by Mike Hayes - 09/30/2005
While football dominates the sport betting scene this time of year there has been some unusual competition from baseball this year thanks to several undecided pennant races and the near total collapse of the Chicago White Sox.
With few exceptions betting baseball in September usually has all the appeal of betting exhibition games - rosters full of no-names and meaningless outcomes. This season has been a different story, however, with a few playoff spots clinched only this week and a few more to be decided.
"We, like most sportsbooks experience a lull in baseball action after the All-Star break until precisely this time of year when the pennant races are heating up," said Jimmy Mason, spokesman for Nine Sportsbook.
The Yankees and Red Sox will square off in Bean Town in a series that will likely send the loser home and out of the postseason. In Cleveland the White Sox will do battle in a three-game series that will decide the winner of the American League Central Division and impact the Wild Card race as well. The National League Wild Card may be decided on the final day of the season as well, as the Astros hold a 2 1/2 game lead over the Phillies with four to go.
"We expect the Red Sox-Yankees series to be as big as a major college football game or NFL game in terms of handle," Mason said. "The White Sox-Indians series will see increased volume as well, but not to the extent that we will see with the Red Sox-Yankees series."
So unlike the Orioles, for example -- where outfielder Jay Gibbons was quoted as saying his team was counting the hours until the season's end -- there are several teams that have been giving their all this month in the hope of extending their season.
While it appears now that the White Sox will manage to stagger across the finish line as a playoff team, their September swoon has had them mentioned among some infamous company.
The Sox held what appeared to be an insurmountable 15-game lead on Aug. 1 -- a lead that dwindled to just 1.5 a few days ago and stands now at 3 with four to play -- an evaporation that has had the Sox mentioned in the same breath as the 1951 Brooklyn Dodgers and the 1964 Phillies.
The '51 Dodgers have the dubious distinction of having blown the biggest August lead of all-time --13 games on Aug.11 -- to the then New York Giants. A 16-game winning streak that began the next day and a 7-1 run to end the season forced a one-game playoff with the Bums resulting in one of the most famous moments in the history of American sports, Bobby's Thomson's "Shot Heard Round the World."
While the Dodger's demise had as much to do with the Giants' August success as anything the same cannot be said for the 1964 Phillies who squandered a 6 1/2 game lead with just 12 to play and were caught by not one but two teams.
In what is considered the biggest collapse ever, the Phils lost 10-games in a row, allowing the Cardinals to capture the National League Flag by a game over the Phillies and Reds who finished in a tie for the second spot.
The Red Sox managed to lose a 14 game July lead to the Yankees in 1978 before losing the pennant in a winner-take all tie-breaker decided on a Bucky Dent homer at Fenway Park. This isn't known so much as a collapse as a great pennant race as it was actually the Red Sox who needed to end the season on an 8-0 run to overcome a 3 1/2 game deficit and force the tiebreaker.
The ineptitude of the National League West also resulted in a number of meaningful games down the stretch. The Padres finally clinched their division Wednesday but with only 79 wins and four games to play there remains, however the possibility they will become the first team in history to make the playoffs with a sub 500 mark.
The Padres season is reminiscent of the 1973 Mets who were 73-77 with 12 games left and managed to win the division by 1 1/2 games and a mark of 82-79.
Remarkably, those Mets managed to beat the Reds in a best-of-five and took the Oakland A's to seven games in losing the World Series.