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ANDREA SEABROOK, host:

Time now for the World Series. The teams are set. After seven arduous games with the New York Mets, the St. Louis Cardinals won the National League title Thursday night. They face the Detroit Tigers, who made quick work of the Oakland A's, beating them in four straight games last Saturday to become American League champs. The two teams took very different paths to get here, but they'll meet in Detroit tonight to decide whether St. Louis or Detroit will get the parade.

Joining us now for the World Series preview is our sports commentator Ron Rapoport.

Hello, Ron.

RON RAPOPORT: Hi, Andrea.

SEABROOK: Ron, despite everything that I just said, I know almost nothing about what I'm talking about, so go gentle on me. I usually cover Capitol Hill.

RAPOPORT: You don't need to understand baseball to understand the World Series.

SEABROOK: That's true.

RAPOPORT: It's America. It's America.

SEABROOK: The entire series between the Mets and the Cardinals, it came down to the ninth inning of the seventh game, tied 1-1.

RAPOPORT: Oh, the poor Mets, Andrea. Bases loaded, bottom of the ninth, winning run on base, and Carlos Beltran stands there and takes a called third strike to end the season. Right now you can almost hear Mets fans walking around the city, muttering to themselves...

SEABROOK: Ooooh.

RAPOPORT: Swing the bat! But all hail the Cardinals, Andrea, honestly. Yadier Molina's homerun in the ninth, top of the ninth, to break open just an excruciatingly tense game, that's the stuff that dreams are made of. That's the stuff that puts teams in the World Series.

SEABROOK: Will the World Series all come down to the pitching?

RAPOPORT: You know, the Tigers' pitching has been just swell. They've got Kenny Rogers, who's only about 100 years old.

(Soundbite of laughter)

RAPOPORT: They have some good young pitchers who came into the fray this year and really did well. But the Cardinals, they're very strange. You know, they've been anchored during the playoffs by Jeff Weaver, who won eight games during the regular season and has already won three in the playoffs. But...

SEABROOK: And he's cheap...

RAPOPORT: Well, there you go. And they ran him out of Los Angeles a couple of years ago. But yeah, the pitching is very, very important in a series like this.

SEABROOK: A huge part of the World Series this year is also the story of these two managers, the Cardinals' Tony La Russa, and Jim Leland for the Tigers. Leland was actually out of baseball for a while, wasn't he?

RAPOPORT: Yeah, he was. You know, Andrea, I was working in Chicago in the 1980s when Tony La Russa was managing the White Sox and he made Jim Leland his third base coach. And I don't think I have ever seen a manager and a coach closer than they were. They went everywhere together. Whenever you saw one, you saw the other, at the ballpark and away from the ballpark.

SEABROOK: So these guys know each other so well, I mean, is that a disadvantage?

RAPOPORT: No, I think it's an advantage. And I think it's going to be the game within the game, within the game, if you will, to see them trying to outfox the other. And I wouldn't be surprised if La Russa knows what Leland does, and Leland - just to cross him up - does the opposite, and vice versa. I really think these are two very cerebral guys. So yeah, they're going to be trying to analyze each other as managers, as well as each other's players and their own players. It'll be fun to watch.

SEABROOK: So is this the Tigers' series to lose?

RAPOPORT: I think so. You know, Andrea, I grew up as a long-suffering Tigers fan. Are there any other kinds?

(Soundbite of laughter)

RAPOPORT: And to see a team that lost 118 games only three years ago have the kind of season they're having now, and the kind of playoffs they're having, the only thing that'd be better for Detroit is if General Motors and Ford started selling cars again.

(Soundbite of laughter)

RAPOPORT: And the Tigers are really on a roll. They've won seven straight games over the Yankees and the A's. So yes, I think it is their series to lose. I really think that they're the favorites and that they ought to be.

SEABROOK: Our own sports commentator, Ron Rapoport.

Ron, thank you so much.

RAPOPORT: Thank you.

(Soundbite of music)

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