Category Archives: Uncategorized

A LOOK BACK AT 2017- PART I

“And so this is Christmas, and what have you done?  Another year over and a new one just begun!”-John Lennon

Yes, here we are in the heart of the holiday season once again.  Amid the gift shopping and partying that is December, it is also time to wrap up the year that was.  So it is now time for the Karpelblog annual year in review.  This will be a two-part edition of the blog, today we look back at the first half of 2017.  Next week we wrap up the year with the second half of 2017 and our year-end awards.

We begin our trip back in time on January 9th at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.  The College Football National Championship Game pitted number 1 ranked Alabama against number 2 ranked Clemson.  Alabama came into the game as the favorite to claim yet another title.

Clemson trailed 31-28 in the waning moments of the game, and the campus in Tuscaloosa was bracing to celebrate Alabama’s latest National Championship.  What followed was a 9 play 68 yard drive for the ages led by Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson.  On the game’s final play Watson hit Hunter Renfrow in the end zone from two yards out.  The Clemson Tigers finished a come-from-behind victory for the ages, claiming the National Championship and set off a celebration on their South Carolina campus!

 

Image result for 2017 national championship winning touchdown

Clemson’s Hunter Renfrow reels in the National Championship winning touchdown.

 

While we are on the subject of epic comebacks, we now move on to Houston’s NRG Stadium, site of Super Bowl 51.  Much like the National Championship Game in January, it pitted a perennial champion looking to add-on to its resume.  This time it was the New England Patriots chance to add another feather in its championship cap.  Regular season MVP Matt Ryan led the upstart Atlanta Falcons into Houston, seeking the franchise’s first Super Bowl title.

After a scoreless first quarter, the Falcons began to dominate the game.  Three Atlanta touchdowns (one by a run, one by a pass, and an 82 yard pick six) had a party ready to happen on Peachtree Street.  The Falcons went into the locker room holding a 21-3 lead.  Atlanta came out of the locker room and added a third quarter touchdown, advancing the lead to 28-3.  This touchdown stunned all of New England, you can hear a pin drop from Maine to Connecticut.

 

Image result for patriots win super bowl 51

The New England Patriots cap the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history.  They won the title in the first overtime period in the event’s history.

 

Then it started to unfold. With just over two minutes remaining in the third quarter, Tom Brady hit James White in the end zone with a five yard pass.  New England failed on a two-point conversion, making the score 28-9.  With the Falcons driving, later in the stanza, the Patriots defense caused a fumble that changed the entire complexion of the contest. The turnover led to a New England field goal and proved to be the turning point of the contest.

New England took over the game in the fourth quarter.  While holding the Falcons scoreless, the Patriots would put up a 33 yard field goal, and a Danny Amendola touchdown reception (that was followed by a two-point conversion).  With 57 seconds left on the clock, James White’s 1 yard run, combined with Amendola’s reception for the two-point conversion completed the comeback.  Super Bowl 51 was tied at 28!  This set up the first ever overtime period in Super Bowl history.

With 11:02 remaining in overtime White would be the hero again.  That pin could now be heard along Peachtree Street after the Patriots running back punched the ball into the end zone from two yards out.  The celebration was on throughout New England!

Our next stop on the review caravan involves the end of old business from 2016.  After 108 long years, a very special championship flag was raised in a historic ballpark.  Following an epic World Series win in 2016, the Chicago Cubs opened their home season by raising the championship flag.  How do you raise a World Series pennant 108 years in the making?  The Cubs themselves took turns raising the flag that will forever fly over historic Wrigley Field.

Next, it’s off to that hockey capital known as… Nashville Tennessee?  Yes, Nashville’s Predators are the subject of our next segment.

Image result for nashville predators win western conference

The Nashville Predators enter the Stanley Cup Playoffs as the bottom seed in the Western Conference.  They finish the playoffs two games short of a Stanley Cup title.

 

The Nashville Predators began the Stanley Cup playoffs at the bottom of the Western Conference bracket.  They won the second of two Wild Cards, which gave them the #1 seeded Chicago Blackhawks as a first round draw.  The first round matchup turned out to be one of the biggest upsets of the postseason, as Nashville swept the 2015 Stanley Cup champs in four games.

Next up for the hockey team from the Music City, the St. Louis Blues.  The Blues franchise has always been a playoff contender, unfortunately they have built a reputation as the greatest team to never win a Stanley Cup.  The magical story continued in Nashville, the drought in St. Louis also continued as the Predators advanced to the Western Conference Finals in six games.

The Anaheim Ducks were heavily favored to end the Country Music Onslaught in the Western Conference Finals.  The Preds would continue their unlikely assault on the Stanley Cup, dispatching Anaheim in six games.

The boys from Tennessee, however, would run out of gas in the Stanley Cup Finals.  This leads to our next story, the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The defending champions began their trip to the Stanley Cup Finals with a relatively easy five game victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets.  What followed in the second round was an epic seven game win over the President’s Trophy winning Washington Capitals. Like the Blues, the Capitals continue to thrive in the regular season, and fail to win the prize.

The surprising Ottawa Senators would take the Pens to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals.  In another epic seven game thriller, Pittsburgh earned their second consecutive trip to the Stanley Cup Finals.

 

Image result for penguins win 2017 stanley cup

Pittsburgh Penguins’ captain Sidney Crosby hoists the Stanley Cup for the second straight year.

 

Nashville would play another six game series in the Stanley Cup Finals, however a goaltending performance for the ages by Pittsburgh netminder Matt Murray may have been the difference.  The Penguins became the first team to win back-to-back Stanley Cup championships since the 1997 and 1998 Detroit Red Wings.

Next stop, the tale of two basketball teams, one from the Bay Area of California, one from Cleveland, Ohio.  Two epic squads led by future Hall of Famers spent the spring of 2017 on a crash course to a Championship Series meeting.

Image result for golden state warriors 2017 champions

The Golden State Warriors celebrate after winning the 2017 NBA Championship.

