Orioles fans, who remember 1989, understand the wild implausibility of a team going from last place one season to first the next. Those Orioles came, perhaps, within one bounced curve ball of that worst-to-first feat. This year, it was finally accomplished for the first time, not just by one team, but by two, the Atlanta Braves and the Minnesota Twins.
It seemed that postseason play could not provide as compelling a story as the regular season wins by the Braves and Twins in their respective divisions. But it did. When the Twins also won their league playoff, it seemed the drama couldn't get any better. But it did. The Braves won their playoff in seven tense games, and it seemed there couldn't be a tighter series. But there was. The Braves and Twins went to a seventh World Series game, and it didn't seem like the last game could sustain the suspense of the first six. It not only sustained the suspense; it was heightened.
What made the series so gripping, besides the evenness of the competition, was the continual parade of unexpected heroes. There have been World Series in the past dominated by a single gigantic figure -- Roberto Clemente or Brooks Robinson. And there have been Series in which a single ordinary player, such as Billy Hatcher last year, rose to extraordinary heights. In this World Series, heroic hits came from Scott Leius, Mark Lemke, Jerry Willard, Greg Gagne and Gene Larkin, an all-star team of non-stars.