October 24, 2018
For the first time since 1916, the Red Sox are playing the Dodgers in the World Series. But that was when the Dodgers were in Brooklyn, and the Red Sox decided to play their "home" games in recently-built (two years old) Braves Field, which had about 6,000 more seats than Fenway Park, which was only four years old. Very strange. Game 2 of the 1916 World Series was perhaps the most notable one: George H. "Babe" Ruth pitched a full 14 innings as Boston won the marathon, 2-1, taking a 2-0 series lead. Such a feat is not even comprehensible by today's standards. "The Babe" only struck out four batters, and went 0 for 5 at the plate in the only game in which he played. Brooklyn won Game 3 at Ebbets Field, but Boston won Game 4 and then won the deciding Game 5 back "home" at Braves Field.
In Game 1 last night, it was a matchup of superstars -- well, kind of. The Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw, who was on the DL for several weeks last summer, is not the overpowering hardballer he used to be, and the Red Sox' Chris Sale is still not 100% after likewise injuring his arm earlier this year. Both starting pitchers finished four innings and were then pulled in the fifth inning without getting an out. The Red Sox drew first blood with two runs in the first inning, but the Dodgers kept bouncing back in a classic neck-and-neck struggle. And then in the bottom of the seventh inning, Eduardo Nuñez came in as a pinch hitter and smashed a three-run home that just barely cleared the Green Monster in left field. That gave the Red Sox an 8-4 lead, and they held on for the next two innings to win the game by that same score. I believe I heard that it was the first pinch-hit home run in a World Series game since Kirk Gibson did it for the Dodgers (!) in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series against the Oakland A's.
In Milwaukee on Saturday night, Christian Yelich hit a solo homer in the first inning for the Brewers, sending fans into heights of elation. But the Dodgers answered with two runs in the second inning, thanks to a home run by Cody Bellinger. The score remained 2-1 in a tense pitchers' duel until the sixth inning, when Yasiel Puig hit a three-run homer to make the score 5-1, and that was the final result of the game. The Brewers' bats somehow went cold at just the wrong moment. Bellinger was named the NLCS Most Valuable Player, while Yelich is still a top contender for the 2018 NL MVP crown. We'll find out next month.
And thus, the visiting team won the final game in a postseason series once again. Will that streak continue unbroken through the World Series? If so, that might be a record; I'll have to check. Another factoid: the Los Angeles Dodgers have won back-to-back National League pennants for the first time since 1977-1978. That was when they lost to the New York Yankees in two straight World Series, the first of which is what made Reggie Jackson a superstar of historic proportions. The last World Series win by the Dodgers was in 1988, which is indeed a long wait for a team with such top-notch credentials. Of course, the Red Sox know all about waiting and waiting for a World Series win...
The Stadium milestones page has been updated to include Fenway Park and Dodger Stadium on the list of World Series game venues, and stadiums that never (or have not yet) hosted either World Series games or All Star games are now explicitly marked with "NONE."
Just like last year, and several years before that, I present the home ballparks of the two World Series teams, for easy comparison. Also just like last year, the contrasts between the two stadiums -- Fenway Park and Dodger Stadium -- are very sharp. For you trivia buffs, the average age of the two stadiums is 81 years (106 + 56 = 162), which is by far the oldest ever. The next oldest was in the 1996 World Series: the average age (at the time) of Yankee Stadium and Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium was 52 years (73 + 31). Ever since Cleveland Stadium was replaced in 1994, and except for the 2005-2007 period when RFK Stadium was being used by the Washington Nationals, Dodger Stadium has been the third-oldest MLB stadium. If the Red Sox and Cubs ever play in a World Series ...
Soon after my last update exactly three months ago, I noticed that there was a slight discrepancy between the lower deck diagram and the others. So I started doing a few tweaks to the Fenway Park diagrams, and as so often happens, I got carried away with my fanatical pursuit of accuracy and detail. I was hoping to have it done in time for this year's World Series, but was a day late -- and perhaps a dollar short?
To get those corrections as accurate as possible, I relied heavily on the photos I took during my visit there in September 2016, including this one:
As one example of the changes, I noticed in on photo that a line drawn from the first grandstand crease to the right of the bullpens toward the infield should pass about ten feet in front of third base, but in my previous diagram, it passed in back of third base. I knew that the front side of the crease was accurate, which implies that the back side was off. So, I moved the support beam about five feet to the left and then made the other corresponding changes of the grandstand (about a one degree angle) and other structures in that area.
As I was pondering the weird angle at which the center-field seats are oriented (pointing toward first base rather than home plate), something occurred to me. The new bleachers, and the grandstand that wraps around the right field corner, were built in 1934, one year after the Boston Braves football team moved out of Braves Field and into Fenway Park, becoming the Boston Redskins. (!) Is it possible that the center field seats were designed specifically to optimize sightlines for football games? Hmmm...