The Old Guard
When baseball’s regular season ends, I always review the teams that make it into the postseason in order to assess the possibility of a World Series matchup between old guard teams from the two leagues. I was born just in time to live through a season — the final season in fact — in which with the historic 8 National League and 8 American League teams were the only teams and were playing in their historic cities. That would be 1952. A year later, the Braves left Boston for Milwaukee. The next year, the Browns left St. Louis for Baltimore (becoming the Orioles somewhere along the road), and a year later the Athletics fled Philadelphia for Kansas City. Three years later, the National League abandoned New York for California, so that by the time I became a serious fan, in 1960, there was only one team left in New York for me to root for. But at least there were still only 8 teams per league. That changed in the following two years.
The funny thing is, back at that time, as I began to read about some of the great moments in baseball history, I never stopped to figure out just what happened to the Boston Braves, St. Louis Browns, and Philadelphia Athletics. I understood that the Dodgers and Giants abandoned us for the coast. I somehow seemed content to accept the notion that other famous teams once walked the earth, but became extinct. And the whole process of the initial expansion in 1961 completely passed over my head. I thought the Twins were a new team. I just didn’t get that the old Washington Senators moved to Minneapolis and a new team of Senators emerged in their place. It was easier then to be ignorant of the larger events of the sporting world, without the constant coverage on television.
Anyway, each league now has only 5 real teams — original teams in their original cities. And when the playoffs started earlier this month, each league had 2 real teams among its 4 playoff teams. Moreover, the initial playoff series had real teams playing non-real teams, so there was even the possibility that the 4 teams winning spots in the league championship series would all be real. That didn’t happen, though, what with the Cubs and the White Sox making quick exits. The result was that each league championship series had a real team playing a non-real team: the real Phillies against the non-real Dodgers and the real Red Sox against the very non-real Rays.
Now that the Phillies have won their series against the Dodgers, it’s up to the Red Sox to create a real World Series. Not likely though, given their 3-1 deficit to the Rays. Of course, should the Rays make it into the World Series, it will be a great moment. But we will have to wait another year for a real Series.
(When was the last real Series? Not so long ago. We’ve had a good run recently, after a long dry spell. In 1975 and 1976, there were consecutive real series, with the Cincinnati Reds playing the Red Sox and the Yankees. Then came the dry spell. But in 2004 the Red Sox played the Cardinals and in 2006 the Tigers played the Cardinals.)