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posted: 9/1/2012 11:22 AM

There's nothing quite like a pennant race

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  • Despite A.J. Pierzynski solo home run against the Detroit Tigers Friday night, the Tigers rallied to win the first game of the three-game weekend series. This pennant race may go back and forth the entire month, but the Sox have the lead right now.

      Despite A.J. Pierzynski solo home run against the Detroit Tigers Friday night, the Tigers rallied to win the first game of the three-game weekend series. This pennant race may go back and forth the entire month, but the Sox have the lead right now.
    Associated Press

 
 

Every season at about this point, the baseball community subtly bonds together.

The NFL is an awesomely powerful entity, demanding reams of newsprint, endless web space, and hours of air time. I always end up channeling Dylan Thomas and doing my best to "rage against the dying of the light."

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Baseball fans do not go gently into that good night.

Having a true pennant race in this town makes that fight quite a bit easier.

Nothing in sports compares to the daily tension of late August and September, when a couple of pretty good teams are fighting for precious wins every day. Depending on your media predilections, there's legitimate scoreboard watching, or bottom line scrolling, or Gamecast refreshing.

What did the Tigers do? Who's pitching against them tonight? Where do they go after this weekend? This weekend, however, the teams collide and you can focus on just one game.

These are days when kids refuse to wash their favorite T-shirt in the middle of a winning streak. It's when a grown man turns his hat backward to beckon a rally from the couch.

It's been a few years since Chicago baseball fans had a race like this.

In 2011, with the Sox "All In," things never came together. The final day in first place for that bunch was April 3rd, and even when Detroit's lead slipped to 3 games in the middle of August, there really never was much of a feeling of possibility.

In 2010, the White Sox led the division for a while, but were overtaken by the Minnesota Twins in early August. After Aug. 16, the White Sox never got closer than 3 games to the top of the division, and the deficit ballooned to as much as 12.

In 2009, the Sox never got closer than 2 games behind the Tigers on Aug. 19, and both were eventually passed by the Twins.

The 2008 Cubs took over first place on May 10 and never left. The truly exciting August and September was in 2007, when the Cubs charged from 8 games back to overtake the Brewers. They were a game out of first as late as Sept. 11, only to rise up and win it.

For the Sox fans it was 2008, when the Sox were either in first or second place every day, amazingly enough, from May 18 until season's end. The battle with the Twins produced 13 divisional lead changes after Aug. 3. Every day of the season's final two months had that irreplaceable tension.

In that season, it became clear that to make the playoffs, it was win the division or bust. The Red Sox took the wild card, finishing with 6 more wins than the Twins and the New York Yankees.

But even if the wild card spots remains in play for whichever team does not win the AL Central this year, never before in this era has the division crown mattered more. The mandated one-game playoff means your fate could come down to whichever pitcher is due up next.

It was during the 1973 season in mid-July when the manager of the New York Mets, Yogi Berra, gave us the all-time Yogi-ism. His team trailed the Cubs by 9 games, and was being declared dead by the New York media.

Yogi thought that was a bit early, and said about a pennant race that "It ain't over 'til it's over."

For these Tigers and White Sox, with another series looming later in the month, that holds especially true.

This should be a terrific, tense, and unique month.

• Matt Spiegel co-hosts "The McNeil & Spiegel Show" 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday-Friday on WSCR 670-AM, and The Score's "Hit and Run" at 9 a.m. Sundays with his Daily Herald colleague, Barry Rozner. Follow him on Twitter @mattspiegel670

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