About the time I was close to embarrassing myself, the World Series, current edition, made a hard right turn. It wasn’t just the late up-sweep in TV ratings, nor was it all the fuss about Tony LaRussa’s ancient telephonic system with his bullpen.
(Oh, I know that kind of messaging. I grew up in a country town with a country phone system. Our ring was two longs and a short, and if you happened to take the receiver off the hook at the wrong time, it wasn’t sinful to listen a few minutes to see what might be going on around town. And by the way, the phone company was operated by the fellow who managed the town baseball team.)
It’s possible you may be old enough to have tuned in to the World Series of 1944. (Radio, of course.) It was the first time a World Series was ever played on the west side of the Mississippi in its entirety. Sounds like covered-wagon history here, but it’s true, and it had nothing to do with war we were in. It was the first time the whole Series was played in the same park, because it was an all-St. Louis affair.
Old Sportsman Park was home to both the Cardinals and the Browns, which demanded some creative scheduling between the National and American leagues. The Browns were playing in their one-and-only World Series, and soon would be on the way to Baltimore. The Cardinals took the Series in six games, twice due to the pitching of my old high school classmate, Max Lanier. (Besides winning or saving two games, he was a .500 hitter.)
But, about my impending embarrassment: After the first two games between the Cardinals and Texas Rangers, I was on target to complain that this was a World Series running a little low on spit and fire. Just didn’t seem to build up a head of steam.
Where were the big names that the television crowd expects?
Derek Jeter, Ryan Howard, C.C. Sabathia and Cliff Lee, marquee names?
Pinstripes and Philly red?
Well, I’ve had a serious change of heart. Turns out we didn’t need the Yankees and the Phillies at all. That sounds like a recipe for boring right now -- to me, at least. We have become a society that judges the class of an event by the television ratings. Not the people at the ball park, but the guys and gals sitting by the television screen. The ratings were aglow. In fact, Game 4 outdrew the NFL’s “Football Night in America,” a cheap dig at cutting into the World Series audience.
Furman Bisher is one of the deans of American sports writing. The longtime Atlanta sports journalist is a member of the Georgia and Atlanta Sports Halls of Fame and in addition to his newspaper writing has authored multiple books on major figures like Hank Aaron and Arnold Palmer. He writes periodic columns for the Progress-Argus.