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Pennant Races

September 25, 2008 Leave a comment Go to comments

With four days to go in the regular season, all eyes are on the White Sox and Twins, as they battle for supremacy in the American League Central Division and the final playoff spot in the junior circuit. Over in the National League, the Mets and Brewers are tied in their battle for the wild card playoff spot, though the Mets could still overtake the Phillies and win their division outright. Pennant races — they ain’t what they used to be. The good news: many more teams are fighting for playoff positions than they would have in the era when only two teams made the playoffs per league, or the still-earlier era when only one team made it per league. The bad news: how excited can we be about battles between mediocre teams? Yet, one of those mediocre teams could get hot and be the World Series Champion. So attention must be paid.

But let’s go back to the good old days. A wonderful website allows us to do so. (Thanks to my son for showing me this site last season.) Once there, you can select a year, as well as a division or league, and hit play. The pennant race will then unfold in front of you. Hit pause and you can click on the arrows at the left and right of the slider bar to go forward or back a day at a time.

Ready? Let’s give it a try. I propose that we follow the 1967 American League pennant race. Remember, there were no divisions at that time. No playoffs within a league. Just the World Series. One of the ten American League teams would represent it in the Series against one of the ten National League teams. Everyone else would go home at the end of the regular season.

Carl Yastrzemski, Triple Crown winner, 1967

Carl Yastrzemski, Triple Crown winner, 1967

Go here, enter 1967 for the year, and enter AL for the league. Click on “Play,” but get ready to click on the button again (now reading “Pause”). Do so when the date reaches 8/22/67. You’ll find that at this point, with 121 or 123 games played out of 162, so essentially the three-quarter point in the season, there was almost a dead heat among four teams. The Red Sox and White Sox were in a virtual tie for first, with the Twins and Tigers in a virtual tie one game back in the standings.

From here on, click the forward button a day at a time and watch the race unfold. And remember, one team goes on to the World Series; the rest go home.

You’ll see that on 9/6/67, there was a virtual four-way tie for first with about 22 games to go. On 9/18/67, with 10 or 11 games to go, there was a three-way tie for first with the White Sox a half game back. Entering the final weekend, all four teams were still in it. Keep going to see how it ended.

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