World Series Has a Special Ring To It Print E-mail
Written by Fred Mitchell   
Thursday, 23 October 2008

You can’t have it all in the world of sports.

Very rarely, anyway.

Many of the top home run hitters of all time would trade a handful of those dingers for a World Series ring. Ernie Banks, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds, to name a fewl of the members in the 500 Home Run Club, have been denied a World Series ring.

The 2008 World Series features no members of the 500 HRC as the Philadelphia Phillies and Tampa Bay Rays face off. The Phillies and Rays have fine young sluggers in Ryan Howard and Evan Longoria, respectively, who may some day reach that milestone. But for now, winning the championship ring is foremost on their minds.

Tampa Bay beat the Chicago White Sox three games to one in an American League Divisional Series before holding off the Boston Red Sox in seven games in the ALCS.

“We are not satisfied with this. We have more in store,” said Tampa Bay veteran DH Cliff Floyd. “Where we came from and what we went through this year, it was amazing. And we are going to take full advantage of it, hopefully.”

Rays manager Joe Maddon guided a team that finished a major league worst 66-96 last year and was 97-65 in 2008.

“This is just the beginning of great things to come in the future,” said Maddon. “We had to begin somewhere and this is the beginning right now.”

The Rays are just the second team in major league history, and the first American League team, to advance to the postseason after owning the worst record in the majors the year before. The only other team to do that was the 1991 Atlanta Braves.

“We’ve been at the bottom of the barrel for so long, and I think there was a point in time where people didn’t even know who we were,” said Rays outfielder B.J. Upton. “And for the guys that have been here for awhile…Carl Crawford…I think it benefits him the most. I mean he’s been through some tough times. He’s been in last place most of his career, and for us to come out this year and, you know…right now we’re in a good position.”

The Phillies have their own burdens of history to carry. They have just one World Series triumph- 1980- in their franchise legacy.

Gary Matthews, who starred for the Phillies, Braves, Giants, Mariners and Cubs during his stellar playing career, is ecstatic to see Philadelphia in the World Series. In 1983, he was the MVP of the National League Championship Series for Philadelphia when he hit three homers and batted .429.

As a former Cubs coach, Matthews was stunned to see the Cubs get swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first round of the playoffs.

“I think about the Hall of Fame Cubs players like Billy Williams and (500 Home Run Club member) Ernie Banks. And also Ron Santo. They have to be absolutely sick It was a huge shock,” said Matthews. “Anything can happen in those short series, and clearly- when you look on paper- the Cubs have the better team. But I felt the same way in ’84. The better team didn’t win, but the other team ( San Diego) played better.”

Matthews helped lead the Cubs to the 1984 division title when he hit .291 with 101 runs scored, 82 RBIs and a league-best 103 walks. Matthews also led the league with a .410 on base percentage.  He was the NL Rookie of the Year in 1973 with the Giants.

If the Angels had won the AL pennant, as many people had predicted after their 100-victory season, Matthews could have watched his son, Gary Matthews Jr., play against the Phillies in the World Series.

“That would have been the ultimate,” said Sarge, who now handles color commentary on the Phillies telecasts. “Or if the Phillies could have played the Cubs in the NLCS…that would have been great for me, too. When you have the opportunity, you’ve got to go.”

 

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