Tuesday, October 18, 2011

World Series notes/oddities

By Rick Morris

^ Since baseball first expanded beyond the charter teams in each league in 1961, there has always been at least one team in the World Series that dated prior to that expansion. Such a half-century streak seems incredible to believe, especially with no media attention paid to it, but it is true.

^ Here’s another hard-to-believe but true note: we are in the midst of a historic run of seeing the leagues alternate World Series titles. The streak dates back to 2005 and will reach seven years if Texas takes back the crown from the National League. That would tie the run from 1985-91 and still be one year behind the one from 1965-72 and two years behind the one from 1939-47.

^ For the first time since 1999 and only the second time since 1985, the World Series pairs up two teams that have both made it to the grand stage in the last half-decade.

^ The cities of Dallas and St. Louis haven’t met for major sports championships before. But Dallas has one huge cross-sports trend that it is in the midst of at the present moment. In the year bookended by these World Series appearances, they have also hosted a Super Bowl and some NBA Finals games. Now there is even more reason to say, “Ah, to be a rich oilman in Texas!”

^ Tony LaRussa just tallied the second-longest run between his first and most-recent World Series appearance. The first Bash Brothers pennant-winner in 1988 marked LaRussa’s World Series debut and now he has achieved appearances 23 years apart. The only longer string? Connie Mack at 26 years (1905-31). Here are the other managers with more than a 15-year period between World Series appearances: Bucky Harris (23, from 1924-47), Walt Alston (19, from 1955-74), John McGraw (19, from 1905-24), Dick Williams (17, from 1967-84) and Bill McKechnie (15, from 1925-40).

^ St. Louis just tied the Dodgers and Giants for most National League pennants with 18. However, what’s noteworthy about the Cardinal World Series appearances is that all of them have been within five historical clumps. The first ran from 1926 to 1934, with 1928, 1930 and 1931 pennants in between them. The second ran from 1942 to 1946, with a pennant every year in between except 1945. The third ran from 1964 to 1968, with a pennant also in 1967. The fourth ran from 1982 to 1987, with a pennant also in 1985. And the fifth has run from 2004 to 2011, with a pennant also in 2006. By the way, the Cardinals, Dodgers and Giants are all tied for second-most pennants behind the Yankees with 40, but the Cardinals are all alone in second place behind the Yankees for world titles (New York 27, St. Louis 10). Both the Dodgers and Giants are 6-12 in World Series appearances, leaving the Yankees and Cardinals as the only franchises with more than 15 trips who also have a winning record.

^ For all of the perception that the Yankees and Red Sox are always in the World Series, only twice in the decade from 2002-2011 have teams from the states of New York and Massachusetts made the Fall Classic. That is as many times as teams from the states of Pennsylvania and Florida have qualified, but less times than teams from the states of Texas, California and Missouri have made it (three).

^ Texas is trying to join Kansas City as franchises that are 1-1 in the World Series. A hopeful note for the Rangers: the Royals won on their second try in 1985.

^ Texas is the first team since Atlanta in 1992 to defend their pennant after losing the World Series. The Braves did not have any more success the second time. Other instances since divisional play started in 1969: the As won the second time around in 1989, the Dodgers lost in 1978, the Yankees won in 1977 and the Orioles won in 1970.

^ This is the 13th time in World Series history that a manager who has only lost in the World Series faces one with winning experience. There is no notable edge for either LaRussa or Ron Washington, however, since previous results are split at six apiece. LaRussa can take heart from 1973 (Dick Williams over Yogi Berra), 1953 (Casey Stengel over Charlie Dressen), 1951 (Stengel over Leo Durocher), 1922 (John McGraw over Miller Huggins), 1921 (McGraw over Huggins) and 1908 (Frank Chance over Hugh Jennings). But Washington can take encouragement from those who broke through under these circumstances: 1981 (Tommy Lasorda over Bob Lemon – who beat him in 1978), 1974 (Alvin Dark, who took over the As after two previous world championships under Dick Williams, over Walt Alston), 1955 (Alston over Casey Stengel), 1923 (Huggins over McGraw, who had beaten him the previous two years) and 1910 (Connie Mack over Frank Chance).

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