 

The Cleveland Cavaliers, led by Lebron James would lose a total of one game on their way to the NBA Finals.  Cleveland would dispatch the Indiana Pacers and Toronto Raptors in four game sweeps to get to the Eastern Conference Finals.  Their opponents in the Conference Finals were the Boston Celtics.  Boston’s 111-108 win in Game 3 would be the Cavs only setback in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

While Lebron and Company were prancing through the East, their was an ever so slightly bigger story happening out west.  Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors one-upped the Cavaliers by completely sweeping their way to the Finals.

The Warriors dispatched the Portland Trailblazers, Utah Jazz, and San Antonio Spurs on their way to taking on Lebron and the Cavs.

In what was supposed to be an NBA Finals for the ages, frankly fell flat.  The Warriors headed to Cleveland after defeating the Cavaliers by the scores of 113-91 in game one and 132-113 in game two.  The return home for the Cavaliers didn’t change things, Golden State put Cleveland in a 3-0 hole with a 118-113 win.

Cleveland would extend the series by winning Game 5, handing the Warriors their only loss of the postseason.  Back home for Game 6 the Warriors claimed their title with a 129-120 victory.

What a loaded first half of this year!  Next week we look at the second half of the sports year of 2017, as well as the Karpelblog Sports Story of the Year and Athlete of the Year!  See you next week.

Advertisements

TIS THE SEASON FOR COLLEGE FOOTBALL ARGUMENTS

Yesterday was Conference Championship Saturday in College Football.  At noon today, the 39 game Bowl barrage will be unveiled.  This will include the four top teams that will play off to the National Championship.

What is  intriguing about this year’s annual hand picking, is the fate of the University of Alabama.  Despite their loss to Auburn in last week’s Iron Bowl, the Crimson Tide was placed in the number five spot in the polls.  Of course the number five placing gives them a chance to enter the top four, and of course, a spot in the National Semi-Finals.

Image result for georgia wins sec championship

The University of Georgia celebrates winning the SEC Championship.

 

Coming into yesterday’s championship fest, Clemson, Auburn, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin occupied the top four spots in the polls.  All four teams played for conference championships, with Alabama’s loss last week the Tide was idle yesterday.  Auburn lost the SEC Championship Game to Georgia (who sat at 6 in the polls) 28-7.

Now I have a question for the pollsters. How is it that Alabama is sitting on the outside looking in without winning a conference division?  (6) Georgia, (7) Miami, and (8) Ohio State all began the day behind Alabama.  All three of these schools were division winners and were in action yesterday.  So how does Alabama get the “on deck spot,” if you will, to the National Semi-Finals when there are three other schools that actually played for conference titles?

Image result for ohio state wins big ten championship

Ohio State University celebrates after defeating Wisconsin for the Big 10 Championship.

 

Auburn, Wisconsin, and Miami all lost yesterday.  Miami is no longer a factor and Clemson will hold on to the number one seed in the CFB Championship, following the Tigers 38-3 win over the Canes in the ACC Championship Game.  Wisconsin should also drop out of the playoff picture after losing to Ohio State in the Big 10 Championship Game.

Here’s where things get dicey, Auburn’s loss to Georgia in the SEC Championship Game should drop them out of the field.  Common logic tells me that Georgia, by virtue of winning the SEC championship should replace Auburn in the top four.  The same logic would hold true with Wisconsin and Ohio State.

 

Image result for clemson wins acc championship

Top ranked Clemson celebrates after defeating the University of Miami in the ACC Championship Game.

 

The University of Oklahoma began the day ranked third in the polls and took care of business in their conference championship game.  The Sooners 41-17 drubbing of TCU in the Big XII Championship game should cement their spot as the second seed.

Now back to common logic.  Clemson and Oklahoma are slam dunks at 1 and 2.  Given the fact that sixth ranked Georgia beat second ranked Auburn, wouldn’t the Bulldogs have a spot in the top four?  Given the fact that the eighth ranked Buckeyes defeated fourth ranked Wisconsin, wouldn’t the same fate hold true for them? There is a fly in this ointment, however,  Alabama, who didn’t fit anywhere in this conference championship scenario, began the day at number five.  Does the Crimson Tide creep into the hand-picked field?  Is this what the pollsters put into motion last week?  How does a team that finished second in their conference division trump one of two conference champions?

 

Image result for oklahoma wins big 12

University of Oklahoma celebrates after winning the Big XII Championship Game.

In this writer’s opinion, Nick Saban and Company seems to be the ambassadors for the pollsters and the NCAA’s sponsors.  The Tide has a national following and is apparently a good draw in the ratings.  Why should something like Ohio State and Georgia actually winning major conference championships stand in their way?

A pretty big local story unfolded in Boca Raton, Florida yesterday.  The up and coming Owls of Florida Atlantic University hosted the Conference USA Championship Game.  Not only did they host it, the Owls defeated the Mean Green of North Texas 41-17.  FAU’s victory was the program’s biggest to date. The Owls victory in the Conference USA Championship Game was extra special for me and my family.  As many of you know, my son Justin passed away this past February.  What many might not know is that he was a senior at Florida Atlantic and was closing in on his Bachelor’s Degree.  Robin and I received his degree posthumously this past May.

Justin was a big fan of FAU’s football program.  I’ll never forget the phone call I received from him when the news broke about Lane Kiffin being hired as the programs head coach. Kiffin was Saban’s offensive coordinator at Alabama.   Something was missing when Kiffin was doused with Gatorade in the game’s final moments.  Somebody was missing, Justin was missing.  I know he was celebrating somewhere when his beloved Owls were giving a celebratory dousing to the coach that he was thrilled that they hired.

 

I am dedicating today’s blog to Justin.  The Conference USA champion Owls will be hosting someone from the American Athletic Conference (most likely the University of Central Florida who won the conference championship yesterday) in the Boca Raton Bowl on December 19th.  I know Justin was celebrating somewhere last night.

 

 

 

 

THANKFUL FOR A CRAZY FOOTBALL WEEKEND (THAT ISN’T FINISHED YET!)

