Sports

Great comebacks can even take years

 

THE 2004 RED SOX had a season for the ages (Flickr/Mark Waitkus painting).

Everybody loves a comeback, especially those who whose teams are the ones who pull off a miraculous win after “certain” defeat. Buzzer-beaters, Hail Mary’s, walk-offs, sudden-deaths … winning by a ton is never quite is sweet as being victorious when the faint-of-heart have already reached the parking lot.

Sunday’s epic rally by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim was one of those events. Trailing 9-3 in the bottom of the ninth, the Halos scored seven runs to beat the Seattle Mariners. Cliff Pennington singled in the winning run; Albert Pujols had done much of the heavy lifting by driving in three runs himself on a home run and a single.

So the whole topic of epic comebacks arises. Here are the three biggest comebacks from my point of view, and none of them were in one game.

  1. Boston Red Sox, 2004. When the BoSox fell behind the New York Yankees in the AL Championship Series to the hated New York Yankees 3-0, the underdogs had more than the Bronx Bombers to contend with; they had the whole weight of the “Curse for the Bambino” to overcome. As any real sports fan knows, the Sox sold star Babe Ruth to the Yanks in 1918, the last year the Boston team won a World Series.

The boys from Beantown nevertheless rallied with four victories to win the pennant and then go on to sweep the St. Louis Cardinals in the ‘Series.

Folk-rock legend James Taylor even wrote a song about it, crooning “Ohmigod, it was beyond belief …” and it was.

  1. The America’s Cup used to be an annual exhibition of American sailors defeating all comers with ease. But the rest of the world has caught up in yacht racing, and in 2013 the Oracle Team USA had fallen behind Emirates Team New Zealand 8-to-1 in the best of 17 series. With their backs to the … uh … water, the Americans won eight races in a row to pull off the biggest rally in the 162-year history of the competition.
  2. New York Mets, 1968 to 1969. Which is the worst baseball team of all time? The 1962 New York Mets are a pretty good candidate. An expansion team in their first team, the Mets won only 40 games and lost 120, the most embarrassing performance on a major league stage since ever. The Angels, by contrast, had debuted in 1961 and won 70 games. Things didn’t get much better after that. The Mets finished also last in 1963, 1964, 1965, next to last in 1966, last in 1967 and last 1968. But miracles do happen. With expansion, the National League was split into two divisions in 1969 and the Mets took advantage of shifting winds. They went from last to first, posting 100 wins and going on to defeat the heavily favored Baltimore Orioles in the World Series. From worst ever to the most surprising ever. That’s a pretty good comeback. And hope for Lakers’ fans, too.

THE TRIVIAL LEAGUE

Our column of a couple of weeks ago about the likely move out of the Garden Grove League of Garden Grove High generated a lot of interest, with most of the thinking reflecting the “why” of taking the Argonauts out of a league they’ve been in since 1966.

Which raises the question: since GGHS opened in 1921, what other leagues did it participate in? We dived into the record book to find out.

In the early days, there were just a handful of high schools in Orange County, and they comprised the Orange League, started in 1920. The Sunset League didn’t get its start until 1937.

The Argonauts (originally the “Chili Peppers” after the dominant local crop of the era) started in the OL and remained for over 30 years, winning football titles in 1942, 1945, 1950, 1951 and 1954. But the school – and the community – grew so fast that Grove was moved into the Sunset League in 1955, where the Argos were a bit less successful. Their best record was 4-5 and they finished last twice. The shift to the Freeway League in 1962 was a better fit for the red-and-white where they won league crowns in 1962, 1964 and 1965.

But with the opening of Pacifica High, there were by 1966 enough high schools in the Garden Grove Unified School District to form a city league, sort of like the Moore League in Long Beach.

The six-member league expanded to seven when Los Amigos High joined in 1970. The all-GGUSD lineup remained until 1981, when Pacifica was sent to the Empire League. That exile lasted only until 1987 when the Mariners returned and brought with them Kennedy High of La Palma, creating an eight-team loop.

Kennedy won the 1993 title and was sent back to the Empire, to be followed by Pacifica in 2006. That’s how things stand today.

The Monday Morning Coach is written by Pete Zarustica.

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