From the Bird’s Nest: One Incredible Night
Here it is, the middle of football season.
And, everyone in South Louisiana is into the Cajuns, Tigers and Saints.
I’m no exception.
But if you know me, you know that I truly believe there’s no sport like baseball.
There have been very few rule changes over the years. Three strikes and you’re out. Four balls is a walk. The mound is sixty feet, six inches. The bases are 90 feet. We’ve added the designated hitter, playoffs, interleague play and (gasp) limited instant replay. But over my lifetime, the game has basically remained the same.
It’s a timeless game, and that’s the thing I love the most about it.
My maternal grandfather, Ludger Brunet, passed away when I was only two years old. But as I grew up, my grandmother Alicea would always remind me what Pere would say.
“The game isn’t over until the last out.”
It’s what makes baseball so special. There’s no clock. You have, in regulation, twenty-seven outs. And you have to get all twenty-seven (sometimes more) to win the game.
I’ve seen so much classic baseball in my lifetime. The Bums finally won a World Series…the Phillies incredible meltdown when they had the pennant won. The Miracle Mets shocked the world. We are family. Sandy Koufax and Nolan Ryan. Donnie Moore pitching to Dave Henderson with the Angels one out away from the World Series. Billy Buckner. Orel Hershiser. The earthquake series. Jeffrey Maher. Steve Bartman. Schilling, Johnson and the D-Backs.
But, last night, I saw perhaps the greatest night of baseball. Ever.
If you had a rooting interest, you’re either euphoric or sick to your stomach.
If you didn’t care who won, you’re still in awe.
Two storied franchises, the Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves, both on the verge of two of the biggest collapses in baseball history. And, on one night, they both had one more chance.
The Cardinals and Astros game was a clunker. The other three were epic.
Boston leads Baltimore 3-2 in the seventh, and the rain came. Put on the tarp. Watch the Braves and Phillies in a one run game. Tampa? They were down to the Yankees 7-0 in the sixth. They’re toast. Wait for the Red Sox to resume.
Braves go to the ninth. Wait. Tampa got six in the eighth inning? Whoa. We’ll have to keep an eye on that one. Braves three outs away. Can anyone throw a strike? Sacrifice fly and the game is tied.
Back to Baltimore. Tarp is coming off. They’re ready to play. Baltimore down in the seventh.
Braves have a chance in extras, but Chipper Jones’ gapper gets run down for the third out.
Tampa down to its final three outs. Tampa down to its final out. Pinch-hit homer ties the score.
Back to Baltimore. Sox have runners at the corners with no outs in the ninth. And fail to score.
Two games into extra innings. Finally the Phillies break through and score. Braves end their season by grounding into a double play. Chop this. Freddy Gonzales, Braves manager, looks like someone shot his dog. Braves can only sit in the dugout, stunned. Their 8.5 game lead on September 1st is gone. So is their playoff future.
Back to Baltimore. Bottom of the ninth coming up. But wait. Go to Tampa. Yankees have runners on the corners with none out. But Evan Longoria makes a diving stop at third base and tags the runner going back to the bag. The Rays get out of the inning.
Jonathan Papelbon strikes out the first two Orioles in the bottom of the ninth. Sox need one out to clinch a tie. Double. Papelbon gets two strikes on the next hitter. Another double. Tie game. Single…and the Orioles are dogpiling at Camden Yards. Another meltdown for Boston. Now they have to hope the Rays lose.
They were put out of their misery two minutes later when Longoria hit his second homer of the game, this one just inside the foul pole in left. Rays win. Sox done. Boston goes 7-21 in September. They never won two games in a row in the final month.
And, Atlanta finished their season with five straight losses.
I guess it was only fitting those two teams who struggled so mightily would both blow ninth-inning save opportunities. Both collapses were complete.
And, how about Tampa? Down to their last six outs, trailing by seven and they come back to tie the game in the ninth. That might be the single most impressive clutch win….maybe ever.
The only thing that would have made the night even more exciting would have been if the Astros had given the Cardlnals a game last night. But that was probably too much to ask.
So, if you’re only a football person, I hope you enjoyed watching a replay of an old Saints game.
I, on the other hand, had one of the best sports nights of my entire life.
And, it proved to me, one more time, why baseball is king.