LOS ANGELES — The Boston Red Sox could walk away with the world championship title if they beat the Los Angeles Dodgers Sunday night. Teams who claim victory in the fifth game have won each of the last five championship series.
The Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers have a combined 14 World Series championships between them. Their Fall Classic history, though, has only intersected once previously, and that was more than a century ago. A lot has changed since then.
In 1916, that World Series was confined to the east, when the Red Sox defeated the then-Brooklyn Robins. They didn’t even use the tiny Fenway Park, which had opened in 1912, instead opting to use the larger Braves Field, home of the Boston Braves, nearby.
Now, the 114th edition of the Fall Classic spans coast to coast. It begins Tuesday night in Boston, as the Red Sox host the Dodgers in Game 1 of the best-of-seven series. First pitch at Fenway Park is scheduled for 8:09 pm ET.
The oldest ballpark in baseball also will host Game 2 as well as Games 6 and 7 if needed. Dodger Stadium, the third-oldest MLB venue, will host Games 3 and 4 and, if necessary, 5.
The 102-year wait for a World Series rematch is by far the longest gap in baseball history. The next biggest is 76 years, when the Oakland A’s defeated the San Francisco Giants in 1989.
“This place is going to be obviously going crazy,” said Red Sox pitcher Chris Sale, who will start Game 1 after recently being hospitalized with a stomach illness.
“We have very passionate fans. It’s going to be fun. I think we’ve all been waiting for this. And our fans, too. Our fans have been there the whole year, just like we’ve been grinding the whole year, and they’ve been showing up for us and I think they’re just as excited as we are.”
Kershaw: ‘We’re still missing that ring’
The Red Sox are seeking their fourth World Series championship in the last 15 years and ninth overall. The back-to-back National League champion Dodgers, who lost to the Houston Astros in seven games last year, are trying to win their seventh title and first since 1988.
Boston enters the series as the favorite. The Red Sox have been dominant all season and have the best record in baseball, winning 108 games.
The Red Sox also beat two 100-win teams to get to this stage, knocking off the New York Yankees (100 wins) in the American League Division Series and the defending champion Houston Astros (103 wins) in the American League Championship Series.
The Dodgers took a different route. After an initial struggle, they clawed up the standings in the National League West and tied the Colorado Rockies at the end of the 162-game regular season. The Dodgers defeated the Rockies in a tiebreaker game to win their 92nd game and the division.
They then went on to defeat the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS and the Milwaukee Brewers in the NLCS.
Taking the mound for Los Angeles on Tuesday is ace Clayton Kershaw, who is just missing a championship from his stellar career resume.
“I really want to win the World Series,” Kershaw said. “I think that’s no different than the other 50 guys in both locker rooms, though.
“I think the only difference maybe is that because we’ve gotten so close in the past, because we’ve gotten to go to the postseason, we’re a little bit spoiled in our expectations every year with the Dodgers, which is a great thing.
“Going into spring training every team says they want to win a World Series, but realistically that’s probably not an option for at least half the teams. So for us when we say it, we really mean it.
“When we go to the postseason six times in a row, it becomes that much more evident that we’re very fortunate to be on a great team, but we’re still missing that ring. There’s no secret that we want to win.”
Managers make World Series history
The roots of the Los Angeles Dodgers began in New York as the Brooklyn Grays, their first season coming in 1884. The Red Sox are a little bit younger. Their first season was in 1901, when they were known as the Boston Americans.
It was an era long before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier when he took the field in a Brooklyn Dodgers uniform in 1947. Today, there’s another breakthrough in the game: This is the first time two minority managers will face off in the World Series.
Dave Roberts, the Dodgers’ first minority manager, was born in Okinawa, Japan to an African-American father and a Japanese mother.
“Being on the diversity committee that I am on and trying to get opportunities and hire positions for minorities, men, women, I think that the needle is moving,” Roberts said.
“Maybe not as quickly as most people would like, but I’m always encouraging minorities to get opportunities. … We don’t do the hiring, but to look across the field and see a minority in the dugout certainly is exciting.”
Boston’s Alex Cora, in his first year as a manager, is the first Puerto Rican manager to take a team to the World Series.
On Monday, Cora was asked what it meant, with Hurricane Maria devastating his homeland a year ago.
“I’m proud to be here,” Cora said. “I’m proud representing not only all the Puerto Ricans that live in the island, but Puerto Ricans all around the world. We know what happened last year. It was a tough one,” he added, referring to Maria’s impact.
“As a country, we’ve done an outstanding job fighting. We’re standing up on our own two feet. I know there’s a lot of people back home they’re proud of me, of what I’ve done throughout the year. But I’m proud of them. It’s almost back to normal. Almost back to normal.”