By: RJ Watters, Spider Baseball graduate student
There’s something about October that is different than any other month. The leaves begin to change color and fall at our feet, the aurora of autumn is all around us, Halloween is around the corner, and there is the culmination of all four major professional sports being played at the same time (National Football League, National Basketball Association, National Hockey League, Major League Baseball). With so many good things going on in one month, it’s hard not to argue that October is one of the best months of the year. But what separates October from any other month (with the exception of a few days in November) and makes it the best month of the year boils down to one thing: playoff baseball.
When I was growing up, I lived for October. I always loved football and was very much caught up in football season, but there were always those select few weeks in October when all I could think about was baseball. I would sit in my family room with my two younger brothers and my parents and instantly become mesmerized by what I was watching. In October, anything can happen. Not only was it an opportunity for me to see some of the greatest baseball players of my generation compete for immortality, but an opportunity for seemingly no-name players to become folklore heroes. One swing of the bat, one diving catch in the field, or one final strikeout can change the outlook of someone’s career forever. People don’t remember Derek Jeter’s batting averages throughout his career or what his on-base percentage was, but they do remember “The Flip” he made in Game Three of the 2001 American League Division Series to get Jeremy Giambi out at home plate and save the Yankees postseason that year. People don’t remember what Curt Schillings earned run average was throughout his career or how many wins he amassed, but they do remember his pitching on a cold night in New York with a torn tendon sheath in his right ankle, bleeding profusely into his sock, and throwing seven phenomenal shutout innings to help lead the Red Sox to a huge Game Six victory in the American League Championship Series in 2004.
It’s these pressure-packed, career-defining moments that make October baseball so special. Every regular season game is important, but baseball in October has completely different significance. Every game, every at bat, and every pitch seems like a life-or-death scenario. All the hard work that players and coaches put in for an entire year all comes down to one game, one at bat, or one pitch. A couple inches here and a couple inches there can be the difference between a team basking in sorrow or a team dog-piling each other on the mound celebrating a championship that will always be remembered. As sad as it is to say, no one remembers second place. We only remember the winners and the greatness that got them there.
While I am no longer a kid, I still view October baseball with the same kind of enthusiasm and awe. As I reflect and look back at some of the postseason baseball I’ve been able to watch, I’ve seen some of the greatest postseason moments baseball has ever had. I was able to see the greatness of Derek Jeter and the Yankees during their incredible run in the early 2000s. I got to witness the most improbable comeback of all time when the Boston Red Sox came back to beat the Yankees after being down three games to none in the American League Championship Series in 2004. I got to watch David Freese become an instant postseason legend in 2011 when he hit a game-tying two run triple with two outs in the ninth and then a walk-off home run in the bottom of the eleventh for the St. Louis Cardinals in an elimination Game Six of the World Series. These are just a select few of the unbelievable moments I have been able to experience, and this makes this present October that much more special.
This year, there are so many story lines that hang in the balance. Will Clayton Kershaw, one of the best pitchers of this generation, finally win that elusive World Series? He has already won three games this postseason in which he has started the game and saved another. Could this be his career-defining October? We all may have the opportunity to see the Chicago Cubs finally win a World Series for the first time in 108 years. We may finally get to see the Cleveland Indians win a World Series for the first time since 1948 when they beat the Boston Braves. Yes, it has been so long since the Indians have won a World Series that the professional baseball team they played against in Boston was not the Red Sox. With that being said, there is so much history waiting to be made this October. So many heart-pounding moments that make you feel like you’re going into cardiac arrest, so many breath-taking plays to witness, so much greatness to appreciate.
I understand the importance of having a 12-month calendar year encompassed with 365 days, but if every day could be a late day in October, I would be as Lou Gehrig once famously stated, “the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”