|THE OLD BALL GAME|
October 27, 2000
JIM LEHRER: Finally tonight, Ray Suarez steps to the plate.
SPORTSCASTER: Well-hit into left field, down the left center line... It is gone. ( Cheers and applause )
RAY SUAREZ: The New York Yankees last night were one win away from taking the first subway series in 44 years and winning their third in a row. Bernie Williams gave them the early lead. Minutes later, the Mets came back and scored twice.
SPORTSCASTER: Drops down a bunt on the right side... safe. A run scores, and the game is tied. Agbayani pulls one to third base, Brosius, Payton scores, 2-1 Mets. That's well hit into left right, Agbayani back. It's a 2-2 game.
RAY SUAREZ: Yankee Derek Jeter tied it in the sixth, and the game stayed that way until the ninth inning.
SPORTSCASTER: Up the middle, base hit. Here comes Posada. Throw to the plate hits the runner. Brosius will score and the Yankees lead 4-2.
RAY SUAREZ: Yankee pitcher Mariano Rivera was on the mound at the end.
SPORTSCASTER: Piazza gets into one in center, a three peat. The New York Yankees for the third time in a row, fourth in five, the 26th time in franchise history they are the world champions.
RAY SUAREZ: Two sportscasters join us now - sports writers join us now. Roger Kahn's new book is the "Head Game: Baseball as Seen from the Pitcher's Mound." John Feinstein's latest is "The Last Amateur: Playing for Glory and Honor in Division I College Basketball" Well, John, the history books will record that the Yankees won this one four games to one. Will that unadorned statistic really tell the story of this World Series?
JOHN FEINSTEIN: I don't think it begins to, Ray. For one thing, this was the first World Series since 1915, Babe Ruth's rookie year with the Boston Red Sox that every game was decided by two runs or less, so that tells you how competitive it was. And I thought - and Roger has seen a lot more World Series than I have -- but I thought every game was riveting and the only shame is that it didn't go back to Yankee Stadium so we could at least have seen a game between Roger Clemens and Mike Piazza facing off against each other one more time.
RAY SUAREZ: What did you make of the series, Roger Kahn?
ROGER KAHN: Well, classically the World Series is a southern act drama. The great series I've seen -- '52, which I covered, '55 which I covered and '56 which I covered -- wonderful seven-game series; this was fine as far as it went but I think it was kind of truncated. I wish it had gone on longer. And I also felt it lacked the defining play. A defining play would have been, for example, great shortstop coming up with the ball that Sojo hit up the middle. So we learned again that a veteran series team, managed by a splendid manager, will do better than a team that has not been in a series before -- symbolically for the return of New York, return from bankruptcy, return from when people said Times Square is a suburb of hell wonderful -- but as an art form, B minus.
RAY SUAREZ: What about John's observation that the games were close, interesting all the way to the end - even the only below-out ended up being 6-5 that first game.
ROGER KAHN: Well, they indeed were interesting. Many people complain around here that they were interesting until 4:00 in the morning; they started too late, and the wretched infusion of commercials between innings was awful. They're individually good games. I'll go back quickly... I don't want to do ancient history. Stengel used to talk about gifted people like John Feinstein, the youth of America with great respect. First game I saw, Joe Black covered... Joe Black became the first black man to pitch a World Series game. It went back and forth, back and forth, and finally the Yankees got them in the seventh game. Next one, '55, the Brooklyn Dodgers won that one. They'll never win another one, no more Brooklyn Dodgers and in that seventh game Pee-Wee Reese made a fabulous relay throw to first base completing a good outfield catch. It was terribly exciting but it was at the end and again the following year, '56, Don Larson pitched the perfect game. Right after that, Don Neucum, a fine pitcher, simply murdered by the Yankees, seven game things -- this little bit --hyperbole -- like seeing "King Lear" but there was no last act.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, let's take Roger's point, that there was no defining moment on the field. Perhaps one of the most memorable moments, John, will be Roger Clemens' odd retrieval of a piece of Mike Piazza's bat and then making it airborne. What do you make of that?
