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The voters of the Cy Young award are finally starting to vote for the right people.  Here’s hoping the same can be said for the MVP award some day. 

Another way to word the Cy Young award would be to call it the Best Pitcher of the Year award.  Unfortunately, the MVP award isn’t as simple, but it should be. 

The voters of the Cy Young award have long been putting too much value on the number of wins a pitcher has even though the rest of the team can be more responsible for that than the pitcher on the mound.  This year, the American League Cy Young winner was Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners even though he only won 13 games.  Hernandez won the award because he was the best pitcher in the American League.  Well done, voters.

When it comes to the MVP award, too much influence is placed on a player’s team’s place in the standings.  If a player’s team is in last place, he obviously must not have been valuable enough so he doesn’t deserve the award – this seems to be the mentality among voters.  I don’t agree.  The award should go the person who contributed the most to his team, regardless of its place in the standings. 

There have been exceptions like when Andre Dawson won the 1987 National League MVP for the last-place Cubs or when Alex Rodriguez won the AL award in 2003 for the last-place Rangers.  These are cases when the player’s statistics exceed the other competitors by so much, they can’t be ignored.  These instances are few. 

There is a new statistic that should be considered heavily in MVP voting: Wins Above Replacement (WAR).  This calculates the number of extra wins a team accumulates over a season for a player compared to what an average replacement player would accumulate (zero).  Josh Hamilton of the Rangers and Joey Votto of the Reds won this year’s MVP awards.  According to the WAR numbers, the most valuable players in each league was Evan Longoria of the Rays (7.7 WAR) and Albert Pujols of the Cardinals (7.2).  Hamilton’s rating was 6.0 (sixth in AL)  while Votto’s was 6.2 (fifth in NL). 

It will be a long time before voters aren’t looking at home runs and RBI, but I hope over time they’ll consider the new statistics. 

Was Miguel Cabrera less valuable to his team than Josh Hamilton because the Tigers finished with a .500 record?  I don’t believe so, but the voters do.  Where would the Indians have finished the season without Shin-Soo Choo?  If you surround a great player with lesser talent, doesn’t that make him that much more valuable? 

What about the clubhouse factor?  Can you consider an average player more valuable than an offensive star because he keeps the spirits high and doesn’t let anyone get too down in the clubhouse?  Tony Perez was a good player for the Big Red Machine, but his numbers didn’t match up with Joe Morgan, Pete Rose, Johnny Bench and George Foster.  Yet, when the Reds traded him prior to the 1977 season, the team’s production dropped off.  How valuable was Perez? 

Michael Cuddyer isn’t the best player on the Minnesota Twins, but many believe his unselfishness helps the team in a way others can’t.  Does this make him more valuable?  I think so. 

If the MVP award voting doesn’t change, I can’t complain much.  It’s an award.  It’s an opinion.  It’s only who a bunch of voters thought was the most valuable player of the year.  I know Goodfellas was the best picture of 1990 even though Dances With Wolves won the Academy Award.  I also know Bob Dylan should have a room full of Grammy awards from the sixties, but the voters didn’t have a clue what they were listening to.  I also know Johan Santana was the best pitcher in the American League in 2005. 

This is my opinion and a lot of the time it doesn’t agree with what a small group of voters think.

The Minnesota Twins recently announced plans to upgrade the beautiful Target Field with improvements such as a new high-definition scoreboard above the right-field stands and free Wi-Fi throughout the park.  In response to this, 2006 American League MVP Justin Morneau announced his displeasure that the team did not decide to move in the fences (http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2010/baseball/mlb/11/12/morneau-twins.ap/index.html). 

Target Field proved to be one of the most difficult fields in the big leagues to hit a home run.  The Twins hit 52 home runs at home and 90 on the road while the pitchers gave up 64 at Target Field and 91 during away games. 

As a slugger, I can see where Morneau would like the fences moved in.  Many balls were hit to the power alleys at Target Field last summer that looked like sure home runs, but either hit the wall, the warning track or into an outfielder’s mitt.  Sluggers want to hit more home runs and drive in more runs and that’s no exception to Morneau. 

Justin Morneau is one of my favorite players. The longest home run I've ever seen was hit by him at Miller Park. I still disagree with him.

On the other hand, Morneau is coming off selfish.  Moving in the fences may help him, but few others.  I love watching Morneau play baseball, don’t get me wrong, but I disagree with his argument.  At the very least, I disagree he went public with his complaint.     

