I LIKE TO CALL THEM "The Games That Never Were" because that's what they are. Well, not really, not all of them. Three actually never took place. A fourth was indeed played, but I passed on the chance to go. The fifth encounter? Oh, I was there all right, but the final score is one I want to wish away.
Game 6, 1989 World Series: San Francisco Giants vs. Oakland Athletics, Oakland (Calif.) Alameda County Coliseum. I'd waited practically my entire life for my favorite team in my favorite sport to finally earn a spot on the World Series stage. I somehow wangled two tickets to Game 6 from a TV exec who was an old Giants fan.
So what happened? The Giants not only suffered the most one-sided sweep in modern World Series history, but an earthquake rocked San Francisco before Game 3, suspending the Series for 10 days. They even considered canceling the "Battle of the Bay." So not only was there no Game 6, but everyone was talking about how the World Series didn't matter in the larger scheme of things. Bottom line: I'd pined 25 years for this event and now the whole country was ho-humming the very idea of the Fall Classic. Ouch!
Tennessee 23, Florida State 16, Fiesta Bowl, Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Ariz., Jan. 4, 1999. It was a running joke (for a very L-O-N-G time) among family and friends how, despite my passion for sports, none of my favorite teams ever won a championship--not even close, until this game. Two buddies of mine are mega Florida State fans and each year travel to see their Seminoles wherever FSU's bowl game may be. Since the national championship was on the line and my Volunteers were in the mix, they invited me along. But it was during the New Year's holiday, and the thought of being separated from my kids (both under three at the time) as well as the icy glare that such a trip would engender from my wife soon had me singing "Auld Lang Syne" at home.
Not to attend was one of those decisions I was sure I'd regret--and soon. Well, truth be told, I didn't even see it on TV live. I set the VCR, went to bed, and watched the four-and-a-half-hour marathon in a tidy 1:30 the next morning. Meanwhile, my pals brought me back plenty of souvenirs and heartfelt congratulations from the desert. Funny thing is, the Seminoles went back to the title game the next year and won, to cap off their first undefeated season since 1950. But as I like to remind my two Florida State fanatics--yes, they were there--the Seminoles had a 12-0 record on their way to the crown; Tennessee was 13-0.
New York Mets 4, Atlanta Braves 3, Game 5, 1999 National League Championship Series, Shea Stadium, Flushing, N.Y. If there is a God--or at least a sports god--he loves working me overtime. For instance, the Stanley Cup is 107 years old, yet, in the 10 championship series I've covered, I've managed to attend the longest, fourth longest, and sixth longest games in finals history. I've been to one American Football Conference championship game--driving from New York to Cleveland in the snow to get there--and it turned out to be the only AFC title game ever to reach overtime. So the fact that this Atlanta-New York showdown was baseball's longest-ever Championship Series encounter, in time (5:46) and innings (15), should have come as no surprise. …