Roger Angell and Enduring Words

Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for The New Yorker

I didn’t know Roger Angell, which was verifiably my loss, though an unintentional one. The esteemed baseball writer and editor for The New Yorker died on May 20 at the age of 101. Much deserved praise has been shared in the days since, none more eloquent – none close, really – than the one written my former Newsday and Sports Illustrated colleague, Tom Verducci, himself a magnificent baseball writer and a friend of Angell’s as well as the closest thing to his literary descendent in his ability to create a painting that both explains the present and endures across time, although in different ways. Just give it a read.

My not knowing Angell is a quirk – one of many, trust me – of our shared profession (both “shared” and “profession” defined broadly here). I have been a sports journalist for 44 years, 47 if you include some dreadful bylines earned and paid for (not much, but beer was cheap back then) while I was a college student and summer intern. More on that to come. I have hundreds of acquaintances, colleagues, friends, close friends and very close friends from those decades, not an insignificant number of them who are, sadly, no longer vertical. But in this business of ours, friendships tend to align by sports, a truth that has hardened as writers specialize further. Thus I have many more friends who covered Olympic sports or college football and basketball or horse racing than who cover baseball, which I have written about relatively infrequently, and never as a beat writer.

Yet it is the beauty of words that one needn’t know an author – or a reader – to benefit from shared prose. There’s this: In the winter of 2014, while I was covering the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, The New Yorker published a stunningly brilliant essay called “This Old Man,” which Angell wrote at the age of 93. So in a restaurant whose construction was finished 15 minutes before we arrived from the U.S., a table full of weary scribes, worn down by a harrowing morning bus ride up a mountainside and a surprisingly less harrowing evening chairlift ride down (and the furious writing in between, although that was the best part), tucked into some vaguely recognizable food and genuflected at Angell’s writing (and yes, partly at the age at which it was typed, but mostly at the writing itself). “This Old Man” is full of wise, unpretentious ruminations on aging from a place that most of us, statistically speaking, will not reach. One example:

“… My conversation may be full of holes and pauses, but I’ve learned to dispatch a private Apache scout ahead into the next sentence, the one coming up, to see if there are any vacant names or verbs in the landscape up there. If he sends back a warning, I’ll pause meaningfully, duh, until something else comes to mind.”

 “This Old Man” was of course not my first exposure to Angell’s genius. That had come 38 years earlier (and yes, we have reached the nut graf; thank you for indulging me). I had entered Williams College as a freshman in the fall of 1974 and before that year ended, took a job in the college’s news office and a year later was the de facto sports information director under news director Rob Spurrier, who was just eight years older than me. I was also playing (okay, sitting on the bench) for the varsity basketball team and working as the sports editor of the campus newspaper and picking up some aforementioned free-lance checks from the Berkshire Eagle and North Adams Transcript. Spurrier left Williams in the spring of 1976 and left me with a present: Roger Angell’s third book, The Summer Game, a 303-page collection of 21 baseball stories, written for The New Yorker from 1962-’72.

We writers are products of what we have seen, experienced, learned, imagined – and what we have read in others’ hand. Roger Angell’s prose was gifted to me at a time when I was beginning my professional life, although I didn’t realize that life would be so permanent. Because who does at 20?

That summer I took Angell’s book with me to Schenectady, New York, where I had scored a summer internship in the sports department at the Schenectady Gazette, an actual newspaper with a circulation of around 70,000. (Much lower now, but that’s a whole other story, and a familiar one). I lived in a grungy apartment two blocks from the Union College campus, and read The Summer Game before falling asleep at night and upon waking in the morning, tearing through it in a couple weeks and then re-reading it several more times.

With hindsight (the clearest of all the sights), it’s apparent that The Summer Game was the first book I read not just for its content (although that, for sure), but also for its writing, and voice, and structure. The first book I read as a “writer,” even a wildly green and unpolished one.

(I had read plenty of sports books before that. The first was Basketball Is My Life, NBA Hall of Famer Bob Cousy’s autobiography. In eighth grade, I was voraciously reading the Cousy book in a study hall administered by my science teacher. Subsequently, that teacher handed out graded tests in front of the class and upon calling me up to receive my test, on which I had done badly, added, “Keep reading about Bob Cousy, see how far you get with that.” Pretty far! But that teacher couldn’t have known [although it was a little harsh to embarrass me like that in front of the class; I survived]. There were others: Meat On The Hoof, a 1972 expose on the underbelly of Division I college football written by former Longhorn player Gary Shaw; They Call It a Game, also an expose, on the underbelly of the NFL, written in 1971 by Cleveland Browns’ defensive back Bernie Parrish; and of course, Jim Bouton’s Ball Four, the first book to truly take a match to the mythology of the modern athlete).

