitch. With one out, Sean Casey doubled to bring the tying run to the plate. After getting ahead 2-0, Pudge Rodriguez grounded back to Wainwright. One out to go. Wainwright got ahead 1-2 on ALCS MVP Placido Polanco, but Polanco fought back to work a walk, putting the tying run on base. It would be up to Brandon Inge. He fell behind 0-2. Wainwright tried a slider. Inge swung through it, and the Cardinals had won their tenth World Series championships, tops in the National League as of 2015.

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(The victorious Cardinals, about to mob closer Adam Wainwright. Photo courtesy of The Sporting News.) 

Fun Facts
The Cardinals became the worst team by record (83-78) to win the World Series. Many people thought the Tigers would sweep, but the tables were turned.

Game 1 was the first time in World Series history that two rookies started against each other. Winning pitcher Anthony Reyes also set a record for fewest wins of any Game 1 starter in World Series history (five).

This was the Cardinals’ first title since 1982, and their tenth overall. They became the second team to win ten World Series, and remain second to the Yankees, who have 27 as of 2015.

Preston Wilson is the stepson of former Mets hero Mookie Wilson.

For the first time, a pitcher made an error in every game. In every game, Detroit had a pitcher that made at least one error.

David Eckstein became the first National League second baseman to win MVP honors for the series.

Tony La Russa became the second manager to win the World Series in each league. (His counterpart, Jim Leyland, also could have done it had he won.) The first to do it was Sparky Anderson, who ironically managed Detroit to their most recent title in 1984.

For the third straight year, both teams came into the Series with a drought of at least 20 years.

This was the fifth straight World Series to feature a Wild Card team.

The rainout in Game 4 was the first since Game 1 in 1996.

Adam Wainwright was usually a starter but was forced into the closer’s role after Jason Isringhausen went down with shoulder surgery.

The Cardinals would be the last Series winner to have a losing record the following year until 2013.

Cardinals outfielder Chris Duncan’s father Dave served as pitching coach for the Cardinals.

For the first time in a non-strike season, no pitcher in either league won twenty games. The NL had four pitchers win sixteen.

Tigers reliever Joel Zumaya once hurt his pitching arm after playing the video game Guitar Hero too aggressively.

Final Thoughts
The Cardinals may have been the “worst” champions ever, but the numbers didn’t lie. When the odds were stacked against them, St. Louis had a winner again.

References and Sources 
Baseball Almanac
Baseball Reference
Wikipedia
Getty Images
YouTube.
CBS Sports.
IMDb.
The Sporting News. 
The New York Times. 
San Francisco Chronicle. 
Sports Illustrated.
http://www.worldseries.com
http://www.airsafe.com
http://www.mlb.com
http://www.baseballhall.org
The Tenth Inning (Ken Burns)
The Complete World Series (Eric Enders)
The Complete World Cup Companion (David Bennett, Roger Hirshey).
Soccer Men (Simon Kuper)
Tout seul (Raymond Domenech)
Diehard Cards: 2006 World Series Champions (Doug Hoepker)
God Save the Fan! (Will Leitch)
Are We Winning?: Fathers and Sons in the New Golden Age of Baseball (Will Leitch)
The Baseball Hall of Shame: The Best of Blooperstown (Bruce Nash, Allan Zullo)
The Underground Baseball Encyclopedia (Robert Schnakenberg)
The Baseball Codes (Jason Turbow, Michael Duca)

2005 World Series: The Dye is cast

The 2005 World Series was the one hundred third year overall, and one hundred first played, of the modern World Series which began in 1903. Fresh off of a Boston Red Sox title, the other team known as the Sox, much maligned even in their home town – and with a longer title drought than Boston’s – followed their lead and took home their first title since 1917. Drought breaking seemed to be the name of the game over the next few years.

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(The 2005 World Series logo. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.)

