After a shaky start in Game 1, the Boston Red Sox took care of business against the Houston Astros in the American League Championship Series, winning it in five games. It took a couple incredible catches, a decisive interference call by Joe West, and a couple of big hits from Boston’s #9 hitter, but this great Red Sox team got it done, and the pitchers contained George Springer, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, and the rest of Houston’s formidable lineup.
It took the Los Angeles Dodgers a little longer, but defeated the Milwaukee Brewers on the road in the deciding seventh game to reach the World Series for the second straight year. Maybe the most amazing thing about this matchup is how long it took these two teams would meet in the World Series again.
The Red Sox beat the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1916 World Series. Two years later, the would beat the Cubs in the World Series, and two years after that they would trade Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees. The Boston’s struggles were just beginning, but they followed Brooklyn’s blueprint.
It ended over sixty years ago and in a different city from the one they now call home, but the Dodgers were the Red Sox before the Red Sox. They were the bums in Brooklyn who never won anything but their passionate fans packed Ebbets Field anyway. Adding insult to injury, they had to share New York with the Giants, who were the class of the National League, and the Yankees, who supplanted the Red Sox as the American League’s model franchise when they acquired The Babe. In 1955, the Dodgers won their first World Series title in franchise history–perhaps on some level as a karmic reward for integrating Major League Baseball a few years earlier–and then two years later made a compelling argument to their fans that there is no god by moving to Los Angeles two years later. Brooklyn was robbed of the prime of Brooklyn native Sandy Koufax, and their transformation into one of the great franchises in baseball.
The Red Sox, in the meantime, spent 86 years in the wilderness, reaching Game 7 of the World Series in 1946, 1967, 1975, and 1986, and coming up short each time. In 1988, Kirk Gibson homered off the most dominant closer (and current Red Sox team broadcaster) of his generation, and hobbled around the bases, and that would be the last time they reach the World Series until 2017. By that point, the Red Sox had overcome their decades of racism and incompetence, and won three World Series in the 21st century.
The current iterations of the Red Sox and Dodgers are in the postseason nearly every year, but the fact that they have not met in October in a century keeps it fresh. The 2018 World Series features a long list of players who have defined the game today. Clayton Kershaw. Chris Sale. Kenley Jansen. Craig Kimbrel. Rich Hill. Rick Porcello. Justin Turner. Mookie Betts. Yasiel Puig. J. D. Martinez. Cody Bellinger. Andrew Benintendi. Manny Machado. Xander Bogaerts. Matt Kemp. Ian Kinsler. Chase Utley and David Price were on opposite sides in the 2008 World Series, and they are back ten years later.
As a sign of how far we have come (at least in baseball) the first team to have a black player and the last team to do so are meeting in this year’s Fall Classic, and it is the first World Series in which neither manager is white. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts is the most celebrated player in Red Sox history who never played a full season in Boston, and Alex Cora was a key contributor in the Red Sox’ 2007 title run. Before they were champions in Boston, Roberts and Cora were teammates with the Dodgers.
This series should be fun, and both teams are great. But I still cannot help but get nervous. My teams have been in the championship round of their respective sport 16 times since I was in sixth grade, but it doesn’t get any easier. It will be tense, I will have trouble sleeping, and I am sure Craig Kimbrel will make me Google “cardiologists near Chelmsford, MA” at some point, but this is what it’s all about. There is nothing better than playoff baseball, but horror movies stress me out less.