ONE (MORE) FOR THE AGES

When Josh Reddick hit a fly ball to left field and Andre Ethier squeezed it for the third out, I glanced over at the clock. It read 1:06 a.m. Nearing the five-hour mark, Game 5 of the 2017 World Series was tied 12-12 and headed for extra innings.

“What time is it?” my wife mumbled.

“One-oh-six,” I whispered.

“What’s the score?” she asked.

“12-12,” I replied. “They are going into extra innings. This is the wildest game I have ever seen.”

“It sounds like it,” her voice trailed off.

Joe Musgrove held the Dodgers scoreless in the 10th inning, which felt a little strange since the two teams scored a combined 21 runs from the fourth through the ninth inning. Kenley Jansen retired the first two Astros in the bottom of the 10th, then a hit by pitch, a walk and a single — and boom — game over.

The Houston Astros are now one win away from winning their first-ever World Series title.

Monday is a travel day as the two teams head back to Los Angeles for Game 6 on Tuesday night. That’s a good thing. Processing what happened in Game 5 will require a day off.

“I thought Game 2 was probably the best baseball game I ever played in,” Astros third baseman Alex Bregman told the media after the game. “It was unbelievable.  I didn’t think that would ever be topped; I thought that would be the best game I ever played in my career. Who knows where this one ranks, right up there with that game.”

“Just when I thought I could describe Game 2 as my favorite game of all time, I think Game 5 exceeded that and more,” added Astros manager A.J. Hinch. “It’s hard to put into words all the twists and turns in that game.”

The numbers reveal a lot. Numerous World Series records were broken. According to Elias Sports Bureau:

  • Game 5 of the 2017 World Series was the highest-scoring extra-innings game in postseason history.
  • It was the first game in World Series history with three three-run homers (two by Astros, one by Dodgers).
  • The Astros became the first team in postseason history with three game-tying home runs in a game.
  • The Astros and Dodgers have now combined to hit 22 home runs through the first five games, the most home runs in a World Series.
  • The Houston Astros became only the second team in major-league history to erase two deficits of three or more runs in one playoff game (1993, Toronto Blue Jays defeated the Philadelphia Phillies 15–14 in Game 4 of the World Series).
  • The Astros became the first team in World Series history to have five different players homer in a game and the third team to hit five home runs in a World Series game overall.
  • Yuli Gurriel, Jose Altuve and Cody Bellinger of the Dodgers all hit three-run homers. There was only one other postseason game in which three different players homered with two runners on or the bases loaded: Willie McCovey of the Giants and Richie Hebner and Al Oliver of the Pirates in the 1971 National League Championship Series.
  • This is the first World Series in which four different players age 23 or younger hit a home run: Cody Bellinger (22), Alex Bregman (23), Corey Seager (23), and Carlos Correa (23).

The only game that was as dramatic and thrilling for me personally was Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. On that late, cold October night, at age 11, I watched Carlton Fisk deliver that dramatic walk-off home run in the 12th inning against the Cincinnati Reds.

In hindsight, Game 6 of the 1975 World Series is widely considered a tipping point for professional sports. As Tom Verducci wrote two years ago on the 40th anniversary of the game:

That night also changed American culture. Prime-time starts, the networks influencing when games are played, cameras placed at unusual vantage points, reaction shots of athletes away from the ball—all of it can be traced to the NBC telecast of Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. What the 1958 NFL title game did for pro football, Game 6 did for televised sports. There is only before and after. It is the most influential telecast in the 76 years that baseball has been televised.

“The sixth game was one of the best ever played,” William Leggett wrote in SI then, “and perhaps the best baseball telecast ever put on the air.”

I will never forget Fisk — or Dick Stockton. On the second pitch of the bottom of the 12th inning, Fisk hit Pat Darcy’s pitch down the left field line.

“There it goes! A long drive. . . . If it stays fair. . . . Home run!” shouted Stockton.

Then, silence. Fisk rounded the bases, clapping his hands and leaping into the air.

“We will have a seventh game in this 1975 World Series,” said Stockton as Fisk disappeared into the Fenway Park dugout.

That game, that moment, that drama, that replay, changed baseball. Sports Illustrated said Game 6 of the 1975 World Series “ignited a revival of baseball.”

“We didn’t win the World Series,” said Reds manager Sparky Anderson. “Baseball did.”

The drama and excitement created from Game 6 rolled over into the 1976 season. According to Nielsen, baseball attendance increased by 5%, Monday Night Baseball ratings increased 19% and All-Star Game ratings 28%.

As Major League Baseball continues to explore ways to generate interest with younger fans with rule changes, pace of play, expansion and international growth, maybe they already have the answer right in front of them.

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