Legends of the Fall

By Barrett, Wayne M. | USA TODAY, November 2014 | Go to article overview

Legends of the Fall


Barrett, Wayne M., USA TODAY


THEY UNDOUBTEDLY FORM the most impressive righty-lefty bookends to the Giants' first and most-recent World Series championships. In 1905, Christy "Big Six" Mathewson, a future Hall-of-Famer, threw three shutouts in five days at manager Connie Mack's Philadelphia Athletics, as skipper John McGraw and his Polo Grounders won their first World Series, four games to one. Some 99 years later, southpaw Madison Bumgarner went 2-0 with a shutout and a save (in Game 7 against the Kansas City Royals), the latter five innings of scoreless ball accomplished with a mere two days rest, giving the Giants their eighth Fall Classic title. All told, MadBum surrendered just one run in 21 innings.

Where Bumgarner holds the edge on Mathewson, however, is in collecting championship rings. The Giants, after having waited 56 years between titles, now have won three in the last five years. Mathewson's sole crown came in 1905, although he was the mainstay of a staff that won five pennants. Upon moving from New York to San Francisco in 1958, the Giants managed pennants in 1962, 1989, and 2002, but no World Series flags were flown until 2010, Bumgarner's rookie season.

Dynasty is a strong word, especially when applied to a squad that qualified for this season's playoffs as the second wild card team. Still, if applying contemporary--and even historic--standards, Bumgarner, his batterymate Buster Posey, and the rest of the victory-rich Giants deserve their due. A trip through the history books tells us why.

Let us start with the impossible dream: at least three consecutive World Series wins have been accomplished by just two franchises: the New York Yankees and Athletics. The Bronx Bombers won five in a row (1949-53), four in a row (1936-39), and three in a row (1998-2000), while the Oakland Athletics took three straight (1972-74). The most recent Yankee dynasty also managed four in five years (having first won in 1996). For the sake of our mathematical sanity, we're going to leave the Yanks and their prodigious accomplishments out of any further dynastic discussions. They've simply won it too many times in too many ways in too many combinations--the undisputed fact is this, when it comes to World Series success, there are the Yankees and then everybody else.

The "everybody else" is a thin field if the yardstick is three WS titles over a half-decade span. Before we go there, though, consider that, among the clubs that have been around since 1900, the Chicago Cubs, Philadelphia Phillies, and Cleveland Indians haven't even won three World Series in their entire history, while the Chicago White Sox, Minnesota Twins (formerly Washington Senators), Baltimore Orioles (formerly St. Louis Browns), and Braves (in Boston, Milwaukee, and Atlanta) have won exactly three ... or look, for instance, at the expansion class of 1961-62. The New York Mets have won the WS twice, the Anaheim Angels once, and both the Houston Astros and Texas Rangers never. Wow. The expansion class of 1969? The Royals have won it once (and waited 29 years between that championship and this year's World Series appearance), and the Montreal Expos (now Washington Nationals), Milwaukee Brewers, and San Diego Padres never. …

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