Perhaps the best things to say about the just-concluded 2021 Major League Baseball World Series are that they played 162 games (not 60 as they did last year) and that the stands were filled with fans, not cardboard cutouts and piped-in crowd noise.
Here are some memorable moments, highlights and achievements from the season:
1. Soler Power. The Braves Jorge Soler became the first player to start off a World Series with a home run on the first swing. It was a sign of things to come. Soler hit three go-ahead home runs in the Series, including a 3-run, 446-foot blast in Game 6, to help the Braves defeat the Astros 7-0 and become World Champs for the first time in 26 years.
2. No, no, no! There was a record nine no-hitters thrown during the season. The first was in April, thrown by Joe Musgrove of the Padres, against the Rangers. The last no-no was a combined no-hitter thrown by Brewers pitchers Corbin Burns and Josh Hader, against Cleveland in September. Four of the nine were combined no-hitters, a sign of the times.
3. Maximum Efforts. Two players reached significant milestones. Max Scherzer, traded to the Dodgers from Washington mid-season, joined the magical 3,000-career-strikeouts club in September when he took a perfect game into the 8th inning. Miguel Cabrera sealed his spot in the record books in August by hitting his 500th home run. Cabrera is also a handful of hits shy of reaching the 3,000-career-hits mark and joining another exclusive club. There are only six members in that one: Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Rafael Palmeiro, Albert Pujols, Alex Rodríguez and Eddie Murray.
4. The Last of the Indians. Bowing to recent trends, the Cleveland Indians announced that the team will go by a new name starting in 2022. They will be called the Guardians. The name is taken from the statues on the Hope Memorial Bridge, the Guardians of Traffic, just outside the ballpark.
5. Field of Teams. One of the most memorable days in baseball history took place in August…in Iowa. That’s where the Yankees and White Sox squared off for a historic game at the Field of Dreams. Players walked through the cornfield and onto the playing field. Kevin Costner was there. The game was televised to a huge viewing audience. Best of all, the exciting game featured a dramatic comeback by the Yankees in the 9th to take the lead, only to be followed by a walk-off home run by Chicago’s young star, Tim Anderson, to win the game. Look for more games to be in the cornfield in the future.
6. Ohtani’s Historic Season. After a forgettable 2020, Shohei Ohtani delivered a season not matched for 100 years, since the era and achievements of Babe Ruth. He led the Majors in home runs for most of the year (ending up in third place, with 46). He also became the first player ever in MLB All-Star history to bat leadoff AND be the starting pitcher for
his team. Before the start of Game 1 of the World Series, he was awarded the prestigious (and rarely presented) Commissioner’s Historic Achievement Award. He’s also likely to be named American League MVP this year.
7. Dodgers vs. Giants. The Dodgers faced the Giants for the very first time in the postseason Division era, despite their long history as rivals dating back to the late 1800s. (Of course, division playoffs didn’t start until 1969, and the teams are in the same league and division, but still….) The Giants won the most games in MLB in 2021 (107), with the Dodgers amazingly just one game behind. The two teams met in the NLDS after the Dodgers had beaten the Cardinals in a one-game Wild Card playoff. The Dodgers beat the Giants, three games to two…then lost to the Braves in the NLCS.
8. deGrom’s Decline. For the first two months of the 2021 season, there was not a more dominant hurler than Jacob deGrom of the New York Mets. When he was forced to leave the team due to an arm injury in July, he had a 7-2 record, an ERA of 1.08 and 146 strikeouts through 15 starts (92 innings). He allowed just 40 hits. Left-handed batters hit .128 against him, right-handed hitters just .130.
9. Bye-Bye, Buster. In the first week of November, potential future Hall of Famer Buster Posey, the great catcher of the Giants, announced his retirement, citing the physical toll the game has taken. Posey was Rookie of the Year, an MVP winner and won three World Series rings. Pete Rose is the only other player in that club.
10. In First on Second. Marcus Semien of the Blue Jays set a Major League record for most home runs in a season by a second baseman, with 45. He passed Ryne Sandberg, Brian Dozier, Rogers Hornsby and Davey Johnson to get to the top.
11. Braves New World. Most “experts” thought the Giants, Dodgers and Padres would be battling for the National League Pennant. The Braves were a longshot, and even halfway through the season they seemed to be going nowhere. They even lost their best player for the season, star outfielder Ronald Acuña, with a torn ACL. However, the team made some key acquisitions before the trade deadline, and then it all changed. They defeated the Brewers in four games in the NL Division Series, took the Dodgers in six in the NL Championship Series and defeated the Astros in six games to become World Series Champions for the first time in 26 years.
Opening Day for 2022 is slated for March 31st. All 30 teams are scheduled to be in action. Are you ready?