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Saturday, October 13, 2012

4 Classic Teams

I haven't been as focused on sports as of late, but I was glad to see the final four teams in the MLB playoffs as follows: the NY Yankees, Detroit Tigers, St. Louis Cardinals, and the SF Giants.  What do these teams all have in common?  They are not expansion teams.  These are part of the original 16 teams that made up Major League Baseball from 1903 - 1960.   As an old hand at reading and studying Major League Baseball, this was the first thing I thought of when I saw the teams still active in the playoffs.

The Yankees were originally the NY Highlanders.  They played in uptown Manhattan - what would now be called Heights Inwood.  They were part of the 'new' American League - a challenge to the original and monopolistic National League by one of the most interesting men in MLB history, Ban Johnson.  The NY Franchise changed its history and the history of baseball by buying a young left handed pitcher from the Red Sox named Babe Ruth.  This move vaulted the newly named Yankees from tepid, also ran status to the top of the American League.  They shared the Polo Grounds with the NY Giants baseball team (now in San Francisco) until the original Yankee Stadium was built in the early 1920's.  The Yankees are arguably the most successful sports franchise in history - only the Canadiens, Packers, Celtics and possibly the Lakers are allowed into the discussion.  (For the global readers, Manchester United, the Yomiuri Giants and the Taiwanese Little League franchises should merit consideration...).
Thurman Munson - the Captain.

The Detroit Tigers are an old franchise.  For many years they played at one of the most beloved stadiums in the AL - Tiger Stadium.  They had a great announcer in Ernie Harwell and were able to compete most years.  I grew up with the Jack Morris, Darrell Evans, Allan Trammel and Lou Whitaker Tigers.  The 1984 team was completely dominant.  I remember them as always having a veteran team and not being cowed by anyone.  One of the surprises of the 1980's was when the 1987 Twins caught a capable Tiger team looking the other way and eliminated them in the ALCS.  The Tiger uniform is a tasteful classic, and the orange, gothic "D" on the away uniform hats has always been my favorite uniform idiosyncrasy, along with the red #'s on the Dodger uniforms.

C. Granderson and the Tiger Colors.

The St Louis Cardinals are the storied franchise of the National League.  They are, along with the Reds, one of the oldest franchises in MLB history.  They have one of the most impressive alumni lists in baseball history. To name a few: Lou Brock, Stan Musial, Enos Slaughter, Albert Pujols, Bob Gibson, Whitey Herzog and Curt Flood.  For a franchise that has been in existence since 1882 they have been remarkably consistent in keeping the tradition of winning alive, and have revamped the team in order to stay competitive.  Even now, after the retirement of Tony LaRussa and the defection of Pujols, the Cardinals have been competitive and are still alive.  They recently and unexpectedly won a world series, and somehow stay around in order to bother the favorites.

Lou Brock of the St. Louis Cardinals.

The San Francisco Giants are the only team that isn't in its original city.  Originally the New York Giants, they were the original dominant franchise of MLB.  They played in an old, oddly shaped park called the Polo Grounds - now the site of apartment buildings.  The early 1900's had a team that included Christy Matthewson, Mel Ott, Carl Hubbel, John McGraw and Frankie Frisch.  The Giants' standard bearer is Willie Mays - arguably the best player in MLB history.  Mickey Mantle and Babe Ruth enter into the discussion, and it hurts Giants fans to no end that they are both Yankees. The Yomiuri Giants use the old NY Giants colors because at the time they toured Japan, the NY Giants were the best team in baseball, had the best players and the richest tradition.  Recently, the SF Giants did a wonderful thing, they moved from the impersonal and windy Candlestick Park, and moved into San Francisco proper to a fantastic stadium.
The original Polo Grounds.

The current stadium for the SF Giants.

Prediction:  The SF Giants, with their superior pitching, defeat the Cardinals.  Tim Lincecum seems to have regained his form, and Barry Zito has possibly resurrected his career from the scrap heap and is now a serviceable left hander.  The Yankees will defeat the Tigers, simply because Justin Verlander won't be able to pitch three times.  Because Verlander was needed to defeat the A's, the Yankees will win.

The Yankees win the World Series, in a matchup reminiscent of the 1951 and 1962 World Series - a nostalgic NY fan's fantasy.


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