No matter whom you pull for in this World Series – or whether you pull for either team – know this: The big winner in this World Series is the sport of baseball.

And baseball needed this.

Rick Cleveland Credit: Melanie Thortis

The World Series matching long-suffering Chicago Cubs and the long-suffering Cleveland Indians – two of baseball’s oldest franchises – has touched a national nerve.

For the first time in a long time, baseball is topping football in TV ratings.

This World Series has reached far past dedicated baseball fans and captured the interest of casual fans and even those who would never watch.

Tonight’s Game 7 will set records. For baseball connoisseurs, this should be most delicious.

Game 5 drew 23.6 million viewers, the highest World Series audience in 12 years (Red Sox-Cardinals), and beat Sunday Night Football (which included the popular Dallas Cowboys) by more than five million viewers.

Although Tuesday night’s game wasn’t nearly as dramatic, the ratings remained high.

It’s not just that. Around town, you hear people talking baseball everywhere: taverns, restaurants, break rooms, the grocery store, barber shops, the golf course … everywhere.

The kicker: At my house Sunday night, my wife watched baseball for the first time since our son played.

•••

One more World Series note: At The Clarion-Ledger years ago, we used to cover the Atlanta Braves quite a bit. I would go over to Atlanta and write several columns a season.

John Smoltz, now the Fox World Series analyst, was then a standout pitcher. I usually gravitated toward his locker during pre- and post-game interview sessions, because he always was so open, engaging and interesting. He was the best interview on those Braves and there were a lot of them.

Smoltz is the same way on TV. In fact, he is the most informative, most compelling baseball analyst out there. He doesn’t state the obvious and he tells you stuff you need to know that you wouldn’t know otherwise. He’s the best – and one more reason to watch tonight.


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Rick Cleveland, a native of Hattiesburg and resident of Jackson, has been Mississippi Today’s sports columnist since 2016. A graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi with a bachelor’s in journalism, Rick has worked for the Monroe (La.) News Star World, Jackson Daily News and Clarion Ledger. He was sports editor of Hattiesburg American, executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. His work as a syndicated columnist and celebrated sports writer has appeared in numerous magazines, periodicals and newspapers.
Rick has been recognized 12 times as Mississippi Sports Writer of the Year, and is recipient of multiple awards and honors for his reporting and writing.