“Stay In The Fight!” —  The 2019 World Series Champion Washington Nationals Deliver An Upset for the Ages

washington-nationals-fight-finished_500

The Washington Nationals have the distinction of being one of the most unlikely underdogs to win a championship, ever. There’s a long list of least likely, storybook, fairytale teams that no one picked to win it all. And yet they did. This is why we love sports. And this is why sports and the gospel are such good friends.

Winning it all after you’ve been down and downcast and downtrodden and looked down upon is not easy to do. But just like the Nationals did, with help from up above and hope in the one above, we all can rise from the ashes of defeat and despair and end our stories in triumph. The Washington Nationals did it, and in so doing they gave all the rest of us a double dose of hope and heart. The Nationals improbable win gave all the rest of us hope to believe that an upstart with heart can indeed kick start their fortunes and come back from way back to defy the odds.

Here’s a partial list from the long list of Cinderella champions:

In baseball, these Nats are right up there with the ‘69 Mets and the 2006 Cardinals’ and the 1985 Royals. In other sports, who can forget Joe Naimath and the ‘69 Jets or Eli Manning and the 2007 New York Giants who beat the undefeated Patriots in the Super Bowl? Turning to college basketball, we will never forget Jimmy Valvano and the ‘82 North Carolina State Wolfpack or Rally Massimino and the ‘85 Villanova Wildcats. Yes, these Nats have joined an elite club of Cinderellas, including the 1980 US Hockey Team who beat the Russian National Team to win Olympic gold. These indeed were upsets for the ages.

The Washington Nationals 2019 playoff run “was an amazing turnaround to watch. The Nats were able to win the National League Wild Card game in dramatic fashion coming back to beat Milwaukee, 4-3.

Then it was onto the powerhouse, the L.A. Dogers. The Nats going toe to toe with one of the best teams in the league. Howie Kendrick delivering a 10th inning grand slam in Game 5, giving the Nats their first-ever series win in the postseason.

“Stay in the fight” was the motto all season long for the Washington Nationals. Never quitting, never giving up.

And they played like it too, just absolutely dominating the St. Louis Cardinals, breaking out the brooms and sweeping away the Cardinals in just four games.” https://wjla.com/sports/washington-nationals/world-series-how-did-this-happen

Finally, there was the World Series itself! All four wins by the winning team came on the road. Top that!

How did it happen? Faith, hope, a great slogan and a wonky theme song. That’s right. The Nationals adopted the silliest theme song they could find and it worked. It all started when “outfielder Gerardo Parra started using the tune as a walk-up song while mired in a slump earlier in the year, as a nod to his two-year-old daughter.

‘Baby Shark’ took over Nationals Park in 2019 and the team embraced the undeniably-catchy children’s song as a part of its celebrations throughout the season.

Players and fans alike immediately embraced the silliness. “When Nationals players get a base hit, their on-field celebrations mirror the song. A single gets a finger pinch for Baby Shark, a double calls for hand-clapping like a Mommy Shark and a triple gets the full chomp for Daddy Shark.

It’s blown up pretty big. Everyone seems to be doing it,” Nationals pitcher Patrick Corbin said before Game 3. “People are wearing shark outfits. It’s like Halloween out there. It’s great.” https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/mlb/playoffs/2019/10/25/nationals-baby-shark-song-world-series/2458499001/

So cheer up my brother. Live in the sunshine my sister. You too can comeback from way back. Get yourself a theme song and stay in the fight.

Stephen Strasburg: Give Your Team Another Chance At Victory

strasburg-game-6-ws

I TOLD you! I told you the Washington Nationals would win! And wow, what a way to win.

The Washington Nationals won the World Series because Stephen Strasburg, the Series MVP, gave his team another chance at victory.

In April, no one, and I mean no one picked them to go this far, much less win the title the way they did. Going into the playoffs, nobody gave them any respect. And against the astronomical pitching staff of the Houston Astros, there was no way that these plucky, happy go lucky, baseball diamond darlings could pull out and pull off an upset victory. And yet they did it. They actually did it! They made it all the way to a come from behind win in Game 7 of the Fall Classic. And now here they stand as the champions of the world.

