To begin today’s article, I would like to congratulate the National League Champion Los Angeles Dodgers and the American League Champion Houston Astros on jobs well done.
That being said, the 2017 Fall Classic is already laden with history without the first pitch being thrown. The Dodgers are making their 18th appearance as National League Champions, that puts them one behind the St. Louis Cardinals for the most in league history. The Astros will appear in their second World Series.
The only other time that the Houston Astros appeared in the World Series, they were the National League Champions.
About those now two trips to the World Series for the Astros. Houston made history last night when they wrapped up their 4-0 shutout of the New York Yankees. Houston has now become the only team to win championships in both leagues. To make things even more historic, they did it by knocking off the team that has won the World Series more times than anyone else.
For those of us that have been around baseball long enough, the very fact that the Dodgers are facing the Astros in the World Series has to sound weird. The Astros spent the first 50 years of their existence in the National League. What’s even more bizarre about this setup is the fact that the Astros and Dodgers both competed in the National League Western Division from 1969-1993.
Due to a mid-season players strike, the 1981 season was split into two halves. The teams that lead their respective divisions when the players struck in June were declared first half champions. When play resumed in August everyone began fresh and the remainder of the schedule comprised the second half.
The Los Angeles Dodgers held a half-game lead over the second place Cincinnati Reds when play halted that year. Houston finished the second half of the schedule with a game-and-a-half lead over Cincinnati. This set up a best-of-five National League Western Division Series between the Dodgers and Astros.
The Astros and Dodgers met for the National League West Championship in the strike shortened 1981 season.
League changing has happened twice in Major League history. In 1998 baseball expanded to the current 30 clubs. As a result of the Arizona Diamondbacks joining the National League and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays (currently the Rays) joining the American League. Interleague competition was in its infancy (it began a year earlier) and was an event held for a span of a couple of weeks in June. To keep the interleague play as a novelty the Milwaukee Brewers, then owned by commissioner Bud Selig moved to the National League. This kept both leagues with an even number of teams, despite the fact that the NL had two more teams than the AL.
In the early part of the current decade the thinking changed. Major League Baseball was considering evening the playing field and making interleague play a constant part of the schedule. At the time, the Astros franchise was up for sale. New owner Jim Crane was at the right place at the right time for his longtime National League franchise to take a very new direction. Major League Baseball made the sale of the Astros contingent on the team moving to the American League. The rest, as they say, is history.
If and when the Brewers win the National League title, they will become the second team to accomplish what the Astros have already done. Here’s another fun fact, Milwaukee lost the 1982 World Series to their current divisional rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals.
There is another angle to the upcoming Fall Classic. The metropolitan area of Houston, and Southeast Texas has been through hell this summer. The effects of Hurricane Harvey can still be seen in and around the area. Sports has always provided a sense of healing in times of crisis. The reaction at Minute Maid Park was deafening when a fly ball to center field wrapped up the American League Championship Series. Here’s hoping for good times ahead for a community that has been through so much.
Good luck to both the Dodgers and Astros!