The 108th World Series convenes on Wednesday, with Detroit ready to open at either St. Louis or San Francisco. The greatest show begins again.
Its beauty lies in its mystery going in: an unwrapped present, a curtain being raised, a sight to behold. Maybe there will even be a moment for the ages.
Who could have known just last year that David Freese and the Cardinals would produce a top-five Fall Classic moment of all time? Yes, it was -- according to the experts who selected the EMC "Top 12 Greatest World Series Moments" on MLB.com.
The full list, which is set to be rolled out leading up to Game 4 of the World Series, includes walk-off homers like Kirk Gibson's 1988 Miracle Homer in Game 1 for the Dodgers and Joe Carter's 1993 Series-winning homer in Toronto, as well as Jack Morris' clinching shutout in 1991 Game 7.
Then there were the plays seared in the memories of those around to see them, like Willie Mays' catch for the Giants to rob Vic Wertz in deep center and prevent key runs in the pivotal 1954 opener. And on the opposite end of the defensive spectrum, look no further than Mookie Wilson's dribbler through Bill Buckner's legs when the Mets beat Boston in 1986 Game 6.
The dozen dandies were selected by a panel that included MLB official historian John Thorn and MLB.com columnists Mike Bauman, Hal Bodley, Peter Gammons, Richard Justice, Terence Moore and Tracy Ringolsby. You can watch videos here to relive them all, setting the stage for Wednesday.
"The World Series is the climax of the season," Thorn said. "Twenty-eight teams are sitting there wishing they could be on the field, and in the end only one is left. It's a tribute to excellence, a tribute to perseverance. All the character traits we like to imagine we possessed in abundance in our lives are on display.
"It doesn't matter if these people were making millions of dollars -- if they were out there playing for nothing, they would be trying as hard. At this level of competition, the financial reward is set aside. When you see the stats come up on TV for a batter, they don't list his salary. They may give his season statistics. But this is the crucible. Careers are made, reputations are made, and sometimes they are lost -- depending on how you do in this seven-act play."
The EMC "Top 12 Greatest World Series Moments" list is a showcase of careers made indeed.
Bill Mazeroski was inducted into the Hall of Fame with one of its most emotional (and shortest) speeches in 2001, and perhaps he would have gotten in without his homer off Ralph Terry of the Yankees in Game 7. But there is no question it helped pave the way for the defensive stalwart.
"I was just a small part of that 1960 team," Mazeroski said two years ago, when the Pirates unveiled a statue outside PNC Park showing him in his famed home run trot, cap removed. "I probably get too much credit for us winning. We would have won that game whether I hit that home run or not."
It also is a testament, perhaps, to our fascination with the walk-off hit. "Maz" was just the first of many. The term "walk-off" was coined by Dennis Eckersley, the Hall of Famer who surrounded Gibson's clout. Six of the top seven moments on the list were walk-offs.
The broadcast calls are another defining part of the lore on this list, and sometimes they connected historic moments with each other. Consider Jack Buck's call after Kirby Puckett's walk-off homer for Minnesota in 1991's Game 6: "And we'll see ya tomorrow night!" Then on the 20th anniversary, we heard Jack's son Joe say almost the same thing in tribute ("We will see you tomorrow night!") after Freese completed a Redbird comeback against Texas, down twice to their last strike.
"People were crying," Freese said. "People were laughing. People were hugging. People were screaming. It had every emotion possible."
Get ready for more. The World Series is about to return, and with it the possibility of another moment for the ages.