I would like to begin this morning’s blog by saying how thankful I am.  I have been married for 31 wonderful years to Robin, who is my best friend, partner in life and right (and sometimes left) hand.  Despite the tragedy of losing my son, Justin this past February (which is so painful at times), I seem to muddle through each day.  I am thankful that my daughter, Megan and son-in-law Matt are becoming better and better parents to my new granddaughter, Madeline with each passing day.  I am also thankful to have both of my parents still living on this earth, and the strong relationship that I have with my two brothers and their families.

OK, now that I’ve gotten through the Thanksgiving accolades, let’s talk about the weekend on the gridiron.

The National Football League held its annual football feasts in Detroit and Dallas on Thursday.  This week’s Thursday Night game was held outside our Nation’s Capital.

 

Image result for case keenum

Minnesota Vikings Case Keenum has a career day in Detroit on Thanksgiving Day.

Let’s begin in Detroit, where the Vikings were the opposition in the Lions annual Thanksgiving bash.  Aside from the turkey tailgate, Ford Field was the stage for a pivotal NFC North matchup.  The Lions began the day in second place, two games behind the visitors from Minnesota. Case Keenum, an undrafted journeyman and Vikings backup quarterback had a career day as Minnesota spoiled the turkey tailgate by the score of 30-23.  I could see the turkey legs flying at Megan’s in-law’s living room in Grand Rapids!  The win may have sewn up the NFC North for Minnesota.

AT&T Stadium in suburban Dallas was the scene of the biggest upset of Turkey Day.  Los Angeles Chargers’ future Hall of Fame quarterback Philip Rivers lit up the Cowboys defense for 434 yards and three touchdowns.  It was Rivers’ first Thanksgiving Day appearance in his storied 14 year career.  Second year Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott was intercepted twice in the Chargers 28-6 victory.  The turkey legs had to be flying at my friend, and youth flag football coaching partner’s dining room outside Tampa!

 

Image result for dak prescott 2 interceptions on thanksgiving

Dallas Cowboys’ Dak Prescott throws two interceptions in a 28-6 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers on Thanksgiving Day.

 

Thanksgiving Day wrapped up outside our Nation’s Capital with the New York Giants’ nightmare season getting worse.  In a matchup that seemed like a great idea when the NFL released its schedule back in April, the Washington Redskins defeated the G-Men 20-10.  The Philadelphia Eagles can clinch a tie in the NFC Eastern Division with a win today, they host the Bears at 1:00.

The colleges took over on Black Friday, and the drama continued.  The University of Miami entered Friday’s early game at Pittsburgh ranked number 2 in the country and a berth in the ACC Championship game in their back pocket.  They left Heinz Field on the losing end of a 24-14 score.

 

Image result for auburn wins 2017 iron bowl

Auburn University defeats previously undefeated Alabama in the annual Iron Bowl.

 

A less than stellar football weekend continued at the Michigan Wing of my family yesterday afternoon.  Michigan lost its sixth straight meeting with Ohio State by the score of 31-20.  Michigan and Ohio State is still my favorite Rivalry Weekend matchup.

The biggest story of this year’s Thanksgiving/College Rivalry weekend happened late yesterday afternoon in Auburn, Alabama.  Number 1 ranked and undefeated Alabama lost to sixth ranked Auburn 26-14 in the annual Iron Bowl.  The Miami loss on Friday and the Alabama loss yesterday will make for an interesting shakeup in the NCAA playoff race.  Auburn’s win should vault the Tigers into the playoff race.

What a football weekend it has been, and we’re not done yet!  Can the Browns break their winless season when they visit their cross-state rivals in Cincinnati today?  Is there any possibility of my Dolphins winning in New England?  Will the Eagles and Steelers continue to take care of business?  Will anyone outside of Houston and Baltimore stay up for the Monday night tilt between the Ravens and Texans?

Enjoy the rest of the holiday weekend, and today’s games.

 

 

FLORIDA’S NEW COLLEGE FOOTBALL ORDER

For the first time in many years, College Football’s landscape in the Sunshine State looks very different.  The usual marquis programs, Florida State (4-6 overall and 3-5 in the ACC) and the University of Florida (also 4-6 overall and 3-5 in the SEC) are both having down years.  It’s been a long time since both have been down at the same time.

The much ballyhooed program in Florida this year, and rightly so, is located in Coral Gables.  The University of Miami, turnover chain and all, is back!  The Canes clinched the Coastal Division of the ACC yesterday with a come-from-behind 44-28 victory over Virginia.  Miami is 10-0 overall and 7-0 within the conference.  The Canes have a date with second ranked Clemson (10-1 overall and 7-1 in the ACC) on December 2 in the ACC Championship Game.

Image result for miami turnover chain

Much has been made of the University of Miami Turnover Chain this year.

 

Yes, Miami, Florida State, and Florida are the Big 3 in the state of Florida, but there are  other schools that are quietly going about their business this year.

The University of Central Florida was ranked fifteenth in the country coming into play this weekend.  The Knights, like the Hurricanes are 10-0 overall and 7-0 in the American Athletic Conference.  The University of South Florida lurks right behind the Knights in the AAC Eastern Division at 9-1 overall and 6-1 in the conference.  The two schools will meet on Black Friday afternoon as Rivalry Week kicks off.

Although Rivalry Week kicks off next week, there was a rivalry game played here in South Florida last night.  This game leads me to the newest kid on the Florida football landscape.

 

Image result for FAU wins 2017 Shula Bowl

The FAU Owls hoist the Don Shula Trophy after defeating rival FIU in the 2017 Shula Bowl.

Florida Atlantic University’s football program was the brain child of former Canes coach Howard Schnellenberger.  The first FAU squad took the field in 2001 as a Division II school with the former Miami legend at the helm.  It was Schnellenberger’s vision that Florida Atlantic would one day compete with the “Big Boys” one day, that day could be on the horizon.

In 2002, a similar program was beginning at South Miami’s Florida International University.  This program was the brain child of former Miami Dolphins quarterback Don Strock.  Both schools made the jump to Division 1 in 2005, but the rivalry dates back to 2002 and the Division II days.  The annual rivalry has been named the Shula Bowl, in honor of former Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula.  Schnellenberger was Shula’s offensive coordinator in the 1970’s, Strock played for Shula from 1974-1987.  Shula’s ties to the men who founded both programs led to the rivalry’s naming.