2005 World Series 
Chicago White Sox (AL) over Houston Astros (NL), 4-0 

Managers: Ozzie Guillen (Chicago), Phil Garner (Houston) 

Hall of Famers* 
Chicago: Frank Thomas (dnp) 
Houston: Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio 

* as of 2016 

Series MVP: Jermaine Dye, OF (Chicago) 

Analysis 
From here on out, I’m going to focus less on the historical events, because I feel like they need more time to develop. I know that’s a cop out. But this is a baseball-themed blog anyway, so again, you’ll forgive me. The biggest event came in August, when New Orleans was rocked by Hurricane Katrina, perhaps the deadliest American hurricane to date.

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(Floodwaters drench New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Photo courtesy of CNBC.) 

After a winter of denial, the Yankees were determined to avenge their loss. They acquired lefty Randy Johnson, the “Big Unit,” in a trade with Arizona. Two years later, he’d be back with them, a band-aid on what would later be revealed to be a larger wound than anticipated. The Red Sox took one of the Yankees’ own – former left-handed pitcher David Wells – and also acquired Edgar Renteria. As it turned out, no real progress was made from either side – they either were busts or didn’t stick around long enough. Worse for Boston, heroes Dave Roberts, Derek Lowe, Orlando Cabrera, and Pedro Martinez were gone to other teams. Later in the season, Curt Schilling would be forced into the closer’s role after Keith Foulke proved ineffective. It may have cost him several wins and perhaps hurt his Hall of Fame chances.

Before the season, many of the game’s stars, retired or active, were called in front of Congress for questioning about the use of steroids. Because there was a five-year statute of limitations, many players either took the fifth or refused to answer. Others, like Curt Schilling, were used to decry the use. The most emphatic member was Baltimore Oriole Rafael Palmeiro, who defiantly waved his finger toward the questioners and stated, “I have never used steroids. Period.” That statement would gain him much notoriety later on in the season.

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(Rafael Palmeiro emphatically denies ever taking steroids in front of Congress. Photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated.) 

The old combatants opened the season with three against each other at Yankee Stadium, with a rematch scheduled for several days later. It was there that the Yankees were forced to watch as the “2004 World Series Champions” banner was unfurled over the Green Monster. The Yankees took the high ground and applauded from the visitors’ dugout. During the first month of the season, Mariano Rivera would blow two more saves against Boston. This rivalry showed no immediate signs of slowing down. Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz would battle for the MVP award, with Rodriguez winning in the end. Nevertheless, Ortiz had arguably his best season, hitting 54 home runs.

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(Boston Red Sox players receive their championship rings as the banner hangs in the background. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

In the AL West, the Angels – who switched their “first” name from Anaheim to Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim – won their second consecutive division title. Pitcher Bartolo Colon won 21 games to win the AL Cy Young Award, and many of their own lineup came back. Many gave them a good shot. But hands down, the best team that year resided in the Windy City.

For the first time in over 40 years, the White Sox were seen as legitimate pennant contenders. Second-year manager Ozzie Guillen, a longtime shortstop with the club, had them firing on all cylinders, led by first baseman Paul Konerko; pitchers Mark Buehrle, Jose Contreras (acquired from the Yankees), and Jon Garland, who led the staff with 18 wins; and catcher A.J. Pierzynski. They were the only team to go wire-to-wire in the season, going 17-7 in the first month of the season, and winning eight of their last ten.

For the first half of the season, both the Red Sox and Yankees lagged behind the Baltimore Orioles. Throughout their first 50 games, they had the best record in baseball, 31-19. On July 15, with the Orioles beginning to fade a little bit, Palmeiro reached the 3,000 hit plateau, becoming only the fourth member to also hit 500 home runs, along with Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and Eddie Murray. Many felt his Cooperstown ticket was punched.

(Rafael Palmeiro reaches 3,000 hits. Video courtesy of YouTube.)

