Sandy Koufax sat behind home plate at Chavez Ravine Friday night and got to enjoy watching the park’s magical effect on baseball games. Koufax pitched a perfect game from the mound in 1965, at the park which made careers for him, Orel Hershiser, Don Drysdale, and now rookie Walker Buehler, who pitched seven scoreless innings in his first World Series.
The Red Sox have been practically unstoppable in 2018. With the best record in baseball, good hitting, pitching, base running, and fielding, the BoSox have it all neatly wrapped in a package with Mookie Betts as the bow.
Living in Atlanta, I had the privilege of seeing the Red Sox take the Braves apart, with Buehler on the mound, in a hitting clinic on Labor Day. I also had the privilege of seeing the Braves struggle through their one and only victory against the Dodgers (who were obviously a better team), driven by little more than grit and home town chop energy. The tomahawk can only get you so far, however.
In this World Series matchup, the Red Sox are the better team this year, in my opinion. In fact, the Red Sox have beaten the best teams in the MLB–the Yankees and the Astros in the AL, with most of their previous wins on the road, and consistently have bested the Dodgers so far at Fenway Park.
Friday night and into the wee hours of Saturday morning, the Red Sox faced their road opponent, and its name is Chavez. Hat tips to Yasael Puig, Bueler, and Max Muncy, who hit a walk-off homer in the bottom of the 18th inning. But the stadium was the winner.
Dodger Stadium was built on formerly residential land in Chavez Ravine in 1958. It’s the oldest park on the west coast, like Fenway is the oldest on the east. While Fenway favors batters and Boston left-fielders (Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Rice, Mike Greenwell, Manny Ramirez), we know Chavez makes pitchers shine.
The parks could not be more different. Dodger Stadium is a symmetrical, beautiful shrine to baseball as a fan should see it. In fact, the park hasn’t been significantly altered (apart from moving the mound and infield diamond about 5 feet further out from the stands) since its original construction.
The biggest change in Dodger Stadium since 1958 has been the color of the seats, and a few new restaurants, fan concessions, and the usual changes teams do to extract the last dollar from your wallet. The field’s symmetry, orientation with the batter facing east and the pitcher to the west, and SoCal’s unique weather and wind patterns keep the balls in play, if you have the gloves and legs to play them.
With two big-hitting teams, Chavez Ravine beat the bats into submission. A total of 18 pitchers pitched 561 pitches, and the Red Sox lead-to-cleanup order came up 0-for-28 in a low-scoring 7 hour 20 minute super-marathon. It was the longest game in World Series history, that saw both teams playing with the only players left on their benches, exhausting their combined entire rosters.
When Eduardo Nunez, during a 13th inning that should win him a Screen Actor’s Guild card as a stuntman, was leg-tackled and dumped to the ground by Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes, he told his manager Alex Cora “I’m not coming out.” Cora replied, “You can’t come out. We have no more players.”
It was an epic game. In fact it was two games. Red Sox scheduled game 4 starter Nathan Eovaldi pitched most of a complete game–97 pitches–despite coming in during the 12th inning. The Boston Globe called it one of the greatest relief appearances in World Series history.
With a 3-2 loss, the Red Sox still have a 2-1 game advantage against the Dodgers. But they are down to Drew Pomeranz and a hardly-rested ace Chris Sale to pitch in game 4.
The Ballad of Chavez Ravine will live on in baseball history forever. It was the longest, most oddity-filled, heroic example of pitching and fielding of any World Series game ever played. Dodger Stadium fulfilled its role as the giver of home field advantages.
But remember…Boston bats do not remain silent, and the better team does tend to win. The Yankees, after beating the Red Sox 6-2 at Fenway, learned this the hard way. The Sox came back to humiliate them in a 16-1 rout at Yankee Stadium.
Game 4 will reset the clock, and the batting order. It’s unlikely the bats of Betts, Benintendi, Pearce, Martinez, and Bogaerts will remain silent, even in the hallowed pitching shrine of Chavez Ravine.