This year’s Shula Bowl had an extra special meeting for Florida Atlantic.  The Owls, like the Canes and Knights were looking to wrap up the Eastern Division of Conference USA .  FAU’s Owls won the Shula Bowl on their home field in Boca Raton last night by the score of 52-24.  The Owls clinched the C-USA East with the Shula Bowl win, they now are 7-0 within the conference and 8-3 overall.  Two of FAU’s losses were to big schools (Navy and Wisconsin).  The Owl’s played the fifth ranked Badgers close for most of their meeting.  Florida Atlantic will host the Conference USA Championship Game on December 2.  The winner of the championship game will play in this year’s Boca Raton Bowl at the Owls on campus stadium.

 

Image result for lane kiffin fau

Former Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin has led FAU to it’s most successful season in the program’s history.

 

Last night’s FAU victory has special meaning for this writer.  My son Justin, who many of you know took his life this past February, was a senior at Florida Atlantic University.  Robin and I received his degree posthumously in May.  Justin, I know you are somewhere up there smiling down on your alma-mater.  I’ll never forget the excitement in your voice when you called me to tell me that the Owls had signed Lane Kiffin.  Last night was the program’s brightest accomplishment to date, more success will be coming to the Boca Raton school under Kiffin’s leadership.

I would like to take this time to wish all of my readers a happy and healthy Thanksgiving holiday. I’ll see you again next Sunday.

MLB 2017- THE YEAR IN REVIEW

Before I get to the highlights of the 2017 Major League Baseball season I must first turn my attention to the tragedy that occurred yesterday afternoon.  Major League Baseball, the sports world, and all of humanity lost one of its own way too soon.  Roy Halliday, winner of 2 Cy Young awards, ace of the Toronto Blue Jays  and Philadelphia Phillies passed away in a plane crash over the Gulf of Mexico off the west coast of Florida.  Halliday was only 40 years old.

2010 was Halliday’s most successful season.  Pitching for the Phillies, he won 21 games and struck out 219 batters.  The two biggest highlights of his epic 2010 campaign were his two no-hit games.  The first one was on the Saturday night of Memorial Day Weekend.  Halliday pitched a perfect game in Miami against the then Florida Marlins.  He followed up that performance in his first start of the post-season.  Halliday threw the second no-hitter in playoff/World Series history in Game 1 of the National League Division Series against the Cincinnati Reds.  Rest in peace Roy Halliday, and on behalf of all baseball fans and beyond, thank you for some great memories.

The 2017 Major League Baseball season began with a championship flag raising that was 108 years in the making.  It ended with a 55-year-old franchise that has played in both leagues, hoisting the Commissioner’s Trophy for the first time.  There were so many other twists and turns in between.

Image result for Cubs raise 2016 championship banner

For the first time in 108 years, the Chicago Cubs players raise the 2016 World Championship flag themselves at Wrigley Field.

 

There was a revival on Broadway, as the Yankees were the surprise of the American League East.  Led by rookie right-fielder Aaron Judge and his and his 52 home runs, the Bronx Bombers qualified for the post-season by winning the first Wild Card.  They would defeat the Minnesota Twins in the Wild Card Game, eliminate the top seeded Cleveland Indians in the American League Division Series, and come within a game of the World Series.  They lost to the eventual World Champions Houston Astros in seven games.  There is a bright future in the Bronx for sure.

 

Image result for cleveland indians win streak

Indians fans celebrate after their beloved Tribe win their American League record 22nd consecutive game.

 

About those Cleveland Indians, despite a disappointing seven game loss to the upstarts from the Big Apple, and seeing their championship drought advance to 69 years th Tribe had a season that should still make Cleveland proud.  They led the American League with a 102-60 mark and won the Central Division by 17 games over the second Wild Card winning Twins.  The highlight of the Indians season however, was their American League record 22 game winning streak that began with a 13-6 drubbing of the Boston Red Sox on August 24th, and was snapped by the Kansas City Royals on September 15th.

Yes, there was a great season in the Bronx, but in South Florida (a/k/a the Sixth Boro) there was also plenty going on.  The Marlins hosted an epic All-Star Week in July, with lots of Yankee influence.  Aaron Judge came from 22 homers behind to hometown first baseman Justin Bour to win his first round match-up in the Home Run Derby.  Judge would go on to win the Derby.  The following night, in a low scoring All-Star Game, former Yankee Robinson Cano (currently with the Seattle Mariners) hit a solo home run in the top of the tenth inning to give the American League a 2-1 victory.  The game winning home run earned Cano the MVP award.

 

Image result for giancarlo stanton

Miami Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton led the Majors with 59 home runs.

 

All-Star Week wasn’t the only news to come out of South Beach.  For a team that finished the season with a 77-85 record, and finished a distant second (20 games) to the Washington Nationals in the National League East, the Marlins made plenty of headlines.  Giancarlo Stanton flirted with Roger Maris’ home run total as the season came to a climax.  He fell two shy, ending the season with 59 round-trippers.  He also paced the Majors with 132 RBI.  Stanton’s teammate Marcell Ozuna finished in second behind his teammate with 124.  Miami second baseman Dee Gordon won the Stolen Base title with 60 swipes.  Finally, the Majors saw one no-hitter this year.  It occurred at Marlins Park, when Marlins’ Edinson Volquez held the Arizona Diamondbacks hitless in a 3-0 win.

In Hollywood there was another young star that burst onto the scene.  Cody Bellinger was brought up from the Minor Leagues at the end of April.  At the time the Dodgers, Diamondbacks and Rockies were neck and neck for the first three spots in the National League West.  After Bellinger’s promotion, the Boys from Hollywood went 43-7 over their next 50 games.  They would run away from Arizona and Colorado  (who would win the two NL Wild Cards) during that stretch and finish the regular season with a MLB best 104-58 record.  Bellinger finished his rookie campaign with 39 home runs and 97 RBI.

 

Image result for astros win world series 2017

The Houston Astros celebrate after winning the 2017 World Series.