But soon after, one of history’s biggest rises and falls would be completed. Just over two weeks later, on August 1, Palmeiro was suspended for ten days after testing positive for a PED, stanozolol. Despite repeated denials, Palmeiro went from hero to goat in the blink of an eye. Attempting to do damage control, he elaborated on his previous statement: “I have never intentionally used steroids.” He later claimed that a tainted vitamin B-12 supplement from Miguel Tejada was the reason for his test. But Palmeiro was never the same, and neither were the Orioles. Even with Sammy Sosa in the lineup as well, they completely collapsed after the All-Star Break, finishing fourth at 74-88.

In the NL, Tony La Russa led the Cardinals to their second straight 100-win season, led by Chris Carpenter’s Cy Young season and Albert Pujols winning MVP. In the NL East, the Braves won their fourteenth straight division one, and their last title until 2013. John Smoltz came back to the rotation to help the Braves. The East saw every team, including the newly minted Washington Nationals, finish at .500 in the division. (The Nationals, in last place, were 81-81, only the second time in history that a last place team finished at .500.) The West Division champion San Diego Padres, by contrast, were 82-80, the worst team by record to make the playoffs in baseball history.

As it turned out, if you include the playoffs, the Padres were the worst playoff team in MLB to have a losing record when the season was over. The Cardinals pulled off an easy sweep and looked to be knocking on the door again. The Astros took the Wild Card for the second consecutive year, beating the resurgent Phillies by one game (who also were only two back of Atlanta). In a rematch with Atlanta, the teams split the first two in Atlanta, 10-5, and 7-1, the latter being John Smoltz’s final playoff win. Moving to Houston, the Astros took the third game. So far, the games had been ho-hum. But Game 4 was a classic, in the same vein as Houston as the 1986 NLCS Game 6. Looking to save the season, the Braves sent Tim Hudson to the mound, and the Braves looked to do just that by taking a 6-1 lead into the eighth inning. But then the Astros bats woke up. Lance Berkman brought the Astros to within a run with a grand slam in the bottom of the eighth. Then, down to their last out, good field, no hit catcher Brad Ausmus rocked a home run to tie the game at 6, the ball clearing the wall by just over an inch. The Braves bullpen had blown it again.

(Brad Ausmus’ home run tied Game 4 in the bottom of the ninth. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

The game would set a record for both innings and time, which would stand until 2014. Roger Clemens, the hard-luck loser in Game 2, came out of the bullpen as the last pitcher available for Houston. He pitched three innings, and in the bottom of the eighteenth innings (yes, 18 innings), Chris Burke came up against Joey Devine. Burke sent everybody home – and the Astros into the NLCS – with a walk-off home run. Many consider it the best game in the LDS since it was implemented.

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(Chris Burke is mobbed by teammates after winning the NLDS in 18 innings. Photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated.) 

Heading into the final week of the season, Boston looked to be out of the playoffs entirely. In the final weekend of the season, the White Sox led by three games over the Cleveland Indians. If Cleveland swept the series, they would tie Chicago for the division lead and probably win the wild card. But just like in 1959, the White Sox did it to the Tribe again, winning all three games by a combined total of five runs. Boston won seven of its last ten, including Curt Schilling getting a 10-1 win over the Yankees in Fenway to get them into the playoffs, and eliminate Cleveland on the last day of the season. Three games up with eight to go, Cleveland lost six of eight to eliminate themselves. Boston was in by the skin of their teeth and would have a chance to defend their title.

It probably took too much out of them. Opening against the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, the Pale Hose beat the defending champions with a romping 14-2 victories. A.J. Pierzynski had two home runs and Chicago had five for the day. Game 2 saw Boston take a 4-0 lead into the fifth, but a rally and an error at third base by Tony Graffanino opened the floodgates. Tadahito Iguchi hit a three-run home run to give the White Sox a 5-4 lead, which they never relinquished. Closer Bobby Jenks came in in the eighth and closed Boston down.

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(Tony Graffanino makes a clutch error to help the White Sox come back. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

(Iguchi’s home run won the game for the Pale Hose. Video courtesy of YouTube.)

