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Which World Series is worth time traveling for?

Going back in time to see specific World Series is probably an odd use of a time machine, but hey: it's topical.


SB Nation 2014 MLB Bracket

1968: Detroit Tigers 4, St. Louis Cardinals 3

The correct answer is probably 1954, if only to see The Catch in person. It wasn't exactly the best World Series, though, considering the Giants not only swept, but jumped out to a big lead in Game 4.

No, I want a series that's a) seven games, b) historically significant, c) at ballparks I want to visit, and c) in a fascinating time in American history. The '87 Series would be a delight, but after it was over, what would I do, see Three Men and a Baby? I already own the Blu-Ray. That doesn't appeal to me.

The 1968 World Series, then. It's almost perfect, with only a couple of blowouts making me think twice. This was the Gibson/McClain series, with each pitcher going three times, in one of the most pitcher-friendly seasons in baseball history. Except both pitchers proved mortal at different times in the series, with the unbeatable Gibson getting beat in a Game 7. Plus, I'd get to see both Tiger Stadium and ... well, I'm not too geeked on Busch II, but we'll make it work.

Players I'd get to watch:

  • Al Kaline
  • Lou Brock
  • Orlando Cepeda
  • Roger Maris
  • Norm Cash
  • Willie Horton
  • Bob Gibson
  • Bob Gibson
  • Bob Gibson
  • Bob Gibson
  • Bob Gibson

Also, Bob Gibson. Oh, and Tim McCarver. Look at this handsome feller.

After each game, I could soak in the social tension and check out an MC5 or Stooges show if they're in town. Maybe some 1910 Fruitgum Company, I'm not picky. Mostly, though I just want to see that danged Game 7.

-- Grant Brisbee

Bob Gibson
Bob Gibson (Getty Images).

1904: New York Giants 0, Boston Red Sox 0

Figuring out what World Series I'd go back in time to see has been difficult. I can watch the Red Sox win in 2004 whenever I want to thanks to modern technology, and there is no desire to see any of their failed attempts prior to that. Similarly, I have no reason to go back and see the Padres get destroyed in 1984 -- yes, I'm one of those people with a team in each league, blame my parents -- and while the memory is a little faint, I remember seeing San Diego lose in 1998, and once was enough. From about 1920 through the 1960s it's basically just the Yankees and Cardinals winning, so I'd rather not in case my time machine gets stuck and I'm forced to actually live in that world afterward.

Instead of an actual World Series match-up, I want to travel back to a moment in time where there was no World Series. Specifically, 1904, when the then-New York Giants refused to play the Boston Americans (the Red Sox of old) because the Giants -- and the National League -- were too good for what was derisively referred to as the "junior" circuit. The same junior circuit and Boston team that had beat the Pirates in what is recognized as the first World Series a year before, by the way. The Giants didn't care who the opponent was going to be, necessarily, as they had stated their refusal to bother with the "exhibition" series in early July.

The Giants weren't totally in the wrong, though. The 1903 match-up had been organized by the Pirates and Americans on their own and in advance, as both teams were leading their respective leagues comfortably enough to make those kinds of plans before the season ended. Giants' owner John T. Brush had questions about how money would be split up -- participating teams used to agree to the rules for these bouts, rather than follow set ones -- and most likely didn't want to even chance losing to the cross-town New York Highlanders of the AL. The Americans didn't win the pennant until the final day of the season, so that concern, if it were actually one, would have persisted up through that late date.

I wouldn't get to see a World Series, necessarily, but I would get to see the public turn on the Giants, eventually forcing into place a set of rules to govern World Series play -- named after Brush himself, even. And hey, at least this way if I end up trapped in time I'll have a few years to figure out how to convince the Red Sox not to sell Babe Ruth and the rest to the Yankees. That shouldn't have any 11/22/63-style repercussions, right? -- Marc Normandin

1969: New York Mets 4, Baltimore Orioles 1

Of course, if I'm being honest, part of me wants to just go back to see a bunch of people wearing Mets pajamas win a World Series. I was a yawning elementary schooler during the last World Series win by the team I have -- not wisely, but too well -- entrusted with a small portion of my emotional well-being; with that emotional well-being in mind, I will not speculate on when such an event might happen again. This is part of it, and I'd be lying if I said it wasn't.

But the 1969 Mets are a more interesting champion than most people alive have ever seen. The '69 Mets won 100 games with effectively the same roster as the 73-win '68 Mets; that roster included maybe five above-average hitters, and a nigh-on-unhittable Tom Seaver, and a scatter-armed long reliever named Nolan Ryan. An uncommonly large number of these players had the sort of names that Thomas Pynchon might make up if he were writing a picaresque baseball novel, and then reject for being overly picaresque -- Art Shamsky, Tug McGraw, Duffy Dyer, Amos Otis.

