The Day I Fell For Baseball
Note: The post below doesn’t involve the Dash. It does, however, have everything to do with baseball.
Baseball is a romantic sport, packed with highs and lows that permeate the most grueling season in all of modern day sport. Big league players suit up 162 times a year, while minor leaguers play 140 games with only a handful of day-long breaks.
When one plays or attends a baseball game, odds are that nothing magical will happen. After all, the season stretches for five or six months. Sometimes, though, our national pastime gives us a reason to come back again and again and again.
For me, that moment came 11 years ago today, and I’ve never forgotten it.
I was always a fan. I went to a no-hitter at the age of one (don’t remember that one), a World Series game at the age of five and an All-Star Game at the age of seven while growing up in Cleveland during the glory days of Indians baseball.
If you are reading this, you have probably been a fan for a long time, too. But for many baseball fans, there is that ONE moment when everything came together. For White Sox fans, that moment is most likely Game 4 of the 2005 World Series. You probably remember the date (October 26, 2005), the score (1-0) and the game-winning hit (Jermaine Dye’s eighth-inning single).
My moment was August 5, 2001. I had tickets to the Indians-Mariners game, which was on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball. After a family emergency that day, it didn’t look like I would get to go, which, at that point, was completely understandable.
About 30 minutes before first pitch, my dad changed his mind. We went to the game hoping for a pick-us-up.
By the time we got there, the Mariners were well on their way to taking a 12-0 lead in the third. And this was the Mariners team that finished 116-46 and went to the ALCS. At that point in the season, they boasted a record of 80-30. They were really, really good.
Going into the bottom of the seventh, it was 14-2. As the probability chart shows near the middle of this page, things weren’t looking good for Chief Wahoo’s crew. We stuck around as the Sunday night, sold-out crowd dwindled and the likes of Eddie Taubensee, Wil Cordero and Russell Branyan replaced some of the Indians’ starters.
The Tribe plated three in the seventh to make it 14-5. In the eighth, the Indians scored four runs and had only one out. All the momentum went away, though, when a potential run was cut down at the plate, and Seattle took a 14-9 lead into the ninth.
During the top of the ninth, my dad pointed at the scoreboard. He said, in what had to be a showing of sarcasm, that the Indians wanted three in the seventh and four in the eighth in order to score five in the ninth.
After an emotional day at home and an ugly night of baseball, my dad said, “I have a feeling.”
Whether or not he truly believed it, I don’t know and I don’t care. He was incredibly correct.
With two out and a runner at first, four straight runners reached. Bases loaded. Two outs. 14-11 Seattle. Omar Vizquel (my favorite player growing up) was at the plate. On a 3-2 pitch, Vizquel laced a bases-clearing, game-tying triple down the right field line that still gives me goosebumps when I think about it.
Two innings later, in-game addition Jolbert Cabrera drove home the game-winning run for the Indians. Less than 10,000 people were still at Jacobs Field shortly after midnight when Kenny Lofton scored the historic run. To this day, I’ve never heard a crowd like that one. I’ve never attended a game like that one.
Every year, I relive the play-by-play calls of that magical night, which takes me back to a time, albeit a short one, when baseball was perfect.
Baseball is a game that must be approached with realism, humility and grit. Every team experiences peaks and valleys. Patience is key, and one streak (positive or negative) does not define a season.
But everyone who has watched this game enough has at least one of these experiences. Baseball keeps bringing us back because we all want to experience something better. Is that likely? Not exactly.
Neither was Chicago’s near-perfect run through the 2005 playoffs. Neither was a win for the Indians on that incredible night 11 years ago, either.
No matter what happens to our favorite teams, we’ll always have that one moment. And 11 years later, mine is still perfect.