You could still be in the Metrodome.  After years and years of trying to get a real ballpark, the Twins finally build one of the most beautiful parks in the country and its first season is concluded with complaints.  C’mon, Justin, be happy you’re playing under the sun on real grass and your locker isn’t the size of a broom closet. 

Most of the time, the Twins are a small-ball team.  The 2010 Twins were an anomaly compared to most of the teams in the last decade.  With the help from Morneau, Jason Kubel, Michael Cuddyer, Delmon Young, Danny Valencia, Joe Mauer and Jim Thome, the 2010 Twins played very little small ball.  In fact, they were second-to-last in the American League in stolen bases (68).  The Twins won’t be playing this kind of baseball forever.  The 2001 through 2008 Twins would have thrived even more at Target Field.

Home runs are overrated.   Home runs are like a big plate of pancakes.  They tasted delicious back in the late nineties when records were being broken every year, but after consuming them for so long, fans are getting sick of them.  I’m no exception:
https://tripleinthegap.wordpress.com/2010/03/04/baseballs-greatest-plays-part-one/
https://tripleinthegap.wordpress.com/2010/03/08/baseballs-greatest-plays-part-two/

Sluggers have been spoiled by small ballparks for too long.  Almost every team in the majors has gotten a new ballpark in the last 20 years.  Very few of them are considered pitchers parks.  The exceptions might be Petco Park, Citi Field, Safeco Field and Target Field.  Comerica Park in Detroit was a perfect pitchers and triples paradise before management decided to move the fences in after the 2002 season (the left-center field wall currently stands 370 feet from home plate – it used to be 395).  If Target Field is a pitcher’s park, then it distinguishes itself from the other parks all the more.  If the fences are moved in, it’s that much more similar to the majority. 

I don’t hear any pitchers complaining.  What happens when the fences are moved in?  Will the Twins hitters make up the difference in home runs the pitchers give up?  The pitchers need to keep the ball in the park and Target Field fits this purpose.  The majority of Twins are pitch-to-contact pitchers so the club needs a park that will keep the ball within its dimensions. 

The best home run hitters normally aren’t swinging for home runs – they come naturally.  If hitters are worried about not being able to hit a home run at Target Field, then don’t try.  Aim for the gaps, doubles are more exciting anyway (https://tripleinthegap.wordpress.com/2010/08/05/tris-speaker-earl-webbs-records-can-be-broken/). 

The Twins were 53-28 at home – the best in the American League.  How could the Twins be so good at home when they can’t hit home runs there?  The answer is simple: home runs aren’t needed to win ball games and this is the main reason Morneau is wrong.  The Twins numbers at home (.282 AVG, .354 OBP, .422 SLG, .776 OPS) were much better than on the road (.265, .328, .421, .750).  Minnesota’s offense produced more runs, RBI, doubles, triples, walks and had less strikeouts at home.

As for the pitching splits, the numbers are far more skewed.  On the road, Minnesota pitchers had a 4.39 earned run average to go with a 1.32 WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched).  At Target Field the pitchers’ ERA was 3.53 and their WHIP stood at 1.27. 

So, to sum things up, Mr. Morneau, the Twins score more runs and allow much less at Target Field.  Why on earth should the Twins mess with this formula?

There's nothing wrong with these dimensions. Target Field is not Yankee Stadium, where pop flies to right field end up in the seats. Home runs are earned here.

In terms of the postseason, the one thing that differs baseball from other sports is it’s the sport most difficult to reach the playoffs.  There are 30 teams in major league baseball and eight move to the postseason unlike basketball and hockey where 16 teams advance.  In the NFL, 12 of 32 teams advance.  There has been talk recently that baseball could expand its postseason to include two additional teams.  Here’s what one baseball fan thinks.

It’s not easy reaching the baseball playoffs and I hope it stays that way.  However, if done properly, the playoffs could be just as challenging to reach if more teams are included.  As of now the division winners of each league (three in each) automatically reach the postseason.  There is one wild-card team in each league that represents the team with the best record that did not win its division.  The first round of playoffs is a best-of-five series.  The winner of those playoffs reach the league championship series in each league for a best-of-seven battle and the winner of those two reach the poorly named World Series (thanks for that egotistical title, 1903 sportswriters). 

