For a World Series that has featured two never-before-seen endings, one of the most amazing individual performances of all-time and a collection of close games, there is no better way to sum it up than 'The Crazy Classic.' That's the apt headline on the cover of one of two new issues of Sports Illustrated this week that features the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals, the two Series combatants.
The cover image captures the craziest play yet, the Cardinals' Allen Craig appearing to be tagged out at the plate by Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 3 in St. Louis. Unbeknownst to both Craig and Saltalamacchia at the time however, third base umpire Jim Joyce had already ruled obstruction on Boston third baseman Will Middlebrooks, who had inadvertently tripped Craig as he tried to get up from his slide into third and scramble toward the plate to take advantage of an errant throw by Saltalamacchia. Home plate umpire Dana DeMuth, seen on the right, confirmed Joyce's call and awarded the game-winning run to the Cardinals. It was an unprecedented end to a World Series game and it gave St. Louis a 2-games-to-1 lead in the Series.
The craziness continued the next night, when Red Sox closer Koji Uehara picked St. Louis rookie Kolten Wong off first for the final out, the first time a World Series game had ever ended on a pick-off. It was the third of four straight games to be decided by two or fewer runs.
Lost amid those wild plays was the fact that David Ortiz was putting up one of the all-time great World Series performances. Entering a potentially clinching Game 6 on Wednesday night in Boston, Ortiz was hitting .733 for the Series-leading Red Sox. No player has ever had a higher batting average in a Fall Classic that went more than four games.
Ortiz is the premier designated hitter in the majors, a position that has lost much of its thump as offenses around the majors have suffered in the wake of dominant pitching in recent years. In this week's cover story, SI's Tom Verducci proposes one possible solution: the Bonus At-Bat, in which a team could use a player like Ortiz for one strategically advisable plate appearance out of his regular turn in the order without removing anyone from the game.