 

The 2017 season ended with a seven game epic World Series between the Dodgers and the Houston Astros.  After splitting the first four games, the two teams would have a slug-fest for the ages in Game 5 .  In a contest that ended around 1:00 am in the east, the Astros went into the top of the ninth with a 12-9 lead.  The Dodgers plated 3 in the top of the ninth to tie it.  Houston erased three Los Angeles leads in the game and won the game via a walk-off single by Alex Bregman.  The Dodgers would stay alive with a 3-1 win in Game 6 on Halloween night, the Astros would win Game 7  by the score of 5-1.

The Astros World Championship was fitting in my opinion.  The victory capped off a memorable summer in Southeast Texas.  Hurricane Harvey ravaged the area in August, some areas are still rebuilding.

This is the season finale for Wednesday Night Baseball.  I will be checking in on the Hot Stove Season from time to time on my Sunday Sports Blog.  Wednesday Night Baseball will return during next year’s Spring Training and the start of the 2018 season.  It’s been a joy to bring  you all of my thoughts and memories throughout this year.

My Sunday blog will be on hiatus this coming Sunday as I spend time with family.  I will see those of you who follow me on Sundays on November 19th.  For you baseball only fans, I’ll see you at the Hot Stove, an have a great winter!

GREAT INDIVIDUAL WORLD SERIES PERFORMANCES

I would like to start out this morning’s article by congratulating the Houston Astros for winning one of the most memorable World Series’ in recent history.  The Astros and Dodgers took baseball fans, both devoted and casual, through a ride for the ages!  To those of you in Houston, and Southeast Texas for that matter, to quote the late Jack Buck “Go crazy folks, go crazy!”  You’ve been through so much this year, I am so glad you have something to celebrate.

Now that the World Series has concluded, I will conclude my series of Fall Classic memories.  Today I focus on individual feats.

The year was 1968, the final season where there was no League Championship Series.  The Detroit Tigers finished atop the American League standings, while the defending champion St. Louis Cardinals topped the National League standings.  This set up an epic seven game series in which Mickey Lolich was the winning pitcher in games 2 , 5 and on three days rest Game 7.  While Lolich’s performance over the course of the series was memorable, it was Cardinals ace Bob Gibson’s performance in Game 1 that stands out.

 

Image result for bob gibson 1968 world series

Bob Gibson of the St. Louis Cardinals strikes out seventeen Detroit Tigers in Game 1 of the 1968 World Series.

 

In Game 1 Gibson pitched a complete game.  He scattered five hits, allowed one walk, and struck out a World Series record seventeen batters.  His record not only stands to this day but with today’s pitching relay race mentality it may never be broken.

Lets fast forward to Game 7 of the 1991 World Series.  In a prior article in this series I chronicled the events of the previous evening when Kirby Puckett’s walk off home run kept the Minnesota Twins alive.  It didn’t take long for history to occur again.

 

Image result for jack morris 1991 world series

Minnesota Twins’ Jack Morris shuts out the Atlanta Braves for 10 innings in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series.

 

Game 7 of the 1991 World Series was a pitcher’s duel between Atlanta’s John Smoltz and Minnesota’s Jack Morris.  They went toe to toe for 7 1/3 innings without either pitcher allowing a run.  Smoltz would exit in the seventh and Mike Stanton would finish the inning without a run being scored.  Alejandro Pena would finish the game for the Braves.  The game remained scoreless after nine innings, but Twins manager Tom Kelly stayed with his ace.  Morris would not disappoint.  Gene Larkin’s walk off single that scored Dan Gladden in the bottom of the tenth was the game’s only run earning the Twins the World Championship.

Morris would shut out the Braves for ten innings, allow seven hits, walked two, and strike out eight.  This rates as one of the greatest shutouts in the history of the Fall Classic.

Next up, Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.  The Los Angeles Dodgers got to the Series that year by defeating the New York Mets  in the National League Championship Series.  The Mets had beaten the Dodgers 11 out of 12 times during the regular season.  Los Angeles would face the American League Champion Oakland Athletics, the A’s had the best record in the Majors during the regular season at 104-58.

Image result for kirk gibson 1988 world series at bat

Dodgers’ Kirk Gibson rounds the bases following a pinch hit walk off home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.

 

One of the main cogs in the 1988 Dodgers lineup was Kirk Gibson.  Gibson was scratched from the lineup in Game 1 due to injuries in both legs.  It was a longshot for him to play at all in the World Series.

Oakland lead Game 1 by the score of 4-3 heading into the bottom of the ninth inning.  Future Hall of Fame closer Dennis Eckersley took the mound to pitch the ninth for the Athletics.  With two out in the inning and the pitcher due up, Dodgers’ manager Tommy Lasorda called on his injured star.  What happened next is etched in World Series lore forever.  Gibson would hit a two run walk off home run that had him hobbling around the Dodger Stadium basepaths!  To this day the calls on both CBS (by Jack Buck) and the Dodgers Radio Network (by Vin Scully) are legendary.

Buck’s call “I don’t believe what I just saw!  I don’t believe what I just saw!

Scully simply proclaimed “Its a fly ball…She is…Gone!”

Finally, this last individual achievement happened before I was born, but I would be remiss not to include it.

 

Image result for don larsen perfect game

Yankees catcher Yogi Berra leaps into the arms of pitcher Don Larsen after he completes the only perfect game, or no hitter for that matter, in World Series history.

 

It was Game 5 of the 1956 World Series between the New York Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers.  Yankees pitcher Don Larsen authored a performance not seen  in the Fall Classic to date.  Larsen would set down all 27 Dodgers that he faced, including 7 strike outs.  The Yankees won the game by the score of 2-0.  It is, to date, the only no hitter, or perfect game ever pitched in World Series history

I thoroughly enjoyed the past two weeks, and all the memories that I discussed.  I know there are so many that I didn’t mention.  Next year I’m sure I’ll find room for this year’s epic!
I would like to add a postscript to this article.  There are 2 other memorable achievements that weren’t mentioned because they were discussed at length earlier in this series. They are Reggie Jackson hitting three home runs on three consecutive piches in 1977, and Carlton Fisk’S 12th inning walk off home run in 1975.

