Monthly Archives: October 2016

THE GRAND DADDY OF THEM ALL

The Stanley Cup has the claim to fame of being the oldest trophy in sports.  The Super Bowl is a unique one shot deal spectacle to crown the NFL champion.  The NBA Finals may bring out glitz and celebrities, but there is one special championship series that is a piece of Americana-the World Series.

The Fall Classic has been around since 1903, longer than any professional championship in North America.  Throughout its now 113 year history so much has happened.  We’ve seen perfect games, walk off championships, back and forth seven game battles.  We’ve also seen upsets and miracle teams that won a series to cap their first winning season.  The advent of the Wild Card in 1997 brought a new dimension, teams that weren’t division (or regular season league winners) coming out on top.

The Yankees have won the series 27 times, far and away the most of any franchise.  The Cardinals have won it a National League leading eleven times.  There are however many fan bases who haven’t seen baseball played in late October.  This year is the poster child for those long-suffering followers.

Before I get into droughts and curses I must mention the teams that haven’t seen the big show in their locality.  Consider Seattle and Montreal.  The Pacific Northwest saw the Pilots begin play in 1969 only to see them leave for Milwaukee prior to the following season.  They wouldn’t even see Major League Baseball again until 1977 when the Mariners began play.  The Mariners have seen their expansion brothers in Toronto win the World Series twice (1992, 1993).  Although they have made post season appearances over the years the World Series continues to elude Seattle.

In 1969 the city of Montreal was awarded the first Major League franchise outside of the United States.  Though marginally successful through most of their existence, the Expos franchise made the post season only once, the strike shortened season of 1981.  The Montreal franchise won the second half National League Eastern Division title of the strike interrupted season that year.  They made it to the National League Championship Series only to be denied on what has become known as Blue Monday in Montreal.  The Dodgers Rick Monday’s ninth inning home run in game 5 (in Montreal) sent the Expos home and the Dodgers to the World Series.  The city of Montreal would see its Expos leave for Washington DC following the 2004 season.  Since their arrival in America’s Nation’s Capitol the Nationals have not made a Fall Classic appearance.

A total of six franchises have made appearances in the big show but have not brought home the prize (San Diego, Texas, Colorado, Tampa Bay, Milwaukee Brewers, Houston).

This year we have a matchup of the two longest droughts in World Series history.  The Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians have waited longer than any of the teams I just discussed since their last World Series victory.

The plight of the Cubs fan has been well documented.  Wrigley Field saw its first Fall Classic action since 1945 on Friday night.  It was also the first World Series night game played in the historic venue.  The ultimate “W” flag hasn’t flown above Wrigley since 1908.  As of this writing it’s not looking good right now for this year either with the Tribe holding a 3-1 lead in the series.

So much has been made of the 108 year drought on the Near North Side of Chicago.  There has been a bar owner with a billy-goat that was denied entry into Wrigley Field during the ’45 series.  There was the black cat at New York’s Shea Stadium that crossed the Cubs on-deck circle that lead to a collapse of a nine game lead over the second place Mets.  There was Steve Bartman, the poor fan that went after a foul ball in the 2003 NLCS with the Cubbies six outs away from the World Series.  Can the tide turn at Wrigley beginning tonight?

Like the Boston Red Sox, who finally broke an 86 year drought of their own in 2004, the Indians have made appearances since their last victory in 1948.  Most notably Cleveland made it to the Fall Classic twice in three years in the 1990’s (1995, 1997) only to lose to the Braves and Marlins.

So many stories that have been told.  Carlton Fisk trying to wish a ball fair at Fenway in 1975, Reggie Jackson hitting three consecutive home runs against the Dodgers at Yankee Stadium in 1977.  There were walk off home runs by Bill Mazeroski and Joe Carter. A walk-off single by Edgar Renteria in the eleventh inning of Game 7.  Babe Ruth calling his shot in 1927 at Wrigley.  Don Larsen’s perfect game against the Brooklyn Dodgers.  Will history be written as early as tonight?  Will the Cubs stage a comeback?  Stay tuned to the Grand Daddy of them all!

 

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MORE LEGENDS OF THE PRESS BOX

Amid the hype of Vin Scully’s retirement, not much was said or written about another broadcast booth story.  Further down the California coast (as well as the National League Western Division) another legend called it quits.

Dick Enberg who was the voice of the California Angels from 1969-1978 and again for the 1985 season was the Los Angeles area’s other legendary voice of summer.  In 2010 Enberg would resume as a local broadcaster, this time further south in San Diego.  Dick hung up his headset on October 2, a day that will be remembered in Southern California broadcasting history.

Just as Scully’s retirement got me to think of all the local voices I grew up with, Enberg’s career and retirement made me reflect on so many more voices that I grew up with on a national level.  Enberg’s voice was a staple on both NBC and CBS’s NFL broadcasts.

Before there was Chris Fowler and Brent Musberger there was Keith Jackson.  Anyone in my age group can remember Saturday afternoons, or evenings in the fall that would include Keith Jackson.  Mr. Jackson and ABC for that matter WAS college football in the 1970’s.  Who can forget the catch phrase “Whoa Nellie!” when games got exciting.

Way before the advent of ESPN, TBS and other cable outlets, it was ABC, NBC, and CBS that carried the load of nationally televised sports.

In 1970 the newly merged National Football League entered a brave new world in scheduling.  The league, along with ABC Sports launched a weekly finale to the mainly Sunday football stage.  Monday Night Football was born.  Jackson, along with former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Don Meredith joined ABC Sports boxing broadcast legend Howard Cosell in the booth.The following year former New York Giants great Frank Gifford would replace Keith Jackson as the play by play man.  Monday Night Football was such a success that it remained a staple on ABC until 2005.  In 2006 the Monday Night telecast moved to ESPN, ABC’s sister network.  Not only does it continue to flourish, it also gave rise to games on Thursday and Sunday nights.

Who can forget Meredith bursting into song with “turn out the lights the party’s over” when the game was sealed and time was running out?  Who can ever forget Howard Cosell breaking the story on December 8, 1980 that John Lennon had been murdered?  Al Michaels would succeed Gifford as the play by play man in 1986.

Speaking of Al Michaels, who can ever forget his call of the Miracle on Ice at the 1980 Winter Olympics?  With time winding down in the USA semi-final victory over the heavily favored Soviet Union Michaels would utter these unforgettable words.  “Do you believe in miracles….YES!”  That phrase goes right along side “one small step for man…one giant leap for mankind!” in American television lore.

Along with Scully, Enberg, Jackson, and Michaels there is a lesser known play by play man who has been the voice of NFL football longer than anyone.  Don Criqui was behind the mic calling NFL and AFL football from 1967-2013 for both NBC and CBS.  Criqui was also the voice of fourteen Orange Bowl games.

Current FOX lead broadcaster Joe Buck is a second generation broadcaster.  His father, Jack Buck was a broadcast legend for the St. Louis Cardinals as well as a national broadcaster for CBS in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.  Who can forget his famous call of Kirk Gibson’s walk-off home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.  “I don’t believe what I just saw! I don’t believe what I just saw!” was the call on CBS, while Vin Scully described it as “she is gone!’ on the Dodgers Radio Network.

Sports will continue on, and broadcasters will come and go.  This year, we saw two of the best in the business leave the booth for good.  So this is for you guys in Southern California, from a blogger born and raised in New York and living in South Florida.  Thank you Vin for telling me to pull up a chair.  Thank you Dick for years of trivia on Sports Challenge and so many utterings of “Oh My!”