Fall has finally arrived here in Greensboro, but for the opening game of the World Series, temperatures were in the mid ’90s when the first pitch was thrown in Dodger Stadium, in Los Angeles. The 113th World Series is now underway, yet for many here in the Triad, it doesn’t have the same meaning as it did years ago. In recent years, even World Series games have struggled to draw in television ratings to match other major sports, especially the NFL.
It is always easy to check the pulse of the American public when it comes to how important a sporting event is to us. We have the aforementioned television ratings. While the city of Houston, along with all Astro fans, was thrilled after their team eliminated the Yankees in Game 7 of the ALCS, the rest of the country probably doesn’t share that sentiment. The Yankees have the largest fan base in all of baseball, and the television networks were salivating at the thought of a New York vs. Los Angeles World Series. Yet, here we are with what really are the two best teams in the Major League, playing for the title. It has the makings of a great series, but does baseball still have the pull to get viewers to sit down and watch?
Greensboro and the surrounding Triad is primarily known for being a basketball area. Due to the matchup in this seasons Fall Classic, many students are not paying as much attention. Recent UNCG graduate Mike Huffstickler was discussing the upcoming series with his friend Donte Hoskins, and teams that didn’t make the World Series were still the focus of the conversation.
“Because my team isn’t in it, I don’t care anymore. I’m a Yankees fan” said Donte Hoskins, a Junior at N.C. A&T. Huffstickler had a similar response concerning his favorite team,”I’m not watching because Boston is out, but thank the heavens the Yankees didn’t make it” said Huffstickler.
Last season, the ratings for the Fall Classics were the highest in two decades. The Chicago Cubs, arguably the most recognizable team in the sport after the Yankees, were playing for their first World Series victory in nearly a century. And the Cleveland Indians were coming off the high that was the Cleveland Cavaliers’ coming back NBA Finals victory four months prior. The fact that the series went to seven games, and the seventh game is considered a modern, all-time classic, was just an added bonus.
Those who did tune in have witnessed some really good baseball. The pitching matchup in the opening game was between the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw and Dallas Keuchel of the Astros. Kershaw was brilliant only allowing three hits through seven innings. Keuchel only allowed six hits, but one of those resulted in a two-run home run for Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner. That was enough to send the Dodgers to a 3-1 victory in Game One.
While game one was a very entertaining pitchers duel, game two produced a shootout that has to be considered one of the best games in World Series history. It was the first World Series win in Astros history, and it was a memorable one. There was a game tying home run in the ninth inning by the Astros’ Marwin Gonzalez, which marked only the tenth time that has occurred in the World Series. The Astros jumped out to a two run lead in the top of the tenth, only to give it right back in the bottom of the inning on a Yasiel Puig home run, followed by a sliding Logan Forsythe at home plate. George Springer put the finishing touches on the game with a two-run shot in the top of the 11th inning to seal the deal for Houston. Game two featured six home runs in the last three innings of play and a World Series record eight total home runs.
These games are definitely exciting and feature young star players in the sport, such as Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa of the Astros and Yasiel Puig and Corey Seager of the Dodgers. But the average of about 14.5 million viewership hails in comparison to last year’s average of almost 23 million people per game, including over 40 million for the seventh game.
The back and forth nature of the opening two games leave one to believe it just might happen. Hopefully for the sake of baseball, that will happen, and will cause more local students and fans to stop and watch. So while many locals, and really fans across the entire country, may have liked a matchup featuring the Yankees or Red Sox instead of the Astros, the Astros continue to succeed and prove they were meant to be here. It may be time to realize that these guys are for real and enjoy a World Series that could go down as one of the greats.