 

 

THE DRAMA OF A SEVEN GAME WORLD SERIES

When I set out to write this three-part series of moments and memories in the World Series so many memories came out of the woodwork.  I have taken suggestions from friends and family along with those of my own and I have come to realize that I’m going to need a bigger blog!  I have decided to extend the series to a fourth part which I will publish this coming Sunday.

Tonight at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, it will be winner take all!  The Dodgers and Astros go into tonight tied at three games apiece, tonight’s winner will be the 2017 World Series Champion.  There is nothing like a Game 7 in a World Series, Stanley Cup Final or NBA Final.  The Super Bowl in and of itself in a winner take all championship competition.  Somebody will be crowned the Kings of Baseball, someone will go home a little short.

Tonight’s game gave me an idea for tonight’s article.  I’ve come up with three of the most memorable seven game World Series’ in my lifetime.  These aren’t necessarily about Game 7 itself, some of these moments caused a Game 7.

Image result for Cardinals win 2011 World Series

The St. Louis Cardinals celebrate a victory in Game 7 of the 2011 World Series.

 

Our first stop is the year 2011, the Texas Rangers won their second consecutive American League title that year.  The Rangers lost the 2010 Series to the San Francisco Giants in five games.  Their opponents in 2011 were the St. Louis Cardinals who were making their first appearance since 2006.

The story here is not about the seventh game, history was made in Game 6.  The Series returned to St. Louis on October 27th with the Rangers holding a 3-2 lead after taking 2 of 3 at home.  The game was originally scheduled for October 26th but was rained out.  The score was tied going into the seventh inning when Cardinals reliever Lance Lynn was greeted by back to back homers by Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz.  This gave Texas a 6-4 lead.  Ian Kinsler would add an RBI to put the Rangers up by three runs.  Allen Craig would hit a solo home run for the Cardinals in the bottom of the eighth to make the score 7-5.

Rangers closer Neftali Feliz came on in the bottom of the ninth to seemingly nail down the Rangers first ever World Championship,  this is where history started to be made.  Albert Pujols took the Texas closer’s first pitch and deposited into center field for a double.  After intentionally walking Lance Berkman, Feliz got Craig to strike out.  This brought the Rangers within one out of a World Championship.  David Freese took a 1-2 pitch (the Cardinals had been down to their last strike) and hit it off the wall for a triple to tie the game at 7-7!

Josh Hamilton’s two run blast in the top of the tenth gave the Rangers a 9-7 lead going into the bottom of the inning.  Ryan Theriot grounded out with runners on second and third scoring Daniel Descalso to bring St. Louis to within a run.  Following an intentional walk to Albert Pujols, Lance Berkman ran the count to 2-2.  The Rangers once again were a strike away from winning the Series.  Berkman singled on the next pitch to score Jon Jay with the tying run.  Texas had now blown two chances to close out the Cardinals.  Freese would hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the eleventh to send the series to Game 7.  The Cardinals won the series the following night.

 

Image result for diamondbacks win 2001 world series

The Arizona Diamondbacks celebrate winning the 2001 World Series over the Yankees in seven games.

 

The year was 2001, the United States had been the victims of the deadliest terrorist attack on its soil on September 11th.  It was fitting that the Yankees won the American League Championship that year.  The Arizona Diamondbacks joined the National League as an expansion team in 1998.  After only three years, Arizona had a National League Champion!  What followed was arguably one of the greatest World Series’ of all time.

Every game of the 2001 World Series was won by the home team.  The Diamondbacks took games 1 and 2 by uneventful scores of 9-1 and 4-0.  When the series shifted to Yankee Stadium in New York it got interesting.

President George W. Bush threw out the first pitch prior to Game 3 as a commemoration of the awful events that occurred in New York barely a month earlier.  Roger Clemens and Mariano Rivera limited Arizona to three hits in a 2-1 Yankees victory to close the gap to 2-1.

The following night was Halloween, and the ghosts of Yankees past were looking down on the men in pinstripes.  The Yankees came to bat in the bottom of the ninth down by the score of 3-1.  The Diamondbacks were three outs away from a commanding 3-1 series lead.  Then the ghosts of Ruth, Gehrig, and Mantle awoke.  With one out in the inning, Paul O’Neill got New York going with a base hit.  Bernie Williams struck out and brought Arizona within an out of a win.  Tino Martinez extended the game when he deposited Arizona closer Byung-hyun Kim’s first pitch into the center-field bleachers to tie the game at 3-3!  Derek Jeter would earn the nickname “Mr. November” when he came to bat after midnight (making it November 1).  With two out and a 3-2 count, the Yankee captain hit a walk off home run to tie the series!

Game 5 seemed a lot like Game 4.  The Yankees again came to bat in the ninth down two runs.  This time it was Scott Brosius’s turn to be the hero.  He tied the game with a two run shot to send the game into extra frames.  Alfonso Soriano’s RBI single in the bottom of the twelfth gave the Yankees a 3-2 series lead heading back to the desert.

The Diamondbacks forced game seven with a 15-2 blowout in game six.  This set up one of the greatest Game Seven’s in World Series history.

Game 7 began as a pitcher’s duel between Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling.  It remained scoreless until the bottom of the sixth inning when  Danny Bautista’s RBI double put Arizona on the board.  New York would plate single runs in the seventh and eighth to take a 2-1 lead.  That would hold up going into the bottom of the ninth.

Yankees closer Mariano Rivera took the hill in the eighth inning.  Rivera was arguably the greatest closer in Major League Baseball history, so the Yankees were seemingly in good hands.  This night, however, would be different.  Mark Grace lead off the ninth with a single.  Rivera would throw wild to second base after a bunt attempt to move David Dellucci (who came in to run for Grace) to second.  As a result, Arizona had runners on first and second.   Jay Butler would bunt to move the runners over.  Rivera threw  Dellucci out at third, but third baseman Scott Brosius held onto the ball rather than complete the double play with a throw to first.  Tony Womack would double to tie the game, giving Rivera a very rare blown save.  Rivera’s troubles continued when he hit Craig Counsell to load the bases.  Luis Gonzalez lofted a single over a drawn in infield that reverberated across the Arizona desert!  The Diamondbacks were World Champions!

