Reader Roland Anderson emailed a couple of fantastic pictures on Tuesday, photos that he says he took on Oct. 14, 1965 in downtown Minneapolis before the Twins faced the Dodgers in Game 7 of the World Series. Those with a reasonable familiarity with math will note that was exactly 50 years ago today. The pictures sent me down a few different paths of thought:
*First, check out this shot of a billboard that was on 13th and LaSalle, according to Anderson. It’s basically a half-century-ago version of the errant tweet sent out by the Texas Governor’s office account the other day because as you can see it says “Congratulations World Champs.” If Anderson’s timeline is correct and this photo is from the day of Game 7, presumably hours before the game itself at Met Stadium, that billboard amounts to a pretty hefty jinx if you believe in such things. The home team had won all six games in the series heading into the deciding contest, but Sandy Koufax spun a shutout for a 2-0 Dodgers win.
*The other photo, taken outside of Dayton’s on Nicollet (also in downtown Minneapolis, of course), shows understated but simultaneously giant “Win Twins” signs. I could probably stare at that picture all day just for the simple contrasts between then and now.
*Koufax, as many of you know, pitched three games in that series: Game 2 (a loss), Game 5 (a shutout victory in LA on three days’ rest) and Game 7 (a shutout victory in Minnesota on two days’ rest). He famously refused to pitch Game 1 because it fell on Yom Kippur, a Jewish holy day. But that decision didn’t keep him from starting three games in the series, including two shutouts on what is now considered short rest, to take home series MVP honors. Madison Bumgarner, last year’s postseason hero for the Giants, left mouths agape by pitching five innings on two days’ rest in Game 7. Koufax went 9.
*Imagine a World Series going the distance and the baseball playoffs still being over by Oct. 14. Again, different era: division play had not even been introduced yet, so the top team in the American League went straight to the World Series to face the top team in the National League. This year’s World Series will finish in November unless there’s a four-game sweep. There are still two rounds to be played this year before even getting to that point.
It was a simpler format that perhaps better rewarded greatness. The Dodgers went 97-65 that season to get in; the Cubs went 97-65 this season. Under the old format, they would have missed the playoffs completely. Under the new format, they have to survive three rounds (Wild Card game, division series, championship series) just to get to the World Series). More teams are in the race until the end, which sustains interest deep into the regular season in more markets. But the more playoff rounds that get added, the less a grueling 162-game regular season rewards the best teams.