The term Final Four is a magical phrase in sports.
It speaks of something important. It is not for the championship, but it is the penultimate battles that will determine who will play for the title.
The Final Four was once the creation of college basketball’s NCAA tournament.
It has spread to the other sports.
It has been said that the Final Four in college hoops, played on the Saturday before the championship on Monday night was really the best day of the sport.
That’s pretty accurate.
When the survivors of the four regionals gather for the right to see who will take the court for the Final game it carries an excitement and drama which is unmatched.
Now the conference finals in the NBA, the conference championship games in the NFL, and the League Championship Series in baseball have the aura of the Final Four in college basketball.
The first two games of both the ALCS and the NLCS have been played as of this writing, but remember, it is a best-of-seven series, so anything can still happen.
There are two major traditional marquee clubs involved, and two teams that came into being through the expansion route.
When you say the Boston Red Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers you are saying a mouthful.
Talk about tradition, the Red Sox have been a standard-bearer since 2004.
After not winning a World Series since 1918, the Red Sox captured American League pennants in 1967, 1975, and 1986, only to lose the World Series in deciding seventh games, often in depressing fashion.
But that all changed in 2004, when it seemed the Red Sox made up for all the empty seasons and hugely disappointing World Series results in resounding fashion.
First, they became the first team in history to rally from an 0-3 deficit to win a seven-game series of any kind, then they captured their first World Series title in 86 years in a four-game sweep
The historical rally for the AL pennant came at the hands of their hated rivals, the Yankees, and their sweep for the championship was against the Cardinals, one of MLB’s stalwarts throughout history.
The Red Sox have been virtual title threats since 2004 winning the World Series in 2007, and again in 2013.
Then, there are the Dodgers. And while the franchise hasn’t captured the World Series since 1888, nor have they won the NL pennant since that year, they have played in the Series 10 times since moving from Brooklyn to Los Angeles, including last season when they bowed to the Houston Astros 4 games to 3.
A World Series matchup between the Red Sox and Dodgers has a certain ring to it.
Besides representing major markets, which TV networks, (in this case Fox) pray for, it has a big-time feel that says “World Series”.
Unfortunately this is not how it works. You actually have to win to get to the Series, in other words, earn it.
That brings us to the teams, and fans, who come from smaller markets, and lesser reputations.
Those teams and fans could care less about the vaunted Red Sox and Dodgers.
Those are the fans from Houston and Milwaukee.
The Astros, of course, are the defending MLB world champions, but the average fan either minimizes Houston’s achievement, or simply dismisses it.
And how about Milwaukee. This franchise has played in only one World Series.
That was back in 1982, when the Brewers lost to the Cardinals.
What is fascinating about the Astros and the Brewers is that both teams switched leagues during their history. When the Brewers played in the ‘82 Series, they were in the American League.
The Astros, now in the American League, reached one World Series representing the National League in 2005.
I know, you’re ready to put this down and move onto something else, but please hang in there with me.
The point of all this, is that simply consider how much the fans in the cities of Houston and Milwaukee are so wrapped up in baseball’s Final Four in their dreams of playing in a World Series.
Also consider the fact, that the Brewers beat out the Chicago Cubs en route to getting where they are. Remember when the Cubs were considered shoo-ins to dominate baseball for years just a couple of seasons ago?
It hasn’t happened.
Maybe it will turn out to be Houston and Milwaukee for all the marbles.
And perhaps one of the two giants of the game, Boston or L.A. will advance as well.
But if it is the Red Sox and the Dodgers, two things to think about.
The last World Series between the two teams was in 1916.
You remember, I’m sure, when the Boston Red Sox beat the Brooklyn Robins 4 games to 1.
And it was in game 2, when a fellow named Babe Ruth pitched 13 shutout innings.
That was years before the Red Sox traded the Babe to the New York Yankees.
And the rest is history.
One last note, and the Dodgers win it all, they would have beaten Atlanta, Milwaukee and Boston, in that order.
How ironic, that the team known as the Braves, have played in three cities: Boston, Milwaukee, and Atlanta.
Thanks for hanging in.