By Craig Allan, Staff Writer
The World Series is underway between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Tampa Bay Rays. This World Series is one of the most unique in baseball history, as the entire series will be played at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. This is due to the coronavirus pandemic that has crippled large crowd events. This is the first time a World Series has been played entirely in one park since 1944. The 1944 series has many parallels to 2020; set in the backdrop of a global crisis, it featured two teams that, much like the Dodgers and Rays, were also polar opposites in money and support.
The 1944 World Series was held in Sportsman Park in St. Louis, between the St. Louis Browns and the St. Louis Cardinals. Despite sharing the same building, the two teams could not be more different. The Cardinals were a baseball powerhouse, tied with the New York Giants for most World Series championships by a National League team, and looking to take the lead. The Browns were the perennial losers of baseball. Not only did they not have a World Series championship in their entire 44-year history, they were the only team in all of baseball that had never been to a World Series.
The reason for this can be found back in 1920, when the Browns opened their new stadium, Sportsman Park, and the Cardinals agreed to pay them rent on the facility. For the Browns, this looked like a win. They had their own stadium, and their crosstown rival was paying them to use it. However, this was not the case; because the Cardinals were no longer paying money for the costly repairs and maintenance on a ballpark, they were able to use that money to pay for players. In 1926, Sportsman’s Park hosted its first World Series, but it was the Cardinals who would not only be playing in their first World Series—they would go on to win the championship.
Little did the Browns know, they had subjected themselves to a vicious cycle of losing. They needed money in order to get good players, but in order to get money they needed fans to come to the games; in order to get fans to come to the games, they needed to put a good product on the field; in order to put a good product on the field, they needed money to pay good players, etc. The vicious cycle of losing went around in an unbreaking loop, that is, until 1944.
Nineteen-forty-four was the height of World War II for the United States. Because of this, many of the era’s greatest players like Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio volunteered for the war effort. With the league’s talent drained, the Browns had an opportunity; in a situation emblematic of their folly as a team, they were the least affected by the draft, as many of their players were deemed unfit for service. This gave the sad sack team some of the most experienced players in the game and led to them claiming the American League pennant.
If the Browns could win this series, maybe they could win the hearts of St. Louis. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be, as the Cardinals took the series and became the National League’s most successful team. For the Browns, they would go on for a few more years which featured stunts, and silliness, but most of all, losing. In 1953, the Browns sold Sportsman’s Park to the Cardinals and moved to Baltimore.
Seventy-six years later, many similarities can be seen between both series. A World Series played in a neutral site due to an out-of-control world event; the Dodgers, a team with the second highest payroll in the league going up against a Rays team with the third lowest payroll; a Rays team unable to get fans to the point that there is even talk of them relocating to Montreal. This is the battle of the have and the have-nots. Maybe the Rays can win, and do what the Browns couldn’t, or maybe this is just a mirage. Only the future will tell.