It took chemistry and comrade and faith and fight, and conviction and compulsion. Yes it took all that, and some. This Nationals team is the underdog of underdogs, the Cinderella of Cinderella’s and the David of David’s. They upset the favorites; they came back from way back and they turned their 19-31 season all the way around. And they turned a 3-2 World Series deficit around. AND they won all four games ON THE ROAD.

It was almost like a dream that has never come true. Because it’s never been done before — ever. This is the stuff that legends are made of.

The Nats improbable playoff journey was a beauty to behold. This team won the wild card game by coming from behind, then they beat the Dodgers, the best team in the National League, by coming from behind, and then, they beat the best team in baseball, the Houston Astros, by . . . wait for it . . . coming from behind and winning the last two games of the World Series on the road. What they’ve done deserves all of the credit in the world.

Most importantly, Stephen Strasburg went 5-0 with a ridiculous ERA of 1.98 in the post season. And if that wasn’t enough, in Game 6, Stras gave it all he had and turned in the performance of a lifetime. He pitched the game of his life in hostile Houston when his team needed him most. Down three games to two, Strasburg stood in and stood tall and kept the Astros from winning and gave the Nats another chance at victory. And that’s what we all need: we all need another chance at victory.

Here’s what Sam Fortier of the Washington Post had to say about the World Series MVP:

“They might not have been here without him. Strasburg shoved all postseason, shedding the fragile label he once bore and showcasing a reinvented approach that reflected his passage into becoming a veteran. He carried this team through three elimination games and delivered one of the best elimination-game starts in recent World Series history. In Game 6, he was the first pitcher to allow two or fewer runs while going 8⅓ innings since Curt Schilling in 1993.” An incredible performance from someone with high hopes hanging all over his career, and he delivered in the clutch.

So congratulations to Stephen Strasburg and the Washington Nationals, the 2019 World Series Champions.

18 Innings?  Dodgers Win Instant Classic In A World Series Seminar On Perseverance

max-muncy-dodgers-red sox ws 2018
Max Muncy Celebrates His 18th Inning Walk Off Homer in Game 3 of the 2018 World Series

Some wins don’t come easy. And some loses come after you’ve given it all you’ve got. So is the story of Game 3 of the 2018 World Series played at storied Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles between the Boston Red Sox and the LA Dodgers. It has become an instant classic for its longevity and its lesson on durability.

Late into the Pacific time zone night and early into the East Coast morning, neither team was willing to yield an inch in this pivotal, potentially Series deciding game between these two baseball superpowers. It was a vintage Ali-Frazier, 15 Round heavyweight fight which left both boxers bloody and bludgeoned. After 18 innings of jitters and nerves, the Dodgers emerged, or rather survived, this bought with the hope and confidence that they can yet pull another rabbit of their hat and actually win this Series. Lose the game and they would be down 0-3; win and they cut the deficit to 2-1; it’s a difference and differential that’s as wide and wanton as you can get. No team has ever come back from a 0-3 deficit in the World Series.

This game had enough ups and downs and gripping drama and nail-bighting tension to fill half a season, all wrapped up in a 7 hour and 20 minute baseball battle. Ironically enough, I wrote about the last longest game in postseason history too. That one was “only” six and one half hours long. See https://godandsports.net/2014/10/05/unforgettable-wins-and-unspeakable-loses/

We all like quick and easy. We all like instant and immediate. We all like it and want it now, and when we’re in a hurry, “right now.” But life is not always so obliging. Life does not always cooperate with our desires and demands. The hard but necessary lesson is this: Heaven uses the vicissitudes of life to teach us that what we want does not always come when we want it. Sometimes we are required to wait it out and tough it out. Sometimes we have to persist and preserve through an 18 inning type of trial and suck it up and stick it out until victory is won.

