If the St. Louis Cardinals win the World Series, it will be the 12th time they’ve done that, the third time since 2006. The Red Sox won in 2004 and 2007. A triumph this time around would mark their eighth championship, though the first five titles came while dinosaurs roamed the earth. ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian joins Bill Littlefield to discuss the matchup.
BL: Are you tired of these two teams? What about it Tim?
TK: No, I’m not, Bill. These are two original franchises, and, as much as I love the story of, say, the Pirates playing the A’s in the World Series — the underdogs and all that — the second best thing you can have is two teams that have been around forever, two teams with an unbelievably rich tradition. The Cardinals are arguably the greatest team in the history of the National League. The Red Sox have a very storied franchise.Also, I just love that these team have been around for this long playing in the World Series for the fourth time. In fact there have only been three other teams that have played more often in the World Series: the Yankees and the Giants, the Yankees and the Dodgers, and the Yankees and the Cardinals.
BL: I love the way the Yankees come up first in each of those examples. Are you at all surprised that it ended up being the Cardinals and the Red Sox in the World Series?
TK: Not really because I thought the whole postseason was a coin flip no matter what. There were so many evenly matched teams. But in the end the Red Sox and the Cardinals had the two best records in baseball and obviously the best records in their own league. The first time that’s happened — two best records in the Major Leagues played against each other — since 1995, and they earned their way through the playoffs.
It’s not like anyone had any flukes or got any breaks. The teams that were supposed to be here made it here, so it was not a giant surprise, but with the parody that we have in the big leagues, nothing would have surprised me in this postseason.
BL: The Cardinals beat the Red Sox in 1946 and in 1967 in the World Series. Each time it was four games to three. In 2004, the Red Sox beat the Cardinals and that one was four games to none. You’re one of the game’s most diligent and passionate historians. Have you a favorite among those three series?
TK: Well, I think my favorite is actually 1967 and it’s for odd reasons. I was in the sixth grade in 1967 and Ms. Thevert our sixth grade teacher told us school is over at 1:30 in the afternoon, and she had us put our pens down and our pencils down, and she turned the World Series game on in our classroom, and we watched in school from 1:30 to 3 o’clock that day.
And if that’s not an important day in a young baseball fan’s life like mine, I don’t know what is. When your teacher says, ‘OK kids, you’re done studying for today. We’re going to watch a baseball game in class.’ I’ll never forget that as long as I live and even though I wasn’t at those World Series games I remember them like they’re yesterday and mainly because my elementary school situation.
BL: Let’s get back to talking about the two teams involved, Tim. Does the history between the two clubs mean anything to the players involved in the current series or even to current fans?
TK: I don’t think it means anything to the players involved because, let’s face it, Bill, our players today have zero sense of the history of the game, and I could tell you countless examples of players who don’t know who played even 10 years ago, let alone 15, 20, 40 years ago. I don’t think it means anything to these — and most of these players on these teams haven’t played a whole lot against each other, so even though there’s great familiarity between these two franchises, World Series appearances, these players just figure, ‘Hey, we’ve never seen Michael Wacha before. We’ve never seen Trevor Rosenthal before.’ So there’s a lot of unfamiliarity between two teams that have played before in the World Series.
BL: The Red Sox used to be the most popular team in Boston as well as the team over which the most people agonized. I’d have to say the Patriots have now claimed that distinction. I gather that’s not a problem for the Cardinals.
TK: It is not. I can tell you Bill, I’ve been to 58 different Major League Stadiums, and I’ve never been in one quite like Busch Stadium in St. Louis. I hope I say this properly — I cannot walk down the streets of St. Louis and go more than 10 steps without somebody, man, woman, child, coming up to me and asking me about the Cardinals. It’s a religion there, and it’s almost, almost unhealthy how much they love the Cardinals. But they are so deeply respectful of the team, and the game, and the opponents.
I must say I love going to St. Louis to watch baseball, and it also helps that it’s a downtown stadium and the whole downtown is completely taken by the Cardinals. I told you there is a bar located next to Busch Stadium, and it’s only open 81 days a year! I wonder when those are? They close the place when the Cardinals are out of town because nobody wants to do anything if the Cardinals aren’t playing!