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WOSTER: World Series lacks that old, warm feeling

Terry Woster, Daily Republic columnist  I caught the last couple of outs of the first game of this year’s World Series the other night. It looked cold there on the diamond in Boston.

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Why wouldn’t it look cold? It was the 23rd day of October to start the Series. Call me a traditionalist, even a curmudgeon, but baseball is summer blue skies and light breezes, not the chill of Halloween. In the early days (I began to take an interest in Major League Baseball in about 1954 as a 10-year-old), the Series was over long before this one started. Of course, in those Dark Ages, the schedule had little to do with television. Games were played in the afternoon, the way the gods of the diamond intended.

I looked it up, and the 1956 World Series ran from Oct. 3 through Oct. 10, finishing two full weeks before this year’s began.

I don’t have a dog in the fight this year — again. My team, the Milwaukee Brewers, fought valiantly to the last out of the regular season, but in vain. OK, that’s not strictly true. I think the Brewers were mathematically eliminated sometime in early August. Math can give a person false hope, though. Realistically, my team was out of the pennant chase on opening day. They just had to play out the string. So, most years I cheer for the Brewers until the season is over and then try to find a compelling storyline in one of the remaining teams.

I haven’t been able to do that this year. I’m not picking up major-league vibes from either the Cardinals or the Red Sox this year. Maybe if I watch a few more games that will change. I rather liked Boston that year the chubby little guy jumped up and down on the base line willing the ball to stay in play or go out of the park or something. And in the days when Bob Gibson pitched for the Cardinals, I grudgingly rooted for them. That was mostly because, legend has it, I saw Gibson pitch a game for the Chamberlain team in the old Basin League. The old-timers in the Chamberlain stands said the kid was wild. I guess he picked up some control as he matured.

Of course, Gibson pitched at a time when a lot of World Series fans — at least a lot of kids in my part of central South Dakota — followed the action over the radio. Announcers like Bob Neal brought the teams, the pitches, the hits and the runs to life with their booming voices and the drama of their deliveries. I had a picture in my mind of Augie Donatelli, one of the umpires in the 1957 World Series, long before I ever saw him on television. He looked kind of the way I’d had him pictured as I bounced along in the old pickup and strained to hear through the static the results of a Lew Burdette pitch.

The ’57 Series had Fred Haney managing the Milwaukee Braves and Casey Stengel skippering the New York Yankees. The Yankees were defending World Series champions, having beaten the Brooklyn Dodgers in seven games in 1956. At that time, I was tentatively a Dodgers fan, but that Series had me doubting their “wait until next year” promise. I cast about and found Henry Aaron, Eddie Mathews, Warren Spahn and the Braves. Just in time, too, because the Braves won a marvelous seven-game series from the Yankees in 1957.

With games on the radio, I found all sorts of excuses that October to hang back every time Dad hopped out of the pickup to tackle a strand of broken barbed wire. He’d look back impatiently as I paused halfway out of the cab, waiting for just one more pitch to see if Red Schoendienst would steal second. I could see old County Stadium as clearly as if I were sitting just above the dugout on the home side. It was a glorious championship for Milwaukee. I thought they’d never lose again.

The next October, they fell to the Yankees in seven, after leading three games to one. My heart was broken, but it mended in the warmth of early October.