Sunday, July 24, 2005

It's all over!

Well, it finally happened. I finally saw the White Sox lose. I've been going to White Sox games for four years now, and I estimate that I've seen about 20 games in that span. The Sox won every single game, most of them easily, but some of them in fine dramatic style, like Frank Thomas's walk-off homer, and Jose Valentin's walk-off 3 run job to beat the Cubs, setting off a racucous celebration. But last night, the White Sox offense lost its teeth (not that it had many to begin with), succumbing meekly to Wade Miller and losing 3-0. The few times the White Sox had men on base, they "small-balled" themselves into oblivion, getting caught stealing twice and giving up an out with a sacrifice bunt that they desperately could have used later in the inning.

Manny Ramirez essentially won the game for the Red Sox, muscling a two-run homer to the opposite field in the first inning off of El Duque, who settled down after that. Ramirez made one of his trademark misplays around the fifth inning, freezing in his tracks at a ball hit directly at him, causing it to fly over his head and land for a double. But in my mind, Manny more than made up for this error in the 9th inning, when it mattered most. Paul Konerko led off the inning with a blast that one-hopped the fence in left; Ramirez played the hop perfectly, then fired a perfect throw that one-hopped to second base, causing Konerko to stop halfway to second and scramble back to first, keeping the double play in order. The final play of the game was a high drive into the left field power alley. Ramirez tracked the ball the instant it left the bat, ran a perfect route to the ball, and made a difficult catch running along the warning track. He performed a celebratory slam into the padded fence, and Curt Schilling smirked a little, probably thinking, "That's Manny." He's so confounding, but he'll consistently remind you that he's the best right-handed hitter of his era (until Pujols came along, at least).

The real reason I'm making this post is because it was exactly a year ago today that I saw the most memorable baseball game of my life. Serendipity had it such that my first game at Fenway just happened to be one of the best games of the regular season; it wasn't the best-played game, but it was certainly the most dramatic, considering the rivlary, the stakes, the brawl, and the comeback against the best relief pitcher of all time. Not a single detail of that game has been lost, and on occasion, I still look at the scorecard I kept to relive some of the moments. Needless to say, such a game swept me up into the drama of then Sox/Yanks rivalry, and gave me a lesson about how much Boston fans really care about their team, no matter what they might say. The game also helped me to appreciate the epic 2004 postseason--both the ALCS and the NLCS. As a baseball fan, and as a human being, I thank my lucky stars I was at that game. I can't really think of much more to say about it, so here is what I wrote about it at 2 AM, the night following the game. I have pages of notes that could coalesce into the writing project I allude to, but I'm still not exactly sure what I'm going to do with it. Even if the project never comes to fruition, the fact that this game stirred my creative muse is a testament to the powerful effect the game had on me.

7-24-04, 2:38 AM

This is the baseball game that will linger in my memory for the rest of my life. Every time I see a photo of Fenway Park I'll think of tonight's game. Every time I see a Boston or New York uniform I'll think of tonight's game. Every time I see a baseball diamond I'll think of tonight's game. And I hope Josh and I grow old and one late July evening in 2054 we can return to Fenway, if it's still standing, and think of tonight's game, and fans will crowd around us, wondering aloud: "you were there?"

It was not a well-played baseball game, nor is its outcome immediately significant. There are still two months to play and while the Red Sox are currently tied for the Wild Card lead, they could quite easily end up missing the playoffs, rendering this game relatively meaningless.

But it was meaningful -- I would even say spiritually meaningful -- to me. It was the best baseball game and best sporting event and probably best any event I've ever witnessed, and I doubt that anything I'll ever see can top it. I don't think I've ever felt more alive than when Bill Mueller's drive cleared the right field fence in Fenway and I leapt into the arms of my brethren strangers in the right field grandstand.

I text-messaged a few people telling them to turn on ESPN and watch the highlights of the game. Upon arriving home, Josh and I watched the highlights ourselves. It was enjoyable, but part of me was deeply disturbed that something of such magnitude for me could be reduced to a highlight reel. It seemed like the game had been gutted, and I was seeing its skin hanging up on a smokehouse wall. This is what I told my friends to watch?

So, I'm going to write about it. Not here, and not now. But that's what I'm going to do. I have to give this game its guts. When I get the time, I will sit down and write and write and write about this game until I can write no more. It will probably be enough to fill a book. And maybe that's what it will become. I have an urgent need to show every one of my close friends (especially my fellow baseball-loving friends) exactly how I felt and exactly what I saw. Writing is the best possible way I can think of to do this. I can't pass up this opportunity to share my life with the people I care about.

All this from someone who isn't even a Red Sox fan.


Anonymous josh said...

amen, hallelujah. hopefully will be seeing you in october at homecoming!

2:03 PM  

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