The Summer Game was, in my unknowing state, a different form, on a different level. On page 57 is a short essay from 1964, in which Angell bemoans the destruction of the Polo Grounds, where baseball had been played for decades. Angell’s take was typically, gently contrarian, eschewing the recitation of names and moments for a more organic embrace of the place itself.

“The things I liked best about the Polo Grounds were sights and emotions so inconsequential that they will surely slide out of my recollection. A flight of pigeons flashing out of the barn-shadow of the upper stands, wheeling past the right-field foul pole, and disappearing above the inert, heart-heavy flags on the roof. The steepness of the ramp descending from the Speedway toward the upper-stand gates, which pushed your toes into your shoe tips as you approached the park… At a night game, the moon rising out of the scoreboard like a spongy, day-old orange balloon, and then whitening over the waves of noise, and the slow, shifting clouds of cigarette smoke…”

The effects of Angell’s words would be delayed: It’s difficult to apply complex literary lessons to a 400-word gamer on the Gloversville-Saratoga high school basketball game, thrashed out in 10 minutes. But as time passed, my own sensibilities trended toward an appreciation of places, as much as of moments. In my writing, reporting, and observations, I often found myself as taken by surroundings as by games: the color of a running track, the mountains framing a ski hill, the music playing in a locker room. Hundreds of others. Is this because I read Angell as a rookie? Dunno. These things don’t occur in a straight line, I suspect. We read, we absorb, we steal, unknowingly but reverentially.

And there was detail. On page 188 of The Summer Game, in an October, 1968 piece about the World Series between the Cardinals and Tigers, Angell writes about Bob Gibson’s transcendent, 17-strikeout performance in a Game One victory.

“…Gibson worked so fast that I was constantly falling behind the actual ball-and-strike count. His concentration was total. Not once, it seemed, did he look at his outfielders, tug at his cap, twitch his sleeve; he didn’t even rub up the new ball after a foul. The instant he got his sign, he rocked, flailed, threw, staggered, put up his glove for the catcher’s throw back, and was ready again….”

It would be years before my work even primitively showed any of the lessons learned reading Angell’s. That delay again, waiting for opportunities. But just as I learned to love time and place as much as people and performances, I came to love detail, drilling down further and further into moments, as a means of distinguishing my writing with the most basic of tools: my eyes. (Can this lead to over-writing? Oh my, yes. Every story is an experiment, to this day, and including this one).

There were plenty of other influences. Early on, I discovered a folder full of Jim Murray columns in my boss’s drawer and for a few months tried to write everything in Murray’s one-liner-a-minute style (each sentence both a joke and a lesson, Murray’s genius). This was a disaster, pulled off much better by my former Sports Illustrated colleague, Rick Reilly. And broadly, SI’s best writers influenced everybody: Reilly, Frank Deford, Gary Smith, Bill Nack, Leigh Montville, Curry Kirkpatrick (maybe most of all, for showing how far you could burrow down a rabbit hole of prose and joy, and – no small thing – cultural references, long before that became commonplace).

But there was Angell to get things started here for me, and in that same brief period, two other authors – and books – that burrowed into my consciousness and were called upon much later. In 1978, I spent $4.95 on a paperback copy of John McPhee’s 1969 book, Levels Of The Game, a study of the 1968 U.S. Open tennis final between Arthur Ashe and Clark Graebner. And so much more. McPhee, a sainted author and teacher now 91 years old, uses the match as a device to write a spare 150-page treatise on sports, strategy, personality, race, and the socio-economic realities of America. (This device has been employed frequently since, in narrative journalism as well as books, but surely McPhee was among the first). His writing in Levels is a lesson in using sports to unlock everything else, and in understanding the connection between humans and human performance. It was all on another intellectual plane. I read it one sitting, and then again and again.

“…There is nothing about Ashe’s game that Graebner does not know, and Ashe says that he knows Graebner’s game ‘like a favorite tune.’ Ashe feels that Graebner plays the way he does because he is a middle class white conservative. Graebner feels that Ashe plays the way he does because he is black.”

