The history of the World Series program

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Last winter I wrote a guest piece for Baseball Prospectus about a concept I call “metafandom.” In the intro, I described one of my most prized possessions: a poster I’ve had since I was a kid — and which is framed and hanging on the wall 10 feet from where I sit as a write this — with the cover of all of the World Series programs from 1903 through 1981.

It was a free giveaway from the Lipton Tea Company in 1982. I got mine — and about 10 extra copies of it people left laying around and which my brother and I snagged — at Tiger Stadium sometime in the first half of the 1982 season. It’s a gorgeous poster, reproducing what were, for the most part, the gorgeous covers of those Series programs.

And they were not just gorgeous. They were influential on me. I used them to memorize all of the World Series participants. And, in some small ways, to learn a bit about popular art styles of the 20th Century. I mean, is this cool or what?

Over at the New York Times there’s a great story about the World Series programs, and a slide show with closeup versions and stuff. It’s great fun and, for me at least, it gives life to something that has always been important to me. The only sad part? This passage which explains why the covers got so blah starting in 1974:

In 1974, the league started producing a single program for both teams. The content inside was expanded to include material on all four teams in the postseason. The price was doubled to $2, and steadily escalated until 2003, when $15 was charged for the first time.

I get why they did this — the programs are big sellers now and they want them ready more than two days in advance — but they became so generic after that. A picture of the World Series trophy, maybe. Some illustration of a non-identifiable player in a plain uniform throwing a pitch to no one. Lots of AL and NL logos. They all look like the cover of baseball video games too cheap to enter into a merchandising agreement with the league and the union.

But I still have my poster and 1903-1973, and that’s pretty cool.

Astros push ALCS to Game 7 with 7-1 stunner against Yankees

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There’s just something about playing in your home ballpark. The Astros decimated the Yankees at Minute Maid Park on Friday, riding seven scoreless innings from Justin Verlander and a pair of big runs from Jose Altuve to win 7-1 and force a Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

Through the first four innings, however, the teams looked equally matched. Luis Severino no-hit the Astros through 3 2/3 innings, losing his bid on Carlos Correa‘s line drive single in the fourth. The Astros returned in the fifth to do some real damage, drawing two walks and plating the first run of the night with Brian McCann‘s ground-rule double off of the right field wall. Things didn’t get any easier for Severino. Jose Altuve lined a two-RBI base hit into left field, upping Houston’s advantage to three runs.

Verlander, meanwhile, muted the Yankees’ offense with seven innings of five-hit, eight-strikeout ball. While he didn’t come close to matching his complete game effort in Game 2, he was still plenty dominant against a struggling New York lineup. No player reached past first base until the sixth inning, when a pair of base hits from Chase Headley and Didi Gregorius gave the Yankees their first runner in scoring position. That didn’t last long, though, as Gary Sanchez grounded out on a 3-0 slider to end the inning.

In the seventh, Houston’s ace got into another spot of trouble. He walked Greg Bird on six pitches to start the inning, then plunked Starlin Castro on the wrist. Aaron Hicks struck out, in part thanks to a questionable call by home plate umpire Jim Reynolds, but it was Todd Frazier who presented the biggest threat after returning an 0-1 fastball for a 403-foot fly out to left field. Luckily for Verlander, George Springer was there to bail him out with a leaping catch at the wall.

The Yankees kept things exciting in the eighth, too. Aaron Judge ripped his third postseason home run off of Brad Peacock, taking a 425-footer out to the train in left field to spoil the Astros’ shutout. That was the only real break the Yankees got, however, as Altuve, Alex Bregman and Evan Gattis returned in the bottom of the inning to tack on another four runs, including Altuve’s solo shot off of David Robertson:

Ken Giles handled the ninth, expending 23 pitches and giving up a base hit and a walk before retiring Frazier and Headley to end the game. Thanks to Houston’s winning efforts, the two teams will compete in their first seven-game Championship Series since 2004 — and this time, at least one of them is guaranteed to come away with a win.

Game 7 of the ALCS is set for Saturday at 8:00 PM ET. Houston right-hander Charlie Morton (14-7, 3.62 ERA) is scheduled to face southpaw CC Sabathia (14-5, 3.69 ERA).