Sunday, October 29, 2006
Cardinals Win Tenth World Series
The Town’s Painted Red This Year!
The Red Birds are finally back on top. The squad from St. Louis has come close several times, but has not tasted World Series champagne since 1982. With the win, the Cardinals now have ten Championships, second only to the New York Yankees.
This year’s World Series brought back memories of the 1968 final, when the Cards faced the Detroit Tigers. St. Louis was then led by Lou Brock, Curt Flood, Tim McCarver, Orlando Cepeda, Roger Maris, and Steve Carlton. A most impressive group in any generation.
After leading the Tigers 3-1, and poised to win the fall classic, the wheels fell off, and the Cardinals had to settle for second place. Hall of Famer Bob Gibson was the victim in Game Seven of that Series, a game in which Curt Flood misjudged a fly ball to open the gates for a Tigers’ victory.
The Tigers were led by Series MVP Mickey Lolich, who won games 2, 5, and 7 with an earned run average of 1.67. Their roster included Denny McLain, Norm Cash, Bill Freeham, Willie Horton, Al Kaline, and the legendary Eddie Matthews.
Matthews played most of his hall of Fame career with the Boston Braves and the Milwaukee Braves, and finished with the Tigers in 1968. He credits his mother for his batting prowess in the Major Leagues: “My mother used to pitch to me and my father would shag balls. If I hit one up the middle close to my mother, I’d have extra chores to do. My mother was instrumental in making me a pull hitter.”
Detroit fans were hoping they would find lightning in a barrel again in 2006. No such luck.
A tiny man named David Eckstein methodically burst all of those balloons. In Game Five, with many of the chips on the line, he whaled away at Tiger pitching, lashing three doubles just beyond the out-stretched reaches of the Tiger outfielders. The diminutive shortstop led his team, as he has throughout the playoffs. “I just needed to find some holes,” he told the Canadian Press. “It’s nice to actually have a little luck involved.” At the Series conclusion, he was rewarded as the Most Valuable Player selection.
Wily Cards Manager Tony La Russa believes it is more than that: “He’s the toughest guy I have ever seen in a uniform.”
Eckstein is generously listed at five feet seven inches in the program guides. His partner at second base, Aaron Miles, is listed at five feet eight inches. A tiny tandem, to be sure. But they played large throughout the Series.
As miniscule as their middle infielders are, the Cards have giants on the corners---Scott Rolen at third, and Albert Pujols at first base. Pujols led the team in the regular season with 49 home runs, 137 RBIs, and had a .331 batting average. Both men are 6’ 4”, and tip the scales at 23o pounds, give or take.
If there is a hint of satisfaction for the Tigers, it comes in the form of a remarkable season following years of misery. They lost 119 games a couple of years ago, and have struggled since their last Series victory in 1984.
I have been to Tiger Stadium, and more recently to Comerica Park every year for the last fifteen years. I have seen the empty stands, and heard the boo birds. Unfortunately, our annual junket was cancelled this year. Wouldn’t you know it, the first time the Tigers get to the Big Show, and our seats were empty! Next year. We will see the banners unfurled---albeit one banner short of the Grand Prize.
One cannot underestimate the importance of experience. In this case, playoff experience. The Cardinals are perennial playoff contenders. They have been in post season play many times in the past twenty years. They have learned about the distractions---requests for tickets, media interventions in their lives, rain delays---little disturbances that have to be dealt with before pitches are ever thrown.
For the Tigers this year, the World Series was a learning lesson. The bats were silent, the pitching failed, and their defence was miserable---even establishing Series’ records for errors. There is a nucleus of fine young players on the team, and they will be heard from again---next year, and for many years to come. Order your tickets now for next year’s games at Comerica. Remember to turn right when you come out of the tunnel from Windsor---if you want to go left. Only in America.
We came awfully close to having games after Hallowe’en. Perhaps we might have met “Mr. November”. That is not what baseball wanted to see. The season was far too long, beginning with the World Classic---remember when the Canadian team almost mercied the American squad? Television ratings plummeted to new depths. The minions at the top need to adjust the schedules to make it sensible.