At Christmas in 1981, I was given a copy of David Halberstam’s The Breaks Of The Game, his seminal study of the 1979-‘80 Portland Trail Blazers, and by extension, the dawn of the Magic/Bird and Jordan NBAs. It could be required reading for any NBA fan, but they’ve all read it by now. The Breaks Of The Game was Halberstam’s eighth book, and his first on sports. It was published 17 years after he won the Pulitzer Prize for newspaper reporting from Vietnam and followed The Best and the Brightest, on the origins of the Vietnam war; and The Powers That Be, a dive into the power centers of American media. It won the Pulitzer Prize. I had read neither of them (shame on me, I have read them since, and most of Halberstam’s work, as any journalist should).

Breaks is a lesson in immersive, relentless reporting, as are all of Halberstam’s books, but this was the first in which he applied that doggedness and curiosity to sports, and to a team that was in many ways unlike any in NBA history, existing on the cusp of a new era. The deep-dive, single-season narrative was not new in 1981: Dick Schapp had done it with the Packers more than a decade earlier. And it would become a staple of the sports book industrial complex that endures today. But the combination of Halberstam’s skill and drive and the relatively unexplored world of the evolving, modern NBA was sensational. Breaks is 362 pages of tiny print, each of those pages crammed with details and proper nouns, so much that it can’t be read quickly, but rather carefully, like a textbook. It is a sports book about business, race, and people – with insouciantly few direct quotes in comparison to straight author’s narrative, a confident journalist at the top of his game, in a new place.

He wrote about power forward Kermit Washington, whose reactionary punch to the face of Rudy Tomjanovich in December of 1977 could have killed Tomjanovich, and had made Washington a pariah to much of the league and public, but who had kept his career alive while trying to escape the stigma of that moment.

“Even now, rehabilitated, accepted by teammates and fans in two cities, he was aware that he had been part of something terrible and frightening, that he was on the edge of having committed, however involuntarily, a dark deed. … He had a dream, more than once: He was at a restaurant and went to the men’s room. There, a man pulled a gun on him and, terrified, he had hit the man. Then Kermit ran from the men’s room to the parking lot, where he was picked up by two cops, one white, one black. They accused him of killing a man. The black cop shackled him and the white cop put a black hood over his head, and they took him to a courtroom. There a judge looked down and announced that he was guilty of murder. Washington understood that nightmare perfectly.”

All of Halberstam’s work drips with the reality that you can never learn too much about a story, about a subject, and that every new detail enhances the work, even if ultimately, painfully, some of them – many of them – might never see daylight. They still teach and influence. Halberstam was killed in a car accident at age 73, while working on a book about the 1958 NFL championship game, the game widely regarded as launching the modern NFL toward its runaway popularity. What a book that would have been.

These three authors came into my world in a brief period as I was haltingly transitioning from college and (a similar) post-college life into something resembling adulthood, and from self-taught journalism and writing – even more haltingly – toward a personal and professional voice. The latter is a trip without a map, made through feel, instinct, experience, and repetition. And failure. Every journalism teacher ever, when asked for advice, has said: Read. Content now takes many forms, and writing can be – has been — devalued. But language retains its power. Great writers are guides.

When news of Roger Angell’s death broke, I was in a hotel room in Baltimore, on the eve of the Preakness horse race, eating takeout food and watching an NBA playoff game. This was a familiar setting. I thought back immediately to a much younger man, many years ago, flopped sideways in a creaky bed, flipping pages, enthralled, learning without realizing it. I felt sad for the world’s loss. And thankful for the enduring words.

On Aaron Judge and 62: As sports evolve, no two records are alike


A decade ago, I wrote a story for Sports Illustrated about my great uncle, a former Major League Baseball player and member of the Hall of Fame: Johnny Evers, of Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance fame. The story was transformative for me in many ways, unlocking a past I had only understood enough to brag about, which is to say hardly at all. The work still lives with me. But here is a tangential point: In the course of researching and reporting the story, I spent time in Cooperstown at the Hall of Fame, a truly magical place (whether or not you have an enshrined relative you never met, but especially if you do). Every museum is a time machine if you allow it to be, and I very much did. And do. Always.

