Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Avenging A 59-Year Hangover: Phillies Meet The Yankees At The Big Dance

Among my earliest childhood memories is hanging out in the kitchen after dinner with my mother and grandmother (my father was on shift work) listening to radio broadcasts of the Philadelphia Phillies and more often than not listening to radio broadcasts of the Philadelphia Phillies losing.

I was a little too young to remember the event, but mother and grandmother never quite got over the hosing the Phils suffered at the hands of the New York Yankees in the 1950 World Series, a 4 game to zip disaster highlighted by pitching duels in which the Phils scored a total of a measly five runs. This may have had something to do with the fact that the Phils were known as the "Whiz Kids" because of their extremely young lineup and were making their first World Series appearance since Woodrow Wilson was president. It was to be their last until Jimmy Carter was the Big Guy 30 years later.

The Phils beat the Kansas City Royals to win their first ever series in 1980 and then iced the Tampa Bay Rays last year to win the second series in their 124-year history, meanwhile losing a record 10,000 games alone the way.

All this by way of prologue to the 2009 World Series,
which kicks off tonight at the new Yankee Stadium in the Bronx as the Phil seek to avenge the disaster of 1950, finally getting rid of that hangover and winning a big one for Phils-loving mothers and grandmothers everywhere.

Baseball has changed in myriad ways in the last six decades, and not always for the better.

Games are much longer because pitchers seldom go the distance. The addition of the designated hitter in the American League in 1973 was and remains an abomination. Despite a half-hearted crackdown by Major League Baseball, doping remains a big problem. And while every game everywhere is now telecast, TV schedulers are the tail that wags the baseball dog, which is why the 2010 series will not be completed until early November. (The 1950 series was over by October 3.)

There were nine future Hall of Famers on the field and in the dugout in the 1950 series: Yogi Berra, Joe DiMaggio, Whitey Ford, Johnny Mise, Phil Rizutto and manager Casey Stengel for the Yanks, and Richie Ashburn and Robin Roberts for the Phils.

Hard to say how many future Hall of Famers will be taking the field tonight, but it's probable that it will be more or less the same number. Does this mean that the quality of play today is as good as it was in 1950?

Before answering that, it should be noted that the Yanks dominated baseball back then and in that decade alone won eight of their record 40 pennants. No other team has come close. The Yanks also have won 26 World Series, including 1996, 1998, 1999, and their last in 2000. Do I need to even mention that no other team has come close?

It is the view of many baseball smarties and semi-smarties such as myself that players are far superior today as athletes, but the games are not as well played because these players lack fundamentals and aren't as good in situational play; that is, what to do in situations such as when the bases are loaded with nobody out and there is an infield grounder.

From the perspective of a Phils fan, this World Series has a very different feel than 2008 and that bodes well.

Although there have been few changes in this year's roster from the 2008 series-winning team, the Phils are older, wiser and came back after trailing in 43 of the 93 regular-season games that they won. And have come back four more times in their seven post season wins.

The Yanks are as hard throwing a team as there is, which is perfect for the Phils, who are as hard hitting a team as there is.

Stir all that in and it's hard to not pick the Comeback Kids to avenge the Whiz Kids loss in 1950. In six games.

This one's for you, mom and grandmom.

Photos of potential future Hall of Famers playing in the Phils-Yanks series (from top): Ryan Howard, Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, Alex Rodriguez, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley

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