Finally, we go back one year ago for a World Series that matched the battle of lovable losers.  The Chicago Cubs reached the World Series for the first time since 1945.  The Cubbies hadn’t actually won the Series since way back in 1908.  The Cubs would face the Cleveland Indians, a team that last won a World Championship in 1948.

 

Image result for cubs win world series 2016

After 108 long years the Chicago Cubs win the 2016 World Series.

 

In a series that culminated with an epic Game 7, it appeared at one point that it would become a 109 year drought.  The Indians won 3 of the first four games, but a three run rally in the fourth inning of Game 5 kept the Cubs alive.  The only problem was, they needed to go back to Cleveland with their backs to the wall.  Game 6 turned out to be all Cubs as they won 9-3.  This set up one of the all time epic Game Sevens.

Chicago center-fielder Dexter Fowler lead off the game with a solo home run that echoed around the Windy City.   Cleveland would tie the game in the third, courtesy of a Carlos Santana RBI single.  The Cubs would take the lead back in the top of the fourth inning by scoring two runs and each team would plate two runs in the fifth.

Cubs catcher David Ross hit a solo home run in the sixth to give Chicago a 6-3 lead.  In the bottom of the eighth, Indians center-fielder Rajai Davis tied the game with a home run off of Aldoris Chapman.  You could hear a pin drop on Waveland Avenue in Chicago, as the Cubs had blown a 3 run eighth inning lead.

The game would remain tied through the end of the ninth inning.  The baseball gods would throw one more curve into the hopes and dreams of the Cubs and Indians faithful…a 17 minute rain delay!

When play resumed, Kyle Schwarber  led off the tenth with a base hit.  Schwarber would be lifted for a pinch runner (Albert Almora).  After Kris Bryant hit a long fly to center-field, Almora tagged up at second and advanced to third.  Anthony Rizzo was intentionally walked and Ben Zobrist lit up the Windy City with an RBI double to give the Cubs the lead.  Addison Russell was intentionally walked, and Miguel Montero followed with an RBI single to give Chicago an 8-6 lead.

Nothing comes easy on the Near North Side, the Indians would counter in the bottom of the tenth.  Rajai Davis was the hero again with an RBI single bringing the Tribe to within one run.  The city of Chicago would explode when Michael Martinez grounded to Kris Bryant at third base.  Finally after 108 long years the Chicago Cubs were World Champions!

I hope you enjoyed tonight’s blog as much as I enjoyed writing it.  What chapter in history awaits us tonight?

 

 

 

MEMORABLE LONG BALLS OF THE FALL CLASSIC

In a second of a three-part series of World Series memories, I turn to the long ball.  There are three individual performances that come to mind.

We begin at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx on the evening of October 18, 1977.  It was a classic match-up in the World Series as the Dodgers and Yankees met for the ninth time.  On that mid October evening the Series returned to New York with the Yankees holding a 3-2 lead.  Few people remember the fact that the Bronx Bombers sent the Boys from Hollywood home via a 7-3 victory.  Many remember that the Yankees put the finishing touches on their first World Championship since 1962.  The one thing that any baseball fan from that era would remember was the show put on by Yankees right fielder Reggie Jackson.

 

Image result for Reggie Jackson three home runs

Reggie Jackson of the New York Yankees homers on three consecutive pitches in Game 6 of the 1977 World Series.

 

In the game in which Jackson earned the nickname “Mr. October,”  he came to bat in the second inning and drew a walk.  His second at bat was in the fourth inning.  Reggie took Dodger starter Burt Hooten’s first pitch and deposited it in the right field bleachers.  When he came up again in the fifth inning.  New York had two runners on and two out.  Jackson drilled Dodgers reliever Elias Sosa’s first delivery into the bleachers.  As Jackson emerged from the home dugout in the eighth inning, the crowd gave him a standing ovation.  Reggie didn’t disappoint.  Knuckleballer Charlie Hough was on the mound for Los Angeles, and his first delivery was deposited 450 feet into the centerfield bleachers!  Three swings, three home runs!  And, by the way, a Yankees victory and World Championship.

Now let’s back up two years and head a little further north along the east coast.  The year is 1975, the place is another iconic setting, Boston’s Fenway Park.  This was also a Game 6, with the Cincinnati Reds looking to wrap up a World Series championship.  What unfolded was one of the greatest games ever played in the Fall Classic.

The Red Sox took the early lead in the bottom of the first inning, courtesy of a Fred Lynn three run homer.  In the top of the fifth the Reds got on the board when Ken Griffey, Sr. tripled to score Pete Rose and Ed Armbrister.   Johnny Bench singled home Griffey to tie the score at 3.  George Foster gave the Reds a 5-3 lead in the top of the seventh with a two run double.  Reds’ centerfielder Cesar Geronimo’s solo home run padded the Reds lead at 6-3.

The Red Sox came up in the bottom of the eighth, and this is when things got memorable.  Bernie Carbo came up as a pinch hitter with Fred Lynn and Rico Petrocelli on base.  Carbo would tie the game with a home run to left center.  The Red Sox were alive and breathing!

 

Image result for carlton fisk 1975 world series

Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk wishes the ball into fair territory as he hits a walk off home run in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series.

 

The game stayed tied at 6 through the middle of the twelfth inning.  Carlton Fisk lead off the bottom of the inning and hit one of the most memorable and iconic home runs in World Series history.  Fisk got a hold of a Pat Darcy pitch and sent it toward the left field foul pole.  As the ball was in flight toward Fenway’s Green Monster, the Red Sox catcher was waving at the ball to go to the fair side of the foul pole.  The ball would go fair, and the Red Sox would tie the series at 6 games apiece.  Cincinnati would win the Series with a 4-3 victory in Game 7.

Now we fast forward to 1991 and go to the Metrodome in Minneapolis.  The Minnesota Twins came home after letting a 2-0 series lead slip away in Atlanta.  The Braves looked to win their first ever World Championship since moving to Atlanta in 1966.