I was given access to the Hall’s research area, a spellbinding backroom full of what seemed like 100 times the material on display to the public. There was a treasure trove relating to my uncle, who was born in 1881, played in the big leagues from 1902-’17, participated in five World Series and most famously, was immortalized in a poem that outlives him significantly. Among the items preserved was a pair of game-worn baseball spikes of indeterminate size, packed carefully in a box. The shoes were made of crusty leather atop a hard sole, with long (scary) metal spikes attached. They looked like perhaps a primitive gardening tool, but certainly not athletic footwear. It was impossible to look at them and not think: Somebody played major league baseball in these things?

Likewise, there were many pictures of my uncle in full uniform, with a tiny mitt stuffed over the fingers of his left hand, barely enlarging it – a wardrobe item designed only marginally to enhance the fielder’s ability to catch balls, and more practically to protect his hand should any catching occur. Again, the thought: Somebody played major league baseball using this glove?

These images returned to conscious thought this week in the roiling aftermath of Aaron Judge’s 62nd home run Tuesday night in Arlington, Texas. Not roiling as to the significance of the moment, or its emotional purity – 62 home runs in a single MLB season is a milestone deserving of sanctity and joy and Judge is a manifestly great – dare one say Ruthian? – baseball player. As ever when it comes to cherished sports (or uncherished sports records, but single season home runs is just about as cherished as it gets), the unvarnished celebration of this moment abated quickly and attention was turned aggressively to comparing it to the marks it surpassed, and those that it did not.

This led to SEO-on-steroids headlines and posts that sucked in some combination of the names Judge, Maris, McGwire, Sosa, Bonds, and Ruth (and even a little Mantle, for good measure) and launched impassioned discussion as to the proper framing of Judge’s record. The New York Times’s Scott Miller wrote a good story describing the issues in this baseball-centric discussion, which are familiar to most fans of a certain age, or possibly many ages. (But it all goes far beyond baseball).

In short: 95 years ago in 1927, Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs in a season, a record that stood for 34 years, until surpassed by Roger Maris in 1961. Maris, less popular than his teammate, Mickey Mantle, and thus deemed less worthy by some, hit his No. 61 in the 162nd game of the season, whereas Ruth hit his 60 homers in a 154-game season, prompting baseball commissioner Ford Frick to suggest a “distinctive mark” in the record book to highlight that difference (which was co-opted to mean an “asterisk,” even though there was never an actual asterisk on the books). In 1998, Mark McGwire (70) and Sammy Sosa (66) each shattered Maris’s record and hold five of the top six totals in history, but their dinger spree took place during the so-called steroid era, and before MLB began testing for PEDs. As did Barry Bonds’s, including his all-time record of 73, in 2001. One more complicating factor: Ruth did his work in a segregated sport; baseball was all-white until Jackie Robinson joined the Dodgers in 1947, and mostly white for many years after that.

Hence: The number of the real single-season home run record (or for that matter, the career record for homers and many other achievements) comes with room for miles of wiggling and volumes of discussion, with little hope for consensus. There are simply too many moving parts, too much change across time, too little commonality that connects performance from different eras (and sometimes, we now understand, an “era” can be as little as a couple decades).

This is the problem – or maybe it’s not a problem; stay with me – with all sports records. A “record,” exists to perform two fundamental tasks: One, to quantify performance. No problem there. Two, to compare one performance to other performances, both in the present and, historically. Problem. And it’s the word historically that’s being asked to do far too much work in this universe. The paradox is this: As fans and other chroniclers of sports, we lust after means to compare excellence (or the lack thereof) among generations, but the evolution of sports (and humans, not always ethically) makes that almost impossible. A record is a record only in the precise instance, and under the precise historical conditions under which it is achieved. Every future record is set in a different world, altered by the games, the players, and the existence of the previous record itself.

Back to my Uncle Johnny. His place in the Hall of Fame has been hotly debated over the years by people who debate such things (and bless them), and fairly so. There’s little doubt he was an excellent player for his time. But the game he played would be scarcely recognizable as baseball to modern fans, beyond the geometry of the playing field itself (and that, not entirely). I wrote this in 2012:

There are practical differences between major league baseball in the first two decades of the 20th century and the game as it is played today. All of the players were white (Uncle Johnny was born 16 years after the abolition of slavery.) Fielders wore tiny gloves, barely larger than modern ski mittens. The fields were much more uneven than today’s. The period from 1900 (or earlier) to approximately 1919 was called the Dead Ball era for good reason: Baseballs were kept in play, and over the course of games they were beaten to a pulp.”

