The following is not mathematically rigorous, since the events of yesterday evening were contingent upon one another in various ways. But just for fun, let’s put all of them together in sequence:
— The Red Sox had just a 0.3 percent chance of failing to make the playoffs on Sept. 3.
— The Rays had just a 0.3 percent chance of coming back after trailing 7-0 with two innings to play.
— The Red Sox had only about a 2 percent chance of losing their game against Baltimore, when the Orioles were down to their last strike.
— The Rays had about a 2 percent chance of winning in the bottom of the 9th, with Johnson also down to his last strike.
Multiply those four probabilities together, and you get a combined probability of about one chance in 278 million of all these events coming together in quite this way.
When confronted with numbers like these, you have to start to ask a few questions, statistical and existential.
‘Baseball’ was an orgy for baseball lovers. And what fun would sports be if there wasn’t something to argue about? Critics and viewers received the series favorably, but the sports media was often suspect. Veteran Philadelphia columnist Bill Conlin called it “Long with the Wind.” On talk radio in New York, Mike and the Mad Dog played Monday morning moviemaker after each episode, harping on errors and pointing out omissions. But nobody was more critical than Keith Olbermann, who amassed a list of mistakes, 160 strong. “Can they suspend your poetic license?” asked Olbermann.
In making The Tenth Inning, a two-part, four-hour follow-up to Baseball covering the last twenty years, Burns’ considerable savvy is on display right away: None other than Olbermann himself is the first talking head featured in the new series. Burns might have bristled at Olbermann’s critique but he was shrewd enough to enlist his former antagonist this time around.