For Buck O’Neil, Hall call confirms legacy he always carried

Gary Friedman/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
0 Comments

The crowd came to celebrate. They wept instead.

Several hundred people had gathered at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum on that February day in 2006. Buck O’Neil was going to be elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. That was the proper outcome for a man of his achievement, resiliency, and legendary optimism. O’Neil was on hand and poised to share the moment with friends and family members.

O’Neil had been one of the greatest first basemen in Negro League history; managed the storied Kansas City Monarchs; signed eventual MLB Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Lou Brock, and Lee Smith as a Chicago Cubs scout; became the first Black coach in Major League history; led the effort to establish the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City; and earned esteem as the preeminent storyteller of the transformational period before, during, and after the integration of America’s national pastime.

O’Neil possessed a unique résumé among all the Negro League players, executives and managers under consideration by a special Hall of Fame committee.

He fell one vote short.

“I shed tears that day — tears of anguish,” recalled Bob Kendrick, O’Neil’s close confidant and NLBM president since 2011. “I was the one who told Buck that he didn’t get enough votes. To this day, it was one of the most gut-wrenching conversations of my life. But who handled it better than anyone? Buck.”

Despite the heartbreak, O’Neil accepted the invitation to travel to Cooperstown for the 2006 induction ceremony and speak on behalf of inductees who had been elected posthumously. O’Neil delivered a stirring, joyful address without a hint of resentment about his own result.

“Think about the type of human being it takes to do that,” marveled Smith, the Hall of Fame closer. “He was never bitter about that situation . . . I’m telling you, for him to be part of that ceremony, it’s because he was always giving everywhere he went.”

John “Buck” O’Neil died two months after delivering that speech. He was 94.

Sixteen years later, the mystifying wait for recognition will end. O’Neil will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on July 24, following last year’s vote of the Golden Days Era Committee.

O’Neil’s niece, Dr. Angela Terry, will speak on his behalf.

“It is a little bittersweet, because we won’t get to high-five and chest bump with our guy,” Kendrick acknowledged, “but that doesn’t diminish the accomplishment, and it doesn’t diminish the opportunity to celebrate all that he did.”

“I’m sure when we get to the moment on July 24, I’m going to be overcome with emotion. But these will be tears of joy, not the tears of anguish we shed in 2006, because my friend’s baseball legacy is fully in place. He’ll take his proper place among the immortals of our game. Of course, as we both know, his legacy is far greater than baseball.”

That legacy is growing stronger through the Buck O’Neil Education and Research Center in Kansas City, now under construction at the former Paseo YMCA building near the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. The Paseo YMCA has deep significance to O’Neil’s story; it was there that Andrew “Rube” Foster held the 1920 meeting that formalized the Negro National League.

The NLBM had organized numerous events to celebrate the centennial in 2020, but they were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In that sense, O’Neil’s Hall of Fame induction is Right on Time, to borrow from the title of his autobiography. The celebration of his career is infusing new energy to the “Thanks a Million, Buck” campaign to raise $1 million in support of infrastructure and programming at the Education and Research Center.

“It’s almost poetic, after having lost 2020,” Kendrick said. “When we were celebrating the 100th anniversary, we thought that was going to come with a lot of financial support for this project. But now we get to use the Hall of Fame induction as the springboard to help take care of the House that Buck Built.”

O’Neil was born and raised in Florida, where Jim Crow laws prevented him from attending Sarasota High School. Kansas City became his hometown through playing for and managing the Monarchs. He worked for decades as a scout and ambassador for the Royals, who have recognized his impact during every home game since his passing; each day, one fan who exemplifies his spirit is invited to watch the game from the Buck O’Neil Legacy Seat behind home plate.

“He’s one of the greatest ambassadors for the Royals, and the game of baseball, that we’ve ever had,” said Dayton Moore, the club’s president. “With what he has meant to this community, we celebrate him 81 dates per year by honoring a citizen in our community who we feel represents the spirit of Buck O’Neil.”

“He was always caring for and loving on people. He served others in the community. He lived with a spirit of optimism and hope and forgiveness.”