Whatever my uncle accomplished, he accomplished within the norms of his time, a very different time. He is one small, and to me, very personal example. I would like to see Francisco Lindor field ground balls in the hole with my uncle’s glove, which is very much not Lindor’s problem and not a valid basis for evaluating his work. Keepers of the game over time have developed analytic means to create useful comparison by encasing players within their own era. This is good, but when it comes to records, imperfect. Because records are best when unencumbered by messy complexity. We just want to know: Bonds or Judge?

This is not remotely limited to baseball. Very much the opposite: It’s everywhere in sports.

At the 1964 Summer Olympics, Bob Hayes of the United States won the 100 meters in an official handheld time of 10 seconds flat, extrapolated by statisticians to an electronic time of 10.06 seconds, a world record at the time. Notably, Hayes ran his race in lane one at the Olympic Stadium, assigned by random draw, which is outrageous, but hewed to norms of the time. The track was made from dirt and cinders and Hayes’s lane had been raked just before the final, after it was rutted by competitors in the 20-kilometer walk. Four years later in Mexico City, Jim Hines of the U.S. ran 9.95 on an all-weather track, a record that stood for 28 years.

The 100-meter world record is now held by Usain Bolt, who ran 9.58 seconds at the 2009 World Championships. But the differences between Hayes’s 1964 world record and Bolt’s are myriad and significant: The running surface, the runners’ spikes, training methods, and even their ages. Hayes was 21 years old, concurrently a soon-to-be professional football player who would never run another 100-meter race of significance. Bolt was a 23, a full-time track and field athlete who would become fabulously wealthy over the course of a career that lasted another decade.

(Track and field is nearly as protective of its numbers as baseball: A few years ago I was talking – on background — with an Olympic sprinter about performances and steroids and noted that Ben Johnson had once run 9.79 seconds to win the 1998 Olympic 100 meters, but of course was disqualified when he tested positive for a banned steroid. I suggested that we don’t really know Ben’s personal best. The sprinter said, “Ben’s PR is 9.79. He ran that time.” The subtext is that Johnson may have been running against others with pharmaceutical assistance, much like Lance Armstrong was cycling against opponents are dirty as he was, just not as a good on the drugs. This stuff gets complicated. In sum: If you want to say that Bolt was faster than Hayes because of their difference in their times, that’s fine, and most likely true, but also perilously simplistic. What shoe technology has done to track and marathoning is far more extreme).

Football is less protective of its records than baseball, and more attached to rings and spectacle. But it’s not as if records are cast aside in the NFL. Just last weekend, Aaron Rodgers was celebrated for throwing his 500th career touchdown pass, a category not entirely dissimilar to home runs in baseball. Long balls of a different type. Only five quarterbacks have thrown 500 touchdown passes: Tom Brady (716), Drew Brees (608), Peyton Manning (579), Brett Favre (552), and Rodgers; the longest-retired is Favre, in 2010.

The record had previously been held by Fran Tarkenton (353, retired in 1978), Johnny Unitas (297, retired in 1973) and Y.A. Tittle (246, retired in 1964). But passing records in the NFL have been dramatically neutered by changes in the composition of gameplay. The modern game is significantly tilted to benefit passing offense, with rules implemented over time that empower every entity of the pass game, from quarterbacks (can’t hit them) to receivers (can’t jam them for long) to linemen (they can hold). Twenty-four of the top 25 single-season passing yardage totals have all been achieved since 2007, the only exception being Dan Marino in 1984, a 5,084-yard season that looks more impressive with every flip of the calendar.

But the larger point is that passing records are almost meaningless without significant context. (Rushing records are the opposite, affected by the same shift to passing: Only one active player, Adrian Peterson — technically active, but has not played a down in 2022 — is among the NFL’s top 50 career rushing leaders. Only Peterson, Derrick Henry, and Jonathan Taylor are among the top 25 single-season totals).

Basketball, meanwhile, has undergone steady gameplay progression from lane-widening to shot clocks to the introduction of the three-point line and, foundationally beneath all of that, inexorably improving shooting inefficiency. Yet the hypothetical that seems to arise most often is how records – college or professional — might have been affected if the three-point field goal had been in use during [name the player’s, most often Pete Maravich’s] career. But this is specious, too, because we can’t simply go back, study film, and count imaginary three-pointers, because the presence of the line alters the geometry and strategy of the game. A modern game, dictated by half-court spacing, ball movement and matchups, is wildly different from previous iterations of the sport.

