By Mark F. Gray, AFRO Staff Writer, [email protected]
Once upon a time Howie Kendrick was a top prospect on a World Series contender. He was expected to be a cornerstone on the dynasty that was to be, but never happened with the Anaheim Angels. His strange odyssey to the World Series ends in the District where he is the Most Valuable Player of the National League Championship Series.
Kendrick didn’t mean to make Black History while helping raise the first NL pennant in D.C. since 1933, it just happened like that. In helping the Nats chase their postseason demons, Kendrick exorcised a career that was projected to be at least all-star caliber for at least a decade before he fell off with a clutch postseason performance that rivals any during the District’s modern era of pro sports.
At this point, Kendrick has been what Wes Unseld was to the Bullets during the 1978 Playoffs in leading them to their only world championship. In the NLCS he was Doug Williams vs. the Broncos in the second quarter of Super Bowl 22. He went from being an obscure acquisition who paid dividends during the regular season, to becoming modern D.C.’s Black Baseball icon thanks to an October to remember on one of the game’s biggest stages.
Kendrick became the Angels starting second baseman in 2007 hitting .322 in 88 games but was back to the minors by 2009. He learned to play outfield and first base then became an American League all-star by 2011. Ironically he was a part Nats misery in 2016 when playing for the LA Dodgers who beat them in the NLDS in five heartbreaking games.
After following a Hollywood script on the way to the NLCS the Washington Nationals wasted little time closing down the house against the St. Louis Cardinals. There was no drama which makes for compelling television as the Nationals brought the World Series to the Nation’s Capital for the first time in 84 years by sweeping one of baseball’s blue bloods and raising the first pennant of the modern era with a 7-4 win to sweep and clinch a spot in this year’s fall classic.
This time the Nationals left no doubt. Their dominance against the National League’s standard bearer and all it’s history made its mark and helped the team carve a niche that generation never thought they would see in D.C. These Nats effectively put the game on ice with a 7-run first inning in game four to erase the demons of postseason failures of season’s gone by and Kendrick was in the middle by drawing an intentional walk before scoring on a Yan Gomes single.
Their fortnight to the World Series included the purge of of baggage that accompanied being previously eliminated by the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Cardinals within a span of 16 days. It took a game five extra innings grand slam from Kendrick to exorcise the Dodgers’ demons. Thanks to historically brilliant pitching they killed the Cardinals curse. St. Louis didn’t score an earned run until game four when Yadier Molina hit a solo home run in the top of the fourth inning off Patrick Corbin.
In one glorious inning they did more to quickly end the curse of the Cardinals they had been saddled with since blowing a five run lead in the final game of the 2012 NLDS. Kendrick is now an icon who becomes a legend if the Nationals take one last step and win the World Series.