To add the most excitement along with television ratings, it would be great to see baseball add one wild-card team to each league.  The two wild-card teams would play something similar to what two teams that tied to end the season.  Some call it a 163rd game and others a one-game playoff.  The winner of that game would go on to play the team with the best record in its league regardless of what division they play in.  Today’s rules state a wild-card winner cannot play a team in its own division in the first round.  Why does this rule exist?  My guess is so the Yankees and Red Sox can play seven games instead of five and increase television ratings. 

There is nothing more exciting than a one-game playoff.  One-game tiebreakers were necessary in 2007, 2008 and 2009 and ratings were great.  This cannot be said for the 2010 World Series which ended after only five games.  Playoffs ratings for the NFL are always great and a big part of this is the importance of each game: loser goes home.  When this instance happens in baseball, ratings skyrocket and baseball benefits for more than one reason. 

One-game postseason drama. The Tigers-Twins 2009 one-game playoff was ranked as the No. 1 regular season game of the decade on si.com.

Many coaches will argue that a team’s destiny shouldn’t be based on one game after playing 162 during the regular season.  My response is: Then maybe you should have won a few more games between April and October.  A team has plenty of time to earn a division title.  Wild-card teams shouldn’t earn the same privileges of division winners. 

Having a one-game playoff also won’t add onto the length of the playoffs.  It can be played the day after the regular season ends and the winning team can have one day off before the division series begins.  Should the players union demand for a best-of-three series, a doubleheader should be played one day and if the games are split, then the decisive third game should be played the next day.  Having the wild-card team play extra games with its rotation out of order will also add to the disadvantage of playing the league’s top team.

If this system were in place for the 2010 season, the Yankees and Red Sox would have been the wild-card teams in the American League.  This means there would have been a winner-take-all Monday night game between these two large-market teams.  Not only would baseball pull in huge ratings, but it would have created huge interest for the remainder of the playoffs and lasting highlights and memories.

In the NFL, the top teams are given first-round byes: extra time to rest and prepare.  This is wise.  Baseball should find a way to better reward the best teams while making wild-card teams work to make up for their lack of wins during the regular season.  As of now, the only disadvantage the wild-card team has is lack of home-field advantage.  Ask the 1997 Marlins, 2002 Angels, 2003 Marlins and the 2004 Red Sox if home-field advantage makes a difference.

More teams and playoff levels aren’t needed to spice up baseball’s postseason, but suspense and drama is.

Now what?

“People ask me what I do in the winter when there’s no baseball.  I’ll tell you what I do.  I stare out the window and wait for spring.” – Rogers Hornsby

I originally thought of commenting on the World Series, but then realized that every baseball writer in the United States would be doing that.  Instead, I ask the question to every passionate baseball fan that I ask myself after the final out of the World Series: now what?  I don’t enjoy any other sport a tenth as much as I enjoy baseball.  What am I supposed to occupy myself with until spring training?  George Will summed up my opinion of football pretty well when he said, “football combines the two worst aspects of American society: violence punctuated with committee meetings.”  I do enjoy a good live basketball game, but can’t stand to watch the first three quarters of any NBA game or even the first 30 minutes of a college matchup (It also doesn’t help that my two teams – the Timberwolves and Gophers – aren’t at the top of their games lately.

Another sport isn’t going to hold me off.  I’ve come to accept this and have figured out the best ways to enjoy baseball without a single (meaningful) box score to look at until opening day.

Literature
By the end of the World Series, I’m in no way tired of watching baseball, but I am tired of staring the television for three hours a night and watching endless ads for ED drugs, beer and politicians who seem to think if I vote for their opponent, the United States will quickly come under Nazi regime.  There might be a two or three-day vacation from the game until I need my fix.  This is usually when I pick up some sort of baseball biography from my bookshelf or the library.  There is an almost endless number of books on baseball and rarely do I not enjoy one.  I can remember reading nine baseball books one offseason.

I sometimes wonder if I appreciate baseball more in the offseason when I read these books and the game is played out within my imagination.  I can imagine aspects of the game I was never able to see like Roberto Clemente throwing out a runner trying to get from first to third on a single, Babe Ruth hitting home runs at will and then downing a dozen hot dogs and sodas after the game, Bob Uecker catching fly balls during batting practice with a tuba or Sandy Koufax’s curveball dropping like it fell off a table.

Check out my Flashlight Worthy list of great baseball books to get fans through the offseason: http://www.flashlightworthybooks.com/Great-Baseball-Books-Fans/633.

