As fans of the original 1962 New York Mets, my parents and I quickly learned to redefine the word “miracle.” On April 27, my mother and I attended a thrilling game that dropped our fledgling heroes’ record to 1–12. Trailing the Phillies, 11–1, in the sixth inning, the Mets rallied to make it 11–9 in the bottom of the ninth and brought the tying run to the plate. Don Zimmer took a called third strike, and home we went.
After a dreary 1976 season, Bill Veeck knew that his Chicago White Sox were in need of change. The team had finished last in the American League West, losers of 97 games. Even the club’s new retro uniforms, with half-collared V-neck pullovers and a change of Bermuda shorts, could not inspire the players.
As the year 1917 opened, there was war in Europe and internal discord within the ranks of Organized Baseball. Since the Great War had broken out in Europe in 1914, the United States had retained a policy of neutrality and maintained it through 1915 and 1916, despite the loss of 128 U.S. citizens when a German submarine torpedoed and sank the Lusitania in May 1915. Over time, though, ongoing German attacks on neutral shipping in the Atlantic built pressure on the U.S. government.
In June 1969, the Chicago Cubs were the best team in baseball. Not that they appeared to have much competition in the National League. The St. Louis Cardinals, the two-time pennant winners, had fallen on hard times and were in the process of being dismantled. The Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds were on the upswing but not quite there, leaving also-rans like the New York Mets, which nobody dared to mention in the same sentence with such words as championship and World Series.
One month remained in the 1967 season when Al Naples explained why the Boston Red Sox would prevail in the hotly contested American League pennant race. We saw no reason to dispute his analysis. We were 11th graders in the wilds of suburban New Jersey, and Al Naples was our math teacher. Once, he had played in the Major Leagues. Or, more precisely, twice. You could look it up.
Imagine the founding fathers of baseball seated around a wooden table drinking a little stout, mapping out a playing field, and getting around to the equipment to be used.
As the 1991 season began, the Atlanta Braves and Minnesota Twins were regarded as ball clubs with promise but certainly not pennant contenders. The year before, the Braves had finished in the cellar in the National League West Division with a 65–97 record, 26 games behind the Cincinnati Reds. The Twins had also found themselves in last place in 1990 in the American League West, sporting a 74–88 record, 29 games behind the Oakland Athletics, who had finished with the best record in baseball and were expected to return to the World Series.
Entire books have been written about the collapse of the Philadelphia Phillies in the final two weeks of the National League’s 1964 pennant race and the St. Louis Cardinals’ win, but lost in the crossfire of tragedy and triumph is the team that was in first place with just five games left—the Cincinnati Reds.
In season, it’s nearly impossible to be out of range of a televised Major League Baseball game, whether through a cable or satellite service courtesy of one of the sport’s billion- or multibillion-dollar local or national broadcasting contracts or streaming through mlb-dot-tv. Even Facebook is part of our TV connection to America’s pastime since, this year, it has a deal allowing it to stream a game every Friday.