The ultimate baseball stage was set.
The Chicago Cubs were playing the Cleveland Indians. In October. For the World Series. Cleveland hadn’t reached the World Series since Bob Feller and company pulled off the feat about the time my newly retired parents were born. The Cubs were even more inept, so much so that one of their bitter fans managed to write the best baseball song of all time while virtually on his death bed.
2016 was the year that both broke the appearance jinx. One angst filled fan base was finally going to reach the fruit. The other was going to continue to be tantalized. For 6 games, both teams experienced the highest of highs, and the lowest of lows, culminating in a 7th and final game. Just like the series, it went back and forth into the night, reaching the ultimate sporting apex, extra innings. I turned off the TV set, and went to bed. I was tired, and sleep was more appealing than watching the final outcome. I could read about it tomorrow.
At one point, I was no casual baseball fan. Like most children of the 80s, I had thousands of baseball cards, that I would arrange, read, and rearrange. I would pour over their stats late into the night, so that I could recite every team’s starting lineup, their rotation, closer, and bullpen. I can name more players off the 1986 Cardinals team than I can name in all of major league baseball today. So what caused me to turn off the 2016 World Series before it’s conclusion?
In 1994, the much maligned Cleveland Indians finally had a team. Not a “Hey, we could win 80 games this year” good, but an honest to goodness contender. They had acquired Tony Pena, my favorite player, and were set to win it all. They were a game back, before there was a player strike.
When it happened, I was certain that they the World Series would still be played, and the Indians would win it. Only Wars stop the World Series, the most venerated of all American sports championships. And not just any war, but World Wars. I was up on my soap box, proclaiming, like Kevin Bacon in Animal House, that all was well. Sure, a few games would be missed, skewering the stats, and us baseball fans love our stats, but it would be an asterisk of history. There would be a World Series champion, and I was certain it was going to be the Indians.
It didn’t happen.
Not only did the Indians not win it, they didn’t even get to play for it. Not because of what they did on the field. Going into the strike, they were a game out of first place, so while it would have been difficult being left out of the dance because of that, I could have stomached it. There was no dance. Google 1994 World Series Champions, and you get “jump to unofficial”.
I was done.
I’ll tune into a game here and there, and can still admire a great pitcher dueling it out with a full count against a talented batter. But after the dramatics, I turn the channel, not really carrying who wins the actual game.
I have given some chances over the years. I watched most of game 7, and was somewhat taken into the emotion of the game, on both sides. Back in the time before, also known as the 80s, our cable channels were limited, and WGN was one of them. You’ll notice a lot of people my age will root for the Cubs, the Indians, the Mets, or the Braves. Because the cable channels we got would play all their games. Everyone, not so much.
While I respected the Cubs, and their plight, I was excited to see my Indians in it this late. I did watch the two other times the Indians came close to the World Series, but those didn’t reignite my baseball fire. Like the most recent World Series, I had a choice between history, and sleep, and I chose sleep.
I have been covering the MAC for almost a year now, and I didn’t do much with baseball. And by much, I mean nothing at all. I threw up a few stories at the very end, mostly off press releases. Then, for whatever reason, I tuned into the OU and Eastern Michigan game, that ended up settling it all. After blocking out the metal bats aspect, all the sights and sounds of the game of my youth came roaring back.
The pitcher/batter duels. The “should the pitcher stay or should he go” dilemma. The other questions, like pinch hit, or pinch run, the plethora of little games that make a baseball game one of the most complex, yet simple, sports out there came flooding back. Not only did I watch the game to it’s final conclusion, when the tying run was at the plate (my favorite moment in any sport), I am back, invested in baseball once again.
I can’t say I missed baseball. I can’t say I regret taking the 20+ year break. But I am back, and rooting for Ohio baseball as they take on Kentucky, Indiana, and North Carolina State. Even though I haven’t been watching all season, it didn’t take long to check out the stats and catch up. That’s one of the greatest things about baseball, it truly is a timeless sport. Ohio is going to have their work cut out for them, no doubt, but they are on a hot streak, while Kentucky has been fading a bit. It should be fun.
So not only I am going to watching, I am actually taking the time to drive down and watch in person. There will be no decision to get sleep over watching extra innings.