The World Series That Participants Watched as Kids

Being baseball fans, the vast majority of us will be tuning in to the World Series. From coast to coast and beyond, it’s must-watch television for everyone who loves the greatest game on earth. The best of the American League versus the best of the National League. The Fall Classic.

The participants themselves grew up watching. As kids, they sat in their living rooms and dens, enjoying the World Series with their families. A lucky few even got to enjoy October baseball live and in person, at the ballparks themselves. What do they remember about those bygone days? I asked that question to several Red Sox and Dodgers players and coaches. For good measure, I queried three notable media personalities as well.

——-

Matt Kemp, Dodgers outfielder: “Joe Carter, Toronto Blue Jays. My dad was best friends with his brother and he always had us watching Joe Carter play. That was the 1993 World Series and I was like, ‘Whoa! That’s pretty awesome.’

“I always watched baseball. Baseball and basketball were the two sports I loved to watch. I was always a Braves fan growing up. As a kid, me and my cousin always dreamed of playing on the Atlanta Braves. I wanted to be like David Justice. Otis Nixon. Ron Gant. All those guys who were just straight ballers. Maddux. Smoltz. Jeff Blauser. But the Justice home run… I remember that all day long. Heck yeah.”

Jackie Bradley Jr, Red Sox outfielder: “I couldn’t tell you what the first one was, but 2011 stands out: Cardinals versus Texas. The Cardinals were my team growing up, and they won. David Freese had a great postseason. Tony LaRussa was the manager. It was a pretty exciting series.

“As far as history goes, I’ve heard some Bob Gibson stories, although I probably couldn’t spit them out off the top of my head. I’ve always heard about the Willie Mays catch. That was a big one.”

Peter Gammons, MLB Network: “The first World Series I covered was 1972. The first one I watched on television was 1952. Every time I hear that relief pitching has been revolutionized, I go back to when I was sitting in Billy Sambito’s barber chair — Joe Sambito’s uncle — and I’d go there every day. At the age of seven, I was there watching the 1952 World Series.

“Game Seven comes around, and Casey Stengel, who was so far ahead of his time, didn’t have a starting pitcher so he pitched Lopat for three innings, Reynolds for three innings. Then he brought [Vic] Raschi in for an out and had his closer, Bob Kuzava, get the last eight outs. And they won the World Series.

“Another one that had a lot of meaning to me happened two years later. Growing up in central Massachusetts, my National League team was the New York Giants. That first game was when Willie Mays made the two great plays in the outfield. He always claimed the one where he dove and cut Wertz’s ball off and held him to a single was a better play than the more famous catch. And then in the 10th inning, Dusty Rhodes pinch-hit and hit the three-run homer off Bob Lemon. I remember everything in that series.”

Scott Alexander, Dodgers pitcher: “I grew up in northern California and was a Giants fan, so the one I remember most would be the one between the Giants and the Angels, back in 2002. Barry Bonds hit a bunch of home runs. It was Francisco Rodriguez’s rookie year, and he came out and was pretty electric. Troy Percival was closing for the Angels.

“I’ve been a huge baseball fan my entire life. I grew up playing baseball all day long and watching baseball all day long. I actually used to come home and watch Braves games on TBS. I would watch those at four o’clock, then we’d get the seven o’clock A’s and Giants games. That was pretty sweet. A good thing about being on the west coast is that you can always watch the games. Football starts at 10 am and those prime-time games start around 5 pm.”

Eddie Romero, Jr, Red Sox assistant GM: “I remember tidbits from 1985, but the first one I paid attention to intensely was 1986. My dad [Ed Romero] was part of that Red Sox team. That was kind of the first year I remember coming to Boston in the summertime and spending time at the ballpark.

“Having them play the Mets and how everything went down… I remember being at home in Florida, and having family from Puerto Rico come take care of me. I was extremely upset that I couldn’t attend. My mom attended. My mom flew up to New York, and I may or may not have faked a sickness, because I was so jealous. She had to come home and watch the games with me. That’s probably not the nicest thing I’ve ever done.

“I was six or seven years old at the time, and it was crazy. I remember being absolutely distraught about how things went down. It was intense. I remember my grandfather… same thing. We were screaming at the television, like I’m sure all of New England was.”

Steve Pearce, Red Sox first baseman: “I’m not sure about the first one. I would say that Yankees-Diamondbacks sticks out in my mind. I was in college, playing college baseball, and everybody was a fan. I remember we had a big old team party and watched it together. We sat down and enjoyed baseball. I don’t know if all of us really cared who won, but some of us were probably rooting against the Yankees.”

Brian Dozier, Dodgers infielder: “The first one is the one I went to… 1995, Cleveland-Atlanta. It was Game Six. My biggest memory is when David Justice hit the homer, kind of right next to me, and how much the crowd erupted. We talk about it all the time. My dad and my brother and I were the ones that made the three-and-a-half, four-hour, drive from our house. It’s like it happened yesterday, to be honest with you.

“I was eight years old at the time. My dad, brother, and I were huge Braves fans. I used to be Jeff Blauser and my brother used to be Mark Lemke in the yard. One day I was Grissom and he was Justice or Klesko. We used to play those memories all the time in our head.”

