Other than the words, “play ball, “ at the start of baseball’s exhibition season, there is nothing better to the ears of a sports fan than World Series Game 7.
We are fortunate to be in the midst of one of these possible Game 7’s as the Tampa Bay Rays battle the Los Angeles Dodgers. It is difficult to believe the Dodgers haven’t won a title since 1988 when Kirk Gibson won Game 1 against the Oakland A’s with a walk-off home run against former Cleveland Indian Dennis Eckersley.
I heard former Tribe pitcher Brian Anderson talk about Game 7 on 92.3 The Fan last week. Anderson is the color commentator for the American League champion Rays, not to be confused with Major League play-by-play announcer Brian Anderson or major league outfielder Brian Anderson.
The Anderson I am talking about is from Geneva, Ohio, and pitched for the Indians in the 1997 World Series Game 7 against the Florida Marlins. He was never going to stay in the game after the eighth inning, but he made way for reliever Jose Mesa to enter the game. He also was the starter in one of the most famous games ever, Game 3 in Yankee Stadium when President George W. Bush threw out the first pitch after 9/11 in 2001. Bush threw a perfect strike.
Anderson’s point on radio was that when many teams get the lead in a series, they have a comfort zone which often results in not putting the series away in the next game. The advantage then goes to the team that is trailing because it gives them the opportunity to win as the pressure has shifted to the leading team. Then, according to Anderson, anything can happen in a Game 7, giving the advantage to no one.
The aura that surrounds a Game 7 makes it one of the most dramatic events in sports. It beats the Super Bowl and the NBA Finals, although the NHL gives it a good run. The Indians have appeared in two World Series Game 7’s, losing to the Florida Marlins in 1997 and the Chicago Cubs in 2016, which historians will tell you was one of the greatest series of all-time, not necessarily because of the play, but because it involved two teams that hadn’t won in a very long time. The Cubs hadn’t won since 1908 and the Indians since 1948.
This year’s World Series, which could produce a Game 7, is an interesting match-up between one of the richest franchises, the Dodgers, and one of the lowest-profile teams, the Rays. It is hard for even longtime fans to name the Rays’ starting lineup. That’s exactly why I am rooting for the Rays, whose manager is Kevin Cash, who was the Indians’ bullpen coach in 2013 and 2014.
In defense of Mayfield
A lot of Cleveland Browns fans think that quarterback Baker Mayfield was taken out of the Pittsburgh game Oct. 18 for his poor performance.
In retrospect, he probably shouldn’t have played in the game at all based on his rib injury. This is one of the examples of why it is so complicated to be a rookie head coach in the NFL.
The next time this type of situation arises, coach Kevin Stefanski will be able to look at the broader picture and let the injured quarterback sit out. You never want one loss to lead to a second loss, which has to be tough for a rookie coach to do.