Those are just names and numbers, of course. I know the story, I have read about it and heard unverifiable legends of it told aloud by various unreliable sources. I know what happened. In short, the same demi-humps that had been kicked around as ninth-place no-hopers one year came back the next, a year older and that much luckier and that much better, and won seven of eight postseason games against a pair of much better teams that had seven Hall of Famers between them. It is one thing to know that this could happen, and that this impossible and so-common wish has at some point been more than that. It's a heartening and strange thing to know as a fact, that this is possible. I would go back so I could see it, of course; it sounds fun. But I would want to see it so that I could finally believe it, really and truly and because it's such a wonderful and necessary thing to believe. -- David Roth

Tom Seaver
Tom Seaver (Getty Images).

1960: Pittsburgh Pirates 4, New York Yankees 3

There are so many World Series that I'd like to be able to go back in time and observe firsthand. I really want to see what a supposedly rigged sports championship looks like. I want to actually see the entirety of the throw that followed Willie Mays' catch. You know; the one that was supposedly more impressive than the catch itself. I want to see Jackie Robinson and the Brooklyn Dodgers knock off the Yankees in seven games for their first-ever championship, finally understanding the breadth of the backdrop for "In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson." But if I had to pick just one, I'll go with 1960. I'll go with a Pirates team that downs the Yankees in seven games, culminating in a walk-off home run. Fans storming the field to mob a victorious slugger. If this most recent postseason has taught us anything, it's that there's nothing better than a walk-off home run to end a postseason series. Did you know that 1960's Game 7 was the only baseball game loss that made Mickey Mantle cry? True story. -- Bill Hanstock

1919: Cincinnati Reds 5, Chicago White Sox 3

There is no controversy about the fact that this World Series was fixed. What mystery remains is just how obvious it was to observers at the time -- certainly Hugh Fullerton, Ring Lardner, and Christy Mathewson picked up on some questionable plays even as the games were ongoing. Would bad plays by Chick Gandil, Happy Felsch, or Swede Risberg have been equally obvious to the casual fan in the stands? How about fat pitches from Eddie Cicotte or Lefty Williams? Then there are Buck Weaver and Shoeless Joe Jackson: How involved were they? Weaver out-hit players like Eddie Collins and Ray Schalk, who weren't in on the fix, and perhaps his only crime was being aware that the games were being thrown and not reporting it -- though you can find accounts that argue otherwise. As for Shoeless Joe, he hit .375 with Chicago's only home run of the Series, but was his fielding on the up-and-up?

Finally, there is the opponent, the Reds. Their center fielder, the Hall of Famer Edd Roush, spent nearly 70 years after arguing that the Reds were so much better than the White Sox that they would have beaten them even if the Series had been legitimate. I want to see it all for myself, one of the greatest crimes in American history that didn't involve bloodshed, the moment when, as F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, ballplayers and gamblers conspired to, "play with the faith of fifty million people — with the single-mindedness of a burglar blowing a safe. -- Steven Goldman

1968: Detroit Tigers 4, St. Louis Cardinals 3

If 1967 was the year that tore Detroit apart, '68 was the season that helped heal the wounds. Detroit's 12th Street riot, stemming from the city's always-present racial and economic tensions, spanned five days and resulted in 43 deaths, nearly 1,200 injuries, and more than 7,200 arrested. My own father was pressed into service as a police reservist while my mother took an empty bus to work downtown. It's often an easy and all-too-convenient narrative to give credit to a sports team for its therapeutic services off the field. You don't have to tell that twice to someone from "downtrodden Detroit." The '68 team, with white stars like Al Kaline, Denny McLain and Mickey Lolich coming together with African-Americans like Willie Horton and Gates Brown, won 103 games in the regular season and captured an amazing World Series that went seven games. And this team really did help neighbors begin to see each other as neighbors again. Detroit's famed columnist Joe Falls wrote: "(S)omething started happening in the middle of 1968. You could pull up to a light at the corner of Clairmount and 12th, which was the hub of last year's riot, and the guy in the next car would have his radio turned up: ' .... McLain looks in for the sign, he's set -- here's the pitch' ... It was a year when an entire community, an entire city, was caught up in a wild, wonderful frenzy." It would have been wonderful to witness that brief moment of coming together -- Kurt Mensching

Al Kaline
Al Kaline and Tim McCarver in the 1968 World Series (Getty Images).