On the Matter of the First Pitch

Back in 2008, the Tampa Bay Rays had a problem. They’d won the pennant, and tradition dictated that they have one of their greatest, most famous, most well-loved players throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the first World Series game in their home stadium.

But there was a bit of a catch. The franchise had only been in existence for ten years. They didn’t have any “famous” players they could call on. Heck, the best players they’d ever had were still playing for them!

What to do?

They went with Bob Stewart, the former Pinellas County Commissioner who was instrumental in bringing Major League Baseball to the Tampa Bay area. A very nice honor for the man.

I’ve wondered on occasion – who decides who gets the honor? It’s usually someone like the Greatest Living Player for the team. But that gets rather predictable after a while. I do know that Major League Baseball has to approve all the “first pitchers”, but they don’t make the selection. If I may, I’d like to make some guesses as to who we might see in the World Series – or some candidates whom it would be awesome to see…..
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The World Series

The Fall Classic. No other team sport has anything like it. The Super Bowl? Started in 1967. Basketball? The NBA didn’t have a championship until 1950. The first World Cup? 1930. While I admit that the Stanley Cup can trace its roots back to the 1890s, the format for determining the championship of professional hockey didn’t take its current form until 1927, after the last rival league to the NHL folded. Baseball’s World Series debuted in 1903 (and if you’re going to be picky about the beginnings of the Stanley Cup, the first baseball “Championship of the United States” was in 1884). There’s well over a century of legends and lore.

The World Series magnifies everything. The great players are greater. Bob Gibson strikes out seventeen Red Sox. Reggie Jackson hits home runs on three straight pitches. The fielding is more amazing: Wille Mays. Ron Swoboda. Al Gionfriddo. Unheralded players turn into heroes: Howard Ehmke. Dusty Rhodes. Edgar Renteria. And the errors and mistakes (Fred Snodgrass, Bill Buckner) are more painful.

There’s been a heck of a lot of drama in the hundreds of World Series games. I’ve got a list of the eight most exciting (in my opinion) games; and it’s not your ordinary list…

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World Series Hopes

While there are still a couple of games left, and the wild card spots are still being decided, it’s pretty well set which teams are going to the playoffs. So very soon, you’ll start seeing odds on the World Series. I’m not so dedicated a fan (or bettor) to really care about that sort of thing. I’ll be watching anyway.

But I am free to muse on which teams I would like to see (anyone but the St. Louis Cardinals, essentially) in the World Series. Rather than run down the various pluses and minuses for each team, I thought I’d instead look at possible W.S. pairings according to what I suspect FOX would like to see.

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