As we look to the heroes of October, past and present.
After only three playoff rounds, we finally get to the big payoff: the World Series! Still my favorite week of the sporting year, as the last leaves fall to the ground and we prepare to go into baseball hibernation until April.
Venezuelans have done alright for themselves in the Fall Classic. Luis Aparicio played in one each for the White Sox and Orioles, winning the crown with the O’s in 1966 (take that, Koufax) and batting .286 overall. His heir at shortstop, David Ismael Concepcion played in four World Series for the Reds and had an overall playoff average of .429–so much for the weak-hitting infielder theory.
The Lion of Caracas, Omar Vizquel, who may soon join Aparicio in Cooperstown as only the second Venezuelan, played in two World Series with the Indians; the Tribe lost both. So crushed was Omar by the second loss that in his autobiography (it was called, surprisingly, Omar!) he called out losing pitcher Jose Mesa, igniting a beanball-filled feud that went on for years. Omar batted .409 in the post-season for his career and made an amazing defensive stop in Game 6 of the 1997 series, saving two runs, and the game, for Cleveland. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jUYFSwhHY2s
Yankee fans will never forget Luis Sojo’s World Series’ winning single in Game 5 of the 2000 Subway Series. LS played in four World Series in 13 seasons, and was on the winning side 3 times. Not bad.
Ugueth Urtaín Urbina is the only man in MLB history with the initials UUU; he also had 4 saves in his only post-season, 2003, helping the Florida Marlins beat the Yanquis de Nueva York. Ugueth’s had a spot of trouble since; his mom was kidnapped in 2004 (subsequently freed), and in 2005 Triple-U was sent to jail for attempted murder (he attacked some workers at his farm in VZ with a machete and poured gasoline on them; apparently they stole his gun). He’s now a free man after serving 5 years in prison.
2003 was a momentous World Series for Venezuelans: 20-year-old Miguel Cabrera dusted himself off after a Roger Clemens brushback in Game 4 and clocked a classic home run; and after Urbina blew a lead in the 9th, Aragua-born shortstop Alex Gonzalez hit a walk-off homer in the bottom of the 12th inning. Greeting him as he headed for home was none other than third base coach Ozzie Guillen.
Of course, Ozzie led the White Sox to the promised land in 2005, the first Venezuelan manager to win the championship.
In 2012, San Felipe native Marco Scutaro was the NLCS MVP and had the World Series’ winning hit for the Giants, but he wasn’t the star of the show: the Carabobo Kung-fu Panda, Pablo Sandoval, batted. 500 against the Detroit Cabreras and was the World Series MVP. He turns it on in the post season and already made some spectacular fielding plays in 2014.
Cabrera has witnessed the fickle hand of fate since his rookie WS–many post-season appearances, but no returning of the crown.
This year we have other promising VZ players to keep an eye on: Yusmiero Petit won the longest playoff game in history, Game 2 of the LCS, with 6 shutout innings. He also came into Game 4 of the LCS against St. Louis and reeled off 3 shutout frames.
Livin’ large righty Jean Machi (mah-chee) of the Giants was thrown out of one game (dare we say a bit of Machi-smo?), and gave up a hit on one pitch in another in the LCS–probably not Bruce Bochy’s first choice out of the SF pen.
In the other dugout, Salvador Perez won a 12-inning Wild Card game himself with a lined single. Alcides Escobar and Omar Infante anchor the rock-solid Kansas City defense.
This should be a fantastic series between two hot teams who play great baseball. And there will be a few Venezuelans on the field–not the case had St. Louis and Baltimore won.