This was always going to be a terrific World Series, what with the two ancient franchises, the Cardinals and the Red Sox, and their history of three previous Series.
The Series kept getting more interesting, necessarily in technical brilliance but in the misplays that have determined the last three games – a wild throw, an obstruction, a pickoff.
Before we go any further, let’s put Kolten Wong’s pickoff in perspective. The pinch-runner for the Cardinals was caught off first base to end the fourth game very late Sunday evening.
An entire World Series once ended with a runner caught trying to steal second base. That was George Herman Ruth, who took it upon himself to try to steal with two outs and nobody on in the seventh game, with the Yankees trailing the Cardinals, 3-2.
The batter was merely Bob Meusel, who was hitting only .238 for the Series but was the cleanup hitter. Lou Gehrig was on deck. The Babe was easily thrown out, tagged by the Cards’ player-manager Rogers Hornsby. The pitcher was Grover Cleveland Alexander, working in relief.
Over the years, the legend has persisted that Alexander was hung over after pitching the day before, but he later denied it.
If the Babe can end a Series with a gaffe, Kelton Wong can surely end a game by straying too far off first with the superb Koji Uehara pitching.
I was looking forward to this Series if only because of the epic Series of 1946, the first I remember, with its returning service veterans, plus the matchup between Stan Musial and Ted Williams, and Enos’ Slaughter romp home in the seventh game.
What makes that memory so strong is that the World Series stood by itself in those days, with no post-season tournament beforehand. (The Cardinals had survived a league playoff after tying Brooklyn, but that’s a different category.)
These moments – the Babe’s blunder, Slaughter’s romp, Bob Gibson’s pitching in 1967, Manny Ramirez’ hitting in 2004 – stand out because they happened in the World Series, not in that growing amorphous blob that MLB and the networks call the post season. Kolten Wong’s pickoff and Will Middlebrooks’ inadvertent obstruction in the third game will stand up precisely because they happened in the World Series.
Ruth’s final out:
Box scores from 1926:
Alexander’s side of it, recently posted by the historian John Thorn:
Bill Mazer was a giant of sports broadcasting – and then his career kept going. Long after he was a sports maven in Buffalo and Milwaukee and New York, Mazer, as an octo-genarian, launched into a second career as radio general talk-show host.
We knew each other from the days when he described Cookie Gilchrist’s rushes and Henry Aaron’s home runs. Now, instead of recalling the great sports details (some would call them trivia), Mazer worked first for WEVD in New York and then for WVOX in suburban Westchester.
Mazer, who died Wednesday at 92, was thoroughly admirable in his new life as he chatted about politics and medicine and education and anything else. I remember one time he had me waiting on the next line to babble about some sports theme while he finished up with somebody – as I recall, a brain surgeon. I was extremely impressed.
Bill’s intelligence and curiosity had kicked in. He was able to guide the doctor into explaining the profession, and new developments in medicine. Bill did not need to assert his own memories of who pitched what game of what World Series. He asked wise questions and – believe me, not all interviewers are even adequate at this – he listened to the answers, and he responded to the twists and turns of conversation.
He had his opinions. Once I launched sideways into a tirade about a political theme (no point going over it here) and I could tell he was quite unhappy with me. Still, he politely let me talk, and he politely offered his version, and we finished the chat civilly. (I don’t think he called me for a while, and that was fine, too.)
It was not easy for Bill in his later years. He missed his wife, Dora, known as Dutch, who passed in 1996. She was a beautiful and serene lady who accompanied him to a lot of events, was a force in his life. Yet he continued to grow, with his actor son Arnie Mazer booking guests and running interference for him.
Bill Mazer – like Bob Wolff, Roger Angell and Ray Robinson, ongoing nonagenarian giants and friends of mine – was a marvel. He became a role model for any of us who might want to re-invent ourselves. In the very long run, Bill Mazer was amazing.
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For an appreciation of Bill Mazer’s career, please see the obituary by Richard Goldstein:
A few years ago I found myself writing that Stan Musial embodied the six-degrees-of-separation history of baseball – signed by the Cardinals of Branch Rickey, a man of the Nineteenth Century, and a teammate of Bob Gibson and Curt Flood and Bill White, stars of the Sixties.