Examples of misleading records are everywhere. Here is a small example from the skiing world: For many years, Austrian skier Annemarie Moser-Proell was the winningest woman in World Cup history, having won 62 races from 1969-’80. She was eventually passed by Lindsey Vonn of the U.S. who finished her career in 2019 with 82 victories. But Vonn’s total included 28 wins in the Super-G, a downhill-giant slalom that didn’t become part of the World Cup until 1983. Moser-Proell would have raced and won a lot of Super-Gs; in her 12-year career, the women’s World Cup averaged 24 races per year, whereas in Vonn’s it averaged 36, although Vonn was frequently injured and missed part of many seasons. None of this diminishes Vonn’s record, it just complicates it ever so slightly. (And Vonn’s record may be broken soon by Mikaela Shiffrin, who has 74 wins and nary an asterisk).

There is another way to consume these record-breaking realities: Records are not just an imprimatur that describes and elevates the record-breaker; they are also a patch of intellectual real estate on which sports’ history is preserved. If Aaron Judge’s record resurfaces Babe Ruth’s segregated past and the complexity of the steroid era, those are good things. If sprinting records preserve Bob Hayes’ memory in some way, that is worthwhile.

Records are incomplete, but not unimportant. They keep the time machine humming.

Mr. Stats’ Notes: Playoff picture starts to take focus


This is the time of year that baseball turns from a marathon to a sprint. The Toronto Blue Jays are steps ahead of other teams for a spot in the postseason. Toronto finished one game out of the playoffs a year ago. Will this year be different?

On Sunday, in a game streamed on Peacock beginning at 12 pm eastern, the Blue Jays will play the Pittsburgh Pirates.

In 2021, the Jays finished one game behind the Yankees for the Wild Card; and 39 games better than the division rival Orioles. Can Baltimore pass Toronto in the final weeks to nab the third and final Wild Card?

It’s time to sharpen up the predictions to pick out some potential October matchups and storylines.

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Wouldn’t it be something if…the Pittsburgh Pirates win the World Series?

Well, not the 2022 Pirates.  But several former Pirates.

The 2017 Pirates team had Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon in their starting rotation. By 2018, Cole was gone but Clay Holmes was in the Bucs pen.  If the New York Yankees win the 2022 World Series, it will almost certainly be with heavy lifting being done by Cole, Taillon, and Holmes. Jameson (12-4, 3.97) leads the Yankees in wins. Cole is their ace. Holmes should be the closer.

And if the New York Mets win the World Series this year, they will lean heavily on two other Pirates from those Clint Hurdle-managed teams. The Mets don’t hurdle through the National League without Starling Marte and, to a lesser degree, Trevor Williams.  Marte is slashing .309/.359/.511 with 41 extra-base hits in 93 games since May 1, and for the season his bWAR is 3.7. Williams, meanwhile, has not allowed a run in a career-high 24.0 straight innings. Trevor has a 0.88 WHIP, a .190 opponent’s average and a .483 opponent’s OPS during that span.

Pittsburgh fans can find someone to root for even if the San Diego Padres win the World Series (Joe Musgrove), or the Atlanta Braves (Charlie Morton) repeat.

2022 MLB on Peacock schedule: How to watch, live stream Sunday morning baseball games online

Wouldn’t it be something if…the Cardinals beat the Mets in the postseason (with Adam Wainwright getting the final outs)?

In 2006, the Mets won 97 games. The Cardinals won 83 games. But the two teams met in the NLCS, and in Game 7, the Cards had a 3-1 lead entering the bottom of the ninth. Rookie Adam Wainwright closed it out, slamming the door and eliminating the Mets by striking out Carlos Beltran with the bases loaded to end the game.

Wouldn’t it be something if all these years later, the Cardinals once again eliminated the heavily-favored Mets in the deciding game with Wainwright (9-9, 3.09) on the mound!

And if that happened…

Wouldn’t it be something if…the Cardinals beat the Yankees in the World Series (with Jordan Montgomery eliminating his former team)?

Jordan Montgomery was traded from the Yankees to the Cardinals in exchange for Harrison Bader. Montgomery, in his first five starts for St. Louis, is 4-0, with 1.76 ERA and a WHIP of 0.815. How great would it be for Monty, who started the season as the Yankees’ No. 3 starter, eliminates New York.

Of course, October is a long way away. Perhaps Harrison Bader will run down a long blast by Nolan Arenado or Paul Goldschmidt to save a game for the Yankees.

