Terry Collins captured the moment's breadth in advance simply by saying: "It's the World Series.'' The Mets' manager knew he was speaking volumes about what his team and the Royals are about to experience because, as a lifelong fan and a lifer in the professional game, he realizes that "World Series'' are the two most powerful words in the baseball dictionary.
Even though the television ratings are not what they once were, even though the best-of-seven is not a de facto national holiday the way the Super Bowl is, even though it probably does not create the same buzz as March Madness, there still is magic in the World Series. That is especially true for the Mets and Royals, who will play Game 1 Tuesday night not having won the Series in 29 and 30 years, respectively.
There remains something transcendent about the World Series, something larger than life, as organizers envisioned it from the outset in 1903. The 1904 Reach Guide -- then the bible of baseball -- referred to it as the "World's Championship Series.'' Since then, the title has grown shorter and the mystique has grown infinitely larger, at least among baseball people. To them, it always will be the Fall Classic.
Minutes after the Mets won the National League pennant, Collins, 66, reflected on his mom allowing him to stay home from school to watch the 1960 World Series. Other Mets were thrilled for pitching coach Dan Warthen, who entered pro ball in 1971 and finally gets to grab the Holy Grail.
Daniel Murphy, whose phenomenal hitting lifted the Mets through two postseason series, recalled feeling like a kid while watching the 2011 World Series at home in Jacksonville with his younger brother Jonathan, an outfielder who would be drafted by the Twins months later.
"We'd just go back and forth on moves that were made,'' he said. "To see the Rangers kind of put the Cardinals at the brink a couple times, I think Lance Berkman had a big base hit . . . Just sitting there with my brother would be one of my best World Series memories.''
This Series will be a throwback, in one way. Despite playing in an era in which there is interleague play every night, the Mets and Royals are comparative strangers -- as were the National and American League champions in the old days. They did not meet this year (they will open up against each other in Kansas City in 2016). Their connections are distant and historical: The Mets got fleeced in the Amos Otis-Joe Foy deal, but they took the Royals to the cleaners on the Ed Hearn-David Cone deal. Gregg Jefferies/Kevin McReynolds for Bret Saberhagen was not as clear-cut.
More obvious is the fact that, as exhilarating as it is to make the World Series, the loser leaves feeling desolately empty. The Royals have been especially hungry this year, having left the tying run on third base in the ninth inning of Game 7 last October against the Giants.
"We came in with one goal, and that was to get back to the World Series. It can't be any better than this,'' centerfielder Lorenzo Cain said after scoring the winning run in climactic ALCS Game 6 against the Blue Jays on Friday night.
High stakes just add to the allure. Images stay in people's minds a long time.
"The first memory I have of the World Series is probably 1960,'' Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said. "I was living in South Carolina and Bobby Richardson played for the Yankees. They piped the games in to our fifth-grade class. It was a big deal. I wasn't a Yankee fan, but ironically, most people in that town were. From there, 55 years later, it conjures up a lot of different memories.
"It's been 25 years since I was involved in a World Series directly, so this is almost a completely different experience for me,'' said Alderson, general manager of the 1990 A's.
Mets infielder Kelly Johnson is a former first-round pick who has played 10 years in the majors on eight teams but never was in the World Series before. "This is definitely why we're here. This is why we play,'' he said. "We grow up dreaming about this moment.''
It is, to quote from an old Mets promotion, a magic moment. The World Series can make a person's hero become that person's fan. "I'll give you something that happened to me,'' Collins said. "Guess who called me. Don Newcombe. I said, 'Newk, how's the World Series?' He said, 'It's the greatest experience you'll ever have in baseball.' ''
When he got off the phone with the 89-year-old Brooklyn Dodgers great, Collins told his wife, "There's a lot of people who are not going to understand what an important phone call that was.''
It was all about the World Series.