If it’s baseball, it’s Bill Pruitt: “PENNANT RACE 2021: THE BEST TEAM IS NOT ALWAYS THE BEST TEAM”

If it’s baseball, it’s Bill Pruitt: “PENNANT RACE 2021: THE BEST TEAM IS NOT ALWAYS THE BEST TEAM”

[1965 Topps Baseball 138 World Series #7 Bob Gibson Wins Finale (ebay)]

Since 2017, every spring as Opening Day approaches, Bill Pruitt has provided us with delightful and sometimes prescient occasional baseball poems: “The Pennant Races in Rhyming Couplets” (2017), “Pennant Race 18: Curses Laid and Lifted”(2018), “Pennant Race in Eight Sestets & a Couplet” (2019), “Pennant Race in the Plague Year, Or Ohtani’s Quadruple Twenty in 2020” (2020) and “Pennant Race 20 Codicil: A Season of  Baseball with a Plane to Catch” (2020).

In his poems, Bill makes predictions: last year correctly saying the Dodgers would win the National League pennant. Bill also makes baseball the occasion to explore the meaning of life (which is baseball).

Without giving away the ending, Bill is half right this year, but errs in who will win the World Series.¹

After reading Bill’s prediction, I asked the Magic 8 Ball, “Is Pruitt right?” The answer is . . . [from David Kramer’s collection]

PENNANT RACE 2021: THE BEST TEAM IS NOT ALWAYS THE BEST TEAM

PROLOGUE: What’s in a Name

There are four Coreys in MLB. Any of them could win Corey of the year. Corey Dickinson plays left field for the Marlins and could have a big year if he gets his exit velocity back up. The Dodgers’ Corey Knebel throws in relief and might make a big splash if he gets the opportunity. His teammate Corey Seager is always a threat to win MVP. And there’s Corey Kluber whom the Yankees picked up to finish out their rotation, Who will win the Corey?

Then there’s the Tanner. Where did they all come from? Once upon a time, there was Tanner Roarke. Great name for a pitcher. now there are four, and they’re all pitchers, all right-handed but one, Scott of Baltimore. As if every time Tanner Roarke got traded, it whistled up another Tanner. We have Houck of Boston, Rainey of the Nationals, and the Blue Jay Roarke.  Who will get the Tanner?

Then there is the Trevor. They go into infinity: Rogers, Richard, Cahill. Rosenthal is still kicking around with the As. May throws major heat for the Mets. Trevor Story is the last man standing in Colorado, a team whose general manager repels his star infielders just like they were locker room brawlers.

And then there’s Trevor Bauer

ACT ONE

Nothing like blue sky, warm breeze and vaccinations
to make you yawn at lineups and rotations
But baseball always was a sport for reverie
More Emily Dickinson than Len Deighton

Yankees are doing it just like the days gone back,
Fill out off a home grown team with stacks of jack,
Lure Cole, Kluber, Taillon to go with Severino,
A Giancarlo and a pair of Aarons to win a flag

To get there they have to play the wild card winner,
Twins over A’s but the Yanks have the Twins for dinner
The Angels and Chisox series is close, but weep, Arte Moreno!
Go home for another crownless LA winter

In the NL West, the Dodgers burn down the pike
Nobody can catch them but the Padres keep it tight
who beat the Nationals in the Wild Card match
and the Cards in the tomahawk chop put a spike

ACT TWO

The NL is ready for the SO CAL showdown,
But when LA brought Trevor “Cy Young” Bauer home
they brought a xenophobe, birther, misogynist, climate change denier,
and rewarded a career 3.90 E.R.A. with a hundred million bones

So Dodger Blue with the best pitching staff, starters and relievers,
the best player, Mookie Betts, and the second best, Corey Seager,
has its team spirit scrambled by this loose-cannon whackadoodle
The Padres rise up and make them true believers

It’s the Card and Padres for the National League crown
But LA has worn the brown & gold down
and they fall to the Redbirds in six while New York
tosses the Pale Hose to the ground

ACT THREE

With a better infield except second base,
a veteran pitching staff with a youthful ace
a young outfield that surpasses Yankee money,
Cards prevail, Adam & Yadi get the last out, embrace!

MORAL: some say Ty Cobb was the greatest any has seen.

But the greatest what? What is a player but part of a team?
Cobb played for himself. The Tigers won zip.
Who’s the true GOAT? Yogi got ten rings.

