Without taking attention away from the Bay Area’s OAKLAND Warriors and their fabulous repeat 2015-2016 season, a season in which they’re better than last year, shattering NBA records along the way, it is the opening week of baseball and there’s a great story that began 140 years ago, in 1876, and continues as the longest story in National League baseball history.
Since then, a time when the Giants had the exceedingly cool name of The New York Gothams, they’ve played the Dodgers (Brooklyn and Los Angeles) 2414 times. Think about that… If I played softball every weekend it’d take me 46.42 years to play that many games. I’ll be 106.42 years old by then and probably wondering where I am at the moment.
I can see it now, “Where do you want to play, extremely old Mitch?”
“Just a salad, thanks.”
In all that time, the Giants are ahead 1222 to 1192, a difference of 30 games. Runs scored (in about 22,000 innings of ball), Giants 10,483 and Dodgers 10,399, a difference of 84 runs. Giants 653 wins at home, Dodgers 569 at home. The only skewed stat of their storied history is the World Series Championship, where the Giants have won 11 (three this decade) and the Dodgers 6. Year after year, for decades and generations, they’ve pounded each other with devastating, season ending upsets.
So here we are, 2016, only four games into the season and the Dodgers have opened the first three with shutouts. Their pitching card is a list of a dozen guys with 0.00 ERA. With six more scoreless innings they can tie a Major League record set in 1963 for best start without giving up a run. But they’re playing the Giants, in San Francisco. They get five of those innings before the shinola hits the wall. The Giants didn’t just shatter their hope, they scored 12 runs on 17 hits, including a grand slam—something they haven’t done in roughly 125 years! They re-wrote that 0.00 ERA pitching card, chewed it up, spit it out, then peed on it.
Roaring back the next day, the Dodgers put a rookie pitcher on the mound, who proceeded to toss 7 and a third innings without a hit. If he can hang onto a no-hitter, he’ll tie a record for rookies set in 1894. On his 100th pitch, he gives up a walk (barely) and they bring in a reliever. It was the right call by the Dodger manager. The kid left on cloud nine, having totally earned the respect he deserved from both the players and the knowledgable fans. Seven plus no-hit innings in your first game, in a rival park (against an excellent, well managed team), is earning your money. Trainers caution against blowing out a young arm and making a mistake with an investment like a pitcher these days can jeopardize a manager’s career. (Baseball learns from its history.) Cloud nine lasted about five minutes for the young Texan, before another rookie for the Giants crushed a liner over the 382 wall off a 6 foot 13 inch reliever who looked like he was in a hurry to get back to his stromboli in the dugout. It was his first home run in the Majors and it tied the game. Final in 10 innings, Giants win 3-2 on a walk-off homer.
So baseball isn’t only about 162 games in an interminable season; it’s much, much more than that. It’s watched by history, and haunted by countless individual stories.
On the American League side, there’s really only one story and that’s the Yankees. Since 1903, when they were The New York Highlanders, they’ve played 17,576 games and won 10,004 of them. (Skip the math on playing softball once a week. You’ll find you have to play 338 years to catch up to that number. By then, all you’ll be good for is chalk for the base paths.) The Yanks have a lifetime winning record over every team except the Philadelphia Phillies, who are ahead 14 to 13 after only 27 games. (The Yanks are also tied with the Dodgers at 5 games a piece.)
With numbers like the Yankees have, odds are you’re going to lose no matter who you are or where you play. They dominate over nearly all their fiercest rivals by hundreds of games. They have 27 Championships out of 40 attempts. If an overall winning percentage of .569 (skewed by a few tiny numbers) doesn’t put you on your heels, try facing a .675 average in the World Series. This is a team who has retired 22 numbers, most of them Hall of Fame players. If your Field of Dreams were to come alive with Casey Stengel managing Reggie Jackson, Whitey Ford, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Mariano Rivera, Babe Ruth, Billy Martin and Yogi Berra, you would have to pick superstars from the rest of the league in order to compete.
If you think this team rests on its laurels of old, it was the 2000 Mets who snapped a Yankees 14 game win streak in the World Series. Fourteen straight wins in the World Series… Who’s going to do that again?
Some may argue that American football is the new national pastime, but it’s got a long way to go to put together a history like baseball has already.