It’s a part of our spiritual training and is a page out of God’s playbook. To endure and to stand and to stomach and hold on and hold out will teach us how much God loves us and how much He has already endured for us, especially on the Cross. Ours is to trust that He still knows what’s best for us.

I don’t know where you are, but that’s where I’m at, because “life can be queer with its twists and turns, as everyone of us sometimes learns . . . but just don’t quit.”

Here’s how ESPN Staff Writer Bradford Doolittle put it:

“With a Cody Bellinger throw and a Max Muncy blow, the Los Angeles Dodgers have crawled back into the World Series. It only took the longest game in the history of the Fall Classic to do it.

Muncy’s dramatic opposite-field home run in the 18th inning off Boston’s Nathan Eovaldi lifted the Dodgers to a will-testing 3-2 win in Game 3 of the World Series, which started late Friday afternoon but ended early Saturday morning, cutting the Red Sox’s lead in the World Series to 2-1.

It was L.A.’s first walk-off Series win since Kirk Gibson’s Game 1 homer off Dennis Eckersley in 1988, which sparked the Dodgers to their last title. Muncy became the first player to hit a game-ending homer in a World Series game since former Cardinal and current Dodger David Freese in 2011. Not bad for a player who was released by the Oakland A’s before last season.

“It’s been a dream,” Muncy said. “This whole year has been a surreal experience that it’s hard to put into words. Just getting a chance to play in the World Series has kind of capped it off. Getting a chance to hit a walk-off home run, obviously there’s not many words I can use to describe that. The feeling was just pure joy and incredible excitement.”

It also was an act of mercy for everyone on hand at Dodger Stadium and watching on TV. The homer ended a game that lasted 7 hours, 20 minutes and ended at 3:30 a.m. Boston time. The time of game would have been long for a doubleheader. It also was the longest World Series contest by innings.” http://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/25094012/mlb-max-muncy-gives-los-angeles-dodgers-epic-world-series-win

Who’s Rooting For the Red Sox?

Red-Sox-Logo1

The Boston Red Sox won 108 games this year, the most in franchise history and just the fourth time a Red Sox team won 100 or more games in their 117-year history.  The New York Yankees won 100 games. They are playing each other in the playoffs, specifically the American League Divisional Series, for what seems like the umpteenth time.  And so for the first time in history, both the Red Sox and Yankees have 100 wins in the same season, but it is Boston who came out on top in the American League East. Seemingly never slowing down, the Red Sox never lost more than three games in a row, and only did that twice in the course of a long season. With two MVP candidates in outfielders Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez and a strong starting rotation, the Red Sox are set up to make a long playoff run.

Boston’s bitter rival didn’t have too shabby a year either and they too expect to go deep into the playoffs.  Looking at history, when the Yankees had the most wins in a season, they won the World Series. The 1998 Yankees won 114 games in the regular season and then steamrolled to an 11-2 playoff record, including a World Series sweep of the San Diego Padres. With a 125-50 overall record, the best ever, it’s hard to ignore this team when you talk about the all-time greats. That 1998 Yankees teem had the all-star bats of Scott Brosius, Paul O’Neill, Bernie Williams and a young Derek Jeter as well as the arms of Andy Pettitte, Orlando Hernandez, David Cone and David Wells, which enabled the Bronx Bombers to finish the year 22 games ahead of the Red Sox to win the AL East. Jeter led the league in runs and hits while Williams won the batting title. Cone compiled his fist 20-win season in a decade, and Wells pitched a perfect game.

Since 1969, only 12 teams have recorded baseball’s best record and gone on to win the World Series that season. So, once again, we learn that it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. 

When the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, the year of the miracle in October, they finished with a 98–64 record, three games behind the Yankees in the American League East. But they came back from 0 – 3 to defeat their arch rival in a dramatic seven game American League Championship Series, and went on to sweep St. Louis to win their first World Series since trading Babe Ruth.  

Yes it’s time for baseball in October, and so anything is possible. 