Simulations
Many baseball fans like to play video games on their game system of choice.  For me, I don’t like my team’s ability to win or play well based on how well I can use a controller or my ability to read a pitch from the cartoon on my TV screen.  I can’t stand it when I play video games and I strike out on three pitches out of the strike zone and Albert Pujols is batting.  I think, “Pujols wouldn’t do that!  I would, but if this game were realistic, it wouldn’t let Pujols swing like Bobby Bonds.”

For me, I need realism in my baseball simulations so I turn to the dice game Strat-o-Matic (https://tripleinthegap.wordpress.com/2010/09/09/dungeons-and-dragons-for-baseball-nerds-like-myself)  and sometimes the computer game Baseball Mogul.  Baseball Mogul doesn’t have any real graphics, but does a pretty good job of simulating baseball in the view of a manager and/or general manager/owner.  The player can go through a century with one team and make all the moves from how the game is played on the field to the price of ice cream.

Video library
If it weren’t for the invention of DVDs, my 1991 World Series videotape would probably have worn out by now.  Before I got it on DVD, there was a glitch in the tape just after Kirby Puckett’s catch at the wall in game six from my constant stopping and rewinding.  I have a number of DVDs in my library, but thanks to Netflix, I have many more at my disposal.  Through Netflix, I can rent just about every DVD released by Major League Baseball, including full games of the 1975, 1979 and many other World Series.  Many people ask me how I can watch an entire baseball game I already know the outcome of.  There’s much to learn from watching those old games from Joe Morgan’s routine before every pitch to how the commentators have evolved.  Every game is divided into chapters by half inning, so the viewer can skip to the run-scoring innings.  But that just omits the good defense and pitching.

I’ve also downloaded a number of complete games from iTunes and can watch them on my computer as I wish.  Any classic game is usually available to download within 24 hours after its completion.

There’s also the Ken Burns baseball documentary.  Despite its length of over 18 hours, I seem to watch every winter.

Offseason news
I keep an eye on certain website’s baseball news like Ted Williams watched every pitched ball of his career.  As I go online, I go straight to sites like Yahoo!, Sports Illustrated and the Star Tribune.  Of course, I have these sites bookmarked, so I skip over the main sports page and usually find out how the Packers and Vikings via eavesdropping.

The negative aspect of the around-the-clock news on the internet is that official news rarely comes as a surprise to fans anymore.  When Roy Halladay was traded from the Blue Jays to the Phillies, the rumors had been flying for some time before it was announced.  Even after the rumors comes the news that there is going to be a press conference the next day and so-and-so is expected to be announced as the newest member of their new organization.  Minor trades and free agent signings still happen quickly to the fan, but I’m pretty sure there will be weeks of speculation before Cliff Lee and Carl Crawford sign with anyone this offseason.

Anything else
Whatever else I can do in the offseason to hold me over, I do.  I’ve gone to Twins Fest, an annual get together at the Metrodome which features current and former players as well as way too many merchandisers.  On occasion, I’ll grab my wood bat and take a few swings at the local indoor batting cages.  This usually results in waking up the next morning wondering why my ribs are so sore.  Twice I’ve flown to Arizona to watch spring training games.  My only issue with this is I wish it were in January.  By March, I’m less than a month from opening day and the weather in Wisconsin is beginning to thaw.  It’s the days in January when the high temperature is 2 and the sports pages are filled with the football playoffs that I really need an escape.

A longer offseason than usual for me
On a personal note, I will be moving to Thailand as a Peace Corps volunteer in January.  As far as I know, there is no baseball in Thailand.  How will I cope?  I don’t know other than reading books and keeping a close eye on the news via the internet.  Aside from friends and family, I know baseball will be what I miss the most.

Congratulations to the San Francisco Giants in winning their first World Series. They made the Texas Rangers look like the Seattle Mariners. It was great fun watching the Giants pitchers dominate.

I do have one big complaint aimed at no one. It has now been eight years since baseball has played a seven-game World Series. This is the longest streak without a deciding game since 1913-1924 (11 years). Of course, this may not be comparable as the 1919-1921 World Series were a best-of-nine competition.

I do like the fact that the National and American league has traded the title back and forth since 2005, but where has the drama gone? When will baseball fans have two evenly matched teams in the fall classic? We continue to wait.

As I was recently watching a San Francisco Giants game, I made a double take watching Matt Cain pitch.  It was as if I’d seen him before.

Matt Cain

Suddenly I realized where I’d seen Cain pitch before.  Although he was only a young pitcher fresh from the farm, he pitched in a very important game many years ago.  It was Cain who delivered the final pitch of the one-game playoff between the Pittsburgh Pirates and New York Knights in which the one-year wonder Roy Hobbs delivered a game-winning home run.