Musial, who died on Jan. 20 of this year, is still current in many ways.
On Wednesday, a painting of Stan the Man was to be unveiled at the Missouri Athletic Club in downtown St. Louis, a few hours before his Cardinals were to open the World Series in Boston.
Boston is part of the karma. Musial played his last World Series against the Red Sox in 1946 – what I consider one of the great Series in history for the postwar presence of so many veterans, including Musial and Ted Williams – and in Musial’s only year as general manager, the Cardinals won the 1967 World Series over the Red Sox.
The Man runs right through the center of baseball. And get this, Tim McCarver, the eager puppy of a catcher who was housebroken by Musial and Gibson and others in the early 60s, is calling his last games for Fox this month.
McCarver adores Stan the Man. In the biography I wrote in 2011, Stan Musial: an American Life, McCarver told of the so-called lucky streak of Musial’s life – the embarrassed giggle, the winning hands at poker, the .331 batting average. Never underestimate Stan the Man, McCarver said.
This painting that will be displayed permanently at the M.A.C. is the first sports portrait among other distinguished Missourians. But Musial is wearing a suit, not the gaudy Cardinal uniform. His wife Lilllian commissioned the great portrait artist Robert Templeton to come to their home in 1960 and paint her husband, still playing ball, but already preparing for his continuing career in the restaurant business. Lil, who died in May of 2012, wanted to depict her husband as a man of dignity. The portrait hung in their home until they both passed, and now it will be seen downtown.
Another Musial sighting: his baseball collection -- the uniforms and scorecards and other mementos – are up for sale via the Heritage Auction site Nov. 9-11. Needless to say, the surge to the World Series by the Cardinals – with the No. 6 memorial patches on their uniforms -- cannot help but bring Musial closer to the public eye this month.
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One more thing about this World Series: these two teams are not there by accident. Both of them have enlightened ownerships that have dominated this past decade. The Red Sox of John Henry and associates retooled and returned to the Series this year. The Cardinals, operated conservatively by the DeWitt family, keep winning with sound new waves of players. The smartest thing the Cardinals did was not to match the Angels’ offer for Albert Pujols. As Branch Rickey used to say: Better a year too soon than a year too late. In these high-stakes times, that theory is more important than ever. These two teams deserve to be where they are. Red Sox-Cardinals. The last World Series for The Kid and the Man, but in that grand baseball way, seeming like just yesterday.
With all the changes at my old school, the sun still sinks behind the west goal. On autumn afternoons, it still glares directly at the east goal.
It all came back to me Thursday. I had not seen a game at Jamaica High since the end of the 1955 season, when I was benched after edging over to the sidelines to catch up on the Dodger-Yankee score. (It was the seventh game of the World Series, and we were playing in Brooklyn.)
So much has changed. The comprehensive Jamaica High School has been phased out, replaced by four smaller schools tucked into corners of the grand old building on the glacial hill. But there is still a Jamaica team in the Public School Athletic League, and on Thursday it played a big game against Far Rockaway.
The coach is Dana Silverstein, twenty-five years old, a former player for the University of Rhode Island. She says the young men have probably never played for a female coach before, but they listen to her, they show respect.
I remember the polyglot Jamaica team of my years. Silverstein told me she heard at least thirteen different languages in the building but that one player will translate a fine point for a teammate, if needed.
The Jamaica home uniform was a white shirt and navy blue shorts. I remembered our ratty red long-sleeved jerseys and our school song, to the tune of Aura Lee (Love Me Tender): “Red and blue/ Red and blue/ School of red and blue…”
The Jamaica football team – another innovation since the 50s -- practiced directly behind the west goal. The players dressed in the fieldhouse which I remembered as old and musty, where we ate orange slices at halftime. More recently I have heard that Joe Austin, the legendary coach for St. Monica’s – Mario Cuomo’s mentor for life -- used to keep a spare set of clothes and perhaps spend the night there if the baseball games ran late.
Far Rockaway had won ten matches and lost only once, scoring above three goals seven different times. Jamaica, with a 4-6-1 record, could not afford another loss if it wanted to qualify for the playoffs. From the start, Far Rockaway was more physical, knocking Jamaica players to the artificial turf, pounding the ball downfield.
