The Giants deserted upper Manhattan in 1957, and 53 years later they have finally rewarded their San Francisco fans with a World Series championship. They came close in 1962 against the Yankees, were swept by an earthquake and the A’s in ‘89, then fell to the Angels in 2002.
It’s not easy to get there, and it’s even harder to win there.
We all have dreams about our Nationals winning the NL East, or the Wild Card, then making their way to the playoffs and the World Series and, of course, winning it all. Each team in the National League has its own story, and they are all interesting for their twists and turns in winning the big prize.
Arizona bought its free agent way to the World Series in 2001, beat the Yankees on a bloop hit and hasn’t been close since.
Atlanta went to five World Series under Bobby Cox despite those 14 division titles and won just one in ‘95. They’re in their third city and won the Series just once in each previous stop; 1914 in Boston and 1957 in Milwaukee.
Chicago, those poor Cubs, have gone 102 years without winning a Series and 65 years without even going to one. The “curse of the billy goat” and Steve Bartman have made people forget how good the Cubs were in the early 20th century, winning two straight Series in 1907-08 after losing in ‘06 and returning in 1910. Who would have thought electricity and the automobile would be invented between their World Series wins, and Halley’s Comet would come and go - twice!
Cincinnati beat the infamous Chicago “Black Sox” in the 1919 Series, then didn’t win another one until 1940. Thirty-five years later, the Big Red Machine started a two-year reign, and the Reds have won a grand total of one since, 1990. There have been long droughts for baseball’s first pro franchise that dates back to the 1850s.
Colorado has been there once in 2007, a mere 15 years after they were born; pretty quickly when compared to other fledgling franchises.
Florida has done twice what Arizona did, signing big-name, high-dollar talent in 1997 and 2003, then dismantling both clubs and wallowing near the .500 mark in other rebuilding years. It will be interesting to see if the Marlins, soon to be renamed Miami, will make it with their young players.
Houston has been playing baseball for 49 years and has been to one World Series, the 2005 classic in which they were swept by the White Sox. Six other Houston playoff teams couldn’t get to the final.
The Dodgers have been regular World Series participants throughout their history in Brooklyn and Los Angeles, with a National League record 18 pennants (with the Giants). But, as great as the Dodgers have been, they have lost 12 of those 18 Series and haven’t won since 1988, 22 years ago.
Milwaukee, after moving from Seattle, has made it to one Series and lost to St. Louis in ‘82. They weren’t even an NL team at that time, 14 years before they became the first team to change leagues in the modern era of baseball.
The Mets have, for the most part, been considered winners, even though they’ve been to the Series just four times since their birth along with Houston in 1962. New York gets overshadowed by their rivals in the Bronx, and it has been a while since that last dramatic win in ‘86.
Philadelphia was the first pro sports team to lose 10,000 games, so the Phillies are in a golden age of success right now compared to their non-winning past. It was a long time between WS appearances in 1915 and 1950’s Whiz Kids, then 30 more years before they finally tasted champagne in ‘80 over the upstart KC Royals. They lost in 10-year increments in ‘83 and ‘93, then had another notable absence until 2008 when they beat Tampa Bay. Losing to the Yankees last year and failing to get to the Fall Classic this season have cooled off the Phils, but they have never had a run of success like the present one. Still, they’ve won just two World Series, ever.
Pittsburgh is actually Pennsylvania’s best when it comes to October. The Pirates have won five Series and, despite their current futility, have a very proud tradition, having won all but two of their World Series. But in today’s baseball marketplace, how will they ever be able to duplicate the class and success of those teams in 1960, ‘71 and ‘79?
St. Louis, with an NL-leading 10 world championships, has had a history of great success but significant droughts as well. They won World Series in 1926, ‘31 and ‘34, then dominated the ’40s with wins in ‘42, ‘44 and ‘46. The ’50s were dry; then they won 2 of 3 in the ’60s, and nothing in the ’70s. The ’80s saw one title, none in the ’90s and, when they beat the Tigers in 2006, it had been 24 years.
San Diego has been to the brink twice, but lost to the dominant Tigers in 1984 and the Yankee dynasty in ‘98. They have been solid more often than not, but making it to that top level is hard indeed.
Back to San Francisco, the team of the ’20s in New York but little else. They’ve had some of the greatest players ever in Mel Ott, Carl Hubbell, Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal and Barry Bonds, but it took a bunch of hard-working role players and a dominant pitching staff to win it all.
Washington, last in the NL alphabet, is the only Major League franchise, along with Seattle, to never appear in the World Series, and now needs to step up, keep drafting well and build a winning team.
Yes, it’s hard to get there and harder to win, but we can dream about it. A few years ago, the Nats were a lot like the Giants. In a few years ... who knows?