I am here to sing the praises of the 1980 NLCS. All five of the games are on YouTube, and I recommend visiting (or revisiting) all of them. The games were spectacular, and the baseball is nearly unrecognizable to a modern fan. There were 16 bunts—two of them for singles—and just one home run. There were six triples and only 56 strikeouts by both teams. The ball was constantly in play, and the games were decided by defenders and base runners.
You can walk back through history a million different ways in 2017, starting with a Google search. Step into the portal and you realize what infinity really means—there’s no limit to the data that surrounds us. It’s a historian’s dream, especially in sports.
Ed Runge was the patriarch of the only family to produce three generations of Major League umpires. He was an American League arbiter from 1954 through 1970, his son Paul worked in the National League from 1973 through 1997, and Paul’s son Brian was a Major League umpire from 1999 through 2012.
Although it seems like baseball’s Division Series round began just a few years ago, we have already had 88 of them. How many do you remember? Many baseball fans can tell you who played in the 2002 World Series (or the 1952 World Series), but remembering the four 2002 Division Series might be a more challenging task. It’s like knowing the history of the NCAA basketball regional finals.
It was early 1989, almost three years since the most surreal moment in Mookie Wilson’s professional life. No one in New York had to be reminded. For any Mets fan, the ’86 World Series still had the effect of a hallucinogenic drug. And as for Mookie . . . well, he was a walking advertisement for the impossible. Honest and homegrown, Mookie was on a first-name basis with an entire city, and one of the principals in a surprise ending that’s remembered to this day.
Miller Huggins is widely regarded as one of baseball’s greatest managers. A 1964 Hall of Fame inductee, he managed the Yankees to six American League pennants and to the 1923, 1927, and 1928 World Series championships. During his 12-season tenure in New York, Huggins-led Yankees teams won nearly 60 percent of their games, and only once finished out of the first division. A lifelong bachelor and tireless worker, Huggins’s great advantage was the single-mindedness with which he prepared both himself and his team.
Both teams dominated their respective leagues in the regular season—the White Sox by nine games and the Giants by 10 games. The World Series opened at Chicago’s Comiskey Park on Saturday, October 6. The pitchers were knuckleballer Eddie Cicotte for Chicago and Slim Sallee for New York, though as was often the custom at the time, the identities of the starters were kept secret as long as possible.
Not much was expected of the San Francisco Giants when the San Francisco Examiner assigned me to cover them in 1987. Only two years before, the ball club had lost a hundred games. In the previous season, new manager Roger Craig had led the team to an 83–79 record, but that was still good for only third place in the National League West.
I’m only half-kidding when I say I’ve been covering baseball since the Paleozoic Age; it just feels that way sometimes. Nevertheless, decades of my professional life have been spent in the press box, which makes historical comparisons credible, if not easy. So when I’m asked about the best postseason run I’ve ever covered, I draw on an archive that includes the ’86 New York Mets, the ’91 Minnesota Twins, the ’96 New York Yankees, and the ’04 Boston Red Sox.