World Series' Return Has Ups, Downs

First, the down side of this World Series matchup:

1. The Indians and the Braves made it, which means an entire race of Americans, the first race of Americans, will be made to endure nationally televised displays of tomahawk-chopping, tom-tom-pounding, war-painted ignorance for the remainder of the month.

2. The Angels and the Dodgers didn't make it, despite possessing their best teams in years, which will lead to much gnashing of teeth in the upcoming days whenever Luis Polonia digs in against Orel Hershiser.

3. Albert Belle and Eddie Murray made it, which gives Cleveland two shots at having the first World Series MVP who won't discuss the award with the media afterward and sets the stage for an awkward television moment for Disney:

"Albert Belle, you've just hit six home runs and driven in 15 runs to clinch Cleveland's first World Series championship in 41 years. Where are you heading now?"

"#$% off, you scum-sucking son of &*#!-ing &*$!"

4. Seattle and Colorado didn't make it, depriving the nation of such fun as Ken Griffey's record-setting five home runs in Game 2 at Coors Field, seven consecutive final scores of 12-10, on-air obscenity-laced diatribes by Bob Costas and a really, really rotten winter for George Will.

5. ABC and NBC will televise it, as best we can determine at press time, to households outside Ohio and Georgia even, but will televise it no earlier than 7:20 p.m. (EDT), which means kids all over the country will wake up the next morning and ask over breakfast, "Mom, did anything interesting happen after the sixth inning last night?"

Now, the up side:

There will be a World Series.

It will begin Saturday evening, four days after Cleveland and Seattle played the final game of the American League championship series.

The four-day respite was necessary, as ample time was required for the public to grasp such a strange and alien concept.

It has been two years--24 months--since Joe Carter decided the last World Series with his Game 6 home run off Mitch Williams. And where are they now? Williams is out of baseball--he last pitched for the Angels, who nearly ran out of baseballs while Williams was here--and Carter is in last place, an address the two-time defending World Series champion Toronto Blue Jays hadn't visited since 1982.

Baseball is reawakening from its self-inflicted blow to the head and the subsequent blackout of all memories between Aug. 12, 1994 and Opening Day, 1995. It sensed something must have occurred between those two distant points in time, but isn't quite sure, and the small print in the sports pages isn't helping any.

Wednesday, you probably saw the list--American League pennant winners through the years. The list ended like this:






The stain is already permanent. As more pennants are tacked below Cleveland's, the blemish will only continue to grow. Something's missing, and it will always be missing, regardless of whatever goodwill Greg Maddux and Dennis Martinez manage to restore from here to Halloween.

Great story, these Indians, right? Best lineup since the '76 Reds, a lot of intelligent people seriously believe. Incredible winner of 100 games in a 144-game season. First team to win the pennant for Cleveland in 41 years, finally obliterating the Curse of Rocky Colavito once and for all.

Of course, the story would have been just as good if the Indians had broken through after 40 pennant-less seasons, as most likely would have been the case in 1994, had 1994 included a baseball postseason.

And how about that Griffey Jr., powering the Mariners to unprecedented heights these last few weeks? The clutch hits. The extra-inning suspense. How can you beat that?

Well, Griffey might have in 1994, but his assault on Roger Maris' legendary home-run record was cut two months and 21 home runs short.

Saturday, the Braves and the Indians attempt to continue reparations. A gargantuan task lay ahead, but at least the right teams are making the effort. This World Series, unlike many prior World Series, pits the two best teams in the sport--Atlanta, the decade's most consistent baseball team, against Cleveland, this season's most dominant team.

Say what you want about the wild-card format--what are the Rockies doing in here, a five-game series is no way to decide something this important, blah, blah, blah--but it delivered the goods. The right teams made it. Sorry to put it this way, dyed-in-the-seamsters, but the system works.

Now what?

Can the Indians possibly live up to one-fifth the hyperbole accompanying them to Atlanta for Game 1, this "Team Of The Modern Era" balderdash? These Indians may have terrorized the American League this season, but if this is really a better team than the '61 Yankees, what is Paul Sorrento doing starting at first base? And isn't that Omar Vizquel at shortstop? Sandy Alomar or Yogi Berra? Can we get real for a second?

Where do the Braves go from here? To their first World Series championship since moving from Milwaukee after the heart-wrenching misses of 1991 and 1992? Can they possibly go belly-up again, with Maddux rested and ready for as many as three starts in seven games? If they do, will their 0-for-3-since-'91 forever brand them as the Buffalo Bills of baseball?

At this point we don't know.

That's why they're playing the games.


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