Oct 21, 2013, 8:55 AM EDT
While I’m sure many Red Sox fans were looking forward to a rematch of the 1916 World Series with the Brooklyn Robins (what, you don’t remember that?), the Red Sox are matched up with their historically most familiar World Series rival: the St. Louis Cardinals. It’s the fourth matchup between these storied franchises. They met in the days of Williams and Musial, of Gibson and Yaz and of Ortiz and Molina. Now they meet in, er, the days of Ortiz and Molina.
Obviously what happened in 1946, 1967 and 2004 has nothing to do with what will happen this year, but let’s take a walk down memory lane at the three past St. Louis-Boson Fall Classics:
Here’s one familiar thing: in 1946 the Cardinals beat out the Dodgers for the pennant and the Sox beat out the Tigers. One difference: the base running here was way, way better than anything we saw from Prince Fielder the other night. Indeed, one of the most famous base running plays of all time occurred in the bottom of the eighth inning in Game 7 of this series when Cardinals outfielder Enos Slaughter scored from first base on a Harry Walker double. Slaughter was running with the pitch and, well, just watch:
Slaughter ignored his coach’s stop sign at third base and kept running. Sox shortstop Johnny Pesky either clutched or brain-locked or, well, something, and hesitated throwing home for a second before gathering himself and rushing his throw to the plate. Slaughter’s run made it 4-3, which would be the final score and which would give the Cardinals the World Series.
Stan Musial and Ted Williams were the big stars here, but neither would ever see the World Series again. The Cards wouldn’t win another pennant until 1964. Boston wouldn’t return to the Fall Classic until 1967. But when they did, it was to face a familiar foe.
The Cardinals were in the middle of a mini-dynasty, the Sox were dreaming an Impossible Dream. World champs in 1964, the 101-Cardinals had just won their second of three pennants in the 1960s. The Sox, on the other hand, experienced their first winning season in nine years. And it wasn’t some “they finally got over the top” kind of thing either. In 1966 and 1965 they finished in ninth place out of ten AL teams. In the five seasons before that they were eighth, seventh, eighth, sixth and seventh. The Sox really came out of nowhere and — once again — beat out the Tigers in a legendary pennant race which came down to the last day.
The Sox were led by triple crown winner Carl Yastrzemski, who did his part, batting .400 while hitting three homers in the series. The Cardinals ace Bob Gibson, however, was too much to overcome. Gibson struck out ten batters in Game 7 and added a home run of his own. He tossed a complete game too — his third of the series — but that was just what aces did back then, right? The Cardinals’ win gave them their eighth World Series title.
St. Louis would be back to try for nine the very next year. The Sox wouldn’t be back until 1975. Then 1986. Then, as the 90s and early 2000s wore on, their playoff legacy began to morph from one in which “Impossible Dreams” were dreamt into one of only nightmares. But then 2004 happened, and the “sad sack Sox” cliche would be banished for good.
I feel like hindsight has made the 2004 Red Sox into some dominant Team of Destiny. The team which Broke the Curse and which exemplified a decade dominated by titanic battles between the high-payroll Sox and Yankees. Meanwhile, I feel like that same hindsight has transformed the Cardinals into some sort of sacrificial lamb which meekly and unquestionably played its role in banishing 86 years of Boston demons. The fact that the Sox easily swept this series just bolsters this meme.
Except that really wasn’t the meme at all at the time. The Cardinals won 105 games in 2004 and were led by the most dominant hitter on the planet in Albert Pujols. The Sox, meanwhile, were the AL wild card winners, having finished three games back of the Yankees. Sure, they were seen as the second strongest team in the AL — the Angels and Twins weren’t exactly scaring anyone back east — but after a devastating 2003 ALCS loss and a 2004 ALCS win which seemed more the product of divine providence than dominance, the Sox’ 2004 championship was not thought of as a foregone conclusion at all. Indeed, this felt more like the Impossible Dream Redux.
Of course it turned out differently. The Cardinals didn’t hold a lead in any of the Series’ four games. The Sox played sloppy baseball for the first couple of games and won anyway. Pedro Martinez and Derek Lowe dominated Cardinals bats in Games 3 and 4 and that, as they way, was that.
