Politics & Policy

Baseball, the Game Free of Clocks

Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant celebrates the World Series win, November 2, 2016. (Photo: David Richard/USA Today Sports/Reuters)
Consider how many of the great moments in MLB history would have been impossible otherwise.

It was a 108-year wait. That any American was alive the last time the Chicago Cubs won the World Series is extremely unlikely. Any person with a living memory of it would have to be older than 110. Still, there are plenty of long-time Cubs fans who have waited their entire lives for this moment, and with an 8–7 win over the Cleveland Indians in Game 7 of the World Series, they finally get to celebrate. For Indians fans, they now have the dubious distinction of being devotees of the team with the longest World Series drought, 68 years.

Baseball fans were treated to one of the best World Series of all time and a Game 7 classic that proved once again that baseball, of all the major sports, including football, basketball, and hockey, is the purest among them. The reason is that it has no clock. As a result, baseball is often the sport defined by particular moments.

It is not a slight against other sports. The Miracle on Ice hockey game between the United States and the USSR in the 1980 winter Olympics is one of the most celebrated moments in sports history. The Cleveland Cavaliers coming back from a 1–3 deficit against the Golden State Warriors to deliver the city of Cleveland a professional-sports championship for the first time since 1964 was amazing. The New York Giants beating the previously undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII is one of the great upsets in football history. All of those games, however, relied on a clock. The other teams lost because they simply ran out of time.

In baseball, the game is not over until the last man is out. Perhaps nothing illustrates this better than the 2011 World Series between the Texas Rangers and the St. Louis Cardinals. Going into Game 6, the Texas Rangers led the series 3–2 and were on the verge of winning the first World Series. On two occasions, the Rangers were not just one inning or one out but one strike away from winning it all. Both times, in the ninth and and then the tenth inning, the Cardinals found a way to come back and tie the game. The Cardinals ultimately won, in the eleventh inning, thanks to a walk-off home run by David Freese. The Cardinals won Game 7 to complete the comeback.

SLIDESHOW: Cubs Win World Series

One strike away. Baseball will forever be defined by these moments. Bobby Thomson’s Shot Heard Round the World, lifting the New York Giants past the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1951. Joe Carter’s walk-off home run, against the Phillies’ Mitch Williams, in the 1993 World Series. Carlton Fisk, waving his arms to will his fly ball to to left field to stay fair for a walk-off home run against the Cincinnati Reds in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. Derek Jeter’s walk-off home run in Game 5 of the 2001 World Series, three minutes after the clock struck midnight, marking the first time in history a World Series game was played in November.

The list could go on for quite some time. All of these moments were possible because nobody ever had to look at a clock and think, “We’re running out of time.”

How different would Game 7 between the Cubs and Indians have been had the Cubs taken a 6–3 lead with only two minutes left to play? There would be no comeback. Indians fans would have started filing out of Progressive Field. The Cubs would do what they could to run out the clock and win the World Series. But it doesn’t work that way. Instead, the Indians came back to tie the game. The Cubs scored two more runs. The Indians closed within one, but, alas, it was not enough.

Baseball fans were treated to a smiling Kris Bryant (I do suspect Cleveland Indians fans were hoping he fell down), fielding what would be the final out of the World Series. There was no clock. It was just Bryant, grinning from ear to ear as he threw to first base, erasing 108 years of frustration for Cubs fans — and preserving 68 years of the same for the Indians.

It was one of those baseball moments that will not be forgotten.

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