D-ELI-ghtful end; MLB stands on deck

D-ELI-ghtful end signals start of MLB year

No one's perfect.

Except Randy Johnson, David Cone, David Wells, Kenny Rogers, Dennis Martinez, Tom Browning, Mike Witt, Len Barker, Catfish Hunter, Sandy Koufax, Jim Bunning, Don Larsen (1956 World Series), Charlie Robertson, Addie Joss, Cy Young, John Montgomery Ward and John Lee Richmond.

Perfection, thy name is baseball.

All 17 pitchers who have thrown a perfect game are duly noted here because it is time again to focus on the national pastime -- if we can stop shaking our heads long enough. Charlie Brown floated in to steal the Coke bottle, the SoBe Life Water geckos ate each other, Justin Timberlake got sucked in by the excitement, the e*trade kid got creeped out by the clown, game MVP Eli Manning hit Plaxico Burress after a play for the ages and the New York Giants somehow beat the New England Patriots, 17-14, in an unforgettable Super Bowl XLII.

For Boston sports fans, there will be no immediate NFL championship followup to a World Series title like there was in 2004-05. New York fans, who saw the Red Sox complete a seemingly-impossible comeback to win the 2004 American League pennant, may now take a measure of solace in this crushing blow. There will not be another NFL team to say it is perfect, the way the 1972 Miami Dolphins can.

Perfect. It's a word that is simply best-suited to a leisurely national pastime that warms our lives, one that now gladly accepts the lateral in an annual rite of February.

Pitchers and catchers report to Arizona and Florida for Spring Training starting on Valentine's Day, which is only appropriate. We like football. We love baseball. There will be at least 162 chances this season for your favorite team's starting pitcher to throw a perfect game, and perhaps this will be the year that someone duplicates what only Larsen has: throwing a perfect Fall Classic game.

Perhaps the Celtics will continue their present domination of the NBA landscape. They are 36-8. But the possibility for an uninterrupted reign of one-town, pro-sports dominance just vaporized, leaving the memory of Manning somehow eluding a sack and then heaving a pass that was trapped onto receiver David Tyree's helmet and resulted in a completion to extend the Giants' upset hopes. Wow. "Nobody gave this Giants team any hope or credit coming in," Burress said after the game, reduced to tears.

"The greatest victory in the history of this franchise," Giants owner Stephen Tisch said.

A Patriots victory would have made Boston the first metropolitan area to immediately follow a World Series win with a Super Bowl championship on two different occasions. The Giants' late dramatics only reinforced how rare this has been since the Super Bowl began in the 1960s.

It has happened only four times, and the last time was just three years ago, when Boston finally broke the Curse of the Bambino and the Patriots won it all.

Brothergood
Brothers Peyton and Eli Manning have just won back-to-back Super Bowl MVP Awards and championships, leaving it to researchers to determine whether that would make them sibling sports superstars of all-time.

Well, no one family has put up the title MVPs like that, but as one might expect, Major League Baseball is rich with brotherly title love, even at the same position.

The list has to start with Dizzy and Paul Dean, pitchers who combined for 49 of the Cardinals' 95 victories during their 1934 "Gas House Gang" championship run. That was a dominating brotherhood.

How about the famous Alou brothers during the 1960s and '70s? The outfielders won in succession just like the Mannings, minus the MVP trophies. Matty won it all with the 1972 A's, and Jesus did the same on Oakland's 1973-74 champs. Brother Felipe's lone World Series appearance had come in a losing cause for the Giants in the 1962 event against the Yankees, and Matty was his teammate then.

That Yankees team featured infielder Clete Boyer, who also won it all in pinstripes the previous season. Brother Ken Boyer was a star third baseman for the Cardinals club that beat Clete and the Yankees in the 1964 World Series. Older brother Cloyd played in five Major League seasons, four with the Cardinals, but never reached the Fall Classic.

Bengie and Jose Molina were catchers on the Angels' 2002 world championship squad, and catching brother Yadier Molina was a hero during the Cardinals' run to the 2006 World Series title.

And there are the Hall of Famers who went by Big Poison (Paul Waner) and Little Poison (Lloyd Waner). They were arguably the best brother act in Major League history . . . but they never celebrated a world championship. Their only World Series during nearly two decades in the game -- at a time when there were only 16 clubs -- was a 1927 loss with the Pirates against the Yankees.

