Day 26: 30 days of baseball books in April 2014 — Seriously, the ‘best series ever’? Wendel makes a strong case for ’91

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  • The book: “Down to the Last Pitch: How the 1991 Minnesota Twins and the Atlanta Braves Gave Us the Best World Series of All Time”
  • The author: Tim Wendel
  • Vital stats: Da Capo Press, 271 pages, $25.99
  • Find it: At Powells.com, at Vromans.com, at Barnes & Nobel, at Amazon.com.

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  • The pitch: Take your pick from the World Series through history that came down to the last pitch and could be worthy of “best of all time.”
    Pittsburgh’s triumph over the New York Yankees in Game 7 of 1960, thanks to Bill Mazeroski in the bottom of the ninth.
    Arizona outlasting the New York Yankees in Game 7 of 2001, the “9/11 Season” that seemed to have a tribute to New York all over it, thanks to Luis Gonzalez in the bottom of the ninth.
    Miami’s improbable triumph over Cleveland in Game 7 of 1997, thanks to Edgar Renteria in the bottom of the 11th.
    “When you have a dog in the fight, things can become downright personal,” Wendel writes in the “Appendix II” section of this book.
    1991-Homer-HankyFor Wendel, the ’91 Series is his dog and he has decided to fight for it.
    Wendel,  the current writer in residence at Johns Hopkins University who had already captured our fancy with his 2013 book, “The Summer of ’68″ and in 2011 with “High Heat,” was a founding editor at USA Today’s Baseball Weekly in 1991. When that seven-game set ended, the cover headline in his publication read: “BEST WORLD SERIES EVER?”
    Apparently, time to drop the question mark.
    Wendel tries to do it justice (not to mention, David Justice) by inserting himself into some of the alternating sections of game recaps and snippets of why the season unfolded so interestingly to him.
    1991_11_04_JACK_MORRIS_LARGE“Nobody in uniform for either team knew they were about the take the first step into a series for the ages, one that many would soon regard as among the best in baseball history, perhaps the best of all time,” he writes on page 3, seemingly trying to convince himself he’s not wasting his time here declaring this one the super-ist of them all.
    We’ll give him that one reason it’s memorable is that both the Twins and Braves came back from last-place finishes the year before, and it’s not often that teams in baseball change the course of their history so abruptly — giving Cubs fans more and more hope as the years go by.
    “You could almost hear owners throughouts sports, strongly mirroring what was going in the private sector, saying to themselves that if the Twins and Braves could reach the World Series, then why not us?”
    This was also a Twins franchise that Major League Baseball had rumbled about contracting some years prior — and talk came around to that again less than 10 years after Minnesota won that series, perhaps spawning support that the team leave the Metrodome and build their own ballpark, where the Dodgers will play in a three-game series next week.
    1991worldseriesIf not for the heroics of a Kirby Puckett and Jack Morris, Terry Pendleton and Tom Glavine, the presense of Deion Sanders, the mistake made by Lonnie Smith and the strange use of Bobby Cox with Charlie Liebrandt, there’d be less to hang on these seven games.
    How did it end again? Or, right. Gene Larkin dumps a single over the drawn-in outfield to score Dan Gladden in the bottom of the 10th, marking the third time a game in the series went into extra innings, the fourth time it was decided in the last at-bat and the fifth game determined by one run.
    It’s nothing to sneeze into your Homer Hankie about. In the 116 World Series games play since that ’91 Game 7, it  remains the highest-rated contest with a 32.9 rating and 49 share. Even if it did involve Pat O’Brien on the pregame show:

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