Moore moved with his family to Kansas City in 2006, several months before O’Neil’s passing, but the two had met in 1994. At the time, Moore was an assistant baseball coach at George Mason University. O’Neil was receiving national acclaim for his role in Ken Burns’ Baseball documentary, and George Mason was chosen as the site of O’Neil’s interview with Ted Koppel on Nightline.

Moore described O’Neil as “one of those individuals you want everyone you know or care about to have met.” Moore also believes it’s more vital than ever that Americans — not only baseball fans — learn about the grace with which O’Neil faced and overcame prejudice.

“We’re all looking for examples of greatness and people who model the characteristics we want to see in our communities,” Moore said. “Buck O’Neil modeled that better than anybody . . . I’ll always remember him as a person who celebrated the gift of life every single day. He was thankful for everything he experienced, and he told stories about those times in his life in a very forgiving and hopeful way.”

In 2008, the National Baseball Hall of Fame honored O’Neil’s legacy by creating the Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award. The award honors “an individual whose extraordinary efforts enhanced baseball’s positive impact on society, broadened the game’s appeal, and whose character, integrity and dignity are comparable to the qualities exhibited by O’Neil.”

The Hall created a permanent exhibit to recognize the award, with the list of honorees accompanying a life-sized statue of O’Neil. The O’Neil display is located so close to the Museum entrance that visitors feel as if Buck is welcoming them to Cooperstown — a perfect tribute to his warmth and graciousness.

Smith, a 2019 Hall inductee, cried the first time he saw the smiling statue of the man who believed in him.

“I went back to when I was 17 years old,” Smith said, recalling his reaction. “Buck was chasing me down in Louisiana. He’d come back to watch me play sandlot ball. I was actually catching one day, and he was there.

“He always called me ‘Lee Arthur.’ I had my chest protector and mask on, but no shin guards, because I didn’t have enough money for shin guards. Buck saw me and called out, ‘Lee Arthur! Get out from back there! We’re thinking about drafting you!’ I said, ‘To the Army?’”

Smith laughed over the phone.

“I had been lined up to play college basketball,” he continued. “Buck O’Neil saw something in me that I’d never seen myself.”

Smith will return to Cooperstown in July and sit on the dais as his mentor is welcomed into the community of baseball immortals — thus strengthening the bond between the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, two historic institutions separated by 1,200 miles.

Long after the ceremony is over, O’Neil’s impact will grow at the NLBM Education and Research Center inaugurated in his name. Kendrick envisions the organization as a worldwide headquarters to study the intersection of Negro League baseball and social history.

In that way, Kendrick believes the NLBM’s mission has taken on a heightened focus in the two years since the murder of George Floyd.

“In the aftermath of this heinous and vile act, people reached out to us, seeking thought leadership,” Kendrick said. “We truly embraced the fact that this museum is a social justice museum, and a Civil Rights museum, seen through the lens of baseball. This museum is the story of triumph over adversity. We needed that story during that critical time when the country was going through a realm of social and civil unrest similar to the 1960s.

“The museum helps us to say, ‘You’ve seen my struggles. You’ve seen me try to navigate toward equality in this country. You’ve seen me sprayed by fire hoses, attacked by police dogs, subject to police brutality. But now see my success stories.’ Negro League Baseball is one of the great American success stories. ‘You won’t let me play in the Major Leagues? OK, I’ll create my own league, and my league will rival and in many cases surpass your league in popularity and attendance.’

“There’s something very American about that spirit.”

And no American, past or present, better exemplifies that spirit than John “Buck” O’Neil. The first two floors of the Education and Research Center in his name are set to open following the Nov. 12 fundraiser gala.

There’s a pretty important ceremony coming up in a few weeks, too. Buck O’Neil is a Hall of Famer, long overdue and right on time.

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

0 Comments

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

0 Comments

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.

RELATED: On Manoah’s journey to stardom, Morgantown remains memorable stop

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…

RELATED: Does Pujols deserve more respect?

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.

RELATED: Rogers: Mets are ‘built for postseason’

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).

RELATED: Astros ace Justin Verlander placed on IL with calf injury

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.”