[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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.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.
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.
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
1928 New York 4 – St. Louis 0
1942 St. Louis 4 – New York 1
1943 New York 4 – St. Louis 1
1964 St. Louis 4 – New York 3