I have been watching games from the press tribune for the past eight World Cups, as Sócrates and Baggio and Zidane and Donovan moved forward like Pak-Men on electronic rampage, but down here on terra firma it happened fast.
For this ancient defender, the old terror came back – how hard it was to track the ball while facing west, the autumn haze, the sun at a nasty low angle, and suddenly hordes of opponents would materialize, as if in a science-fiction movie, right out of the glare.
Far Rockaway fired wide a few times but then scored the goal that had seemed inevitable. “Keep fighting,” the coach shouted.
The teams changed sides at halftime, and with the sun at their backs, the Jamaica players seemed invigorated. They tied the match with a lightning shot from distance; a few minutes later they scored another cannonball goal. “Zero-zero,” Silverstein shouted, meaning, don’t let up. But Far Rockaway pressed toward the fifty Jamaica football players clustered behind the west goal, and with about five minutes left, the visitors scored.
“Fight back, Jamaica,” the coach shouted. “This is your season.”
The match ended in a 2-2 draw. The coach called her players onto the turf and addressed them: “I can’t think of a bad thing to say,” she said, her tone optimistic, encouraging. “You played well. Practice tomorrow. Game Monday.”
The last game is 4 PM Monday at Campus Magnet in Cambria Heights, which used to be Andrew Jackson – Jamaica’s biggest rival in the old basketball days.
My word to my old teammates, from Long Island to California, is that these guys watch the great clubs and national teams, which we never could do. My teammates would love their, power, their moves, their maturity on the field. Go, Jamaica.
The roster, straight from the website http://www.psal.org/profiles/team-profile.aspx#012/28517:
I understand branding and consolidation in the new electronic age. Still, allow me some nostalgia over the change from the International Herald Tribune to the International New York Times, effective Tuesday.
The Tribune was itself a landmark brand, descended from the original New York Herald Tribune, hawked on a Paris boule-vard by Jean Seberg in the movie Breathless. “Hey, get your Tribune! Get your New York Herald Tribune!” is the way I remember her spiel, in her corn-fed Iowa accent.
Young Americans traveled to Paris, to Europe, and needed to catch up on the ball scores, or something less important, so we bought the Tribune for news of home. But the Tribune aimed at an international readership with serious articles about politics and finance. Undoubtedly the Times is doing it bigger and better.
But an institution is gone. I used to drop in to the Tribune office from time to time, vaguely hoping somebody would offer me a job so I could live in Paris. It was a raffish ex-pat world, three or four decades ago, when the Tribune was in the Rue de Berri -- sort of Rick’s Café Américain, with typewriters.
In the last hours of the IHT, I called somebody who used to work there – Corinna V. Wilson, now the vice president of programming and on-air interviewer at PCN, based in Harrisburg, Pa., but for much of her junior year abroad a copy girl at the IHT. Also, our daughter.
“It was not an American work place,” she said with evident fondness. “There was an international zeitgeist to it.” She would hustle from classes to the office in Neuilly, often jollying up the union members in the composing room, inasmuch as she spoke French. She speaks with great respect for the editors and reporters on the small staff. They were serious people, with great backgrounds, she said, and the mood was “collegial,” at the very French mandatory dinner hour and after-hours excursions to Les Halles.
As a lawyer who was previously the chief operating officer of the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association, Wilson understands the need to synchronize resources.
“It’s a good move, I get it,” she said, but she had advice for the ambassadors from the home office: “They’ll have to listen. It’s different.”
Back in the day, the Tribune was partly owned by the Times, but it was not the Times, bien sûr. Now you can get ball scores on line, any time of day. No more hustling down to the kiosk to buy the Tribune to find out how the Red Sox and Yankees did in their playoff game. It’s a new world, and an evolving product, in good hands. Bonne chance.
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I wrote my piece before discovering Hendrik Hertzberg had done a riff for the New Yorker in March, using the same Seberg photo. http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/hendrikhertzberg/2013/03/adieu-international-herald-tribune.html
This is the New York Times article on the turnover:
David Vecsey's sweet tale of distant love before the Web, now NYT Podcast, narrated by Griffin Dunne. Please see:
George Vecsey is Hofstra University's Alumnus of the Month! Read a Q&A with George here.