By Harv Aronson
In the second chapter of this series, we move back five more years to 2003 and the 99th playing of Major League Baseball’s World Series.
This Fall Classic pitted the American League champion New York Yankees against the upstart Florida Marlins. The Marlins had won the World Series in 1997 and were back for another chance that perhaps should have never happened. That’s because 2003’s baseball playoffs was the year of the “Bartman.” The Chicago Cubs had not been to a World Series since 1945 and their fans were drooling for an opportunity to return.
Leading three games to two and holding a 3-0 advantage, there were just five outs to go in the eighth inning of game six that push the Cubbies back to the World Series for the first in 58 years, and a chance to win a title that they hadn’t won in 95 years. To the plate came Luis Castillo who popped up a foul ball along the third base side close to the stands. One Steve Bartman reached for the ball interfering with Moises Alou in his attempt to make the out.
Given a second chance, Castillo drew a walk from Chicago pitcher Mark Prior which was followed up by an error by Alex Gonzalez which should have turned a double play to end the inning. Instead, Florida rallied for eight runs in that ill-fated eighth inning and won the game 8-3. They won game seven 9-6 and because of Bartman’s dumb decision, his life was turned upside down. Following his gaffe, unfortunate for the young man was that the game was in Chicago. Cubs fans began to chant “Asshole” at him among other insults leading to debris being thrown at him including a beer dumped on him.
With the Cubs out of the way, the mighty Yankees now stood in the way of a second Marlins World Series win. The men in pinstripes had won 101 games that season finishing six games ahead of the Boston Red Sox. The Marlins, winners of 91 games were not even a division winner. As a wild card team, they defeated the San Francisco Giants three games to one before disposing of the Cubs.
The Yankees won in similar fashion needing four games to dump the Minnesota Twins then beating their arch rivals, the Red Sox in seven. When the series began on October 18, the division winning Yankees were obviously the favorites but lost game one 3-2. New York would come back in Yankee Stadium the next day to beat Florida 6-1.
After winning two days later in Florida, the Yanks appeared to be on their way to yet another world title. However, the Marlins had something to say about that. After 12 innings in game four, Florida prevailed and won 4-3. They would win the next two as well with a game six victory on the road bringing home their second world championship. In the series Josh Beckett pitched his ass off and won the Most Valuable Player Award. In 16 1/3 innings for work, Beckett gave up just two earned runs and struck out 19. The managers of record for both teams were Jack McKeon for Florida and Joe Torre for New York.
The following season, the Marlins finished the year in third place in the N.L. East winning 83 games but 13 games behind the Braves who won the division. Replacing them as World Series winners were the Boston Red Sox who took home their first baseball championship since 1918. For those sad Chicago Cubs fans, they finally reached and won the pinnacle in 2016. For New York, they reached the playoffs again as repeat division winners taking 101 of their 162 games but in the post season they Red Sox knocked them off in the ALCS four games to three.
By Harv Aronson
This is the first of a series of short columns reflecting our the "Fall Classic" and its results dating back 10, 15, 20, 25, 50, 75, and 100 years ago.
In this article, it's 10 years ago, 2008, and the Philadelphia Phillies became champions by defeating the Tampa Bay Rays four games to one to take home just their second World Series title in their history. Cole Hamels was the Most Valuable Player in the series an award he also won the National League Championship series. On the other side, Matt Garza took home the honor for the American League champion Rays.
After the Phils took game one in Tampa 3-2 with Hamels on the mound who had began the game winning his previous three games in the post season and with this win earned his fourth. The Rays bounced back in game two winning 4-2 but upon returning to Philadelphia for the next three games, Tampa would not see home again.
The Phillies won the next three games and the title by margins of 5-4, 10-2, and in game five, 4-3. Ryan Howard smacked three home runs in the five games for Philadelphia and added six RBIs. This World Series appearance for Tampa would be their only one in the history of the franchise that began with their inaugural season in 1998. It took just 10 years for Tampa to get to the finals of MLB and they reached the playoffs three more times since this World Series loss (2010, 2011, 2013).
All three Rays' playoff losses came in the divisional round. In 2008, the Phillies won the East Division three games ahead of the New York Mets with a 92-70 record. The Washington Nationals finished a distant 32 1/2 games behind Philly. The other division winners were the Chicago Cubs in the Central and the Dodgers in the West. Despite Chicago's 97 wins, it was Philadelphia would become National League champs.
In the American League, Tampa won the East Division on that side by a narrow margin of two games edging the Boston Red Sox. With 97 wins and 76 losses, that record still fell short of what the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim put together in 2008. The Angels won 100 of their 162 games played and finished way ahead of the second place Texas Rangers holding a 21 game advantage. The Seattle Mariners were in the basement a crazy 39 games behind. The Chicago White Sox took the Central Division by just one game beating out the Minnesota Twins by one game.
In the American League playoffs, Tampa beat the White Sox in four games and the Red Sox did the same to the Angels. In the ALCS Tampa advanced to play Philadelphia by going seven games with Boston. For the Phillies, they knocked off the Milwaukee Brewers first in four games, then waited for the L.A. Dodgers to beat the Cubs by way of a three game sweep. In that next series it took five games for Philadelphia to earn their spot in the Fall Classic.
With two world championships, the Phillies have also won seven National League pennants and been to the post season 14 times. Their franchise began play in 1883 as the Philadelphia Quakers. They became the Phillies in 1890. Their first World Series appearance came in 1915 when they lost in five games to the Boston Red Sox. In 1950, the Yankees swept Philadelphia in baseball's title series. But in 1980, the Phils broke the ice and won their first World Series title by beating the Kansas City Royals but would not win another until the series with Tampa. A year later Philadelphia returned to the World Series only to lose the New York Yankees.