Baseball Playoffs 2015

This is late fall, the time of year when baseball fans are glued to their TVs, anxiously watching the slow but inexorable progress of the playoff teams as they grind their way to the Holy Grail of baseball, the World Series!..As an avid SF Giant’s fan, I have taken this roller coaster, thrill packed ride and been rewarded 3 times in the last 5 years with the ultimate goal, the World Series victory that signifies that we are the best team in baseball!

The crisp autumn weather and the sight of colorful falling leaves is a last gasp chance to hold onto the thrill of watching the boys of summer as the seasons march on…It is a bitter sweet feeling as one after another team is knocked out of the running, and as you get closer to the ultimate baseball challenge, the World Series, you realize baseball is a metaphor for life…Wintertime is coming, football is already here, and basketball is about to start up…

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My Giants only seem to win in even numbered years for some inexplicable reason, but we won the World Series in 2010, 2012 and 2014…. Mostly because of a horrendous rash of injuries to my team this year, we are all watching the survivors from the other teams play on…The playoff format itself is relatively new, they have 2 wild cards eligible to play now plus all the division winters…In the old days, as recently as 1969, there were no playoffs, they instituted a one round playoff series that year due to baseball expansion… Before then, just the pennant winner of the AL vs the pennant winner of the NL played for all the marbles…..

Of course, the pennant winners still play, but first they have to wade through the treacherous terrain of the new playoff system, which in 1994 through 2011 expanded to include TWO rounds of playoffs, plus a wild card, making it a 3 tiered playoff format, and in 2012 they added a 2nd wild card, a one game, winner takes all who advances to the best 3 out of 5 series….Of course, it is infinitely more exciting, nerve wracking and ecstatic when it i is YOUR team in the playoffs, but I will still honor the tradition…

We are currently in the last round of the playoffs, the best of 7 format, with the AL KC Royals, who lost to the Giants in the 7th game of the World series last year in one of the most dramatic games ever, currently holding a 2-1 edge over the Toronto Blue Jays…In the NL, the surprising Mets hold a 2-0 advantage over the fan and media favorites, the lovable but forever seemingly doomed and cursed Chicago Cubs, who last appeared (and lost) in a World Series in 1945; the Cubs have not WON a World Series since 1908!

But hope springs eternal in the heart of the true fan, and on the north side of Chicago the Cubs are getting ready to play in their venerable ballpark, inside the ivy covered walls of Wrigley Field, 101 years old, built in 1914, the oldest park in the NL…Only Boston’s Fenway park in Boston is older, by a scant 2 years…

Imagine all the hallowed greats of baseball having played in these exact same parks, from Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle to Hack Wilson and Ernie Banks….And today the current crop of new, exciting young Cubs players are playing with the ghosts of all these former players sharing the exact same park! But that is the beauty of baseball, the passing of the torch, the handing down of the tradition of all the glory and glamour of years gone by…

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In the end, only one team will remain standing, and they will be the reigning World Series Champions, a role the Giants still retain but will have to relegate to the new winner very shortly…Baseball is the quintessential American game, it is the only sport where they do not have a clock to regulate the game action, you just keep playing on until one team or another wins the game, no matter if it is the regulation 9 innings or 20 some innings….One minor league game lasted 33 innings!

I remember my father taking me to my very first baseball game, it was the Chicago White Sox at Comiskey Park and my home town, south side team the White Sox beating the Detroit Tigers 2-1….Although it was many, many years ago, I still vividly remember the excitement of the game, the utter thrill and awesome wonder of walking inside from the dark Chicago night to the brilliantly lit up, lights blazing brighter than daylight Comiskey Park….

I was hooked! Baseball fever was in my blood from that moment on, and it has never really left…I went to several White Sox games by myself or with friends after that growing up as a teenager on the south side of Chicago, back then we hated the rival Cubs from the north side and never went to any of their games, but now since I have lived in San Francisco so long and am a Giants fan, I am rooting for the Cubs to go all the way this year….

I have continued the baseball tradition with my own family, taking my wife and young child to many games at windy, cold blustery Candlestick Park….When my daughter was a small girl she delighted in running up and down the steps of the upper deck in Candlestick while the game played on, and of course we watched every game we could on TV….

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San Francisco Giants fans Janice Meyer, left, and Alison Lyon, both of San Francisco, hold a sign declaring their loyalty to Candlestick Park as the Giants take the field for the last time against the Los Angeles Dodgers, the final game to be played at 3COM Park at Candlestick Point Thursday, Sept. 30, 1999, in San Francisco. After 40 years, the former Candlestick Park is closing down to Giants baseball, in favor of a newly built, smaller stadium in downtown San Francisco, designed specifically for baseball. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

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Now the Giants have a new home, a priceless gem, a palace of a ballpark, AT & T Park at 3rd and King. It is officially designated as 24 Willie Mays Plaza, after the greatest Giant of them all…We have our own history, with McCovey Cove as the designated area for sailing craft to snuggle up to the park and crazy kayakers who dive into the water to retrieve a home run hit over the wall into the frigid waters of the bay, called a splash hit….

And we have continued the family tradition, me, my daughter and my grand daughter have gone to several baseball games, and we are all still amazed, enthralled and addicted to baseball….We all try to watch every single game on TV all summer long, no matter where we live and make at least one annual pilgrimage to our beautiful ballpark….

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Baseball is a true family game, and that is the beauty of it…It is timeless, it is historical, it is modern all at the same time, and it never grows old…I have played out much of my life with baseball in the background, if I could not watch it on TV I would listen to it on the radio, and I remember milestones in my life as demarcated by the Giants success on the field…

Football may draw more TV viewers, basketball is an international sport, and I love my 49ers and World Champion Warriors as well, but there is nothing to compare to the visceral attachment, the recognition of tradition and the historical continuity of baseball…

Baseball is truly the American game, the American pastime…Long may it reign!

For more blogs by John Whye, click on http://www.johnwhye.com

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