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Liberty Series: Statue, Bell set for clash

Liberty Series: Statue, Bell set for clash

The World Series is the Philadelphia Phillies vs. New York Yankees.

It is the autumn tradition you grew up with and the 105th suspenseful culmination of a long season that began with springtime hope for everyone.

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The World Series is a defending champion from the National League against a 26-time champion from the American League, two seemingly unbeatable clubs set to meet in a clash of titans starting with Game 1 on Wednesday in New York.

The World Series is the 1903 Boston Americans over the Pittsburgh Pirates, and generation after generation expecting a storybook finish and a true fall "classic."

The World Series is the Amtrak Acela train carrying baseball fans from Philadelphia's 30th Street Station to New York's Penn Station, and back, and then maybe back again.

The World Series is 19-year-old Mickey Mantle and 20-year-old Willie Mays each taking an October outfield for New York clubs in 1951 -- the birth of legends that live on today.

The World Series is the possibility of baseball's first repeat champion since 2000, with the last franchise to accomplish it now standing in the way.

The World Series is a downtown parade route suddenly packed with ecstatic citizens who just want a glimpse of the boys who filled their summer with sweet dreams. Maybe a parade will lead through Broad Street in Philly again; maybe it will go through the Canyon of Heroes in the heart of Lower Manhattan's Financial District.

The World Series is the dumbfounding sight of the last two American League Cy Young Award winners, former Cleveland teammates Cliff Lee (Phillies) and CC Sabathia (Yankees), somehow starting against each other in Game 1 at Yankee Stadium. Just as they did in the first official game at Yankee Stadium, when Lee was an Indian.

The World Series is watching Reggie Jackson play and later hearing him say: "The only reason I don't like playing in the World Series is I can't watch myself play."

The World Series is Derek Jeter and the Yankees trying to win it all in the first year of Yankee Stadium.

The World Series is Babe Ruth and the Yankees winning it all in the first year of the old Yankee Stadium, back in 1923. Since they did that, the grandest of openings happened one other time: 2006 Cardinals at Busch Stadium.

"Baseball is continuity. Pitch to pitch. Inning to inning. Game to game. Series to series. Season to season." That's what the great Ernie Harwell, beloved longtime voice of the Tigers, wrote in his classic 1955 ode called "The game for all America." The World Series is the culmination of that season-long continuity, then the temporary goodbye for a winter of recharging.

The World Series is Alex Rodriguez already with five home runs this postseason and now needing three more to tie the record of eight in a single postseason -- set by Barry Bonds (with San Francisco) in 2002 and matched by Carlos Beltran (with Houston) in 2004.

The World Series is Chase Utley always on base. He starts this series with an ongoing streak of 25 consecutive postseason games reaching base safely. That ties him with Boog Powell, whose 25th in a row was for Baltimore in 1971 (amazing considering fewer rounds). If Utley gets on in Game 1, he will own the record outright.

2009 World Series
Gm. 1 PHI 6, NYY 1 Wrap Video
Gm. 2 NYY 3, PHI 1 Wrap Video
Gm. 3 NYY 8, PHI 5 Wrap Video
Gm. 4 NYY 7, PHI 4 Wrap Video
Gm. 5 PHI 8, NYY 6 Wrap Video
Gm. 6 NYY 7, PHI 3 Wrap Video

The World Series is FOX, with Joe Buck and Tim McCarver in the booth. This is all that many fans have known in their lifetimes as young baseball fans. Buck and McCarver have done play-by-play for the event this entire decade -- rotating with NBC in the immediate years prior to 2000.

"Game over. Series over. The __________ are world champs again!" That is most likely to be Buck's final call barring an improvisation, and fill in the blank. The "again" would apply to the Phillies for a repeat, and it would apply to the Yankees for a 27th world championship. Buck's 2007 final call was: "Game over. Series over. The Red Sox are world champs again!" They had not just repeated, but they had won it for the second time in four years, hence the "again."

The World Series is rare matchups from time to time, like this one. It has happened only once. "The last time the Yankees and Phillies met, I was 9 years old," McCarver said as they signed off on FOX. Buck asked him when that was, and he replied with a laugh, "1950." Those Phillies never scored more than two runs in a game, and the Yankees swept them amid their streak of five consecutive world championships.

