Playoff pressure weighs on Indians, Dodgers

As the wild card showdowns are decided and the MLB playoffs get started, the pressure is squarely on two teams – the Cleveland Indians and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

When the Chicago Cubs knocked off the Indians in a thrilling seven-game World Series last fall, they also passed along the stigma of baseball’s longest championship drought. The Tribe has come indiansagonizingly close several times – most notably last year and in 1997, when they lost to the Florida Marlins in seven games. Cleveland also won the AL pennant but lost the World Series in 1954 and 1995.

You’ve got to go back the Truman administration in 1948 to find the last Indians championship squad. That year Cleveland beat the Boston Braves in six games. Do the math, that’s 69 years ago.

The Dodgers managed to win just one World Series in Brooklyn, beating the Yankees in seven games in 1955, before moving to Los Angeles in 1958. LA won five championships in its first 30 years on the West Coast, but none since. In fact, the Dodgers last made the World Series in 1988, when they knocked off the heavily-favored Oakland A’s in five games.

Many feel the Dodgers are due, having won five straight NL West titles and being crowned the best team ever by Sports Illustrated in August. Following that cover piece, the Dodgers reached a high water mark of 91-36, then proceeded to lose 16 out of 17 games, including 11 straight.

The Indians set an AL record with a 22-game winning streak in September, marking the Tribe as the team to beat in the AL.

The Dodgers wound up with the best record in baseball, 104-58, while the Indians finished second best at 102-60. Pressure’s on.

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And the loser is….Minnesota

When the Cavaliers shocked the Warriors to win the NBA Championship last month, Cleveland ended a string of 52 years without a championship, dating back to the Browns winning the NFL title against the Baltimore Colts 27-0 in 1964.

So now Minnesota – make that the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul – has the longest championship drought in North America professional sports.

Minnesota’s dry spell extends nearly 25 years, all the way back to October 27, 1991. That night the Twins behind Jack Morris beat the Atlanta Braves 1-0 in 10 innings to win Game 7 of the World Series. Kirby Puckett and his teammates had plenty to celebrate.

But since then, not a single Minnesota team – Twins, Vikings, Timberwolves or Wild – has even made it to a championship series.

Washington, D.C. is next on the list. The last championship for teams that represent our nation’s capital came in early 1992, when the Redskins beat the Buffalo Bills in the Super Bowl.

Ironically, the original Washington Senators moved to Minnesota and became the Twins in 1961. Washington hasn’t had a team in the World Series since 1933.

Toronto won its last championship in 1993 when the Blue Jays won the World Series on a dramatic, ninth inning home run by Joe Carter.

Houston last won a title in 1995 when the Rockets took the NBA crown. And Atlanta beat the Cleveland Indians later that year to win the World Series.

Like Cleveland, all the cities mentioned about have teams in at least three of the four major pro sports, baseball, football, basketball and hockey.

For cities that don’t have either basketball or hockey franchises, San Diego and Cincinnati have suffered the most. The Chargers last won a championship in 1963, when they humbled the Boston Patriots 51-10 for the AFL crown. The Cincinnati Reds last won the World Series in 1990, sweeping the Oakland A’s.

Nobody wants to be on this list, but Minnesota now tops the charts.


Remembering Yogi Berra, an American icon

Baseball today mourns the passing of Yogi Berra. Yogi was an American icon, a World War II veteran who was part of the D-Day invasion and a Hall of Fame catcher with the Yankees whose record of 10 World Championships will never be equaled. But above all that, Yogi was a great husband, a loving father, and a wonderful man, whose kindness, humility and sincerity touched all who knew him.

Yogi Berra played in the first baseball game I ever saw, in the summer of 1958 at Yankee Stadium. Yogi batted fifth and played right field and was 0-for-3 with a strikeout and a walk. And although the Yankees lost to the White Sox that day, I was hooked on baseball for life.

Yogi was a walking Bartlett’s who said everything from “It ain’t over till it’s over” to “It gets late early out there” to “Nobody goes there any more, it’s too crowded.”

On a personal note, I played competitive softball until I turned 60. In the later years I became a catcher, and proudly wore #8 in honor of Yogi.

Yogi’s passing hits home for me. My father was born in 1925, the same year as Yogi. My dad passed on his love of baseball to me. No doubt, he’ll be watching the Yankee game tonight.

We used to argue about who was the best catcher in Yankee history, Bill Dickey or Yogi Berra. My father, who saw Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig play, would say Dickey. Sorry pops, it was Yogi.

RIP Lawrence Peter Berra.


Numbers don’t lie, Giants are a dynasty

Are the San Francisco Giants a dynasty? Well, if you consider three World Series championships in five years a dynasty – especially in today’s multi-tiered playoff format – then the answer is a resounding yes.

The Giants, who have now won the World Series in alternating years (2010-2012-2014) are just the third team to win three titles in a five-season span since MLB began playoff baseball in 1969. The New York Yankees won three in a row between 1998-2000, and four in five years with their 1996 flag. And the Oakland A’s took three straight World Series beginning in 1972.

The Yankees boast the three greatest dynasties in baseball history. They won a record five straight World Series from 1949-53, and seven in 10 years 12 years if you count the 1947 and 1956 champs. And the Bronx Bombers won four straight World Series from 1936-39, and six in eight years including titles in 1941 and 1943.

Since the first World Series in 1903, only nine teams have managed to win three times in five years. The other dynasties are the Philadelphia A’s who won three out of four (1910-1911-1913), the Boston Red Sox, four out of seven (1912-1915-1916-1918), the St. Louis Cardinals, three out of five in alternating years (1942-1944-1946), and the Yankees, three out of five (1958-1961-1962.)

Seven other ballclubs have won consecutive World Series,but none of them was able to win a third championship in five years. The other repeat champions are the Chicago Cubs (1907-1908), New York Giants (1921-1922), Yankees (1927-1928), Philadelphia A’s (1929-1930), Cincinnati Reds (1975-1976), Yankees (1977-1978) and the Toronto Blue Jays (1992-1993).

The New York/San Francisco Giants have now won eight World Series, tied with the Red Sox for fourth on the all time rings list. The Yankees lead with 27 championships, followed by the Cardinals with 11 and the Philadelphia/Kansas City/Oakland A’s with nine. Overall the Yankees have played in the most World Series (27-13 record), followed by the Giants (8-12 record).