The Seeker

A Meta-Cognitive Journal About Writing… Plus Other Stuff

Baseball’s Greatest Hits

with one comment

This time of year sucks.  Football is creating less and less of a distraction, and it’s two months until baseball starts.  But I’m thirsty for some baseball.  I want to have a good reason to write about baseball, and have been wanting one for some time now.  So I came up with this idea:  To write about my 5 favorite baseball games of all time.  The only qualifier is that I had to be at the game.

5.  Frustration and New-found Respect
Monday, July 5, 2004:  Chicago Cubs at Milwaukee Brewers
Several things made this one memorable…  to date it was the largest crowd ever at Miller Park, the game was a nail-biter all the way, and by the end I experienced a serious shift in my baseball allegiances (yet another one that I’ve had to explain a thousand times).  I got a story published about this game a few years ago, so there’s no sense in rewriting it here.

4.  First Impressions are Lasting Impressions
Sunday, May 27, 1979:  Baltimore Orioles at Detroit Tigers (Double-header)
This game would rank higher on my list but that the memories aren’t as sharp as my memories from the last ten years (and I feel the constant need to remind people that I didn’t always love baseball; only since 2001).  What I do remember, though, is how huge Tiger Stadium looked from the front row next to the visitor’s on-deck circle.  The infield alone seemed larger than the little league fields I played on at home in Angola, IN.  I couldn’t believe a player could hit a ball to the outfield, much less hit a homerun.  Our awesome seats came courtesy of my dad.  He scored the tickets through some business contacts, as he would for the next three or four years, and that was all the motivation we ever needed to motor to Detroit to take in a game.  But damn the old man!  I’ve not been able to score such excellent seats ever since, despite some serious ticket scalping and extraordinary luck (I’ve come very close a half dozen time, but never quite matched them).

This game also initiated the most unusual sports allegiance in my life– I have counted the Orioles as my favorite baseball team ever since.  I couldn’t help it.  I was within arms reach of so many Oriole players that I was mezmerized:  Eddie Murray, Ken Singleton, Mark Belanger, Steve Stone, Terry Crowley (who, by the way, was lucky to be in f*&%$*% baseball, for chrissakes).  I’ve been under their spell ever since.  The down is that I’ve had to explain a thousand times in the past 31 years how I came to love an under-performing cellar dweller when I grew up 700 miles away from them.  My friends and family now know me as a huge Cubs fan (I like the Brewers and Cardinals, too), but the only big-ticket, officially-licensed MLB item I own is an Orioles jersey. 

It meant nothing to me that the Orioles were beaten in both games that day– I didn’t even remember that until I checked the box scores a few years ago.  It was a mere blip on the O’s radar that season; they went on to win 102 games and eventually lose to Pittsburgh in the World Series.  It also meant nothing to me that I was watching Hall of Famer Earl Weaver manage two games.  The most I remembered about him was that each time he came out of the dugout, some Detroit fans yelled for him to sit his midget ass down.  I had no idea that I was in the presence of one of the greatest minds in baseball history.  My respect for Weaver has grown so substantial that I wrote a story about him.

3.  The Bachelors’ Last Stand (in Hell)
Friday, July 14, 2006:  Los Angeles Dodgers at St. Louis Cardinals

This game was the kickoff of a weekend trip to see the new Busch Stadium.  I planned it with my friends Scott and Adam as an escape from our regular summer lives and a good reason to watch a bunch of baseball.  Comfortable, it was not–  St. Louis can never be described as comfortable in mid-summer, and the gametime temperatures Friday through Sunday were 86, 91, and 93.  The last two games were in the afternoon, which made it about 10 degrees hotter in the stadium.  We found precious little shade, but soldiered on nonetheless through sweat and sunburns.

Friday’s game almost didn’t happen.  I was to meet Scott in St. Louis in late afternoon in time for a bite to eat and to get to the game.  I flew out of Chicago, but barely.  I didn’t realize I had booked a ticket for 10:30PM rather than 10:30AM, but was able to get on the 10:30AM flight after some begging (specifically, I told the ticket agent at the gate that I would have her children if she let me on the flight).  We still didn’t have tickets to the game, so as soon as I got to the hotel, I set out for the ballpark and started scrounging.  I talked briefly with 8-10 of the professional scalpers you always find around Busch, but walked away when I didn’t like what I was hearing.  I was about thirty feet down the street when a half dozen cop cars barrelled up to the group of scalpers, followed by a paddy wagon.  Within 30 seconds, the scalpers were on the ground and in cuffs, along with three or four other guys who, like me, were trying to score some tickets.  I kept walking.  An hour or so later, I bought a pair of tickets from a guy sitting in a beer garden a few blocks away from the stadium.  He said his wife hates sitting outside watching games when it’s so hot (even when it’s a night game), so he couldn’t use his tickets.  He sold me two seats a dozen rows behind homeplate for face value.

