Baseball, in some ways, is like the marathon. Both sports require the ability to endure a long, grueling task, be it months of training and 26.2 miles of racing, or months of a 162-game season, and the intensity of multiple championship series. Both sports take from low two-hours to five-hours plus to complete, and taken in small doses or out of context, can seem incomparably boring. Yet when followed closely throughout a season or a race, the drama of each competition builds to Shakespearean levels, until every pitch, every foot strike takes on the weight of the world, and the glory of accomplishment — sometimes even in defeat — can resonate for a lifetime and beyond.
And so as the baseball season begins its annual fall ritual tonight in Boston with the National League champion St. Louis Cardinals taking on host American League king Boston Red Sox, we await the culminating event of the 2012-2013 World Marathon Majors cycle on the first weekend of November at the ING New York City Marathon with equal anticipation.
This year’s Fall Classic promises to be a beauty, as the Cards and the Sox have proven their mettle — both teams completed their seasons with a record of 97 — 65. Both have excellent pitching, powerful offenses, and legendary support from their iconic fan bases. We can only hope to witness a level of drama at the ING New York City Marathon November 3rd that will approximate what is expected in Boston and St. Louis – America’s Best Baseball Town.
Though I grew up a Cards fan in St. Louis, my allegiance leans marginally toward the Sox in this Series. With 11 World Series titles the Cards are second only to the Yankees in that illustrious category. And though the Sox broke The Curse of the Bambino in 2004 (by sweeping the Cards), and won again in `07, they remain 1–2 against the Redbirds in their three Series match ups.
I wasn’t alive for the Stan Musial-led Redbirds 4 –3 win over the Ted Williams-led Sox in 1946, but in `67 I was firmly behind Bob Gibson and the mighty Redbirds 4 –3 victory over the Miracle Sox of Carl Yazstremski. By 2004, however, I had become a long-suffering Sox fan, having moved to the The Hub from St. Louis in 1974.
It didn’t take long. In 1975 I experienced the highs and eventual lows of the epic Series against Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine. Three years later the agony of Bucky “F’ing” Dent‘s seventh-inning, three-run home run off Mike Torrez in the American League Eastern Division one-game playoff against the Yankees haunted our sleep. And the tragedy of Bill Buckner’s 10th-inning error in game six of the 1986 Fall Classic against the N.Y. Mets remains the apogee of Sox Nation’s high anxiety.
In fact, I was in the Chicago Hilton Hotel that night watching that game with about 50 athletes, managers, and coaches gathered for that day’s Chicago Marathon. I was one of the few Bostonians in the hospitality suite high above Lake Michigan as the game and Series reached its crescendo. After scoring two runs in the top of the 10th inning in Game 6 to take a 5 — 3 lead, and up three games to two in the Series, the Sox were within one strike of winning their first world title since 1918.
Knowing the torment of Red Sox history, people began clapping me on the back as they walked by as it became obvious that the Sox were going to break the Curse. But after scoring one run in the bottom of the 10th, and having runners on first and third with two-out and two strikes, when Mookie Wilson dribbled a harmless ground ball toward first base that somehow went through Bill Buckner‘s legs, allowing the tying and winning runs to score from third and first, the slaps on the back turned to braying laughs.
That kind of disappointment leaves scars. So in 2013 I’d rather see the Sox tie the Cards 2-2 in head-to-head match ups, and that way increase an already historic rivalry. But really, I can’t lose.