Pujols' total line most impressive
ARLINGTON, Texas -- As a kid, I watched Reggie Jackson's three-homer game in the 1977 World Series on television. It was one of the iconic moments of my sports childhood along with the Sonics winning the NBA championship, the 1980 Olympic hockey team beating the Soviets and Morganna running out on the field at the All-Star Game in 1979 to kiss George Brett.
And although I even enjoyed a Reggie Bar or two, there comes a time to put away childish things: Reggie, you had an awesome game. But you've been surpassed. Albert Pujols now owns the greatest offensive game in World Series history.
Yes, I know, I know: Reggie had three swings, three home runs, and he led the Yankees to their first World Series title since 1962 in doing so.
But it's Pujols' total line that is so awesome: five hits, four runs, six RBIs and three home runs, one of which landed in Fort Worth.
Besides tying Reggie and Babe Ruth, he tied Paul Molitor's World Series single-game record of five hits and the record six RBIs of Bobby Richardson and Hideki Matsui. In fact, Pujols' totals of five hits, three homers and six RBIs are so unique that only 15 other times has a player equaled or surpassed those numbers in a regular-season game.
The performance was so awesome that Rangers fans even stood and applauded after the third home run. That, and they were passing the hat to collect dollar bills.
I'll be honest: It's hard to top Reggie's performance in the public eye. After all, it was Reggie, one of the most charismatic players the sport has seen. Even before his Game 6 performance, he was one of the most famous players in the sport. The three World Series home runs just cemented his legend. They also came against the Dodgers; the old rivalry had been struck anew again in that World Series.
But that's just the backdrop to the achievement. It may make the achievement seem more interesting, but it doesn't make it more impressive.
Pujols, while one of the greatest players of all time, doesn't have the same magnetism that Reggie possessed. But that doesn't diminish the night he had.
It's a fun debate. Two spectacular games, the two most impressive games in World Series history. (Sorry, Babe, although you did well, too.) I give Pujols the edge, but the best part: We get to watch him again.
Reggie became icon on three swings
ARLINGTON, Texas -- One player said he didn't come to New York to be a star because he brought his star with him; the other had the greatest night of his life on the biggest stage and spoke of it with all the significance of a spring training intrasquad.
Baseball ratings are plummeting. The game is desperate for, begging for, screaming for someone to take its signature, crown jewel event by its legendary base and lift it high over his head, give it some star power and demand the public's attention; to say, "Look at this game for the great game it is" and give it a heartbeat.
Albert Pujols took one half -- produced a Promethean night on the biggest stage, five consecutive hits, three home runs in his final three at-bats -- and left the really important part, the hero part, the mythmaking part, the imagination part, the good part and tossed it in the trash by being purposely bland, purposely evasive, as if he preferred to play in an empty stadium.
Reggie Jackson's night dwarfed this night because it represented the final chapter of a season-long novel, the story of a talented, driven person whose insecurities were so great that some of his own teammates sometimes wanted to fail, whose personal angels and demons collided with heroics and compassion and egomania. In real time that night, Jackson represented the future: The big-money free agent was desperate to prove what seemed to be impossible (that any person could be worth millions to play baseball), and he did it, all culminating on a championship night in the biggest city that restored the biggest team in the game after 15 years without having won the World Series.
Reggie's night was Olympus -- three home runs off three different pitchers off three swings to win the World Series -- but most of all, it was human.
Pujols' friends say he's funny and engaging. We know he's driven and great -- a better player than Jackson. But by refusing to close the personal distance between himself and the public -- he is a legendary player on a legendary team who may be playing his final games with the Cardinals. Pujols historically filled the stat sheet Saturday, then remained flatly and disappointingly on the page.
In a sense, Pujols is the perfect player for the sabermetric, stat-driven, "Moneyball" game: all numbers all the time, devoid of the characters and the personalities, that heartbeat embodied by Ruth and Williams and Mays and Reggie that says, "Pay attention!" By doing so, by embracing the moment with feats and deeds and heart, Reggie became an icon. By not, Pujols remained just a baseball player who had a terrific night. One night elevated the sport. The other was a celebration of numbers, of OBP and OPS and WAR disconnected from people, from the imagination, which is where the game of baseball truly lives. No wonder nobody is watching anymore.