I know what you’re thinking. Even if the Cardinals make the World Series, the Yankees may fall in the ALCS to the Astros. And if that were the case…

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Wouldn’t it be something if…the Cardinals and Astros meet in the World Series, a rematch of the 2004 NLCS (when St. Louis won) and the 2005 NLCS (when Houston won)?

Albert Pujols was the MVP of the 2004 NLCS versus the Houston Astros. Albert batted .500 (14-28 AB) with 1.000 SLG, 1.563 OPS, and 4 HR in the series! Imagine if he has a surge in the very late stages of his career. In the 2005 series, he hit a ninth-inning blast off Brad Lidge that’s a signature highlight in a career full of them.

I know, the Cardinals are a long shot. The Mets have a much better chance of reaching the World Series. So:

Wouldn’t it be something if…Buck Showalter finally makes the World Series in his 21st year as a Major League manager…and loses the Series when the Yankees bring in a reliever named (check notes…) Zack Britton to slam the door on Buck’s Mets?

Well before Timmy Trumpet, Showalter once had an elite reliever in his stint with the Orioles, Zack Britton. In 2016, Britton saved 47 games in 47 save opportunities. The Orioles won 89 games in 2016, and played in the one-game Wild Card in Toronto. The elimination game was tied 2-2 after five innings. And six innings. And seven innings. And eight innings. And nine innings. And ten innings. Buck kept waiting for his Birds to score a run, to bring in the great Britton to close out the Jays. Trouble is, he never did get Zack into the game, and eventually Ubaldo Jimenez lost the game for Buck in the 11th.

Just a thought. If there’s an opportunity to get Edwin Diaz late in a tie game on the road, do it. If you go down, go down with your best.

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Wouldn’t it be something if Buck Showalter finally makes it to the World Series against the Astros and Dusty Baker? One of them has to win, right? Please tell me someone has to win.

Is it even remotely possible that Dusty’s team blows another series lead? Baker shouldn’t have lost the 2002 World Series to the Angels, or the 2021 World Series to the Braves. He shouldn’t have blown a 2-0 series lead to the Giants in a 2012 best-of-five series. He shouldn’t have blown a three-run lead with five outs to go in Game 7 of a 2003 series to the Marlins. And only Dusty — poor Dusty — can have a lead after four innings of a winner-take-all game, bring in Max Scherzer — and still lose the game and series, as Dusty’s Nats did against the Cubs in 2017.

Wouldn’t it be something if the 2022 World Series were a rematch of the 2017 World Series? Only this time, Clayton Kershaw pitches on a level playing field, if you know what I mean. Man, it would be great to see Clayton start a game in Houston.

Remember what happened when Kershaw started Game 5 of the ’17 series in Houston? Clayton was unhittable in Game 1 of that series at Dodger Stadium; but in Game 5, Kershaw blew a 4-0 lead in the fourth inning, and a 7-4 lead in the bottom of the fifth.

I know Kershaw found redemption in the 2020 World Series in Arlington, Texas against Tampa Bay. But I want more. I want Clayton to shut down Altuve, Bregman, and Gurriel in Houston. In a World Series. Wouldn’t that be something?

And if the Astros defeated the Dodgers, I would feel so glad for Dusty Baker, who would have a World Series championship as a player for the Dodgers (in 1981) and as a manager against the Dodgers (41 years later, in 2022).

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Wouldn’t it be something if someone other than the Astros or Yankees made the World Series?  Wouldn’t it be something if the Mariners defeated the Yankees?

Time for a little history lesson. In 2001, the Mariners had a historic regular season, winning 116 games. But they lost the ALCS to the Yankees in five games. In Game 5 at Yankee Stadium, with the Yankees blowing out Seattle 9-0 and eventually eliminating them 12-3, the Bronx crowd chanted “Over-rated” at the Mariners.

Classy, I know. But wouldn’t it be something if the tides were reversed a generation later, and the heavily-favored Yankees fell in Seattle, with the Pacific Northwest crowd serenading the Yankees with the “over-rated” chant?

Wouldn’t it be something if…Rays manager Kevin Cash refuses to take out a starting pitcher that is on his game?

Wouldn’t it be something if…Bryce Harper finally was part of a winning playoff series? Harper appeared been in four Division Series as a member of the Nationals, and lost all four. 

Wouldn’t it be something if…Francisco Lindor makes the World Series against his former Cleveland team and manager Terry Francona?

As the rock group Green Day sang, “Wake Me Up When September Ends.”