The final game would also belong to Chicago, 5-3. Freddy Garcia beat Tim Wakefield, and the White Sox had their first postseason series win since 1917. Boston’s title defense turned sour in a hurry. New York probably would earn bragging rights that year, or so they thought.

The Angels and Yankees faced off in the other ALDS, with New York winning the opener 4-2. All four New York runs came in the first two innings. Los Angeles won the next game to even it at 1-1. Moving to the Bronx, the teams split the next two, before the Angels knocked out the Yankees for the second time in four years with a 5-3 victory in the decisive Game 5. Neither Boston nor New York would play in the ALCS, and new bragging rights would be won that year.

The ALCS opened in Chicago on October 11. All the scoring was done by the fourth innings, with the Angels earning a 3-2 victory in Game 1. It would be Chicago’s only loss that postseason. Jose Contreras still pitched well for the White Sox, going 8.1 innings. The other two-thirds of an inning pitched by Neal Cotts in Game 1 were the only ones pitched by a White Sox reliever all series.

Game 2 remains controversial to many Angels fans. A senator from Illinois threw out the ceremonial first pitch. His name was Barack Obama. Mark Buehrle was staked to a first-inning lead without a hit; Scott Podsednik reached on an error, moved to third on a sac bunt, and Jermaine Dye drove him in with a groundout. In the fifth inning, Rob Quinlan tied the game with a solo home run. The game stayed tied into the ninth. Buehrle pitched a complete game for the Sox, and then the moment occurred. Closer Kelvim Escobar got two quick outs. Up came catcher A.J. Pierzynski. With two strikes on him, Pierzynski supposedly swung and missed for strike three. It should have been heading to extra innings. Home plate umpire Doug Eddings made no indication that catcher Josh Paul hadn’t caught the ball. Paul began rolling the ball to the mound…and Pierzynski ran to first base unopposed. He reached first and Angels manager Mike Scioscia came out to protest. In one of the most controversial calls in baseball history, Eddings ruled that the ball was trapped, not caught. But because he hadn’t made any indication (for example saying “No catch”), the Angels were caught between a rock and a hard place. Ultimately, the ball was ruled to have been bounced. No catch. Safe at first.

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(As catcher Josh Paul rolls the ball back to the mound, A.J. Pierzynski heads to first. Photo courtesy of http://www.vesphoto.net)

(A full video of the incident. Video courtesy of YouTube.)

Because of Pierzynski’s speed, or lack thereof, Pablo Ozuna came in to pinch run and stole second base. Then third baseman Joe Crede followed with a single. The White Sox won, 2-1. It can’t be said for sure whether the Angels fell apart, or the White Sox were just better. Either way, the Angels were cooked after that.

(Joe Crede wins Game 2 with a walk-off single. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

The series switched to Anaheim for three games. Konerko hit a three-run home run to stake Jon Garland to a complete game 5-2 win. Home runs by Konerko and Pierzynski helped Chicago to a Game 4 victory, 8-2. For the third straight game, a White Sox starter threw a complete game, this time being Freddy Garcia. Game 5 was no contest, with Contreras giving Chicago their fourth straight complete game from a starting pitcher, almost unheard of in modern baseball. A 6-3 win gave the White Sox their first pennant since 1959.


(The Chicago White Sox win their first AL pennant since 1959. Photo courtesy of http://www.mlb.com

It would be a rematch of the previous year’s NLCS. St. Louis opened the series with a 5-3 victory at their home park of Busch Stadium (a new Busch Stadium would open one year later). But the Astros evened the series in Game 2 with a 4-1 victory. In Houston, the hometown Astros won the next two games, putting them one win away from the pennant. In Game 5, the Astros took a 4-2 lead in the seventh on a Berkman home run, scoring three runs. Three outs from the pennant, closer Brad Lidge was called into the game. One strike away, David Eckstein singled and Jim Edmonds walked. Then MVP Albert Pujols came up. In one of the most iconic moments of his career, Pujols smacked a monster three-run shot to give the Cardinals a 5-4 lead. It bounced off the roof at Minute Maid Park and landed on the railroad tracks in left field. Jason Isringhausen retired the side and the Cardinals were still alive, heading back home.