Aretha Franklin: The Queen of Soul Won Our R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

ALT TAG

Aretha Franklin won our respect. Not only did she win it, but she earned it, and she deserved it. She sang gospel and jazz and just about everything else in between. Her singing brought her to sports as she sang the national anthem at Super Bowl XL, the 1993 World Series, the 2004 NBA Finals, the 2011 ALCS in Detroit and an unforgettable rendition at the traditional 2016 Thanksgiving Day NFL Game in Detroit.

Aretha’s “been called a musical genius who seemed lost whenever she was not in front of a microphone or piano.

Not content with becoming the Queen of Soul in the late ’60s, Aretha Franklin became the greatest popular singer in American history, an artist whose electrifying voice combined the purest elements of gospel, jazz and blues, leaving fans breathless and critics tripping over their words trying to describe it.”

Unfortunately, in sports and in life, with fame invariably comes some shame. Aretha became pregnant at the tender young age of 12 and “gave birth to her first child, named Clarence after her father, on January 28, 1955. According to the news site inquisitor, the father of the child was Donald Burk, a boy she knew from school.” On January 22, 1957, then aged 14, Franklin had a second child, named Edward after his father Edward Jordan. Franklin did not like to discuss her early pregnancies with interviewers.

Franklin dealt with weight issues for years. In 1974, she dropped 40 pounds (18 kg) during a crash diet and maintained her new weight until the end of the decade. She again lost weight in the early 1990s, before gaining some back. And she was a former chain smoker who struggled with alcoholism.” And then of course she battled pancreatic cancer, that demon that destroyed her body, but could not touch her indomnimble soul.

Yet through it all, she sang. Aretha sang with her heart and with her soul. She sang till you felt the words and the meaning of those words way down on the inside. She didn’t just scratch the surface; she cut to the core and hit home. We rocked and rolled with her as she sang because her vocals touched us just like the rubber meets the road. This is why we loved her so.

This is why Aretha won and earned our respect. Just like she sang, Aretha earned our respect. Just like she sang,

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Find out what it means to me

“Franklin received numerous honors throughout her career, including a 1987 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, becoming the first female performer to be inducted, National Medal of Arts and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She was inducted to the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005. In 2012, she was inducted into the GMA Gospel Music Hall of Fame. In Rolling Stone Franklin is listed in at least two all-time lists by Rolling Stone magazine, including the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time, and the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time. She was ranked by Rolling Stone as the No. 1 greatest singer of all time.”

Rest in peace, Aretha. We will miss you.

http://www.espn.com/video/clip?id=24395972

God Loves Sports! Another World Series Game 7

 Joc Pederson

Whoever said that God doesn’t like sports hasn’t been watching the 2017 World Series. There’ve been enough plot twists and script flips and stories of redemption to fill up every stadium from Boston to Baltimore and from Seattle to San Diego, and every Midwestern city in between. There have been walk offs and pitching duels, batting slumps and more home runs that ever before. Ever.  

This will be the third World Series Game 7 in four years. The home team had won nine straight since 1979 before San Francisco triumphed at Kansas City in 2014 and the Chicago Cubs captured their first title since 1908 at Cleveland last year.

There is something mystical and even mysterious about Game a 7. When a seven game series boils down to a one game, no holds barred, winner take all contest, it seems as if anything is possible. Anything.  And that’s why we love sports, and that’s why we believe God loves sports too.

A Game 7 is special because the number seven is special.” Did you know that there are 7 layers of skin (2 outer and 5 inner), that ocean waves roll in sevens, the rainbow has 7 colors, sound has 7 notes, there are 7 directions, and that the Jewish Menorah has 7 candles? There are 7 holes in your head (go ahead and count them), the earth was created in 7 days (including a day of rest), a cube has 7 dimensions (including the inside), the male body has 7 parts, and the number 7 is used 735 times in the Bible.” Wow.

