Until Sunday night, baseball was too much defined by the strike, greed, manipulative owners and episodes of outrageous behavior. But then came the last three innings of the final game of the World Series. They were what baseball is supposed to be: concentration and chance-taking, skill and sacrifice, grace and grunt work, managerial cunning, thrill.
It was a fabulous, too-short time of spectacular play for which baseball fans willingly wait a long time.
Even through the television screen, the tension of the extra innings made it hard to breathe for fear the pitcher's concentration would be broken or the base runner distracted as he edged away from the bag.
It almost (almost) did not matter who won. Baseball fans could rejoice in Craig Counsell's sacrifice fly that tied the game for the Florida Marlins or despair over the 11th inning error by Tony Fernandez of the Cleveland Indians. Cleveland was the heartbreak favorite. But the 5-year-old Marlins had just the right amount of kick and a manager who remembered his minor league roots. Their 3-2 victory was a joy.
The long winter sets in as soon as a World Series is over. The memories of those last three innings should ward off some of the chill while we wait for spring.