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The Inside Track | COMMENTARY

Series Is Always in World of Its Own

October 19, 2003|Dave Kindred | The Sporting News

The World Series is hot dogs and Cracker Jack. It's stars and stripes and "God Bless America." It's little boys and girls with dreams. It's in the dreams of old folks who keep a glove nearby in case the grandkids want to play catch. The World Series is Barry Bonds unbelievable. It's Roger Clemens and Mike Piazza snarling. It's Kirk Gibson miraculous, pumping his right fist, dragging that bad leg around the bases, fireworks in the sky. It's Brooks Robinson diving left. It's Carlton Fisk leaning right, the 12th inning, Game 6, 1975. Tommy Lasorda is shouting: "It's the FALL CLASSIC, and you can put that in capital letters."

The World Series is ... the Rally Monkey? It's Don Larsen's perfect game, Al Gionfriddo's catch, Kirby Puckett going high against the Metrodome's outfield glass, Joe Carter and Bill Mazeroski ending it with home runs, Luis Gonzalez doing so with a flare.

You can have your Super Bowl, Final Four, NBA Finals, Stanley Cup. They're pop culture trifles. The World Series is American history. It's Woodrow Wilson leaving the White House with a war going on to throw out the first ball. It's New York grieving, New York inspiring on October nights after Sept. 11, 2001. Babe Ruth pointing to center field. Jackie Robinson stealing home. Willie Mays robbing Vic Wertz. It's Monte Irvin, Mays' teammate, saying, "Baseball has done more to move America in the right direction than all the professional patriots with their billions of cheap words."

It's 1945, able-bodied men off to war, the Cubs and Detroit in the Series, and New York sportswriter Frank Graham saying, "It is the fat men against the tall men at the annual office picnic." Now, 2003, it's long past time for Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks, 14 years old in 1945 and now 72 ... Ernie Banks, who in 1984 said of the Cubs' NLCS loss to San Diego, "We'll get 'em next year," and next year never came ...

Ernie Banks, who one day should stand at the World Series alongside Sammy Sosa, who was 2 years old when Banks last played for the Cubs.

The World Serious. Ring Lardner wrote it that way. He had it right. It's baseball, a game made for poets, Marianne Moore once doing "Baseball and Writing," with these lines: "Fanaticism?

No. Writing is exciting. And baseball is like writing. You can never tell with either how it will go or what you will do ...

The World Series is Casey Stengel saying, "That guy we got in right field that's got the crooked arm that hits left-handers good, he's going to be OK if he finds his way to the park enough."

It's Reggie Jackson saying, "You can love me or hate me, but you can't ignore me," and two nights later hitting three consecutive home runs on three consecutive pitches.

Get a Baseball Encyclopedia, turn to any page, turn to the E's: George L. Earnshaw, Michael A. Easler, Rawlins J. Eastwick, Zebulon V. Eaton, C. Bruce Edwards, Howard Ehmke, Horace O. Eller. They played in the World Series, and their names would go in a record book where you could look it up, men who did it.

Enos Slaughter flying home from first on a double. Connie Mack in his suit and straw hat. An earthquake in San Francisco. Randy Johnson stringing KKKKKKKs. It's shoe polish off Nippy Jones' spikes and Bill Lee saying he received pitching instructions from another planet.

The World Series is coming, and I'm on the phone with my mother in Illinois, my mother the Cubs fan, my mother 85 years old who wasn't born when the Cubs last won a World Series. I say, "Mom, whatcha doing?" And she says, "The Cubs are on the TV. What do you think I'm doing?"

Red Sox or Yankees?

Jim Bouton, the old Yankee pitcher, writing in The Boston Globe: "Now that I live in Massachusetts, I root for the Red Sox for reasons of personal safety. There are too many hunters with guns wearing camouflage and Red Sox hats. That's why I never wear my Yankee hat, especially when I'm out in the yard. I might as well be wearing antlers."

The World Series is the chill of the year, October nights after summer days, the resolution of a contest that began in the spring, maybe 174 games ago.

And now comes the moment when men walk in the reality of a kid's dreams, dreams shared by generations, as Steve Garvey said of a home run that helped put his team in the FALL CLASSIC: "It is rare enough to be part of history, but it is rarer and even more special to know it as it is happening -- to consciously revel in the tradition and to love the moment for what it is. And now we're in the World Series."

The World Series is Pete Rose leading off the 11th inning of Game 6, 1975, stopping first to say to Fisk, the catcher: "Ain't it great, just to be playing in a game like this?"

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Distributed by the Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service.

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