(Albert Pujols hits a monster home run to steal Game 5 for the Cardinals. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

But any hopes of a St. Louis comeback were settled early, when Roy Oswalt shook off any nerves, pitching the Astros to the pennant with a 5-1 Game 6 victory. Finally, Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell would play in the World Series.

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(The Astros clinch the NL pennant. Photo courtesy of CBS Sports.) 

Both teams were looking to break droughts coming in. The White Sox hadn’t won in 88 years. The Astros were looking for their first title in their 44th year.

Game 1 saw Roger Clemens pitch for Houston. In the first inning, Jermaine Dye’s home run gave the White Sox a 1-0 lead, before Mike Lamb tied it for Houston in the second. Juan Uribe doubled in two more runs in the second, but Houston tied it again in the third inning. As it turned out, Clemens would be pulled in the second with back tightness. He would never pitch in the Fall Classic again. In the fourth inning, the White Sox took the lead for good on a home run by Joe Crede. An extra run was enough for Bobby Jenks, who saved the 5-3 opening game win.

In the second game, Houston took its first World Series lead in the second inning, on a dreary night in the Windy City. Morgan Ensberg homered off Mark Buehrle. But in the bottom of the second, Chicago took the lead against another former Yankee, Andy Pettitte. With the score tied 2-2, Lance Berkman gave the Astros a 4-2 lead on a double. That lead held until the seventh, when Dan Wheeler was ruled to have hit Dye with a pitch to load the bases. Phil Garner brought in Chad Qualls, and on the first pitch, Konerko rocked a grand slam. 6-4, White Sox!

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(Paul Konerko connects on a grand slam during Game 2. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

Heading into the top of the ninth, Bobby Jenks came in to try to save it for Chicago. This time, however, he couldn’t hold it, allowing a two-run game-tying single to Jose Vizcaino, similar to his clutch hit in 2000 with the Yankees.

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(Jose Vizcaino ties the game in the ninth inning of Game 2. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

Trying to force extra innings, Brad Lidge was brought in. Was his confidence back? He got the first out, before Scott Podsednik came up. Podsednik, who hadn’t hit a single home run in the regular season, won Game 2 with a walk-off home run. Chicago was halfway to the title with a dramatic 7-6 victory.

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(Scott Podsednik wins Game 2 with a home run. Photo courtesy of Chicago Tribune.) 

(A video of the walk-off shot. Video courtesy of YouTube.)

Game 3 was the first World Series game ever played in the state of Texas. It would be the longest game in terms of time (5 hours, 41 minutes) in World Series history. Needing a win to get back in the series, Roy Oswalt held the White Sox off the board early. Through four innings, Houston had a 4-0 lead. But a five-run rally gave Chicago the lead in the fifth inning. In the bottom of the eighth, Jason Lane – who had already homered in the game – doubled in a run to tie the game. They almost won the game in the ninth, but Chris Burke was stranded at third. With two outs in the top of the 14th (after a spectacular double play), Geoff Blum pinch-hit with one on. He came through with a clutch homer to make it 7-5, Chicago. Houston put the tying runs on base, by Mark Buehrle got the save. Chicago was up, three games to none, one win away from the title. Could Houston rally like Boston did in the ALCS one year prior?

The pitching duel many anticipated finally came in Game 4. Both teams had chances, but Houston’s Brandon Backe and Chicago’s Freddy Garcia traded zeroes through seven innings. In the top of the eighth, Brad Lidge was brought in one last time. Willie Harris pinch-hit and singled, followed by a sacrifice bunt and ground out. With two outs, Series MVP Jermaine Dye singled in Harris, making it 1-0 Chicago with six outs to go. Houston almost took the lead, putting the go-ahead run on base, but Neal Cotts bore down and got out of the inning. After the White Sox went down in their half, Houston had three outs to go. Against Jenks, Lane led off with a single. Ausmus sacrificed him into scoring position representing the tying run. Chris Burke came in to pinch-hit. He popped one up into foul territory. Racing over was Juan Uribe. He reached into the stands. Out! It was a big second out, and the Astros had their hearts broken.

