by Kevin Burton
The World Series seemed exotic when I was young.
It was the only time that American League teams could play National League teams in games that mattered.
In those days the Reds were the home team. The Royals were like a breath of fresh air. They were the team I watched at my mother’s place. My two worlds, my two teams.
By the time the Royals were seasoned enough to get past the Yankees and into the series, the 70s had ended and the Big Red Machine had gotten old. There would be no series showdown. So I have constructed one in my old age, in my basement.
The setting for game one is Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati. The special blue, red and white bunting is in place as it always is for the post-season.
Epic recording artist Johnny Nash sings the national anthem. Howard Hesseman, the actor who played Johnny Fever on WKRP in Cincinnati, throws out the ceremonial first pitch. Riverfront is rocking!
Both starting pitchers are sharp. In fact, Reds starter Tom Seaver has a perfect game through five innings.
Joe Morgan gets the first hit for the Reds with two out in the first. He does not attempt to steal with slugger George Foster at the plate. After DH Danny Driessen singles with two outs in the second, he does steal in front of singles hitter Dave Concepcion. Both runners are stranded.
There would be no more hits until a solo home run by Foster in the fourth off Royals starter Dennis Leonard. Dave Concepcion reaches on a two-base error by centerfielder Willie Wilson in the fifth, but Leonard pitches through it.
Right fielder Pete LaCock breaks up Seaver’s no hitter with a single in the sixth. He takes second on a sacrifice bunt by Frank White and goes to third on a groundout to first by pinch hitter Lou Piniella.
Now it takes a two-out hit and Wilson delivers, atoning for his error, tying the score at one.
We now arrive at one of the games within the game. All-time great base stealer Wilson on first, Johnny Bench, the best at gunning down baserunners, behind the plate.
Round one goes to Wilson as he steals second. He scores on a ringing double by Amos Otis, giving KC a 2-1 lead.
The Reds strand one runner in the sixth. The Royals leave two on base in the top of the seventh as Frank White strikes out to end a threat (maybe should have pinch hit Al Cowens).
UL Washington entered the game at shortstop in the sixth after Piniella pinch-hit for Freddie Patek. In the eighth it was Washington of all people, who singled and chased Seaver from the game.
Rawly Eastwick came in for Cincinnati to get two batters. He got the switch hitting Wilson to hit into a force play. He gets Otis on a pop up. Here Wilson steals second.
Left hander Will McEnaney came in to face George Brett and got him to line out.
In the Cincinnati eighth, Leonard stayed in to face one last batter, Cesar Geronimo. The thinking, better a tiring Leonard vs Geronimo than reliever Steve Mingori against probable pinch hitter Ray Knight.
But Geronimo doubled, chasing Leonard and starting the second guessing. Switch hitter Pete Rose greeted Mingori with a double, scoring Geronimo and tying the score. Mingori retired Ken Griffey and Morgan before right-handed closer Ted Abernathy came in to get Foster.
In the ninth, McEnaney gave up a single to Darrell Porter, but no further damage.
Tony Perez led off the Cincinnati ninth. Cue Reds play-by-play man Marty Brennaman.
“And the 0-1, here’s a drive, deep center field…” (color commentator Joe Nuxhall in the background “get outa here..get OUTA here…” Wilson back..and THIS one belongs to the Reds!….”
Final score Cincinnati 3, Kansas City 2. Winning pitcher McEnaney, loser Ted Abernathy.
A post on Facebook quotes Bench as saying Perez was the best clutch hitter he ever saw. Well, basement art imitated life as Perez delivered in game one.
Game two will run on Page 7 Wednesday. Right handers Gary Nolan (Reds) and Steve Busby (Royals) are the starting pitchers.