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With So Many Memorable Moments, World Series Makes for Great Viewing

By Martin Duke
sports columnist

For the fifth time this decade, we watched an outstanding World Series. The 86, 10-inning Game 4 and 10 Game 5 were some of the greatest games ever, and Game 6 was no slouch. It shows that baseball can be great when the game itself is allowed to take center stage.

A post-mortem

So who's to blame for the Braves' sudden collapse after such a strong start? There are many potential villains: Mark Wohlers, who gave up the huge three-run homer to Leyritz in Game 4 and was not exactly dominating otherwise, is certainly a good candidate. I will always remember the image of his wild pitch in the process of intentionally walking a batter. Although it didn't score a run, it was indicative of what kind of series it was.

Steve Avery did a lot of damage in his one series appearance, giving up two runs in the top of the 10th. Combined with the disastrous comeback from the injury he's had this season, his free-agent situation may be quite unfriendly.

Of course, there's Bobby Cox, whose decision to intentionally walk Bernie Williams in the top of the 10th, loading the bases for Wade Boggs, may be second-guessed for decades. Personally, I don't think it was that horrible of a decision, but combined with his inability to rally a team that had so recently dominated, it did not look good.

There's the Marquis Grissom-Jermaine Dye Keystone Kops team in right center field, whose single error in Game 5 meant the difference in the game. If it's fair to judge Wohlers for one pitch, it's fair to attack Grissom and Dye. And there was also Grissom's playing far too shallow against Girardi in Game 6.

Even the Yankees had potential goats. The one that first comes to mind is Mariano Duncan, who constantly came up in key RBI situations and came up empty.

Another is Kenny Rogers, who pitched so horribly in his single appearance that he nearly pitched his team out of the series.

Heroes

As there are in every series, there are outstanding performances as well. For the Braves, John Smoltz nobly pitched two games well enough to win, but lost thanks to an unearned run in Game 5.

Andruw Jones exploded onto the national stage in Game 1 with two home runs and continued to make outstanding plays at the plate and in the field throughout the series. One got the same feeling that fans must have had when a rookie named Mickey Mantle made his World Series debut in 1951. This guy is for real.

Of course, the Yankees had a number of heroes. One has to start with Joe Torre, who managed a heavy underdog to a victory in a series of close games with a string of good managerial decisions. His National League experience can not be discounted as a factor.

Even though Joe Girardi was the catcher of choice, you have to give credit to Jimmy Leyritz for the most clutch home run of all, and to Wade Boggs, the much-maligned third baseman, for patience at the plate. David Cone's gutsy Game 3 win was also huge.

Because I sung his praises a few weeks ago, Bernie Williams didn't have an especially big series. But the Braves showed him respect by intentionally walking him when runners were on.

Although their overall performances were up and down, the fielding of Darryl Strawberry and Paul O'Neill - and the tremendous pitching of Pettitte in Game 5 after being shelled in Game 1 - can not be ignored.

What's interesting is that the vaunted Yankee bullpen did not quite perform as expected. Yes, Wetteland was the series MVP, but regular season superman Mariano Rivera seemed hittable, and the critical performances came out of forgotten men like Graeme Lloyd and David Weathers. You never can tell.

Let's see 'em try

I can't wait for the NBA to try to dig up footage from before 1980 for their 50th anniversary. I've always wanted to see if they had any footage of Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point game in 1960. In celebrating the history of the game, Stern's gang faces a number of obstacles.

First of all, fundamentally, for its first 35 years of its existence, nobody cared about the NBA. Television broadcasts were few and far between and were generally broadcast on tape-delay in the middle of the night. Even if they were filmed, the league couldn't even afford VCRs, so most of the game's history is lost forever.

Secondly, it will be hard to make the story include much outside of Boston, Minneapolis, and Los Angeles. Most of the early decades of the league were dominated by Boston, with periodic surges by the Minneapolis/L.A. Lakers.

Have you ever seen footage of old basketball games? It's a bunch of white guys in short shorts playing in what looks like my high school gym. Old baseball, of course, looks the same, and football looks kind of cool with the leather helmets. But old basketball just looks hokey in black and white.

I'm eager to see what they come up with because it'll take my mind off the horrendous season the Celtics will have.

Copyright 19,95, The Tech. All rights reserved.
This story was published on Tuesday.
Volume 116, Number 54.
The story began on page 20 and jumped to page 19.

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