The World Series has arrived – Game 1 is Wednesday night with the first pitch scheduled for 8:05pm – with a seven game
contest between the St. Louis Cardinals, playing at home in the opener, and the Texas Rangers. The Rangers are back in the Fall Classic for the second straight year, becoming the first repeat American League pennant winners since the New York Yankees won four in a row between 1998-2001 – but have zero World Series titles in their 40 year history. In contrast, the St. Louis Cardinals have won it all 10 times, most recently in 2006. Having been 10.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves for the National League Wild Card in late August, beaten the pitching rich Phillies in the Divisional Series, before knocking out the team with the best home record in baseball this year – the Brewers – by winning twice in their stadium, the Cardinals have every right to believe they are the team of destiny this season.
The biggest issue for most fans is figuring out who to root for in this series, as they are not among the bigger markets in baseball. Neither of the two teams would have been first choice for the television networks, who would have been hoping for clubs with biggest fan-bases to make the World Series (something like Phillies vs Yankees/Red Sox). So who will I be supporting for the next 4 to 7 games? Given that I have no natural like nor dislike for either team, other than the animosity I gained for the Rangers in last year’s ALCS, much of which was for the since departed Cliff Lee, I am going to have to rely on other deciding factors.
State Nicknames & Slogans – The “Lone Star State” taking on the “Show Me” state…Hardly inspiring nicknames for either side – this is no exactly “Live Free or Die” – but then New Hampshire does not have a professional baseball team. This would almost be a draw, but for the “Don’t mess with Texas” moniker that has become synonymous with that state, which gives this one to Missouri. Texas Rangers 0, St. Louis Cardinals 1
Presidents – Just looking at the Presidents who were born in the respective states, there is Eisenhower and Lyndon B. Johnson for Texas, Harry S Truman for Missouri (note, that’s Harry S Truman, not Harry S. Truman, his middle name was just “S”, it does not stand for anything…some free Presidential Pedantry in a piece about baseball). Based solely on those three, the Rangers would be getting a point – two solid Presidents against the guy who ordered atomic bombs to be dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But the first person you think of when you consider Texas is of course President George W. Bush – indeed he owned the Rangers for a time and was first elected to office as Governor of the State – so can his actions (and inactions) outweigh the devastation and death caused by two nuclear weapons being used for the only time in war? Of course they can. Texas Rangers 0, St. Louis Cardinals 2
Slavery – Neither state can be proud of its history here – the Missouri Compromise enabled that territory to continue slavery, while Texas seceded from the union to protect this inhumane, immoral act and now the Texas Board of Education has tried to rebrand the whole practice as the “Atlantic Triangular Trade”. Neither side wins this one – both lose a point.Texas Rangers -1, St. Louis Cardinals 1
Managers – Back to baseball matters: Cardinals manager, Tony La Russa, is clearly a very talented tactician and understands the game better than almost everyone else – but he still is not very likeable. By contrast, Ron Washington is so lively and enthusiastic during every game that you cannot help but enjoy seeing him celebrate. He also does not have an incredibly distracting dye job on his hair, which La Russa does. Texas Rangers 0, St. Louis Cardinals 1
Miscellanea – The Texas Rangers were at the centre of one of the saddest moments in the baseball season – when a man died at one of their games trying to catch a ball thrown by Josh Hamilton, to give to his son. Unfortunately, they chose to remember this in their first playoff game against the Rays in the ALDS by having the boy and his mother come out to throw the first pitch to Hamilton – while I am sure the Rangers meant well, it came across as emotionally exploitative and I fear the effect it would have had on such a young kid, not to mention the widow. Also, during game 1 of last season’s World Series, I was out bowling in Manhattan and in the lane next to us was a guy wearing a brand new Texas Rangers hat – missing his supposedly favourite team in their first ever appearance in the Fall Classic in order to knock over some pins. For the Cardinals, their best player’s name is pronounced “Poo Holes” and they have a nice arch to look at during the game. Texas Rangers 0, St. Louis Cardinals 2
Predictions – For the whole postseason, I have got a record of one prediction right to five wrong. The only correct guess I have made was the St. Louis Cardinals knocking out the Milwaukee Brewers, reason enough for me to back them one more time. Texas Rangers 0, St. Louis Cardinals 3 – The Prediction – Cardinals in 6