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Yankees-Phillies: A Contrast in Histories

Repeat after me: the last team to repeat will now try to keep the only team with a chance to repeat from repeating.

Or something like that.

With apologies to those who had dreams of an All-California Series, or Torre's Revenge, this year's World Series is loaded with firepower, power pitching, and the all-important star power.

And yeah I could have formulated some sort of position-by-position statistical breakdown, but that just isn't my style, now is it?

Instead we will take a look at some World Series (and other) history involving this season's participants.  You're stunned; I can tell.

But first some trivia: There are 14 13 former A's players who would later leave Oakland and hit a home run for another team in the World Series.  Joe Blanton did it last year (and he's actually the only one to do it in the same season that he played for the A's).  Name the other 13 12.  Answer at the end of this post.  Don't peek.

Phillies Champs

Yeah, you want this, doncha, Yankees? 

If the New York Yankees have experienced an embarrassment of riches since their inception in 1901, the Philadelphia Phillies have mostly been an embarrassment.

For the Bronx Bombers, this is their 40th trip to the Big Dance.  The most mind-boggling thing about that is it might not be the most mind-boggling number you read here today.

Not counting the 1994 strike season, New York has finished in first place 45 times (16 division titles) and have also gained entry to the post-season as the wild-card on three occasions, as compared to 11, 9, and one for the Phillies.

The Yankees actually lost three of the first World Series' in which they played: 1921, 1922, and 1926.  In that last Fall Classic, they held a 3-2 lead, with the last two games to be played in their backyard. St. Louis won them both, as Babe Ruth was caught stealing second to end the Series.  In a one-run game.  With Bob Meusel at the plate and Lou Gehrig on-deck.

New York- and the Babe- more than made up for that gaffe the following season.  While Ruth became the first player to hit 60 home runs in a single season, the Yankees assembled what is widely regarded as the "Greatest Team in History" in 1927, finishing it off with a sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates.  The next year, they avenged their loss to St. Louis from two seasons before with another sweep.  New York won each of the four games by three runs or more; the only other team to do that during a Series sweep are the 1989 Oakland A's (shameless segue: Scrapbook Memories will resume after this year's champion has been decided).

All told, the Yankees followed up the disappointment of 1926 by appearing in 16 of the next 27 Fall Classics- and losing only one of them (1942).  That came after an eight-Series win streak and before another run of seven straight championship rounds without a loss.

Maybe we should just go to bullet points the rest of the way:

  • New York has appeared in a World Series in every decade since the 1920's, and has won at least one title in every decade during that time except the 1980's.
  • The Yankees have 8 Series sweeps; only the A's (9) and Cardinals (10) have that many Series titles.
  • New York has won two straight (1927-28, 1961-62, 1977-78), three straight (1998-2000), four straight (1936-39), and five straight (1949-53) World Series'.
  • Their longest pennant-less drought (since their first in 1921) is 14 seasons (1982-95), and their longest title-less drought (since their first one in 1923) is 17 seasons (1979-95).
  • By comparison, the Phillies played 97 seasons (1883-1979) before their first World Championship.

Ah yes, the Phillies.  They are playing in this thing, too, aren't they?  The defending champions won 93 games this season, the fourth-best mark in club history.  Did you know that the Yankees have had 48 seasons of 94 wins or more?

Like I said, history has hardly been kind to the city with so much history.  Back to the bullet points:

  • While New York can boast of 57 90-win seasons (and 19 100-win campaigns), the Phillies would rather I didn't bring up their 37 seasons of 90 losses or more (or the 14 occasions they lost at least 100 games).
  • While the Yankees have just five last-place finishes in their existence (and only two since 1912), Philadelphia has brought up the rear a whopping 30 times.
  • And the only time these two teams have met in a World Series, New York- shocker!- won in a sweep (but the games were close: 1-0, 2-3, 3-2, 5-2).

All of this means what exactly?  Well not much, other than I know more about the Yankees than I care to admit.

In fact, I am aware that New York is "only" 6-6 in its last dozen trips to the Series, and have lost the last two they've played (2001, 2003). That has happened only two other times: 1921-22, 1963-64-1976.

I also know that no team has ever started and finished a decade with a World Championship, though the Yankees have done one or the other five times, including this decade.

And I am keen to the fact that we live in a "What have you done for me lately?" society, and what the Phillies have done lately is create a little history of their own.  The good kind, that is.  They have won three consecutive division titles for only the second time (the other: 1976-78), they have won more games than any other National League team over that span, and currently have something the Yankees do not, but want dearly all the same.  And with four more wins, they will supplant the 1975-76 Reds as the last Senior Circuit club to claim consecutive championships.

What I don't know is how history will remember the 2009 World Series, but here's hoping it will be Phondly.

Trivia answer: Reggie Jackson (1977-78, ‘81), Don Baylor (1987), Mike Davis (1988), Bill Bathe (1989), Ed Sprague (1992), Luis Polonia (1995), Scott Brosius (1998, 2000-01), Scott Spiezio (2002), Jason Giambi (2003), Mark Bellhorn (2004), Johnny Damon (2004), Jermaine Dye (2005), Bobby Kielty (2007), and the aforementioned Joe Blanton (2008).