10/23/08 1:47 AM ET
World(wide) Series links players, fans
Entire globe has reason to watch historic 104th Fall Classic
By Mark Newman / MLB.com
They were immigrants or the sons and grandsons of immigrants. A tradition was born, and on Wednesday, the 104th Fall Classic got under way inside a crowded and loud stadium in Florida with the same kind of traces felt for miles and miles. You know who they are -- the people and places we've been writing about this whole month.
It is everybody's World Series, one of the reasons they named it that.
This is where you'll find a favorite son of Hazleton, Pa., by the name of Joe Maddon. He is managing the Rays in their first World Series. Everyone back in Hazleton will be watching, as they always do.
This is where you'll find 24-year-old Cole Hamels, who almost ended his career at Rancho Bernardo High School in the San Diego area because of a broken arm. He won Game 1 for the Phillies.
This is where you'll find Melvin Emmanuel Upton, known better as B.J. because his father nicknamed him "Bossman Jr." Most people around Chesapeake, Va., know that. If you watch the World Series back there, you will be amidst a growing cradle of baseball greatness, because stars like David Wright hail from the region as well.
Look for the traces behind these faces, and you will see just how popular baseball is.
It is followed far and wide, because it teaches the game in the tiniest outposts and noisiest metros, and it takes the best and the brightest and showcases them to those folks back home who follow it on FOX and on the Internet and through mobile devices and seemingly more platforms every month.
Of course John McCain and Barack Obama participated in the introduction to the 104th World Series. The people watching it are way, way, way beyond Tropicana Field. They are a step away from the Nov. 4 voting booth. They are widespread and they inherit it from their mothers and fathers and those who passed it down to them.
This is where you'll find Shane Victorino. The "Flyin' Hawaiian" will have a roaring audience not only in the Philadelphia region but also out in the South Pacific, where you feel a warm breeze each time No. 8 hits one deep. "Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera." So said Yul Brynner in "The King and I" -- them being seemingly separated at birth, and all.
This is where you'll find Scott Kazmir, and it's not exactly unusual for baseball fans in the Houston area to be watching one of their own pitch in the World Series. There was once a little boy who grew up in Alvin and pitched for the 1969 Amazin' Mets, and he struck out more batters than anyone: Nolan Ryan. There were guys like Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte, and many more. Wednesday, "Kaz" threw the first pitch of the Fall Classic with an audience of many back in Texas -- not to mention former Mets fans.
This is where you'll find the mellow, baritone, all-is-right-in-the-world voice of Harry Kalas. He's in the broadcasting wing of the Hall of Fame, because people love to hear him call a ballgame. He is calling World Series games again for the Phillies, for the first time since 1993. Harry the K graduated from University of Iowa 50 years ago, and his traces are there now as well as the Chicago area where he grew up.
This is where you'll find the destructive bat of Carlos Pena, the pride of the Dominican Republic (where he was born); Haverhill, Mass. (where he was raised); many stops around America where he honed his game; and now Rays country. "I have been blessed," he says. "Every step of the way."
It is time for another World Series, the 104th now, and in another 104 World Series, we all may be gone, but the game is sure to play on after us and they will have traces of heritage to keep the big machine moving. The Americans beat the Pirates in eight games back in 1903, two months before Orville and Wilbur Wright got a plane off the ground, much to the delight of their own people back in Dayton, Ohio.
The World Series is just the same today, the same as it was in the days before Kitty Hawk was a famous place. It has to happen somewhere. It will happen inside Tropicana Field, in St. Petersburg, Fla. It will happen inside the familiar dimensions of a baseball diamond. It will happen inside the hearts and minds of many millions everywhere who are connected to the participants in some way, and that is why you play it 104 times.
Play ball, again.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.