World Series Championship
By Barrie Komsky
December 15, 2020
On October 27, the Los Angeles Dodgers erased decades of frustration and disappointment by winning the World Series for the first time since 1988. They beat the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 in the sixth game of the World Series to bring Los Angeles their second championship of the month. As the great Dodgers announcer Vin Scully once said, “In a year so improbable, the impossible has happened.”
The 2020 baseball season was unlike any other. For the first time in baseball history, the World Series was played at a neutral site, the Texas Rangers’ Globe Life Field, which the Dodgers made their home. It was played in a bubble with only 11,500 fans in attendance each game. Teams played only 60 games, rather than the typical 162. But the Dodgers rose above these challenges and did what nobody thought was possible: going the distance after years of falling short.
The team could not have come so far without the help of Clayton Kershaw, who has been a staple of the Dodgers organization since 2008. He had every honor and achievement in baseball aside from a World Series ring. He took home the National League Cy Young Award in 2011, 2013, and 2014, when he also was named Most Valuable Player. On June 18 of that year, he pitched his first career no-hitter, arguably the greatest in baseball history. He has constantly dazzled in the regular season, but quickly became known as a “playoff choker,” showing barely average statistics in the month of October. This year, Clayton Kershaw changed his legacy forever. There are no more missing pieces for the future Hall of Famer. His 4-1 record combined with a 2.93 ERA and 37 strikeouts, all career highs for the 32-year-old ace, gave him all he’s truly wanted: a championship for his team. “We won the World Series. I don’t care about legacy. I don’t care about what happened last year. I don’t care about what people think…The 2020 Dodgers won the World Series. Who cares about all that other stuff?” the veteran ace told Bill Plunkett when asked how he felt about his success.
Perhaps the only Dodger with a more impressive postseason than Kershaw was Corey Seager, whose eight postseason home runs and .328 batting average led to being named MVP of both the World Series and NLCS, a nail-biting seven game series against the Atlanta Braves. Seager was only the eighth player in the history of Major League Baseball to bring home both awards. “This team was incredible all throughout the year, all throughout the postseason,” Seager, known for his modesty, stated. “We never stopped. We were ready to go as soon as the bell was called. And once it did, we kept rolling.” He drove in the go-ahead run in the sixth inning of the game, after Rays’ manager Kevin Cash controversially removed Blake Snell, who, through 5.1 innings, struck out 9 and allowed only two hits, one of which resulted in a run, from the game.
Both Kershaw and Seager dazzled throughout the regular season as well, but no impact was greater than that of Mookie Betts, who was traded from the Red Sox in February. In 55 games, Betts accumulated 16 home runs, 39 RBIs, 10 stolen bases, and a .292 batting average. Betts won the National League’s Gold Glove Award for his position of right field for the fifth consecutive year. He became a finalist for MVP, along with the Braves’ Freddie Freeman, the eventual winner, and the Padres’ Manny Machado. Betts took home the award in 2018 with Boston, when his team beat the Dodgers in the World Series. In the postseason, Betts batted .296 with 8 doubles, 6 stolen bases, and an eighth-inning home run in game 6 to extend the lead. He also scored the go-ahead run in the sixth inning, taking advantage of the Rays’ decision to remove Blake Snell from the game. “I think at that point, I was like, ‘I got a chance,’” Betts said of the situation following the win. “Snell was rolling… I wasn’t asking any questions, though. I was just like, ‘Hey, your manager said you gotta go, next guy’s coming in.’ At that point, I tried to put an at-bat together and go from there.” In addition to his brilliance on offense, Mookie Betts made an impact larger than any other on the field, making seemingly impossible plays nightly.
Many will compare Betts’ remarkable first season as a Dodger to that of Kirk Gibson in 1988. After a successful career with the Detroit Tigers and a World Series win in 1984, Gibson, a free agent, signed with Los Angeles. The team, against all odds, found themselves in the World Series, set to play the powerful Oakland A’s. Kirk Gibson, having injured both legs in the previous series, was set to sit this one out. In Game 1, the Dodgers found themselves down 4-3 with two outs in the bottom of the 9th inning. Dennis Eckersley had just walked Mike Davis when Kirk Gibson, barely able to walk, hobbled up to the plate, hoping for a miracle. When the count reached 2-2, Mike Davis stole second base, knowing that Gibson would be unable to run. On the very next pitch, Gibson launched his legendary home run to right field, giving the Dodgers the Game 1 win. The Dodgers would go on to win the series in five games. This year’s Dodgers, just like the 1988 team, didn’t have an easy path to success.
The team won a seven-game battle to make a World Series appearance, beating the Atlanta Braves after losing the first two games and three of the first four, something that had not occurred since 2004. Games 5, 6, and 7 games included a Will Smith home run off of Will Smith that gave the Dodgers a lead and more defensive heroics from Mookie Betts and the rest of the Dodgers’ outfield. In a nail-biter game seven, Atlanta took a 1-0 lead in the first inning and extended it with a Dansby Swanson home run in the second. In the third inning, a Will Smith single tied the score at 2, but Austin Riley’s RBI single in the fourth gave the Braves a 3-2 lead. Freedie Freeman would have hit a home run in the fifth inning if not for Mookie Betts. Then, Kike Hernandez hit a game-tying home run in the sixth inning, and Cody Bellinger put them in front in the seventh, a lead Los Angeles held on to thanks to three perfect innings from Julio Urias. “We’re resilient,” said Bellinger of the win. “I think when you see every day the lineup we have—we can do this. Why can’t we do this? We’ve won three games before, all the time.”
The win did not come without controversy, as Justin Turner, who’s pregame COVID test came back inconclusive, was pulled from the game in the 8th inning when a positive result was received. When the game ended, Turner and his wife Kourtney made their way to the field, unmasked, and were seen hugging teammates. Turner even participated in taking a team photo and holding the trophy. Following the celebration, Turner tweeted the following: “Thanks to everyone reaching out! I feel great, no symptoms at all. Just experienced every emotion you can possibly imagine. Can’t believe I couldn’t be out there to celebrate with my guys! So proud of this team & unbelievably happy for the City of L.A.” After careful consideration, the league agreed that Turner should not be punished for his actions, as the bubble they created was unsafe. Turner released an apology which called his actions inexcusable, claiming to have been caught up in the moment.
Despite the controversy and excuses by other fans, however, the Dodgers used their talents and nothing else to win their first World Series since 1988, and that’s all that will be remembered years from now. Congratulations to the 2020 World Series Champions Los Angeles Dodgers!