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World Series has long history of giant surprises: orange October just the latest fall classic stunner.

In a sports world groaning with cliches, "That's why they play the game" serves as a worthy mantra for baseball's beleaguered underdogs come October. While the recent crowning of the San Francisco Giants as World Series champions certainly was unexpected, the real surprise may have come in determining just which clubs would get to step onto this year's Fall Classic stage. The Giants were 6 1/2 games out of first in late August and did not clinch the West Division We until the regular season's final day, before stunning the two-time defending National League champion Philadelphia Phillies in the NLCS. The Texas Rangers, meanwhile, had the worst record of all American League play-off participants, yet ran roughshod over the defending world champion mew York Yankees in the ALCS to advance to their first World Series in franchise history (dating back to 1961).

The Rangers boasted baseball's best offense and the Giants had the game's top pitching staff. Good pitching stops good hitting, or so the saying goes. It proved quick and easy for the Senior Circuits unlikely representatives, and so the Giants have their first World Series trophy since 1954 and their first in San Francisco since abandoning New York's Polo Grounds after the 1957 campaign. That 1954 title, of course, was one of the real shockers in Series history. The Cleveland Indians had won an A.L.-record 111 games in capturing the pennant The N.Y Giants, fueled by Willie Mays' famous catch and the hitting heroics of Dusty Rhodes, swept the Tribe aside in four straight

Forty years prior, another shocking sweep earned its way into baseball lore, as the "Miracle" Braves of Boston took four in a row from the Philadelphia Athletics. The As, owned and managed by Connie Mack, won four pennants and three World Series from 1910-14, and boasted the famous $100,000 infield, with third baseman Frank "Home Run" Baker being the most famous of the crew. Boston, which had bean in last place on July 4, closed the regular season in 70-19 fashion to win the pennant by 10 1/2 games before demolishing heavily favored Philly. Mack was so upset at his charges that he broke up the team, trading and selling off his best players. Philadelphia would languish in the second division for the next 15 years until--still under Mack's direction--the A's won back-to-back Series championships (1929-30), while the Braves went on to become the only franchise to win the World Series while representing three different dries: Boston (1914), Milwaukee (1957), and Atlanta (1995).

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Some eight seasons before the "Miracle" Braves became unexpected champions, it was the "Hitless Wonder" who mesmerized the baseball world. The 1906 Chicago White Sox did not have a formidable lineup, certainly nothing to match their crosstown rival and World Series opponent the Chicago Cubs of "Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance" fame, who had recorded a milestone 116 victories, still the all-time N.L. mark. The White Sox waltzed to the title in six. The Pale Hose won another W.S. 11 years later, but than the Chisox faithful had to wait until the new millennium (2005) for their next celebration.

The Cubs, of course, hold all of the cards when it comes to torturous diamond misadventures. True, they did rebound from that 1906 spanking--posting back-to-back World Series wins over the Detroit Tigers in 1907-08, but the glory ended there, as the Cubs have not won the Series since and have not even been back to the Fall Classic since 1945. At the other end of the spectrum are the mighty Yankees: most World Series appearances (40) and championships (27). Twice in their history, the Bronx Bombers have reached the World Series in five straight seasons. From 1949-53, they won all five times. However, during the second run (1960-64), things did not go as smoothly, with setbacks in 1960, 1963, and 1964.

The 1960 Fall Classic may have been the strangest of all. In their three victories leading up to Game 7 at Pittsburgh's Forbes Field, the Yanks outscored the Pirates 38-3. In the Bucs' three triumphs, they enjoyed a 14-8 edge. In Game 7, with the game knotted 9-9, Bill Mazeroski lad off the bottom of the ninth with a home run to give the Pirates their first tide since 1925. On Dec. 15, for the first time since it was played, Game 7 will air in its entirety on the MLB Network. (There also will be reruns.) A recording of the game, previously thought lost forever, was discovered earlier this year in the basement wine cellar of the late entertainer Bing Crosby's California home. Crosby, a part owner of the Pirates at the time, said watching the game live would be too nerve-wracking, so he had a friend make a kinescope off of the television.

Interviews with broadcaster Bob Costas, Pittsburgh native and actor Michael Keaton, and former players (Mazeroski, and teammates Dick Groat and Bill Virdon, as well as Yankea Bobby Richardson, the Series MVP) will be interspersed throughout the game.

Considering the modern-day Pirates have endured a record 18 consecutive losing seasons, this is a rare opportunity for Pitsburgh fans--actually all baseball enthusiasts--to see a Fall Classic that indeed was just that.

Wayne M. Barrett is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of USA Today.
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Title Annotation:Sportscene
Author:Barrett, Wayne M.
Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2010
Words:879
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