Taken moments before Matt Cain gave up the game-winning home run to Roy Hobbs of the New York Knights. Cain and the lights would be crushed.

In terms of baseball, the 1991 World Series was the best ever played.  Critics can turn to others and make a case based on TV viewership, large-market teams or national security, but when it comes down to the best possible baseball being played, 1991 runs away from the pack.

The main story behind that World Series was both teams, the Minnesota Twins and Atlanta Braves, were in last place in 1990.  No team had ever come from last place to the World Series in one season and in 1991 two teams did it.  Most people love an underdog and 1991 had two of them.

Many point to 2001 as the greatest ever with 9/11 less than two months old and the New York Yankees at center stage.  It’s true, it was a great World Series and one of the best.  There were four games decided by one run, three in the final at bat and two that needed extra innings.  Most of the nation, for once, was rooting for New York.

In 1975 the Boston Red Sox looked as though they might end their championship drought against the Big Red Machine, Cincinnati Reds.  This series contained five one-run games and two decided in the final at bat.  Games 1, 3 and 7 contained comeback wins for the Reds while Game 6 remains one of the greatest World Series games ever with Bernie Carbo and Carlton Fisk carrying Boston to victory and keeping hope alive.  The vastly talented Reds, however, won an exciting seventh game to win it all. 

In 1955 the Brooklyn Dodgers final beat the Yankees for their first and only title.  The underdog Cardinals and Pete Alexander defeated the Yankees in 1926.  The “bad guys” New York Mets won a thrilling sixth game at Shea Stadium to propel them to the 1986 championship.  The Red Sox and New York Giants needed eight games (one ended in a tie) in 1912 to decide it all with the Red Sox winning one of the greatest final World Series games of all time (it’s certainly the best Game 8 of all time).

Any World Series involving the Yankees or Red Sox tend to be over publicized.  This isn’t to say 2001 and 1975 didn’t have great World Series, but they don’t match up to 1991 – here’s why.

There is nothing more exciting than a walk-off win.  The suspense is held and the game is decided in the final at bat and the home team and fans go home happy.  This happened four times in 1991.   Over half of the final seven games weren’t decided until the last batter of the game.  All four of those games were decided by one run along with one other: five games decided by a single run.  There was little room for error in the 1991 World Series.

For the first time in World Series history, three games needed extra innings.  The Minnesota Twins and Atlanta Braves were the most evenly matched teams in World Series history.

The series started slow enough in Game 1.  The Twins won 5-2 thanks to home runs from Chili Davis and Kent Hrbek.  Jack Morris earned the win.  Although it was a well played game, this would be the Twins’ most boring victory.

The pitchers took over for the second game.  The Twins’ Kevin Tapani and Cy Young winner Tom Glavine battled.  With the game tied at two in the eighth inning, the Twins third baseman Scott Leius went deep off Glavine.  Rick Aguilera struck out the side in the ninth for the save to preserve the 3-2 win.

Gregg Olson took Dan Gladden's spiking at home plate with good sportsmanship.

It was the third game were things started to get really exciting.  Down two games to none, the Braves needed to win.  The franchise hadn’t been in the World Series since the Milwaukee Braves in 1958 and had never been in the Series since its move to Atlanta in 1966.  Down 4-1 in the seventh inning, the Twins stormed back to tie the game at four with a run in the seventh and two in the eighth.  In the bottom of the 12th, with two out and David Justice on second, Mark Lemke stepped to the plate.  Lemke was a .234 hitter that year, but had 10 hits in the Series and batted .417.  His single scored Justice to give the Atlanta Braves their first World Series win ever. 

Jack Morris returned to the mound for the Twins in the fourth game.  A 24-year old John Smoltz pitched for Atlanta.  A 2-2 tie followed the Braves into the bottom of the ninth.  The night before a .234 hitter was the hero.  In Game Four, a .214 hitter with 16 plate appearances was the hero: Jerry Willard.  With Lemke on third, Willard drove a shallow fly ball to Shane Mack in right field.  The throw was on time, but Twins catcher Brian Harper could only get an elbow, not his glove, on the sliding Lemke.  The Braves won 3-2 and evened the series at two games apiece. 

The fifth game was the anomaly for the 1991 World Series with Atlanta crushing Minnesota 14-5.  This only set up the notion that the Braves might run away with the title in Minnesota.

