LOS ANGELES — Baseball has a way. So often it manages, among the likes of J.D. Martinez and Mookie Betts, to hone in for a few days on the most unlikely guy on the team and turn him into Babe Ruth.
Baseball has a way of saying, “Steve Pearce, come here. You’re going to win the World Series for your team.”
Steve Pearce is 35 years old. Steve Pearce has worn the uniform of seven teams in a 12-year career as a pro baseball player, including every team in the American League East. Steve Pearce was traded from the Toronto Blue Jays to the Boston Red Sox on June 28 for a guy you’ve never heard of. Oh, and the Jays threw in $1.66 million dollars to sweeten the deal for Boston.
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Put all that together and now consider this: In Game 5 of the World Series on Sunday night, Pearce slugged two home runs and was named the series MVP after the Red Sox dispatched of the Los Angeles Dodgers, 5-1.
Steve Pearce, World Series MVP. You want an out-of-nowhere, feel-good story? This is it.
“This is the greatest feeling of my life,” Pearce said.
There’s the MVP trophy, sure. The Chevy truck that comes with it. The World Series ring that’s on its way. The craziest part might be this: Pearce is cozying up in the record book with some unbelievable names. He’s only the third player in MLB history age 35 or older to hit two home runs in a World Series game. The others are Ted Kluszewski and some dude named Babe Ruth.
“Sure,” said Pearce, earnest as can be. “That’s great company.”
Oh, but that’s not all. Pearce is also just the third player in history with back-to-back World Series games in which he homered and had at least three RBIs. The others? Lou Gehrig and that Babe Ruth fella again.
Pearce took Clayton Kershaw deep in the first inning, a two-run homer that would, in time, be all the Red Sox needed. They scored more, though, and by the time Pearce homered again in the 8th inning, this time off Pedro Baez, the party was starting in Boston.
Afterward, Pearce’s family packed into the room where World Series MVPs do their interviews.
“When you’re a kid, this is where you want to be,” he said. “And it’s happening right now. And I get to celebrate it with my family and friends back there. And I know they’re happy. They’re on cloud nine, as I am.”
“How are you feeling?” he asked his wife, Jessica.
“She’s feeling good,” he then told the media. “This is a great moment. I’m so glad I get to share it with everybody.”
Thirteen members of his family came to the stage with Pearce afterward and posed for a picture with Pearce and the Willie Mays trophy.
“Baseball is a funny game,” Pearce said. “You never know where the game will take you. And I’ve gone through a lot in my life or in my career to be here, and I couldn’t be more thankful.”
Pearce was, at one point, a 45th round draft pick by the Minnesota Twins coming out of high school in Florida, where, believe it or not, he was a Red Sox fan. He went to community college instead of signing with the Twins, then to the University of South Carolina and eventually was an eighth-round pick by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2005.
He debuted in the big leagues pretty quickly, seeing his first action in 2007. But even now, he’s played 638 minor leagues compared to 737 big-league games. Injuries often derailed his promise and he had trouble staying in one place.
Take 2012: He was released by the Twins, who had signed Pearce after the Pirates cut ties with him. The Yankees picked him up, but then sent him to the Orioles. The Orioles waived him two months later and the Astros picked him up. It was July at this point and he was on his fourth team. By August, the Yankees got him back, but in September he was waived and picked up by the Orioles again.
And six years later? He hit four homers and knocked in 11 runs in the postseason for the Red Sox. In the World Series, he had three homers and eight of his RBIs. In Boston’s Game 4 comeback, he had a homer to tie the game in the eighth and a three-run double to make it a laugher in the ninth. Pearce’s bat from that game is now en route to Cooperstown.
“We thought Steve Pearce would be a good player for us. We thought he’d add to our ballclub,” said Dave Dombrowski, the Red Sox’s president of baseball operations, recounting the trade that brought him to Boston this season. “We brought him in particularly to hit versus left-handed pitching, because we were a little susceptible to left-hand pitching. We also knew that he was a leader, was not afraid of any type of tough competition, he’d been around the league.
“We’d never say he was going to win the MVP in the World Series.”
But here we are. Steve Pearce, man.
He’s the latest member to join a fraternity of 63. Reggie Jackson, Pete Rose, Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, they’re in the group. Randy Johnson, Derek Jeter, David Ortiz, Madison Bumgarner, they’re in it too.
And then there are the more unlikely guys. David Eckstein. Pat Borders. Steve Pearce.
Every MVP has his own story. Some are better than others. Some are more likely than others. And some are the guy you’d never think of, the guy so many teams passed on, the guy who was always thankful for every opportunity.
Best believe that guy loves every minute of this.
“Best feeling in my life,” Pearce said.
Baseball has a way. It always has a way.
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