During the 11 PM hour on Oct 24th, the Arizona Diamondbacks shocked the world by eliminating the Philadelphia Phillies and setting up an All-Wild Card and All-Expansion Team World Series against the Texas Rangers (a francise born as the second Washington Senators in 1961) starting on Friday Oct 27 at 8p EDT on FOX.
The international trend of today's baseball couldn't have been more on display as the MVPs in each league's Championship Series hail from outside the USA. Rangers' right fielder Adolis Garcia, 30, grew up in Ciego De Avila, Cuba, and the Diamondbacks' switch-hitting second baseman Ketel Marte (Valdez), also 30, comes from Nizao, Dominican Republic.
Nobody talks about October 24th being United Nations Day any more, but I am old enough to remember United Nations Day being celebrated at my small public school in midtown Manhattan. We sang "The United Nations March" written by great Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich. It began, "The sun and the stars are all shining," and continued, "A hymn to a new world in birth."
That age of hope sure didn't last, did it? The UN and the very idea of a UN is in dire straits these days, but I've always believed that a baseball field suggests harmony more than any political structure. There is a left-center-and-right in both baseball and a legislature, but to hit consistently in the gaps and up the middle remains the best strategy in both our beloved game and politics. Even though we are not in a pleasant political place these days - to understate our situation I know - I still believe in the analogy.
So let's now hail some of the young international stars whose talents will be on display in the World Series. The Diamondbacks starting catcher Gabriel Moreno, 23, is from Barquisimeta, Venezuela. He may be the toughest hombre still playing in 2023, surviving many recent injuries, one nearly a concussion, to shine this post-season on both sides of the ball.
Arizona left fielder Lourdes Gurriel, Jr., 30, is part of the first family of recent Cuban baseball. Older brother Yuli Gurriel played for last year's Houston World Series winners and this year for the Miami Marlins. The defection of the Gurriels from Cuba earlier this century was a devastating blow to the Cuban National Team.
What a steal the Diamondbacks pulled off last off-season when they received from Toronto both Gurriel and Moreno in a trade for journeyman outfielder Daulton Varsho. I understand that the Blue Jays had a backog at catcher but choosing to keep Alejandro Kirk and Danny Jansen - the latter was hurt for crucial parts of this season - now looks like a serious misjudgment.
Every successful team has happy stories like this. I'm pretty sure famed Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy was not a baseball fan, but what he said about all happy families are alike and all unhappy families are unhappy in unique ways sure holds for baseball teams.
You cannot talk about the rise of the Diamondbacks - sometimes called Snakes and Serpientes - without mentioning outfielder Corbin Carroll, 23, odds-on favorite to be NL Rookie of the Year. He comes from Seattle and early on fell in love with Ichiro (Suziki) watching from the upper right field stands the Mariners' great import from Japan. His game is beginning to remind people of Ichiro's, a deserved compliment.
Here's another happy Arizona story - Merrill Kelly, 35, one of the two aces on the pitching staff along with the much younger Zac Gallen. Kelly, a native of Houston, spent three years playing baseball in the Korean pro league before Arizona brought him back to the States.
I've lauded the Orioles' own 35-year-old finesse pitcher Kyle Gibson many times in this blog for explaining pitching very accessibly to the lay person. Merrill Kelly shared similar insights during the NLCS: "I have to live on the edges [of the strike zone]," he said. "I make a living by having people [batters] make decisions [on what to swing at]."
The Texas Rangers are a less surprising entrant to the World Series because they led the AL West for much of the season until injuries and pitching woes relegated them to a wild card. But like Arizona they had to win the last two games on the road to dethrone the defending world champion Houston Astros.
Adolis Garcia was a no-brainer choice for ALCS MVP with his monster homers and fierce presence. The Rangers have another international presence in center fielder Leody Taveras (Salazar), 25, who hails from Tenares, Dominican Republic. As a key setup man, they have Aroldis Chapman, 35, the former Yankee southpaw from Holguin, Cuba, who is guaranteed to make life interesting for both sides.
On paper, the Rangers look deeper on both sides of the ball, but after sweeping the Brewers and Dodgers and eliminating last year's NL champion Phillies in a seven-game thriller, don't count out Arizona. If they lose this weekend's two games in Dallas, they can easily say, "We've got them where we want
That's all for now but here's this weekend's Nor Alley tip - Blake Edwards' "Experiment in Terror" from 1962-63 sometimes called a Hitchcock film that Alfred Hitchcock didn't make. Lee Remick is stalked by a phone caller (Ross Martin), her sister Stefanie Powers is scared too, and Glenn Ford,
who in real life was a Canadian which may explain his no-nonsense mien, is a policeman trying to help. The last scene is set in Candlestick Park,
no more spoilers. Sat Oct 28 at 12M, repeated Su at 10A on TCM.
Always remember - take it easy but take it, and stay positive, test negative. I'm happy to report that I am feeling better but always have masks
handy for outdoor/indoor excursions.