The Saturday marathon between Washington and San Francisco was so good that I barely clicked on “Chinatown” on the Sundance Channel. That is saying a lot.
Just asking but now many actors have made three iconic movies like “The Thomas Crown Affair,” “Bonnie and Clyde” and “Chinatown?” But even Faye Dunaway had to wait for commercial breaks between the Giants and Nationals.
That game had its own Nicholson and Dunaway – Tim Hudson and Jordan Zimmerman, pitching late into the game, almost like latter-day Gibsons and Koufaxes, at least for one night. (Matt Williams blew the game, probably the series, by yanking Zimmerman with two outs in the ninth.)
Last week I lamented that I would miss the daily soap opera of the only team I watch regularly, the erratic little Mets. There is something to knowing the pluses and minuses of players, day after day. But 18 innings among out-of-towners takes care of some of that. After 18 innings, I had vastly more respect for the bat-handling prowess of Washington’s Anthony Rendon, and the long-man relief pitching of Yusmeiro Petit of the Giants, whose name I had never quite managed to notice until Saturday night.
Petit pitched so long and so well, six innings, no runs, that I found myself thinking of other long-relief jobs – young Nolan Ryan pitching seven innings in relief for the Mets in the 1969 league series.
The accumulation of post-season memories (and the overkill of fairly meaningless statistics shoveled at us by the Fox people) reminds me that baseball is a different animal now. The accomplishments of Bob Gibson and Sandy Koufax stand out because they happened in the clear sunlight of the World Series, not the murky, ever-changing circumstances of the so-called post-season.
It comes up because obviously Clayton Kershaw just had a truly great season, but I am glad I covered Gibson and Koufax in their shining primes because the memories give me the residual impression that they were special and unique. I resist coronations of players who have a few great years. The other day, somebody suggested that if Andrew McCutchen had another MVP season, we could talk about the Hall of Fame. Let me toss a few names at you – Mark Fidrych, Fred Lynn, Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry.
So now Kershaw has had two consecutive wretched starts in the post-season. I don’t think the competition is that much better in October. Rather, the season grinds on and on, wearing down its best pitchers. Baseball is truly a marathon now. Back when Gibson and Koufax excelled, the 60’s, baseball was a mile race.
Gibson willed the Cardinals in the final scary days of 1964, and then managed to start three times in a seven-game victory over the Yankees. Before the post-season dance began in 1969, he started nine games in three Series, pitched eight complete games, with a 7-2 record and a 1.89 ERA. He never had to slog through layers of post-season before the now-coda of a World Series.
Koufax pitched eight times in four World Series, from 1959 through 1966, starting seven, finishing four with a 0.95 ERA and a 4-3 record. (The Dodgers couldn’t hit much in some of those years.)
Plenty of time to think about Koufax and Gibson while watching a wonderful 18-inning drama. Somehow I never clicked over to find the “she’s-my-sister/she’s-my-daughter” moment in “Chinatown.” The game was that good.
Welcome to World Cup 2022, the most absurd thing that the routinely absurd world of sports has ever produced.
Those extreme descriptions were what virtually the entire world, save for those who had walked off with bags of cash from Qatar, called the awarding of soccer’s greatest event to the incredibly tiny, incredibly wealthy country back in 2010.
Twelve years ago, many were convinced this event couldn’t possibly happen: staging the world’s biggest sporting event in a country the size of Connecticut, one with zero soccer culture and even less soccer infrastructure? The tournament couldn’t possibly take place in 120-degree heat, and FIFA, the governing body of soccer, most certainly wouldn’t upend football leagues around the world to change the traditional summer schedule, could it?
And, for God’s sake, what about the beer?
Those were just the logistical concerns. The moral concerns are far more distressing. FIFA, so busy paying lip service to equality, couldn’t possibly expect the world to embrace a country where you could go to prison for being gay, where women’s rights are severely curtailed and female victims of sexual assault could go to prison, charged with engaging in extramarital sex. And all those questions came before the global realization that the World Cup was being built on the backs of migrant labor: modern-day slaves held in Qatar with virtually no rights, low wages and no ability to leave. Migrants make up 90% of Qatar’s stated population of 3 million. The country’s native-born equal about 300,000, or roughly the size of Anaheim.
---Ann Killion, columnist for The San Francisco Chronicle.