Framed newspaper sketch from Yogi Berra’s days as the manager of the Mets. Gift from David Kramer to Eugene Kramer on his 80th birthday. From On Yogi Berra and Dale Berra and the 1973 World Series and Willie Mays and my fatherBill Pruitt , March 15th, 2021, Rochester, NY

¹Editor’s note: 

Bill picks the Cards to beat the Yanks. The two will meet in the World Series², but New York will win, ending a mini-drought after not having won the AL pennant since 2009 (by Yankee standards that’s far too long).

While the Yankees championship pedigree is legendary, less chronicled are its three postseason droughts, each lasting eleven years and more.

Expected postseason appearances is the likelihood that any one team would make the postseason during that stretch. In each case, the Yankees underperformed, posting zero.

Drought I was from 1903 to 1920 when only the World Series was played in the postseason and during which the Yankees never won the pennant, playing second fiddle to the cross town Giants. Most real Yankee fans don’t consider Drought I to be part of Yankees history. Basically, that era is antediluvian and prehistoric: occurring B.R. (before Ruth).

Drought II was from 1965 to 1975. The beginning of the drought took place during the most difficult period in baseball history to make the postseason when the American League expanded to 10 teams in 1961. Although the Yanks won the pennant from 1960 – 1964, by 1965 hopes faded as Mickey Mantle’s career wound down.

On the Timeline at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Highland Park. From Baseball at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Highland Park (1960 – 1974)

In 1969, the AL was split into two 6 division teams making it easier to reach the postseason. Nonetheless, the Yankees stumbled for 7 years in the wilderness.

Drought III was from 1982 – 1994 during which time the AL East had 7 teams. After losing to the Dodgers in the 1981 World Series, the Yankees languished for over a decade.

Before Bill gets on his high and mighty horse (or bird), we must note that the Cardinals have had four bad if not worse pennant droughts: 1900 – 1925, 1947 – 1963, 1968 – 1981, 1988 – 2004.

Some cards from when the Cards were also-rans 1968 – 1981 (l-r, t-b) Topps 1970 Taylor; 1972 Grzenda, Shaw, Martinez, 1973 Durham, Melendez, Folkers; 1974 Folkers, Foster, Siebert, Reitz, Pena; 1975 Folkers, Sizemore, Siebert, Reitz,, Hunt, Rudolph; 1976 Reitz; 1978 Dierker [David Kramer’s collection]

I am proud that I became a Yankee fan during Drought II.  No fair weather fan here. My card collection begun in the early 70s shows the Yankees’ progression, building a core that won five division titles and four pennants in six years, 1976 – 1981: Munson, Hunter, Lyle, White, Chambliss, Piniella and Nettles.

(top) 1970 Milton Bradley: Clarke, Gibbs, McDaniel, McDowell, Pepitone, Stottlemyre; (bottom r-l) 1970 Milton Bradley, Cater, 1971; Topps, Cater, White, Tepidino, 1971 team checklist

(top r – l) Topps, 1972 White, Munson, Blomberg; 1974 Xograph, Lyle (bottom) Topps 1973 Allen, Clarke, Callison, Closter, White

(top) Topps 1973 Sanchez, McDaniel, Lyle,Nettles, Michael; (bottom l-r) 1974 Topps Pinella (traded) White, Blomberg, Stanley, 1973 Topps Alou

(top to bottom, l-r) Topps 1974 Sudakis (traded), McDowell, Stottlemyre, Nettles, Lyle, Sanchez. Kline, Clarke, Medich, Mason (traded)

(top l -r) Topps 1975 Upshaw, Topps 1974 Lanier, Michael, Moses, Dempsey; (bottom l -r) Topps 1975 Mason, Medich, Bonds, Michael, Pagan

(top to bottom, l-r) Topps 1975 Blomberg, White, Stottlemyre, team checklist, Stanley, Nettles, Tidrow, Pinella, Chambliss

(l-r) Topps 1976 Hermann, Maddox, Munson, Stanley, Tidrow

(l-r) Topps 1976 Medich, Chambliss, Hunter, Nettles

(top) Mike Kekich (Topps 1971) and Fritz Peterson (Topps 1974). Kekich and Peterson are know in Yankee lore as the Swappers. In 1973, the two swapped both their wives and their children. Walt “No Neck” Williams is the only one in my collection to play in the Senior League (© 1990 Pacific Trading Card, Inc and Topps 1976). Inexplicably, No Neck is listed as pitcher.