MLB.com reader Bob Lohbauer of Red Sox Nation, dealing with the Super Bowl outcome, added this: "In the '40s there were two fabulous brothers in the Majors. The Red Sox had 'The Little Professor' Dom DiMaggio. Probably one of the best center fielders the Sox ever had (his Red Sox lost the 1946 World Series in seven to the Cards). The other one played for the Yankees, though his name escapes me."

As for best active sibling sports superstars, neither baseball nor football wins that distinction today, though. Think women's tennis. Venus Williams is the reigning Wimbledon champion, her fourth title in that event to go with two U.S. Open championships (36 singles titles) and $18,340,069 in prize money.

Sister Serena has won eight grand slam events (including each of the four majors), Olympic gold, $18,073,233 in earnings and 28 singles titles.

-- Mark Newman

Here is the breakdown, more meaningful than the reverse title sequence because there was actual overlap of those MLB and NFL seasons:

• 2004: The Red Sox sweep the Cardinals, followed by the Patriots' 24-21 beating the Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX at Jacksonville, Fla. Patriots wide receiver Deion Branch was named the Super Bowl MVP.

• 1986: The Mets beat the Red Sox in seven games, followed by the Giants' 39-20 victory over Denver in Super Bowl XXI at the Rose Bowl. Giants quarterback Phil Simms was named the MVP.

• 1979: The Pirates nip the Orioles in seven, followed by the Pittsburgh Steelers' winning the last title of their dynasty -- a 31-19 victory over the Los Angeles Rams at the Rose Bowl. Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw was the MVP.

• 1970: The Orioles beat the Reds in five, followed by the Baltimore Colts' 16-13 victory over Dallas at the Orange Bowl. Cowboys linebacker Chuck Howley was the MVP.

It is also worth noting that in 1980, the Phillies won their only world championship. Alas, the local Eagles fell to the Oakland Raiders, 27-10, in Super Bowl XIV at the Rose Bowl.

In this Super Bowl, it became immediately clear that predictions of a Patriots rout were greatly misplaced. The Giants struck first on Sunday night with a Lawrence Tynes field goal after a clock-eating opening drive.

The Pats followed with a 12-play drive capped by a Laurence Maroney one-yard touchdown run for a 7-3 lead at the start of the second quarter. That held up into halftime, an amazingly low score that worked right into the Giants' hands. Everything was turned over to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, but the real heartbreakers were still warming up for the final act.

At least to those who seek perfection.

The Giants regained a 10-7 lead early in the fourth quarter on Manning's five-yard touchdown pass to Tyree, putting New England in a late hole. The Patriots answered on Tom Brady's six-yard TD pass to Randy Moss with 2:42 left in the game, giving New England a 14-10 lead. That seemed like the perfect end to a perfect ending.

Ah, but it would end up more like a perfect game broken up with two out in the ninth. It would be an 18-1 record for the Patriots, and that is worth at least a tip of the cap. It's also worth a tip of the cap to the average Boston fan. What a run this has been for one town.

When morning comes, conversation at work will be on the previous night's game and its TV ads -- but also on the glorious summer to follow. This is when baseball resonates again. It is when the Phoenix area, dominated the past couple of weeks by Super Bowl hype, welcomes the best baseball players in the world. It is when the anticipation builds over a left-hander named Johan Santana showing up in a Mets jersey for the first time in Port St. Lucie, Fla. It is when the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues move closer to reality.

And right behind that -- starting earlier than ever -- is another Major League regular season. The 2008 campaign begins in Tokyo with a series between the A's and the world champion Red Sox.

Soon it will be time for Boston and New York to meet again, and this time under the historical auspices of a great rivalry. Circle the dates of Sept. 26-28 on your calendar. The Yankees will be at Boston to close out the regular season. They are literally red-letter dates if you look at the redsox.com schedule.

Could the Red Sox be the first team since the Yankees in 2000 to repeat? Never has there been more overall competitive balance in the Majors, so Boston would face remarkable pressure to keep this kind of one-city super reign alive.

Will this be the year that the Cubs win a world championship -- 100 years after their last one? Will Tom Glavine restore Atlanta to October prominence? Can the Rockies take the next step or was last year just a great memory to be treasured? Will Dusty Baker manage the Reds into the Next Big Surprise?

Will the National League finally beat the American League again in an All-Star Game? And what will it feel like to see the Midsummer Classic played at Yankee Stadium in that historic stadium's final stand?

Pretty soon, Manny Ramirez should reach 500 homers. Pretty soon, a starting pitcher will take the ball, and maybe, just maybe, he will throw a perfect game.

That's what happens in baseball. You never know when, but 17 men have been perfect, and someone will again.

Leave it to baseball.

Right now.

Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.