Atlanta had their two walk-off wins.  Now it was Minnesota’s turn.  In the first five games, Kirby Puckett was batting .167 (three-for-18).  Puckett foreshadowed how his night would go in his first at bat with Chuck Knoblauch on first base.  The centerfielder tripled down the left-field line to score Knoblauch and put the Twins on top.  Both starters (Steve Avery and Scott Erickson) were taken out after six innings.  Both bullpens proceeded to go into Operation Shutdown.  It was Mike Stanton and Alejando Pena for the Braves and Carl Willis and Rick Aguilera for the Twins.  Manager Bobby Cox decided to put left-handed junkballer Charlie Leibrandt on the mound to start the 11th inning with the score still tied 3-3.  Puckett took three pitches and then launched a hanging changeup into the left-center field seats sending Minnesota into dome-controlled chaos. 

“It’s a storybook World Series,” Tom Kelly told reporters after the sixth game.  “What’s going to happen in Game 7, Chapter 7?  Oh my, God, I can’t wait,” the Twins manager said as he turned his cap backwards to a throng of giggling reporters.  How could you not giggle?  Not only were you about to watch the seventh game of the World Series, but you were about to see the final game of a World Series that had already been spectacular.  How could the final act not be spectacular?  But at the same time, many must have wondered, how could it top the last game?  Or the third game?  Or the fourth game?  Thanks to a grizzled veteran and a young, unestablished pitcher, the seventh game of the 1991 World Series was the greatest in history.  In the words of the highlight film released in time for Christmas that year, “It was a beautiful dream and a tension-filled nightmare all wrapped into one.”

Another great aspect of the 1991 World Series worth noting was the sportsmanship shown by both teams to begin the final game.  As Lonnie Smith stepped into the batter’s box for the first at bat, he stuck his hand out to Twins catcher Brian Harper and they shook hands.  I still have never seen a gesture like than in professional baseball. 

Jack Morris and John Smoltz traded one scoreless inning after another.  Neither team posed much of a threat until the eighth.  In the eighth inning of the 1991 World Series, every real fan of the Atlanta Braves and the Minnesota Twins lost five years of their life.  The Braves had runners on second and third with no out in the top half.  No one really knows why Lonnie Smith didn’t score from first on Terry Pendleton’s double, but there are theories.  One is that Smith simply lost the ball as Dan Gladden and Puckett chased it against the left-center field wall.  Another is Smith fell for shortstop Greg Gagne and second baseman Knoblauch’s decoy which made it appear they were fielding a double-play ball.  My theory is a combination of the last two along with God and/or the baseball Gods wanted the Twins to win the World Series.

Morris managed to get Ron Gant to ground out weakly to first base.  Then, after walking David Justice, Sid Bream hit into a 3-2-3 double play to end the inning.

The Twins had the bases loaded with one out in the bottom half before Kent Hrbek lined into an unassisted double play to the shortstop.  Even in the ninth Minnesota started the inning with two singles before Mack hit into a double play and later Paul Sorrento struck out to strand a runner on third. 

And still, Jack Morris kept pitching.  He pitched a scoreless ninth and 10th inning.  In the bottom of the 10th inning, the Twins showed the world how baseball was played in Minnesota.  Dan Gladden broke his bat on a bloop single to left-center field.  His hustle stretched it to a double and the Twins thought they might see a light at the end of the tunnel.  Knoblauch put down a sacrifice bunt and Gladden was on third with one out.  The Braves walked Puckett and Hrbek to face … Jarvis Brown?  No, but he was due up.  Manager Tom Kelly put in of his best pinch hitters through the years: Gene Larkin.  With the infield and outfield playing in, Larkin poked a single over the leftfielder’s head to send Gladden home to a waiting Morris.  The starting pitcher had just thrown 10 shutout World Series innings and faces don’t get happier than Morris’s when Gladden touched home plate.

There may be bigger names names in other World Series and others may be more historical.  Names like Ruth, Mantle, Jackson, Jeter and Clemente come to mind when many fans think of the World Series.  There was one hall of famer in the 1991 World Series (Puckett) and two or three others who hope to make it (Glavine, Smoltz and Morris).  But the Series wasn’t defined by them.  It was defined by great baseball games.  If every World Series was compared to each other with a blindfold to the fan – not knowing what the teams, players, cities, fans or ballparks are – there was never a more evenly matched and enjoyable World Series than 1991.

This celebration was part happiness and part tension release.