(l-r, t-b) ©1986 KAY BEE, © 1986 SPORTFLICS, © 1988 FLEER CORP, © 1987 FLEER CORP, © 1989 FLEER CORP, © 1989 THE TOPPS COMPANY, © 1989 THE TOPPS COMPANY, © 1991 SCORE

During Drought III, I lived mostly in Rhode Island and Wisconsin, admittedly more closely following the Red Sox and Brewers.  Don Mattingly, playing from 1982 – 1995, epitomizes Drought III. Despite Mattingly’s heroics, the Yankees only finally made the postseason in 1995, made easier when the AL added two additional playoff teams.

²POSTSCRIPT

The Yankees and the Cardinals have met five times in the World Series with St. Louis winning in 1926, 1942 and 1964 and New York in 1928 and 1943. Overall, the Yankees have won 15 of the 28 games played. All images from The World Series: A Complete Pictorial History (1981) by John Devaney and Burt Goldblatt. [David Kramer’s collection]

1926 St. Louis 4 – New York 3

In St. Louis Babe Ruth (lower r.) poses with children in front of window decorated by one of his home runs. All images from The World Series: A Complete Pictorial History (1981) by John Devaney and Burt Goldblatt [David Kramer’s collection].

Grover Cleveland Alexander warms up at the Stadium during the Series. “Poosh ’em Up” Tony, as the fans called Lazzeri, is struck out by Old Pete. The catcher is Bob O’Farrell.

1928 New York 4 – St. Louis 0

Yankees politick for Presidential candidate Al Smith, led by the bat boy and Babe Ruth. Third from the end of the line is Lou Gehrig. And in an ad a pre-TV sponsor tries to get sight as well as sound into the Series broadcasts.

The crowd (top) deluges the field with hats to salute the Babe as he trots across home after his third homer–“a hat trick”–in the fourth game. He is congratulated by Lou Gehrig with whom he poses (r.)

1942 St. Louis 4 – New York 1

The Cardinals’ Whitey Kurowski collects a pop foul, Marty Marion behind him. Before the 1926 Card manager Rogers Hornsby said: “This Cardinal team couldn’t carry our bats . . . “


Right: Enos Slaughter crosses the plate in the seventh inning of the fourth game as the Cardinals break a 6-6 tie to score two runs and go on to win, 9-6. Bill Dickey is the catcher. In the fifth and final game (below), with the score tied 2-2 in the ninth and a runner on base, Whitey Kurowski socks a home run, and the Cardinals go on to win the game, 4 – 2, and the World Championship.

1943 New York 4 – St. Louis 1

Bill Dickey slams a two-run home run in the final game for a 2-0 Yankee victory. Manager Joe McCarthy called Dickey “the greatest World Series catcher” because he stayed loose under pressure and kept his team relaxed. Motion-picture film shows Mort Cooper and the No. 13 he like to wear. Ten percent of the winning and losing purses was paid with War Bonds.

Bill Dickey slams a two-run home run in the final game for a 2-0 Yankee victory. Manager Jo McCarthy called Dickey “the greatest World Series catcher” because he stayed loose under pressure and kept his team relaxed. Motion-picture film shows Mort Cooper and the No. 13 he like to wear. Ten percent of the winning and losing purses was paid with War Bonds.

1964 St. Louis 4 – New York 3

Card’s Ken Boyer sprints toward the third-base boxes for a pop foul off the bat of Roger Maris with two out in the 10th inning of the fifth game. Boyer leans on the rail and snares the ball above the bald head of National League President Warren Giles, ending the game, the Cards 5-2 victors.

Jim Bouton snaps off the first pitch of the third game. Curt Flood is the hitter, Elston Howard the hitter, Elston Howard the catcher. In this Series, as in 1921 when the Meusel brothers opposed each other, two brothers  were playing the same position: Ken Boyer at third for the Cardinals, Clete Boyer at third for the Yanks. The Yankee loss in the first game was their fifth straight Series loss — their longest in Series competition.

SEE

PENNANT RACE 20 CODICIL: A SEASON OF BASEBALL WITH A PLANE TO CATCH

Bill Pruitt offers “Pennant Race in the Plague Year, Or Ohtani’s Quadruple Twenty in 2020”

Third time is the charm; Pruitt tells us what will happen: “Pennant Race ’19 in Eight Sestets and a Couplet”

Street and Smith’s is back and so is Bill Pruitt with “Pennant Race 18: Curses Laid and Lifted”

Pruitt breaks new ground with “The Pennant Races in Rhyming Couplets.” Keeps eyes on the Talker baseball prediction prize.

About The Author

dkramer3@naz.edu

Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, and the CITY.  My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.

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