My entire life is full of great World Series memories. When I was eight, my parents went out the night of Game 6 of the 1993 World Series. We had a babysitter over, who’s job was to get me into bed by whatever time my parents had prescribed, but when they got home, they found me on the couch, glued to the TV set watching the Blue Jays and Phillies. The babysitter gave a hopeless shrug, and I’m sure my parents knew that she had no chance of getting me into bed that night. I remember the Phillies rallying for five runs and being excited at the prospect of a Game 7.
When Joe Carter hit his famous home run a few minutes later, I was filled with mixed feelings. I was too young to really understand the Pittsburgh/Philadelphia rivalry and my mom grew up in the Eastern part of the state as a Phillie fan, so I was rooting for the Phillies. On top of that, I was upset that Carter had stolen the only World Series-winning home run from Bill Mazeroski and the Pirates in the way that only an eight year old can be. The budding baseball historian in me, though, knew that I’d just seen something special, something that only baseball can deliver and something that might only happen once or twice in a lifetime. I was angry and exhilarated all at the same time.
There have been plenty of exciting World Series moments since then. Two years later, Tom Glavine and David Justice and the hated Braves dominated an Indian team that had seemed fated for greatness all season long and two years after that, Jose Mesa melted down and gave Jim Leyland and his squad of Marlin rent-a-players a memorable Game 7 win. I remember Bobby Bonilla hugging a crying Jim Leyland afterwards, feeling like that very moment should have been mine six years earlier, burning up that I had to watch those two celebrate their ultimate triumph in black and teal, and hating the Marlins for it. I still kind of hate the Marlins for it.
I remember the 2001 World Series, which might not match this one in terms of total number of close games (the Diamondbacks blew the Yankees out three times) but might not ever be topped for emotional intensity. The world felt like such a strange and uncertain place in November of 2001; I wanted to root against the Yankees, but for the only time in my life that felt wrong. That Game 7, with Randy Johnson coming out of the bullpen on no rest and the greatest closer ever melting down and ex-Pirates coming up with clutch hits all over the place, matches just about any game ever for drama.
In 2002, I watched Game 6 with a growing sense of disgust. Barry Bonds was going to get his ring before I saw the Pirates get one, and it wasn’t fair. The Giants went up 3-0, then 4-0 on a Bonds homer that clinched him the MVP Award. They stretched it to 5-0 in the top of the seventh. They were showing Willie Mays in the stands and Bonds grinning the dugout and my stomach was churning. And then it all fell apart for the Giants and the Angels somehow scored three times in the seventh and three more times in the eighth. And to this day, I feel bad about the way I celebrated the Angels’ final hit in the eighth because I know now that Robb Nen was on the mound, pitching his career away with a terrible shoulder injury that he’d literally never come back from, leaving it all on the field and coming up empty in the worst way possible, even if he made $50 million in his career and already had a World Series ring.
In 2004, I watched the Red Sox clinch the World Series with a friend of mine from Boston, one of the most intense baseball fans I’ve ever met aside from myself. I watched as his dorm room, full of people at the time, erupted in cheers while he sat silently in the corner with a look of disbelief on his face, not having any idea how to process what he’d just seen.
I can honestly pull at least one specific memory from every single World Series since 1993. Is this the best World Series of my life? I don’t know. Was last night’s game the best game? Maybe. The thing is, I don’t care. What I know is this: we’ve been on an ugly run of World Series since 2004. Stripped of franchise drama, most of the championships have been decided by lopsided, unmemorable Series. At some point during that run, it kind of felt to me like the magic was leeching out of the World Series. Late nights for no reason and terrible weather and blowouts and Bud Selig shrugging with his rule book at press conferences … nothing about those series seemed to resemble the games I loved as a kid.
It all comes rushing back to me when I watch this series, though. Freese’s homer last night gave me the same goosebumps I had as a little kid in 1993; I want the Rangers to win, but I know that people will remember that game like they remember the Carlton Fisk game. I know that the home run gives us one more game of this tense, even, sloppy, ugly, beautiful, amazing World Series. It’s baseball at it’s best. It has me on the phone with my dad at crazy hours of the night, it has me imploring friends on GChat to turn games on. It has me up, just buzzing until 3:30 in the morning. It has me wandering through work like a zombie, counting down the hours until two teams that on 350 days of the year I either can’t care less about or openly despise play a baseball game. It’s every single thing I love about my favorite sport all at once.
I don’t even care if Game 7 is an anticlimax. Sometimes, as a Pirate fan, I need somthing to remind me just what it is that I see in baseball. What it is that I watch for, that I wait for. This year, baseball has delivered in spades.