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Nationals 2013: HARRIS: Cooler than winning it all? Winning it all during the day

- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 28, 2013

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Bill Millsaps is a former sports editor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch. During a long and distinguished career, he won multiple Virginia sports writer of the year awards and he was named The Associated Press Sports Editors' Red Smith Award winner in 2011.

Why? Many reasons, one of them being Millsaps can tell a story with the best of them.

One of his favorites concerns his father, W. Hobart Millsaps, who was principal at Chattanooga High School in Tennessee. The elder Millsaps was a stern sort and he made it clear he wasn't Dad at school and while there, his son was no different from the rest of the students.So young Millsaps was a bit alarmed one day when the principal knocked on the door of his classroom and told the teacher, "I need to see Bill."

Bill followed the principal into his office, trying to figure out what he might have done to get called out of class. They got to the office. The door closed.

And W. Hobart Millsaps smiled and said, "Sit down, son. Don Larsen is pitching a perfect game."

That would have been Oct. 8, 1956, when Don Larsen of the Yankees pitched the only perfect game in World Series history.

New York beat the crosstown rival Brooklyn Dodgers 2-0 that day and Bill Millsaps got to experience the end of the game by watching it on a small TV with his dad.

Davey Johnson, the manager of the Washington Nationals, created a mantra of sorts when he declared "World Series or bust" for his team this season.

The Nationals are certainly capable of winning the Series, just as they were last year. But as we learned last year, being good enough isn't enough.

There are probably 10 other teams that can make that claim and all of them aren't winning the Series. Or even getting there.

If the Nats do get to the Series, it would be cooler than cool. Baseball may not have the overall appeal it used to have, and it is kidding itself if it thinks it is as popular as the NFL.

But the World Series? It remains terrific, and having the national spotlight shining on the town for sporting reasons would be a ton of fun.

That said, it would have been a lot more fun in the old days. The Series has always been cool. It was a lot more cool when you had to work at it. Simply put, the World Series was much more cool during the day. That will never happen again, thanks to the incredible amount of television money available these days. A kid's challenge these days is staying awake until the games end after 11 p.m. on the East Coast. Heck, some adults have that challenge, too.

So indulge an aging man. Get off my lawn, then gather 'round while I tell you why I miss the simpler times. Why I miss those chances to bond over a great game. Why I miss finding ways to get sneaky and keep up with the score when I should have been paying attention to my arithmetic.

It has been more than 56 years since W. Hobart Millsaps pulled his son out of class, and it remains one of Bill Millsaps' fondest memories. It has been more than 50 years since my father took a half-day off from work to greet me as I got home from school so we could watch his beloved Dodgers — by then located in Los Angeles — play the Yankees (and sweep that Series). It remains one of my fondest memories.

If you had the right teacher at school, he or she might turn on the TV during the game (with the sound down low). Those who didn't have the right teacher would beg friends who did to find a way to slip out of class and convey the score with hand signals.

Even when Dad wasn't home waiting for you, you would sprint from the bus to your house to catch the last few innings. That became a sport in itself.

A couple of generations before that, people used to stand in the streets by the local newspaper office. As every half-inning finished, someone would hang a number on a makeshift scoreboard. Go to any library in most any major league town and check out the photo archives. Crowds to rival Times Square on New Year's Eve would stand for hours, waiting on those numbers.

People who didn't know anything about baseball kept up with the World Series. That much may still be the same.

Yes, the world has changed for the better in the past 50 years, in more ways than it is possible to count. But not in all ways. The World Series remains cool. I just liked it better when it was old-school cool.

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