JOHN FEINSTEIN: Well, the sad thing is that probably will be the defining moment of the series other than the return of the subway series after 44 years. And I think what Roger is saying about the play if Ray Ordonia, the Mets shortstop, had been healthy, maybe he makes the play on Sojo's ground ball and then we have that moment. But Clemens and Piazza was one of the strangest things I've ever seen in baseball because I don't think Clemens was throwing the bat at Piazza, but we all know by the time we're six years old, you don't throw a baseball bat, especially a broken baseball bat that can hurt someone. So what the heck was in his mind at that moment other than, you know, take that, Piazza, I don't really understand, and I'm not sure his teammates or manager understand it, because it was pretty clear to me after the game that Joe Torre as much as he respects Clemens as a pitcher, is pretty tired of defending him as a man.
RAY SUAREZ: Roger Kahn, you took us back to the great series of the 19 five's and those series were played in the time when the top team in an eight-team lead would go directly to the World Series. Now you have to go to a couple of hoops and over a couple of hurdles to get there. Is the World Series as special today as it was in the era when the two leaders in the two leagues met?
ROGER KAHN: That's a good question. Certainly it doesn't mean as much to the players. For a player to get five, six, $8,000 as a World Series share in the 50s, that was a huge reward. Today if you're making $7 million a year, which I think means you're a mediocre outfielder, the World Series share doesn't mean that much. I don't think it means that much. I just want to remark to John, who is a wonderful sports writer, it wasn't played that well. It wasn't played that hard. Timo Perez, I always wish I could speak Spanish enough to say to him, you don't walk the bases, you run the bases, kid. I didn't... you know, zeal didn't even run that ball out. In those days when the players were coming out of the Depression and the black players were coming out of the Negro League, there was a hunger in it and a ferocity to those games. This may be romanticism looking back, but I don't think so.
JOHN FEINSTEIN: I think the biggest change, though, Ray, is what Roger alluded to earlier, the time of the games and the length of the games, because nowadays the games -- when the Yankees and Pittsburgh Pirates played game seven in the 1960 World Series - one of the all time classic games -- the score was 10-9, the game took two hours and 36 minutes to play and it was played in the daytime and everybody got to see Domazaroski's homerun. Now the games, the nine inning game is taking almost four hours on some occasions and end after midnight on the East Coast. Baseball is killing a generation of fans who don't get to watch the World Series at all, regardless of whether the level of play is superb or decent, it is still the World Series. I think that's the big change baseball must address in the future.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, Roger Kahn, we've gone in one generation from my father coming home from work and me being able to discuss that afternoon's game with him to my son waking up in the morning and asking me what happened in the last four innings that he didn't see. A bad move for baseball?
ROGER KAHN: I think so. You can say, "go look at the Internet, son." The games on the weekends certainly should be played in the afternoon. What is it like for a child who wants to watch the game with dad but has a class on Monday morning and he's got to stay up until 1 in the morning? I have a whole program -- if I were commissioner of baseball, probably George Will will get the job and I won't. But when you have an afternoon game which they're horrified at, let kids in free -- build for the future. What they're doing now is grabbing a certain amount of television revenue, staggering television revenue, but they're losing - they're losing the future of America by simply going later and later and later. Here in New York, in the East, so many people would say at 10 o'clock the next day, first, who won that game, and two, is that game over?
RAY SUAREZ: So are we going to see either of these teams making it this deep into the post season, this thing we call the post season?
JOHN FEINSTEIN: Well, I think they will both be very competitive. George Steinbrenner, the Yankee owner, has proven that he will spend whatever amount of money it takes to win; he had the highest payroll in the history of baseball this year, and retooled the team at mid season with eight new players, most notably David Juctus, who was the key to them getting to the World Series. And he's going to go out and try and sign Ramirez - and Mike Messina - very high priced players - in the off season - and the Mets have a lot of money too, and they will be very competitive. Whether they get back to the World Series, as you said the extra layer of playoffs - that's what makes the Yankees so extraordinary - these four titles in five years - they've won 44 post season games to win those four titles. When the Yankees of the 40s and 50s won seven World Series in ten years, they only had to win twenty-eight games. It's a lot harder now.
RAY SUAREZ: John, thanks a lot.
JOHN FEINSTEIN: Thanks, Ray.
RAY SUAREZ: Roger Kahn, good to talk to you.
ROGER KAHN: Thank you very much.