“Seven is the number of completeness and perfection (both physical and spiritual). It derives much of its meaning from being tied directly to God’s creation of all things. According to Jewish tradition, the creation of Adam occurred on October 7th, 3761 B.C. (or the first day of Tishri, which is the seventh month on the Hebrew calendar).  The word ‘created’ is used 7 times describing God’s creative work (Genesis 1:1, 21, 27 three times; 2:3; 2:4).

There are 7 days in a week and the Sabbath is on the 7th day. There are 7 deadly sins, 7 virtues, 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit, 7 classical planets, 7 numbers in a N/A phone number (after the area code), 7 hills in Istanbul, Rome and Jerusalem, 7 liberal arts, and 7 wonders of the ancient world.  AND, 7 is the number of games in the playoffs for NHL, NBA and MLB  The number 7 is also important in Hinduism, Islam and Judaism.”  http://www.kitco.com/commentaries/2015-08-13/-7-What-s-so-special-about-the-number-7.html

And this brings us to this year’s World Series comeback hero and new Mr. Joctober, Joc Pederson. Pederson, still only 25, is hitting .357, has hit three home runs and has five RBIs in the 2017 World Series.

“Two years after nearly winning the Home Run Derby, LA Dodgers Joc Pederson spent the end of this summer in purgatory, triple-A Oklahoma City, where hit .143. The once-firm premise that he could contribute to the Dodgers’ championship aspirations became preposterous. The team elected to carry struggling reliever Pedro Baez instead of him during the National League division series.

But that was then and this is now. Now The last Dodger to hit three home runs in one World Series was Davey Lopes, in 1978. The last Dodger to hit more was Duke Snider, in 1955. In World Series history, only three players have ever managed five or more extra-base hits and no singles in one series. Pederson is one, as is his teammate, Chase Utley.” http://www.latimes.com/sports/mlb/la-sp-dodgers-joc-pederson-20171031-story.html

After the come from behind Game 6 win which forced a Game 7, Pederson sat in the interview room with his older brother, Champ, who has Down Syndrome. “I have a feeling that everything is possible,” Champ said. “I’m not going to say they have it, but I’m just going to say they will find a way.”

 

This is why we love sports and Game 7s.

Why Aren’t You Watching The World Series?

 

 LA

I’ll tell you why I’m watching, or why I’m half watching. I love LA, and almost all things LA. My son and future daughter-in-law live there (they’re such a darling couple!) and I’ve been out to the left coast several times, so it’s feels like a second home. But I’ve never been to Houston. And, while I’m sorry about the ravages of Hurricane Harvey, I’m not hot to trot to head to Houston anytime soon. But surely I digress; back to the World Series.

I’ll give you one good reason to watch the 113th World Series: Yasiel Puig. Period. 

Puig is a Cuban-born right fielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He’s fun to watch, has  comeback story that stirs the emotions, and he has a nickname like none other: it’s  “The Wild Horse”, given to him by legendary Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully. And the Dodgers have one of the best pitchers in baseball in Clayton Kershaw.  And, well, they’re the Dodgers.

So if you don’t watch the game for game itself, then watch for the gamesmanship. They keep stats for everything now. Pitch speed, bat speed, wind speed and the speed of just about anything else that’s moving. Analytics has taken over baseball to the point where everything, and I mean nearly everything, is governed by the numbers.

So here’s a number for ya; the Dodgers won 104 games had the best record in baseball this year and Houston had the third best. And the series is tied 2-2.  So this one has turned into a fairly entertaining World Series.

And then there’s the whole racial incident thing. After hitting a home run in the second inning of Game 3 off Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Yu Darvish, Yuli Gurriel returned to the Astros dugout, where he used his fingers to motion at his own eyes in a mocking gesture and appeared to mouth a derogatory term in Spanish. Ouch.

And Major League Baseball is not going to suspend Gurriel until the start of the 2018 season? Really? That’s Absolutely Unacceptable.  If there’s a reason NOT to watch, that was it. Seems like another player got away with being derogatory to a minority. I’m just sayin’.

 Go Dodgers!