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When Autumn Leaves Start to Fall

Dave Randall

Posted on September 18, 2018 01:52

1 user

September is now the month of precipice. October means triumph or grief.

In 1994, the great New York sportswriter Dave Anderson penned a tome he titled, simply, Pennant Races. The book celebrated baseball's greatest stretch drives through 1993, and lamented the demise of true pennant races, which ended with the wild card system (scheduled to begin in '94, but postponed a year by the player's strike that K-O'd the entire post season).

Traditionalists don't rail against it as much, today. Five teams in each league make post season play. Even more vie for spots in that coveted, Wild Card, one-game, do-or-die play-in. Since 1997, six teams have clinched a wild card birth, then went on to win the World Series. Fans of the Marlins, Angels, Red Sox, Giants and Cardinals, aren't complaining.

Is it the same as those breathless final weeks of yore? To anyone who remembers bonafide pennant races of the past, no. Unlike any other sport, this game you grow up with stays with you forever. So do those historic pennant races, their jubilation, their devastation. 

It's up to PhDs to determine why pain lingers longer than joy. In Los Angeles, fans approaching their 70th birthdays still remember the Dodgers blowing a late season lead, getting caught by the Giants on the last day of the season--necessitating a three game play-off for the National League pennant--just like 11 years earlier, when both teams were in New York.

This time, there was no Bobby Thomson home run to crush the Blue. It was a pitching meltdown in the 9th inning of Game Three that sank L.A., and sent the Giants to a seven game World Series they'd lose to the Yankees.

My older brothers described their feelings about 1962 with one word: crestfallen. In a newspaper interview 56 years later, Stan Williams, the Dodger pitcher who walked Jim Davenport with the bases loaded in that fateful 9th, dripped with bitterness that not only did L.A. trade him before the next season, they've treated him as a pariah, and he roots against them. Stan is now 82 years old. It was a sad tableau to read.

Equally poignant was a comment from a fan describing watching the game on a small black & white TV, at age 13, incredulous as the Dodger lead slipped away, then crushed as NBC cameras captured the Giants celebrating their come-from-behind pennant win.

It should be noted that the next season, L.A. strode to the N.L. title, then swept the Yankees four straight in the '63 World Series, behind the strong, left arm of Sandy Koufax. Ask anyone in any city who lives and breathes the great game: defeats continue to live side by side with conquests in our psyches. In 2018, rather than the two battling for our emotions in September, it all plays out in October. For baseball fans, September is a month of being on the verge of one or the other.

Dave Randall

Posted on September 18, 2018 01:52

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Source: Yahoo Sports
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The Phillies clubbed seven homers against the Reds on Thursday, tying records that haven't been touched in at least 15 years.

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