2013: The Titans Meet Again
The Cardinals would win the World Series two years later. The Sox would win it again the season after that. St. Louis would get yet another championship in 2011. Neither of these teams have been strangers to winning for most of the past decade, and even though there are only two remaining players from the 2004 series — David Ortiz and Yadier Molina — both of these teams feel more like continuations of quasi-dynasties than Impossible Dreams or winners of any kind of Mad Dash.
This is no underdog story. Check your “no one believed in us” propaganda at the door. It’s the best vs. the best. Two massively popular teams with passionate fan bases. Two teams near the top of baseball’s historical marquee meeting, once again, for a World Series title.
Here’s hoping for even more history.
Oct 30, 2014, 11:01 PM EDT
Giants second baseman Joe Panik started a key double play in Game 7. Here’s a deeper look at how it went down.
Oct 30, 2014, 9:47 PM EDT
The Diamondbacks announced this evening that they have exercised club options on right-hander Daniel Hudson and left-hander Matt Reynolds for 2015.
Oct 30, 2014, 9:01 PM EDT
Johnson missed the entire 2014 season after the second Tommy John surgery of his career.
Oct 30, 2014, 8:13 PM EDT
The early television ratings for this year’s World Series were pretty low, but the Giants and Royals ended up going the distance and we witnessed a very compelling Game 7 last night. It turns out that a lot of folks tuned in to see what the fuss was all about.
Oct 30, 2014, 7:24 PM EDT
The Fielding Bible Awards are back. And they have an interesting wrinkle this time around.
Oct 30, 2014, 6:08 PM EDT
Haren’s option vested when he reached the 180-inning mark in September, but he had the ability to decline it and test free agency. However, he has decided to stick around.
Oct 30, 2014, 5:47 PM EDT
Gallardo posted an ERA above 4.00 last season for the first time in his career, but bounced back to throw 192 innings with a 3.51 ERA this year at age 28.
Oct 30, 2014, 5:22 PM EDT
Street saved a career-high 41 games this season.
Oct 30, 2014, 5:07 PM EDT
Overall in two seasons with the Red Sox he threw 139 innings with a 1.75 ERA and 181/17 K/BB ratio.
Oct 30, 2014, 4:36 PM EDT
The A’s opted to stay internal in replacing Chili Davis.
Oct 30, 2014, 4:16 PM EDT
Both players are now free agents.
Oct 30, 2014, 3:50 PM EDT
After a disappointing first season in Washington he bounced back to hit .302 with 31 steals and a .771 OPS, leading the league with 184 hits.
Oct 30, 2014, 3:31 PM EDT
The Greek God of Walks retires to Olympus. Or maybe Ohio.
Oct 30, 2014, 3:15 PM EDT
He’ll play for the minimum salary at age 36.
Oct 30, 2014, 2:34 PM EDT
40-man roster housecleaning, mostly.
Oct 30, 2014, 2:07 PM EDT
Minnie Minoso, Tony Oliva and Ken Boyer are among those back on the 2014 ballot.
Oct 30, 2014, 1:49 PM EDT
New York has not hired a replacement for fired hitting coach Kevin Long yet and they also have an opening at first base coach after letting Mick Kelleher go.
Oct 30, 2014, 1:15 PM EDT
Adams threw 44 innings in two seasons for the Phillies.
Oct 30, 2014, 12:49 PM EDT
A look at the tough calls the Royals will have to make following their World Series run.
- Kevin Youkilis opts for retirement at age 35 27
- 10 nominees for Hall of Fame’s Veterans Committee announced 94
- Bochy’s championship resume ranks among game’s best 17
- Alex Gordon would have been a dead duck had he tried to score 80
- Video: Pablo Sandoval catches final out in foul territory, Giants win 2014 World Series 10
- Madison Bumgarner pitches the Giants to their third World Series win in five seasons 93
- Madison Bumgarner named World Series MVP … obviously 21
- Pablo Sandoval sets new postseason hits record 10
- A veteran says enough is enough when it comes to tributes for the soldiers (280)
- Jose Canseco shot his middle finger off (148)
- Shocker! Joe Maddon to opt out of his contract and leave the Rays (142)
- Oscar Taveras dies after car accident in the Dominican Republic (140)
- 10-0! The Royals romp, tie it up at three games a piece (109)