It’s a rare ocassion in baseball when you see a team’s signature game–  the game that defines their entire season.  But this was the one for the ’06 Cards.  It was all Chris Carpenter.  He chucked 101 pitches, striking out 7 and giving up 2 hits for a complete game shutout.  No Dodger got past first base.  On offense, David Eckstein set the table and let the heart of the order do the heavy lifting.  Scott and I sat there with cold beers and scorecards for 2 hours, mezmerized by the whole display.  It was like we were watching a machine so finely tuned that it would never break down.  Two months later, the Cards backed into the playoffs on the last day of the season.  A month after that, they took the World Series crown the same way they played that night:  lockdown pitching seasoned with Tony LaRussa’s signature small-ball philosophies and timely power hitting.  Eckstein won the World Series MVP, which was the only time (?) a leadoff hitter has won the award.

That weekend was the last stand for Scott, Adam, and me as a triumvirate of bachelors.  Adam had just started to date the woman he would marry 3 years later.  Scott had moved to Los Angeles and wasn’t around to spirit off to ballgames at a moment’s notice, like we had plenty of times in the previous 5 years.  He was also firmly established with his soon-to-be wife.  In fact, this game was the last ballgame Scott and I sat at together; the final one of a score overall from the time I was born again into baseball fanaticism.

As for the heat…  maybe it was the crucible we had to endure to enjoy the last vestiges of our mutual bachelorhood.  Maybe it was karma catching up to us for all the crazy schemes we hatched or lucky breaks we caught when we got together.  Maybe it was nothing more than typical Midwest summer misery.

2.  It Was Like We Were At The Center Of The Universe
Friday, August 15, 2003:  Los Angeles Dodgers at Chicago Cubs. 

This one had a humble start.  I was looking at it as summer’s last hurrah, as the last afternoon ballgame I could go to before the school year started.  Little did I know how epic it would become.

I was really more concerned about getting into the game than I was about it being a Friday afternoon game at Wrigley.  I didn’t even think about it happening during the practice runs for the Air and Water Show.  It didn’t occur to me that Russell Crowe was scheduled to throw out the first pitch and sing the 7th inning stretch.  I barely thought twice about it being a critical game in the Cubs’ drive to the playoffs and that Mark Prior was pitching.  What could possibly make this idyllic scene even more perfect?  Bleacher seats.  Scott and I managed to pick up a pair of them on the cheap after a healthy amount of scalping.  We parked ourselves on the outfield wood a few minutes after 2PM and felt more than saw a B52 rumble overhead toward Lake Michigan.  Planes continued to scream overheard throughout the game, each time inciting a thunderous roar from the crowd.

The Cubs got right to work about a half past 2.  Kenny Lofton singled to right, then came home on a Sammy Sosa double.  Alex Gonzalez scored the same way in the bottom of the 5th, but the Cubs were never comfortable.  Mark Prior induced a handful of stikeouts, and showed true grit by getting himself out of a sticky 8th inning when the Dodgers scored a one-out run and had runners on first and third with the heart of the order at the plate.  Shawn Green popped out, and then Prior muscled his way past Jeromy Burnitz in 3 pitches.  The stadium shook an inning later when Ron Coomer got caught looking for the final out of the game.  Somewhere along the line, Lofton had a miscommunication with Sosa and let a ball fall between them and roll to deep center-right, allowing Robin Ventura to reach 3rd.  The play inspired a Bleacher Bum to yell out the funniest, most insightful heckle I’ve ever heard:  “Come on, Lofton!  Sean Elliot would have called him off!”

By the time we had stumbled over to The Cubby Bear with a couple of our friends after the game, Scott and I (and the rest of Cubs nation for that matter) had the strange feeling that the 2003 Cubs were for real.  We floated on that blissful cloud for 2 more months before heartbreak brought us back to Earth.

1.  Unexpected; Unbelievable
Sunday, September 14, 2008:  Chicago Cubs at Houston Astros
This was one of those games that baseball junkies slaver over.  Years from now, I will still proudly claim that I was there.  Again, there’s no sense in recounting it here since my retelling of the game captured the interest of some other Cubs fans.  Check out my scorecard:
(scan scorecard and insert)

Honorable Mentions

Sunday, June 13, 2004:  Florida Marlins at Detroit Tigers
An excellent men-only trip to the ballpark for Father’s Day.  Three generations of Burd boys flocked to Detroit.  We had an excellent tailgate party beforehand.  Juan Pierre hit an inside-the-park homerun.

Friday, July 2, 2004:  Chicago White Sox at Chicago Cubs
One of my only positive memories of the Dusty Baker Cubs after 2003.  My girlfriend and I went to the game for my 34th birthday, and scalped tickets for 2 hours before scoring seats along first base at the literal last minute.  Zambrano bullied the Sox into the 7th.

Saturday, July 7, 2001:  Chicago Cubs at Detroit Tigers
This was my first time taking my dad to the ballgame.  Comerica Park was in its debut season; I was stunned by how awesome it was.  It remains my favorite park in all of baseball.

Sunday, July 1, 2001:  Baltimore Orioles at Chicago White Sox
This was one of my first games as a newly-minted baseball junkie.  My buddies Scott and Doug took me for my 31st birthday and because Cal Ripken Jr. was my all-time favorite player and it was to be his final game at Comiskey.

Advertisements

Written by seeker70

February 2, 2010 at 3:00 am

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. I will forever be jealous of the Cubs/Astros game. But really, who wouldn't.-Adam

    avollme

    February 4, 2010 at 1:54 pm


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: