Fifty years ago, the New York Yankees represented the American League in baseball’s World Series for the 14th time in 16 autumns. Their opponents, the St. Louis Cardinals, were National League champions for the first time since 1946, when the opposition’s top player was Ted Williams. The Bronx Bombers’ first-year skipper, Yogi Berra, had somehow won the pennant with an aging, injury-riddled team headlined by veterans Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris and Elston Howard, and a pitching staff featuring rookie standout Mel Stottlemyre, future Hall-of-Famer Whitey Ford and future author Jim Bouton.

The top Cardinal pitcher was fireballing Bob Gibson, who was backed by an all-star infield including third baseman and N.L. Most Valuable Player Ken Boyer, whose brother, Cletis, manned the hot corner for the Yankees. Catcher Tim McCarver, first baseman Bill White, centerfielder Curt Flood and left fielder Lou Brock, a mid-season pickup from the woeful Chicago Cubs, were also Cardinal standouts.

When asked after the deciding 7th game, a 7-5 Cardinal victory, why he didn’t lift Gibson, who had allowed two long home runs in the ninth inning, St. Louis field manager Johnny Keane, who had spent his entire three-decade baseball career in the Cardinals organization, reportedly said, “Because I had a commitment to his heart.”

But not every commitment is forever. Less than a week after the final out of the 1964 World Series, the Yankees fired Berra and replaced him with Keane, who had resigned from the Cardinals shortly before a press conference that had been called to announce his rehiring.  

I’d like to say I remember those events with such precision and clarity because of a brilliant, steel-trap mind. But the truth is, I read the late David Halberstam’s “October 1964” when it came out 20 years ago, and have re-read it several times since then. The book was in reality a chronicle of a mid-20th century America undergoing seismic cultural changes, but fortunately, its author had the foresight to put baseball players on its cover, which lured people not ordinarily inclined to explore social history (like me) to give it a read. 

There are several other reasons my memories of the 1964 Fall Classic remain so vivid. Major League Baseball hadn’t fully sold its soul to television yet; the first night World Series game was still seven years away, meaning every moment of every game was available in living black-and-white on video screens to viewers of all ages in every time zone. Fifty years ago, baseball was still indisputably America’s favorite spectator sport; the NFL was on the rise, but the NBA, the NHL and NASCAR were barely blips on the radar. It was also a far more innocent time; cable TV, the Internet, eight-digit annual salaries, performance-enhancing substances, and daily accounts of athletes or similar celebrities beating wives, dealing drugs or committing other sociopathic acts were still decades away. In my 7-year-old mind, everyone was consumed by the World Series in 1964. And who knows? Maybe they were. 

But times change. I haven’t seen a complete World Series game since Game 5 of the 1993 Fall Classic, which I viewed live while working at Philadelphia’s Veterans Stadium. I doubt I’ll see a minute of this year’s series, which won’t even begin until Oct. 21. It’s even more unlikely I’ll see the conclusion of any contest, all of which will be played at night, and, thanks to lengthy commercial breaks and other factors, will almost certainly take in excess of three hours to play. Anyone who watched all 16 Red Sox post-season games last fall had to sacrifice 56 hours and 42 minutes of their time in order to do so.

And there’s more bad news for retiring baseball commissioner Bud Selig’s designated successor, Rob Manfred: When it comes to disinterest in the World Series, I’m afraid I’m not alone. A thoughtful friend of mine, a lifelong Red Sox fan, recently told me he wouldn’t waste his time watching this year’s series either.

“The games are so slow,” he complained, adding, “how can anyone with a job stay up past midnight to watch this stuff?”

And he’s got other issues with America’s nominal national pastime: the perceived preponderance of pharmaceutically-aided players, the ridiculousness of playoff games in cities where nighttime temperatures often drop below 40 degrees, preening narcissists who think the game is all about them, and the difficulty he has tossing his hard-earned dollars to a multi-billion-dollar business where a player’s minimum salary totals 10 or more times the annual earnings of police officers, firefighters, teachers, nurses, soldiers and others who do far more for society than professional athletes or entertainers.

“And besides,” he points out, “the Sox aren’t in it!” 

All valid points. But would Boston’s Major League Baseball team being in this year’s series change any of them?

— Andy Young lives in Cumberland and teaches high school English in York County.