Country Music Time Machine: World Series Edition

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Right now Texans are in the middle of football season, and therefore even attempting to talk about any other pro sports amounts to ripping a wet fart into the wind -- unless it's the Rockets, and most of us Houstonians can't watch them on TV anyway. But in case you haven't noticed, and you probably haven't, the Major League Baseball fans among us have been enjoying one of the most entertaining postseasons in ages.

It ends tonight, one way or another, when the Kansas City Royals and San Francisco Giants meet in the first World Series Game 7 in three years. And while it's been fun to watch former Astro Hunter Pence's slow transformation into Hayes Carll, once you watch them play a little while it's nearly impossible not to root for the club from Kansas City. Not only do they bunt and steal bases and move runners over and make spectacular outfield catches, but the Royals also have the most entertaining mascot in the major leagues, a goofy-ass lion named Sluggerrr.

Thus far the most interesting music-related news to come out of this series is ex-Staind singer/current country solo artist Aaron Lewis' three-base error while singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" before Game 5 at San Francisco's AT&T Park. Even Sluggerrr could have sang better than that.

However, all this October spirit has inspired us to fire up the Country Music Time Machine, Rocks Off's favorite feature of thisdayincountrymusic.com, to see what was topping the charts during the previous 11 Game 7s. (It's a sort of social experiment we enjoy doing every so often.) We were going to stop at ten, but the one after that was one of the best Series of all time, so we had to ignore the third-base coach's stop sign.

2011 Series: Denied a World Series ring in the Astros' 2005 implosion, Lance Berkman finally got one as a role player for Houston's then-nemesis St. Louis Cardinals. His triumph was doubly sweet because it came over Silver Boot rivals/future AL West foes the Texas Rangers -- with whom Berkman finished his career in 2013. Song: "Long Hot Summer," Keith Urban Comment: If you remember what awful weather we had three years ago, "Long Hot Summer" topping the charts well into October should come as no surprise.

2002 Series: A bulked-up Barry Bonds still wasn't enough for the Giants to slug their way past Scott Spiezio and Darin Erstad's clutch Game 6 homers in the Angels' first and only World Series appearance to date. Song: "Somebody Like You," Keith Urban Comment: Arguably the single that made him a superstar, "Somebody Like You" was only Urban's second No. 1 hit.

2001 Series: Playing role of ultimate spoiler, the Arizona D-Backs went totally off-script and upset the heavily favored New York Yankees in a series played amid an outpouring of post-9/11 patriotism. Song: "Only In America," Brooks & Dunn Comment: A fitting No. 1 given the country's mood in October 2001 (though it was released back in the summer), "Only In America" has enjoyed a long life pumping up political gatherings ever since -- including in Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign.

1997 Series: The World Series that wouldn't end, until the Marlins' Edgar Renteria hit a walkoff single in the 11th inning of Game 7 that finally vanquished Cleveland. The world champions went on to lose more than 100 games in 1998 after owner Jeffrey Loria's infamous post-Series "fire sale." Song: "Everywhere," Tim McGraw Comment: The polar opposite of earlier singles like "Down On the Farm," but a close cousin to "Don't Take the Girl," "Everywhere" offered up McGraw as a worthy successor to George Strait as it saturated country radio for most of late 1997.

1991 Series: Both the Twins and Braves won every home game, four of them decided by one run. It wasn't over until Minnesota utilityman Gene Larkin's RBI single broke a scoreless tie in the 10th inning of Game 7, ending what ESPN once called the greatest World Series of them all. Song: "Anymore," Travis Tritt Comment: Somewhat overshadowed on breakthrough album It's All About to Change by brawnier tunes like "Here's a Quarter (Call Someone Who Cares)," "Anymore" is nonetheless Tritt's third most popular song on Spotify today.

1987 Series: The first Fall Classic played partially indoors, this Twins-Cardinals series went the full seven games but featured no lead changes after the seventh inning. Song: "Shine, Shine, Shine," Eddy Raven Comment: Lafayette, La. native Raven put plenty of Cajun flavor into his songs over the years, but steers closer to Trinidad for this calypso-sounding tune.

Story continues on the next page.

1986 Series: In a series famous for Bill Buckner's between-the-legs boo-boo in Game 6, the hard-partyin' Mets beat the hard-luck Red Sox behind the antics of Mookie Wilson, Lenny Dykstra, Doc Gooden, Darryl Strawberry et al., who had of course toughened up by breaking Astros fans' hearts in the NLCS. Song: "Cry," Crystal Gayle Comment: Loretta Lynn's younger sister comes off more like Linda Ronstadt on this pop-country ballad that proved Nashville's Urban Cowboy days weren't quite finished yet.

1985 Series: In Kansas City's last World Series (and postseason) appearance until this year, the Royals came back from a 3-games-to-1 deficit to beat I-70 rivals St. Louis behind a controversial first-base call in the ninth inning of Game 6 and an 11-0 blowout the next night. Song: "Touch a Hand, Make a Friend," Oak Ridge Boys Comment: For a bunch of guys who are getting on in years, the Boys have a pretty active and fan-friendly Twitter account. The Staples Singers also had a hit with this song, in 1973.

1982 Series: The foamiest Fall Classic of them all, the "Suds Series" saw Anheuser-Busch (aka St. Louis) edge out Miller Brewing (aka Milwaukee) behind the play of Ozzie Smith, Darrell Porter, ex-Astro Joaquin Andujar and future Seinfeld co-star Keith Hernandez. Song: "He Got You," Ronnie Milsap Comment: Welcome to the Country Music Hall of Fame, Ronnie. "He Got You" is definitely one of the tunes that got him there.

1979 Series: Willie "Pops" Stargell powered the Pittsburgh Pirates, disco-dancing to Sister Sledge's "We Are Family," past Jim Palmer and the pitching-rich Baltimore Orioles. Song: Gatlin Brothers, "All the Gold In California" Comment: Attention, everyone peeved that we omitted "Houston (Means I'm One Day Closer to You)" from last week's "25 Best Songs About Houston" article -- "All the Gold" is a much better song anyway.

1975 Series: Carlton Fisk's legendary 12th-inning home run off the foul pole in Game 6 still wasn't enough to stop Cincinnati's Big Red Machine, in a series that saw the final two games postponed for three straight days due to rain. Song: "San Antonio Stroll," Tanya Tucker Comment: Tucker was just 16 when she recorded "San Antonio Stroll," but had already appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone and scandalized a good bit of country music in the process. Greater things were ahead, but this song remains among her best.


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