Congratulations, Dallas-Fort Worthians! Tonight your baseball team (you do know you guys have a baseball team, right?) finally pulls itself out of that dank cellar of World Series never-beens, leaving the Washington Nationals and the Seattle Mariners alone to contemplate their continued futility. I hope you take a break from burning Wade Phillips in effigy to enjoy rooting on the Rangers in the World Series, one of the sublime civic experiences that American life has to offer. Now, never having been through this (in this case, literally) once-in-a-lifetime brouhaha, you may be wondering what to expect out of the next 6-10 days. I've watched my beloved Cardinals in five World Series so far, each one a distinct emotional experience. Chances are your World Series will end up like one of these...
1982: Holy Crap, We Won! Is Baseball Like This Every Year?
The acrobatics of Ozzie Smith. The wit of Whitey Herzog. The beard of Bruce Sutter. St. Louis in 1982 was a great time and place to be 8 years old and discovering baseball for the first time. By the time the Cards rolled to an easy NL East title, brushed the Braves off their shoulders in the NLCS, and outlasted the Brewers in seven games to win it all, I was an incurable addict. The image of Sutter striking out Gorman Thomas for the last out will remain indelibly etched in my memory. Good thing, too, because (SPOILER ALERT) I wouldn't see the Cards win another one for 24 years.
1985: We Was Robbed!
With Vince Coleman stealing 110 bases, Willie McGee hitting .351, and two 20-game winners on the pitching staff in John Tudor and Joaquin Andujar, this team seemed perfect... a little too perfect. The first storm cloud rumbled into the sunny Indian summer sky during the NLCS, when Coleman, the fastest man in baseball, was run over by an automatic tarp travelling at 1 MPH. Even without their leadoff man, the Cardinals seemed poised to beat the cross-state rival Kansas City Royals in six games. But in the 9th inning of that game, first-base umpire Don Denkinger blew a call at first base (see above). The Cards unraveled, lost that game and the next one, and watched the Royals splash around in their champagne. Denkinger received death threats for years afterward. And the Royals have never been back to the playoffs. Nyah nyah.
1987: We Was Deafened!
This time, it wasn't an umpire who interfered with the Cards' destiny; it was a stadium. The Minnesota Twins' then-home field, the Metrodome, was a joke of a "ballpark" where fly balls would get lost against the white domed ceiling and the fans' screams were amplified to deafening levels. For the first time ever, every game in the World Series was won by the home team. It happened to be a year when the American League team had home-field advantage, so the Cards were left to curse their rotten luck and wait 'til next year. For 17 years.
2004: Dude, Where's My Team?
"Aw, man, this is gonna be spectacular! The best Cards team I've ever seen against the Bambino-cursed Red Sox! Can Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling handle the Cards' heavy hitters like Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen, and Jim Edmonds? How will the Cards' pitchers deal with David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez? Two exciting teams, two storied franchises, collide in an epic- wait, what? We lost already? And why the hell are Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore making out on the field?"
2006: Um, We Won? Really?
An uneasy mixture of exuberance and sheepishness swept St. Louis when our underachieving, barely-above-.500 '06 Cards slipped into the Fall Classic. After the '04 humiliation, we braced ourselves for a mauling at the claws of the suddenly mighty Detroit Tigers - USA Today even predicted "Tigers in three." So, of course, the Cards trounced the Tigers in five games for their first World Championship since 1982. A fluke, sure, but we'll take it. Believe me, it's better to be the worst team that ever won the World Series than the best team that didn't.
However things go for the Rangers - and I'm rooting for them to win it all - I hope everybody in northern Texas savors the moment. Let me put it in terms you guys can understand: you know how the Super Bowl is, like, two weeks of interviews and previews and commentary and prognostication followed by four hours of football? Well, replace most of that stuff with actual games and you've got the World Series. It may not be kind to you, but hold on to every moment, for the Rangers may never pass this way again. It's not like you have a football team right now to distract you anyway OH BURN!