The Twins drew first blood in the bottom of the first inning when Kirby Puckett tripled to score Chuck Knoblauch.  Puckett would score when Shane Mack singled to make it 2-0.  Terry Pendleton tied the game with a two run shot in the fifth.  Minnesota put up a single run in the bottom of the frame, but the Braves would tie the game in the seventh.

 

Image result for kirby puckett walk off homerun world series

Twins’ Kirby Puckett hits a walk off home run in the bottom of the 11th inning to tie the 1991 World Series at 3-3.

 

The game would remain tied at 3 until the bottom of the 11th inning. Puckett would lead off the inning and hit a walk off home run to left-center field that prompted Hall of Fame announcer Jack Buck to simply proclaim “see you tomorrow!”  The Twins would finish the job the following night when Jack Morris pitched ten innings of shutout  ball.  The Twins won Game 7 by the score of 1-0.

Wednesday night we look at three more historic World Series games.

 

 

 

MEMORIES OF THE FALL CLASSIC

It’s that time of year, the juncture of the baseball season that raises the game to its highest and most dramatic level.  The World Series began last night with the Los Angeles Dodgers defeating the Houston Astros by the score of 3-1.  Game 2 gets underway around 8:30 tonight at Dodger Stadium.

To me there is something special about the World Series that goes above the likes of the Super Bowl, the Stanley Cup Finals, and the NBA Finals.  The Fall Classic has been part of American lore since 1903, longer than both the Super Bowl (1967) and the NBA itself (1946).  The Stanley Cup has been around since 1893, however, the National Hockey League didn’t take sole ownership of the trophy until 1926.  NHL didn’t  even have a franchise in the United States until 1924.

Tonight I will begin a series of some of the most memorable moments in World Series history.  I begin  tonight with three games that I personally hold dear.

 

Image result for marlins won 1997 world series

Florida Marlins’ Craig Counsell scores the winning run of the 1997 World Series.

 

In 1997 the World Series took on a new dimension.  As part of the Major League Baseball realignment in 1994 the Wild Card was born.  The Florida Marlins qualified for the post-season by winning the National League Wild Card.  Florida finished in second place in the Eastern Division behind the Atlanta Braves.  The Marlins defeated the Braves in the National League Championship Series to become the first Wild Card winner to make it to the World Series.

The series went back and forth, Florida won games 1,3, and 5 while the American League Champion Cleveland Indians won games 2,4, and 6.  This set up a Game 7 for the ages at Pro Player Stadium in Miami.

The Indians scored 2 runs in the top of the third inning.  This lead held up until a Bobby Bonilla solo home run put the Fish on the board in the bottom of the 7th.  The Marlins would tie the game in the home half of the ninth to stay alive.  In the bottom of the eleventh inning Edgar Renteria’s single that ricocheted off of the second base bag scored Craig Counsell with the game winning, and championship winning run!  Tomorrow is the 20th anniversary of the Marlins walk-off World Series championship.

 

Image result for Bill Buckner Game 6

Mookie Wilson’s ground ball up the first base line goes between Red Sox’ Bill Buckner’s legs in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series.  The Red Sox were one out away from winning the series.

 

Today is the 32nd anniversary of the night that still stings throughout New England.   On October 25, 1986 at New York’s Shea Stadium, the Boston Red Sox lead the New York Mets 2-0 until the bottom of the 5th inning.  The Mets tied the game in that frame with 2 runs.  Boston would plate a run in the seventh, the Mets countered with the tying run in the eighth.  This set up one of the most memorable and bizarre endings in World Series history.

In the top of the 10th inning Dave Henderson led off with a solo home run.  Later in the inning Marty Barrett singled home Wade Boggs to give the Red Sox a 5-3 lead.  What would follow in the bottom of the 10th still amazes this childhood Mets fan.

Wally Backman and Keith Hernandez were retired in succession to begin the Mets half of the 10th.  You could hear a pin drop throughout New York City.  The most dominant year in New York Mets history seemed destined to end in defeat.  Or was it???

Gary Carter extended the game with a single,  Kevin Mitchell followed with another single.  Ray Knight would single on an 0-2 pitch (yes Boston was one strike away) that would score Carter and move Mitchell to third.  Following a pitching change that brought in Bob Stanley to replace Red Sox’ closer (and ex-Met) Calvin Schiraldi, Mookie Wilson had an at bat that will forever be at the forefront of World Series lore.  On the seventh pitch of the at-bat, the ball got away from catcher Rich Gedman!  Mitchell scampered home to tie the game at 5!  What followed next still boggles my mind to this day.  Wilson would hit a routine ground ball up the first base line.  It seemed certain that the celebration would be on throughout New England, and then it happened.   The ball went under first baseman Bill Buckner’s glove and between his legs!  Knight came home with the game winner and kept the Mets alive!  Following a rainout the following day, the Mets won Game 7 by the score of 8-5!

 

Image result for Joe Carter wins 1993 world series

Toronto Blue Jays’ Joe Carter hits a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 9th in Game 6 of the 1993 World Series.

 

The next story is extra special to me.  I really had no rooting interest in the 1993 World Series between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Toronto Blue Jays. It became memorable to me when my wife went into labor with our son following Game 6.  Justin was born the next day.

Toronto came to bat in the bottom of the ninth inning down a run to the Phillies.  Philadelphia had climbed back from a four run deficit by scoring five runs in the seventh inning.  Joe Carter came to bat in the bottom of the ninth with 2 runners on base.  Carter took Phillies closer Mitch Williams deep with a walk-off World Championship winning three run home run!

About an hour later my wife woke up with labor pains.  Justin was born the following evening.

There is way too much to cover in just one article.  I’ll be back on Sunday with three more stories.  In the meantime, enjoy the 2017 Series.  There are more memories to be made.

 

HISTORY OF TEXAS SIZED PROPORTIONS

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.

 

Image result for 2005 Houston Astros Championship Banner

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.

 

Image result for 1981 National League Western Division Championship Series

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!