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:
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.