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(Juan Uribe – #5 – makes the catch for the second out in the ninth inning of Game 4. Photo courtesy of Bleacher Report.) 

(Uribe’s catch, caught on video. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

Just like that, Houston was down to its final out. Orlando Palmeiro, who as far as I know is not related to Rafael, grounded out to Uribe at short. He fired to Konerko at first. Got him! The White Sox had broken their own curse, their first title since 1917. Houston is still waiting for their first title.

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(The Chicago White Sox win their first title in 88 years. Photo courtesy of http://www.espn.com.) 

Fun Facts 
Prior to 2005, Houston’s Craig Biggio held the record for most career games without a World Series appearance. After this season, it passed to disgraced slugger Rafael Palmeiro.

Chicago won its first title since 1917, its third overall, and most recent to date. This is also Houston’s only World Series appearance to date. They wouldn’t make the playoffs again until 2015.

In 2013, Houston changed to the American League, meaning this matchup can never happen again. The only other one like this is 1982 – Cardinals vs. Brewers.

Ozzie Guillen became the first Latino manager to win a world championship. The outspoken manager would later manage the Marlins for one year in 2012, and was fired after reportedly praising Fidel Castro. Many believe that the Marlins’ attendance has suffered since as a result of Guillen’s statements, with fans staying away out of spite.

This is the first time since 1995 that the World Series ended on a 1-0 game, and the first 1-0 game of any kind since Game 5 of the 1996 World Series.

Scott Podsednik set a record by becoming the first player to hit a World Series home run without hitting any in the regular season. (He also hit one in the ALDS against the Red Sox.)

Geoff Blum is the last player to date to hit a home run in his only World Series at-bat.

Game 3 set the teams combine for several World Series records that still stand: first game in Texas; longest game (5 hours, 41 minutes); most pitchers used by both teams (17); pitches thrown (428); walks allowed (21); most players used (43); most runners left on base (30); most at-bats in one game by one player (Scott Podsednik with 8). Two other records were tied by the two teams: most innings played (14); most double plays by both teams (6).

The White Sox tied the 1999 Yankees by going 11-1 in the postseason.

Frank Thomas was controversially left off the White Sox World Series roster, the only Hall of Fame player on that team. Potential Hall of Famers Tim Raines and Harold Baines were coaches.

Game 2 was the second game in World Series history to feature a grand slam and walk-off home run in the same game (the first was the Kirk Gibson game in 1988), and the first where they were hit by the same team.

Jerry Reinsdorf won his seventh championship as an owner, having won six previous titles in the NBA with the Chicago Bulls.

The Astros became the first team to be swept in four games in their first World Series appearance (remember that Detroit in 1907 had tied one game).

Final Thoughts 
The White Sox celebrated their title after 88 years in the dark. It book-ended the Red Sox title in 2004, much like in 1917 and 1918, before the droughts started. The trend of breaking droughts would continue the following year, featuring the “worst” winner in history.

References and Sources
Baseball Almanac
Baseball Reference
Wikipedia
Getty Images.
YouTube.
CBS Sports.
CNBC.
ESPN.
Bleacher Report.
http://www.mlb.com
http://www.vesphoto.net
http://www.worldseries.com
http://www.espn.com
Sports Illustrated. 
Chicago Tribune.
Houston Chronicle.
The Tenth Inning (Ken Burns)
2005 World Series Film (MLB Productions)
Top 5 Reasons You Can’t Blame…Bobby Cox (ESPN Classic)
Top 5 Reasons You Can’t Blame…Jose Canseco (ESPN Classic)
The Complete World Series (Eric Enders)
The Underground Baseball Encyclopedia (Robert Schnakenberg)
The Baseball Codes (Jason Turbow, Michael Duca)