MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports

In the day, back when everything was better because, as I have come to learn, you just always say everything was better when you get older, there was the World Series.

That was postseason baseball – one best of seven series between the champion of the American League and the champion of the National League, determined by which team had the best record in each league during the respective 162-game regular seasons. That was it, but the exclusivity of that series made it seem extra special, because that was it.

Hence, no matter where you were anywhere in the world, the World Series was referred to merely as The Series.

What also made it seem extra special was other than the All-Star Game, then known far and wide as the Midsummer Classic, the World Series was the only time you saw players and teams from both leagues on the field with each other. The pox of interleague games that we have today did not exist because nobody wanted them to exist. It would be unnatural; not right. Unseemly.

When you went to school in the morning, you took your transistor radio, complete with ear plug, so you could very coyly listen to the games during class. Of course, every teacher in the world knew this was being done; some of them were cool about it, some were not so cool with it because, after all, the reason we were in school was to learn stuff.

But if you had an understanding teacher and did not disturb the class it made you a big man on campus because all of the kids who didn’t have radios would turn to you or pass you a note for the score because, as I said, the World Series was the thing. It was The Series.

At Johnson Heights Elementary School, there was a color television set (a very big deal in the 1960s) on the stage of the auditorium/cafeteria and maybe 45 minutes to an hour was allotted each weekday for each grade to watch some of the game toward the end of the school day. But you had to be orderly and quiet or it was back to your classroom.

My sixth-grade teacher, Mr. Harold Conrad, had a portable black and white TV in his room and if we had all of our work done by game time (never a problem for the girls) he turned on the game. Mr. Conrad was a cool teacher.

And, of course, depending on how badly you wanted to watch a particular World Series (I very badly wanted to watch all of them) it was a matter of faking an illness, getting sick and either being allowed to stay home from school or be sent home from school.

As a child, I was never sick other than during the first week of October and the first week of April. Just call them the mysterious World Series and Opening Day viruses. Naturally, my mother the school teacher, with assists from my tattletale brother, would have none of it. Thus, with the help of some Cap’n Crunch cereal and some fingers in the throat I could become visibly ill at will, which I did every October directly in front of the office of the school secretary so she would see it, pity me and send me home from school.

“Would you like me to call your mother to come pick you up?”

“Um, no ma’am. I believe I have the strength to walk the two blocks to our house. Thank you, though.”

There would be grave consequences to pay once my mother arrived home from her school day, but this was the World Series and drastic times called for drastic measures. I was willing to pay the price.

All of which comes to mind because afternoon Major League postseason games are being played this week and it’s just great.

MLB expansion and one League Championship Series in each league came to baseball in 1969, which wasn’t bad; and the World Series went to one primetime World Series game for the first time in 1971, which was bad.

Now the entire World Series is played at night and if a kid wants to fake an illness to watch it it doesn’t do him any good because he’s already home in bed. In fact, as the postseason goes deeper, all of the games are played during the night, and now we have the Wild-Card series, the Division series, the League Championship Series and then the World Series.

I get it. It’s television money and, frankly, I watch as much of it as I can because it’s baseball and before we know it, it will be winter and there will be no baseball until March.

It’s different, and maybe it’s better. It probably is, but it just seemed better then through the wonder of a child’s eye – a child with a mysterious October and April virus at that.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT