Magazine article USA TODAY

World Series Paydirt

Magazine article USA TODAY

World Series Paydirt

Article excerpt

WINNING the World Series has come up in every one of the 100 or so interviews I've conducted with professional baseball players over the past 25 years. Whether it be the fresh-faced rookie just happy to have made the team or the grizzled veteran hanging on for another--or first--shot at glory, the conversation inevitably gets around to the Fall Classic: How important it is to get there and how (even more) important it is to win it. Fanning this obsession comes easily to me. When I first saw the images for "Game Faces," my mind immediately went to the bottom fine. How did these greats fare in the World Series?

For instance, we chose the Cal Ripken photo to run with this column because he caught the line drive that ended the 1983 Series at Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium. That game was special for a few reasons. It secured Ripken his only world's championship. It also was, at least to the best of my knowledge, the last World Series day game ever played. And, perhaps best of all, it was the first Series game I ever attended.

The Ripken image, however, is not my favorite, nor is our cover painting of Nolan Ryan (one World Series championship, 1969, with the Miracle Mets, simply Amazin'). What jumped out at me was Ty Cobb, a no-good so-and-so who frequently sat on the top step of the dugout and sharpened his spikes. He didn't hesitate to use those pointed cleats, either. The Georgia Peach also was not above climbing into the stands to beat the living daylights out of hecklers. All this aside, Cobb and his Tiger teammates were a World Series bust. Detroit stormed into the Series three straight years (1907-09), yet lost each time. Cobb played into the Roaring Twenties, yet never re turned to the Fall Classic.

If Cobb wasn't the game's greatest hitter, then Ted Williams was--well, almost. Babe Ruth aside, no one combined average and power to the degree of The Splendid Splinter. Yet, Teddy Ballgame reached the World Series just once, he and the Red Sox losing to the Cardinals in seven. Another Bosox favorite, catcher Carlton Fisk, appears in "Game Faces" as well. His Game 6, 12th-inning homer at Fenway Park remains perhaps the most enduring image in Fall Classic history. The Sox, though, as is their legacy, dropped Game 7 (as they would to the Mets in 1986), leaving Pudge without his precious title. …

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