When Ken Burns’ documentary “Baseball” ended in the 2010 with the familiar championship-winning New York Yankees won the 2009 World Series, something extraordinarily happened when some of the forgotten champions from baseball’s past made their comebacks in full force, although the last two World Series has since been marred by sign-stealing scandal committed by a few participants who were part of the winning Houston Astros in 2017. Still, seven teams (including the Astros) became champions throughout 2010s, with the surprising San Francisco Giants won three titles within the first five years of this decades, Boston Red Sox winning another two of four titles in the first score of the 21st Century; St. Louis Cardinals got the game-winning call from a score prior “We will see you tomorrow night”; Kansas City Royals exorcised the 30-year drought year winning it all after almost winning the series just 365 days prior; and one of two teams who competed in the 2016 Classic would exorcise their long-standing curse that were dated longer than any other teams combined. This was American Baseball in the 2010s.
Since the late–inning collapse during Game Six of the 2002 World Series that led to then-Anaheim Angels’ first, and thus far only, championship in their franchise, the San Francisco Giants began its decline while their biggest star, the “controversial” Barry Bonds, made his intentions clear by breaking the all-time home rum record that was set by Hank Aaron in 2006, and finished his career total of 763 home runs (whether he may have been guilty for using performance enhancing drugs during his pursuit or not). After Bonds parted ways with baseball rather acrimoniously in 2007, the team began its rebuilding process by bringing up young talents like Matt Cain, Pablo Sandoval, Brendon Belt, and Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner, and Buster Posey, soon became the core players that led to their eventual successes by winning three championships within the first five years of 2010s by first winning the 2010 Fall Classic, which snapped their championship drought of 56 years, dated back in 1954 while still in New York and throughout their existence in San Francisco since 1958. They had come close to winning it all in both 1962 and 2002 while getting swept in the infamous 1989 series that was marred by the Loma Prieta earthquake occurred on October 17, 1989 before Game 3, which I had firsthand experience as I was living in my aunt’s house doing my homework in the western part of San Francisco that day. Without going into details as I had already covered it in my previous article, I was beyond petrified as I had never felt an earthquake at any scale while living in Hong Kong. In retrospect, the three teams whom they faced had no prior World Series matchup in history, although the Detroit Tigers was the oldest franchise within the group. Texas Rangers didn’t have a chance of defeating the Giants, and neither were the Tigers despite having talents like Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Prince Fielder, and Anibal Sanchez, and were managed by former Pirates and Marlins manager Jim Leyland. On the other hand, Kansas City posed a much more difficult challenge for San Francisco, and it only ended with a foul ball pop fly caught by Sandoval with two out and bases loaded at the bottom of the 9th inning in Game 7 of the 2014 Fall Classic.
While the Cardinals made their dramatic return and comeback with the heroic effort of David Freese at the bottom of the 11th inning in Game 6, earned the call from Fox broadcaster Joe Buck, who has been the center of criticisms for nepotism by his father, the late Jack Buck, who ironically quit after announcing for CBS after 1991 World Series and return to St. Louis until his death on June 18, 2002, as a dedication of his father “We will see you tomorrow night”, echoing the exact call from a similar circumstances from 20 years ago when the late Kirby Puckett hit the game-winning home run off Charlie Leibrandt, who ironically had pitched against the Cardinals during the 7-game 1985 series by winning Game 7, and eventually won their second World Series in 5 years in the 21st Century, and their opponents were the very Texas Rangers who had lost to the Giants one year prior. Like San Diego Padres before them, they had gone to the World Series and lost them both, except the Rangers lost the series back-to-back. Kansas City Royals, though, had their measure of revenge when they defeated New York Mets in 5 games – with a caveat known as Don Denkenger played the spoil by blowing the call at first base during the end of Game 6 of the 1985 series, handed that Royals team a victory. The Royals didn’t need luck this around, ending the franchise’s 30-year championship drought. Boston Red Sox, meanwhile, renewed the sporting rivalry with St. Louis, and the Sox overcame 2-1 series deficit and beat the Cardinals 4 games to 2. Another irony set in as only the Red Sox and Cardinals were able to celebrate their championship victories at home, while the Giants (all 3 times), Kansas City, Chicago Cubs (more with that in a minute), that infamous Houston team, Washington Nationals had their celebration on the road. What is more noteworthy, especially for the Giants, not only that they had won their last 4 World Series (including the 1954 classic) on the road, ALL of their Wold Series victories were on the road. Imagine that.
After the Royals won their first World Series in 30 years in 2015, with the exception of the Boston Red Sox in 2018, who won their fourth championship in 14 years, like the Royals three years prior, by dominating the Los Angeles Dodgers in 5 games, was in the category of “making history”. First, the Chicago Cubs, who had last won the Fall Classic back in 1908 when everything that we have taken for granted nowadays had not been invented at all, finally broke the century-plus drought in a 7-game thriller with the Cleveland Indians, who had last won in 1948 and last played in an losing effort against the Florida Marlins in another 7-game thriller in 1997. One year later, despite later discovery of a sign-stealing scandal committed the winning team’s staff, namely Alex Cora and would-have New York Mets manager Carlos Beltran, the Houston Astros won their first championship in yet another 7-game thriller – only to have their manager A.J. Hinch and Jeff Luhnow dismissed for the entire 2020 (and perhaps 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic) with their inability to prevent the scandal altogether, the team were also punished for losing the top two draft choices of both 2020 and 2021 Major League Baseball Drafts. Meanwhile, Boston Red Sox dismissed Alex Cora for his role when he was part of that Astros coaching staff in a proactive move, and the video replay staff who played a part of Cora’s scheme, resulting in Boston’s loss of first round pick from the upcoming 2020 draft (possibly mirrors the NFL counter by doing a virtual draft instead of in-studio). Before the punishment, though, the Astros once again involved with their second consecutive seven-game thriller, only this time is another franchise who is also searching for their first glory in more ways than one in the form of Washington Nationals, who were once Montreal Expos from 1969 to 2004 before heading to Washington, District of Columbia, once contained 7 different version of the mentioned team name prior to 1971 along with the Senators as the last. This time, however, the Nationals finally broke their futility and won their first championship under two important category in not only the club’s first championship in their existence dated back as the Expos, but also DC’s first championship since 1924.
While the future of professional sports and everything else into the real world are hanging in the balance due to the pandemic that, in all honesty, we may not see its end any time soon, hopefully there will be a day for all the baseball fans to once again watching the national pastime in stadium near you. All the while, this is a summary of what Ken Burns’ “Baseball” documentary has left off, and hopefully he’ll do another one while adding more details than to what I have divulged so far. In addition, since I have mentioned the 1991 World Series, Texas Rangers, and Montreal Expos in this article, stay tuned for my upcoming article concerning with the connections between these baseball clubs, and the debate as to whether the “Baltimore Ravens” rule should have been applied or will be applied if another expansion will be granted for new teams. As I have previously discussed in my piece concerning sports team relocations awhile back, this issue doesn’t seem to be having any resolutions whatsoever with NFL’s Raiders franchise have opted to move to, of all places, Las Vegas after that city did what Oakland have steadfastly refused to provide from a few certain councilperson who have caused more unnecessary squabbles concerning land values and construction expenses for the team’s new stadium, for starter. Even though the diehard Raiders fans would love to pour money to watch their team playing in the Allegiant Stadium, sports team relocation issues will always continue as long as the shortsightedness by all parties keep bickering how money is used between the city and proposed stadiums. For that, let the debate begins.