Pedro Gomez, ESPN: “Mine would be the 1968 Tigers-Cardinals series. My family had come as refugees from Cuba, and we moved to Detroit in 1963. I was six years in 1968 and in first grade. I remember that the teachers at Sweetest Heart of Mary Catholic School, right in downtown Detroit, allowed us to listen on transistor radios. The game was in the afternoon.

“The whole city was engulfed by Tigers. It was Tigers everything. I remember being swept up in the wave, and ever since then I’ve been a huge baseball fan. I can’t say I’m a fan of the Tigers anymore, but I am a fan of the 1968 Tigers. I still have a soft spot in my heart for the Tigers because of that season.

“My grandfather had been an umpire in Cuba, in the winter leagues, and he really instilled baseball into me. He didn’t speak a word of English, but he used to listen to Ernie Harwell on the radio. Every game. I would go to his house and say, ‘What’s going on in the game?’ — this was all in Spanish — and he would reply, ‘In the fourth inning, Jim Northrup hit a double and it drove in Mickey Stanley. Mickey Lolich is pitching a gem.’ I remember thinking, ‘My lord. How does he know this when he doesn’t understand English.’ Well, he understood baseball.”

Justin Turner, Dodgers infielder: “The 1988 World Series when [Kirk Gibson] hit the homer. I was only four years old. It’s one of my earlier baseball memories. I watched it on TV at my grandparents’ house. My whole family was Dodgers fans. I was a Dodgers fan.

“You always watch the World Series. I don’t know any specifics from ones after that, but I remember watching the 2008 World Series when I was in the Arizona Fall League. I remember watching when I was in college. You watch the World Series. You watch the Super Bowl. You watch the NBA Finals. It’s just something you do.”

Craig Kimbrel, Red Sox pitcher: “It would be the Atlanta Braves and Cleveland Indians. I grew up a Braves fan. I was born in 1988, so some of those early 1990s teams I was a little too young, but by by the time they went and won it — I definitely remember that. It was right around Halloween and I remember it like it was yesterday.”

Alex Wood, Dodgers pitcher: “The first one I really remember watching would probably have to be… my dad is from New York, and he’s a Mets fan. When the Mets went to the World Series, the subway series [in 2000]. I also remember when Endy Chavez made the catch, although that was in the NLCS [in 2006].

“I liked the Mets because of my dad. Growing up in the southeast, in Charlotte, you also pretty much can’t help but be a Braves fan, too — ironically enough, with them being rivals. The Braves’ World Series were in the 1990s, but I was still really young when they played their last one, so the one I remember most is the Mets. That and the great run for those Yankees teams.”

Rick Porcello, Red Sox pitcher: “The first one I remember watching as a kid was 1996. I don’t remember who they played, but the Yankees won. The 2000 World Series stands out, because I was a Mets fan. Seeing them match up with the Yankees in the subway series was really cool, especially with me being a kid from New Jersey. It sucked that the Mets lost, but it was still pretty memorable.

“One thing about the World Series is that you never know what’s going to happen. You find likely heroes. You find unlikely heroes.”

Tyler Kepner, New York Times: “I went to my first game in 1981, the last game of the Phillies-Expos playoff, but I don’t remember it very much. But I really remember the 1982 World Series. I was seven years old at the time.

“I really liked that Brewers team. They had a lot of characters. They had great uniforms. And as a Phillies fan, I hated the Cardinals. They were a divisional rival, and they had Lonnie Smith. It was frustrating to see him do so well, because he’d been with the Phillies.

“It was an interesting contrast between a real power team, in Milwaukee, and a real speed team in St. Louis. Milwaukee blew them out the first game. I think Yount had four hits, and Molitor five hits. But then the series got tight. Willie McGee had a big game on a Friday night. John Stuper, who I’d barely even heard of, had a really good series — he beat Sutton in Game Six. The Cardinals ended up winning it.

“Milwaukee didn’t have Rollie Fingers, so they had to use Bob McClure. That didn’t work out. Bud Selig always said that, if only they had a healthy Rollie Fingers, they would have won that one. He was probably right.”

Tim Hyers, Red Sox hitting coach: “I remember the Kansas City days. George Brett and those guys. The Astroturf. I grew up in Georgia, but I was a big George Brett fan. There was St. Louis and Ozzie Smith going up against them [in 1985].

“But I obviously remember the Braves. Being a Braves fan and watching their pitching and wanting them to pull one out. David Justice hitting the homer against Cleveland… that was a pretty exciting time where I grew up. I was in the minor leagues at the time — I was with the Blue Jays — and had just gotten home from playing in instructional league. I watched that game at home, at my parents’ house.”

Turner Ward, Dodgers hitting coach: “I grew up in Alabama, so Atlanta stuck out. I graduated high school in 1982, and I was a big Dale Murphy fan. He was a back-to-back MVP. I was a young kid aspiring to be like him. Bob Horner and those guys. But the first World Series I watched… man, to tell you the truth, I can’t. Really, my greatest recollection is after I got into pro ball and started paying more attention.

“A big one was 1988. The day I got married was the day Kirk Gibson hit his homer. We were watching it going into our honeymoon. Thirty years later, we just celebrated 30 years together. I always text Gibby and say, ‘Happy anniversary,’ because it’s his anniversary too.”





David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

4 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
jamesdakrnmember
3 years ago

God I love Justin Turner