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:
"Among the things that have long fascinated people about Jesus and explain his enduring appeal is his method of dialogue and teaching. "He asked a lot of questions and told a lot of stories in the form of parables. In fact, parables form about a third of Jesus’ recorded teachings. The Gospels were written decades after he died, so his questions and parables clearly left a deep impression on those who bore testimony to him....
"Some of Jesus’ questions were rhetorical; others were meant to challenge or even provoke. In some cases, Jesus used questions to parry attacks by religious authorities who set traps for him. In others, he used questions to enter more fully into the lives of others and to help people look at the state of their hearts. He asked people about their fears and their faith. Jesus used questions to free a woman caught in adultery from condemnation and to inquire whether people considered him to be the Messiah. He probed deeply into questions not many had asked before him, like “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”
---(Peter Wehner, long-time White House consultant and writer, in the NYT last week about Jesus Christ’s method of teaching by asking questions.)
"Would that I could mention all the illuminating details in this biography, for example, why Wells praised Black Americans so highly, saying, 'I took a mighty liking to these gentle, human, dark-skinned people,' and 'Whatever America has to show in heroic living today, I doubt if she can show anything finer than the quality of the resolve, the steadfast efforts hundreds of black and colored men are making today to live blamelessly, honorably and patiently, getting by themselves what scraps of refinement, beauty and learning they may, keeping their hold on a civilization they are grudged and denied.''
-- "How H.G. Wells Predicted the 20th Century," Charles Johnson, NYT Book Review, Nov. 19, 2021. ***".
...the monsters arrive."
"They come in a deafening, surging swarm, blasting from lawn to lawn and filling the air with the stench of gasoline and death. I would call them mechanical locusts, descending upon every patch of gold in the neighborhood the way the grasshoppers of old would arrive, in numbers so great they darkened the sky, to lay bare a cornfield in minutes. But that comparison is unfair to locusts.
"Grasshoppers belong here. Gasoline-powered leaf blowers are invaders, the most maddening of all the maddening, environment-destroying tools of the American lawn-care industry."
---The great Margaret Renkl, from Nashville, one of my favorite NYT bylines, Oct. 26, 2021.
(She describes our Long Island enclave to every decibel, every stink.)