For someone who saw the likes of Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan, Catfish Hunter, and Doc Gooden before cocaine got the best of him, with the leagues over-expanded and the talent pool diluted, there is little room for heroes in sports like baseball today. I saw miracle of ’69 in Flushing Meadow, game 6 in 1986 where the Mets were reborn after Mookie hit a grounder to first that went through Buckner’s legs, and what may say was the greatest World Series game in history, game 6 in 1975 at Fenway Park where Carlton Fisk’s home run allowed the Red Sox to live another day. I haven’t decided yet, but game 7 in 2014 may top game 6 in 1975.
I was rooting for the Kansas City Royals as they had the properties of many Mets teams of the past where they just found a way to beat the odds. They were undefeated in the postseason prior to game 1 of the World Series, defeating the Tigers in the play-in game, the Los Angeles Angels with the best record in baseball in four straight, and likewise to the Baltimore Orioles in the LCS. As much as I wanted to see KC pull it off, it was San Francisco Giants ace pitcher Madison Bumgarner who stole the show for me and made this a World Series to remember.
Madison Bumgarner started games 1, and 5, two complete game victories; a rarity in itself in the age where the name of the game is to get 8 good innings out of your starters and then turn it over to the closer. World Series baseball, especially game 7, when there is no tomorrow no matter what, is usually managed old-school, with the entire pitching staff, starters, middle-relievers, and the closer—all hands on deck. The Giants chose to bring back Mr. Bumgarner on 2 days rest, unheard of in the game today, and he was spectacular. In the bottom of the 9th at the venerable old ball park near I-29 with the waterfall in the outfield, he struck out the first 2 Royals. Next batter triples putting the tying run 90 feet away but down to the last out and the game ends on a foul out to 3rd baseman Carlos Sandoval. An old-fashioned 3-2 win after back-to-back slugfests shows us all that a baseball game can still be won the old-fashioned way; and that we can still have heroes in the sport if we allow it.
It is too early to tell if Mr. Bumgarner just had his 15 minutes of fame; but if he is as good as what we saw in the 2014 Fall Classic, when his walk year comes and if he declares free agency, whomever acquires his services will have to make him the highest paid pitcher in the history of Major League Baseball. As true fans, we have to hope money and fame don’t get the best of him. But for now, although I didn’t root for the San Francisco Giants, I tip my hat to Madison Bumgarner, who made me a young at heart fan all over again.