The World Series is that priceless moment of anticipation as the potential last batter of the season steps to the plate. Last year, it was Eric Hinske of the Rays. As the Phillies huddled with closer Brad Lidge on the mound just before that last at-bat, the Citizens Bank Park crowd started chanting in unison: "One more out! One more out!" And then, just like that, the baseball season was over. A strikeout. A pitcher drops to his knees. A city goes wild.

The World Series is Mariano Rivera vs. Lidge -- the only closers who did not melt down with a key blown save during this entire postseason. It is not a coincidence, then, that their teams are about to meet. Jonathan Broxton, Brian Fuentes, Jonathan Papelbon, Joe Nathan, Ryan Franklin and Huston Street all met calamitous ends this month.

"We're here, and thank God for that." Rivera said that as he was drenched with more champagne, back for his seventh Fall Classic. It is that pure release of pent-up emotion seen at this time through the years ... and yet with a slight hint of caution in knowing there are four more victories before complete exhilaration can set in.

The World Series is the fans. They pack the houses and do whatever it takes to find a ticket. What happens when Phillies and Yankees fans get together in philharmonic chest-thumping bravado? Does anyone else get a word in edgewise? They tend to speak their mind, on the whole. They tend not to be overly patient with their own who fall short. The thought of them mingled amongst each other for a week or two is even a bit scary.

The World Series is a highlight reel of home runs. It was Bill Mazeroski's home run for Pittsburgh to end the 1960 season against Ralph Terry and the Yankees, and Joe Carter's home run for Toronto to end the 1993 season against Mitch Williams and the Phillies. It was The Bambino's Called Shot in 1932 at Wrigley Field, Reggie's three in a row on that night in 1978, Kirk Gibson's Miracle Homer in 1988, Scott Podsednik's rainmaker to win Game 2 in 2005, and even pitcher Joe Blanton getting into the act last year.

The World Series is the promise of home runs to come in this powerhouse series. It will be played in the two ballparks currently most closely associated with long balls. The new Yankee Stadium was a power paradise, as the Yankees broke their franchise single-season record with 244. Seven Yankees hit at least 20 homers, led by Mark Teixeira, who had an AL-best 39. Meanwhile, the Phillies had four players who each parked at least 30 homers, led by Ryan Howard with 45.

The World Series is a manager like John McGraw, who once said: "In playing or managing, the game of ball is only fun for me when I'm out in front and winning. I don't give a hill of beans for the rest of the game." He would not let his New York Giants play the upstart Boston club from the AL in 1904, so there was no World Series that year. He acquiesced in 1905 and his Giants won the series in five against a Philadelphia A's team managed by Connie Mack, the only person who ever managed more wins than him.

The World Series is a manager like Joe Girardi, who compared being here as a manager with being here in 1996 as a Yankees player: "You think about all the work that all the people put in to have this opportunity, as a player all the work you put in in the offseason to get an opportunity. It's much the same feeling."

The World Series is the now-annual question of how much rest matters between a pennant clincher and a big Game 1. The Phillies will open up with one full week of rest. The Yankees will jump right into it after clinching the AL pennant. One wouldn't think it means a whole lot in this case; the Yankees have had more days off than days on since the postseason began.

The World Series is Sparky Anderson's Big Red Machine from Cincinnati winning it all in 1975-76 with such greats as Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, Johnny Bench and Tony Perez.

The World Series is Philadelphia trying to be the first NL club to repeat since those Reds. The Phillies are the first NL club to appear in back-to-back World Series since the 1995-96 Braves. Overall, Philadelphia is the 12th reigning champion to repeat as league champs since divisional play began in 1969; seven of the previous 11 clubs went on to repeat as world champs.

The World Series is a Tiffany-commissioned Commissioner's Trophy that will be presented to either the Yankees or Phillies in the first week of November.

Yes, November. The World Series is an October story, but this will be the second such bonus chapter, as the 2001 season ended on Nov. 4 (due to the 9/11 tragedy and delay) and this one could end on Nov. 5 if there is a Game 7. This time Game 4 will be at Citizens Bank Park on Nov. 1, so November baseball is assured. The World Baseball Classic last spring created a week pushback.

The World Series is the event that stitches together many chapters of a continent's history, and the majority of a calendar year is spent in resolute pursuit of being a participant. Now it comes back this week, none too soon, and the closer it gets, the more goosebumps you feel. Two games at Yankee Stadium, two games at Citizens Bank Park, and then from there it will depend on the Phillies and the Yankees. The rest of us sit back and watch.

It is what we wait for all this time.

The World Series is Phillies vs. Yankees.

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

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