Hats off to the Red Birds---Kings of the Baseball World until next September, or October, or November or…….
13 Hurst Lane
Box A-2 R R 1
Wellington ON K0K 3L0
Sunday, October 08, 2006
Why I Love October!
For all of us sports fans, there are a couple of weeks in mid-October when we can truly get our fill.
Across the country, and throughout the Northern States, junior hockey players are back in action at all levels. Players in the Canadian Hockey League have spent the summer preparing for the season. From coast to coast, teams in the Quebec League, the Ontario League and the Western League have set rosters in their quest for the grail of Junior Hockey---the Memorial Cup.
At the professional level, the National Hockey League season is under way. For most of us, it’s about time! We have spent the latter part of the summer analysing the trades, studying the drafts, learning the names of all of the new European prospects. For many reasons, it is almost impossible to predict who will win the Stanley Cup at the end of the season. Anything can, and will happen. Not many of us thought the Oilers and the Hurricanes would be battling for the Cup in the final last spring. Belleville Bulls’ fans will monitor the progress of Jon Cheechoo, following his spectacular season last year, when he won the Maurice Richard Trophy.
The Canadian Football League has passed the midway mark of its schedule. Every team has experienced the typical metamorphosis of the Canadian game. A few teams break from the gate at the beginning of the season and look as if they would be unstoppable. Then, all of a sudden, reality sets in. The playing fields become level. The Alouettes become human. The Argos and the Blue Bombers move to within striking distance of the league leaders as we enjoy our Canadian Thanksgiving. As usual, they are making preparations for a better season next year in Hamilton.
South of the border, the behemoths of the gridiron are well into their games. Last year’s Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers are struggling. Their fine young quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, had a terrible motorcycle accident in the summer, and he is still recovering. From L. A. to Miami, and points northward, the passion for the game is spreading across the American nation. Rookies Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush will be under the microscope for NFL fans.
The Yankee love for the College game has also spread to the Canadian fan. Many of us have our favourite Canadian university team, and the winner will be crowned at the Vanier Cup in Toronto. We have become aware of the traditional rivalries in the United States. There are Notre Dame fans, and Michigan State fans, and Buckeye fans all across Canada. Teams vie for national championships at the end of the year---Rose Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Orange Bowl---bowls of all descriptions. These games are closely monitored by us Canucks via the American television networks.
Capturing most of the headlines for the next two weeks will be news from the great game of baseball. There will be playoffs, followed by the World Series. It is such a definitive championship---the winner gets all of the spoils. You will not find Yankee pinstripes on the field for the Fall Classic this year. Those upstart Tigers from Detroit polished off the Bronx Bombers in short order to qualify for the American League Pennant. They will face the Oakland Athletics, who defeated the Twins from Minnesota.
New York Mets are now the toast of the town in Manhattan. Although they have lost two of their prime hurlers in Martinez and Hernandez to injury, they have a wonderful cast of fine young players. Two former Dodgers, Shawn Green and Paul LoDuca led the way as the Mets swept the L. A. crew. Most of our Canadian hearts were broken when Carlos Delgado left the Blue Jays. He now stirs the drink for the Mets. We will see whether or not he will do it in October.
Following their summer leagues, the men who play round ball are hard at work gearing up for the start of the National Basketball season. The Toronto Raptors have a distinctive European flavour, although they will be anchored by young super star Chris Bosh. They should have a strong season, and will make the playoffs.
Those of you who prefer excitement on a race track are gearing up for the conclusion of the NASCAR season, with all its chills and thrills.
And it’s almost time to put away the golf sticks as the PGA season winds down before the snow starts to fly.
There is lawn furniture to store away, flower beds to cover, lawns to preen, storm windows to install. Not just yet, Martha.
It is truly the season to be jolly with all of this activity. Pass the chip bowl, snap open a couple of cold ones, hand me the channel changer. I love October!