October 17, 2003


Baseball is back (Charles Krauthammer, October 17, 2003, Townhall.com)

These days Pedro Martinez plunks the Yankees' Karim Garcia (I love that name: the melting pot in two words) with a high hard one, and the umpire comes running out waving his arms, warning both sides that there will be no more retaliation. Well, in the old days when men were men, there were no dual warnings. Before 1975, the retaliation would go on until no one was left standing. The old Pacific Coast League once had a beanball fight -- an orgy, wrote the Los Angeles Daily News, ``of gouging, spiking and slugging'' -- that took 50 L.A. cops to break up.

Now that was a fight. This week's Fenway fracas was postmodern shadowboxing, which to my mind is the best of all possible worlds: You get your fight and nobody gets hurt.

Indeed, it has been the best of all possible baseball weeks. Could be the best we ever had. You got the Red Sox and the Cubs. You got the rhubarbs and the curses. You got a mayor ready to arrest Cy Young's successor. You got a fan (a Chicago fan, no less) reaching out to take a foul pop away from a Chicago outfielder -- and on this I shall brook no opposition -- costing the Cubs their first pennant since 1945.

This is craziness. This is karma. This is as good as it gets. Cubs fans may be crying, but America is once again in love with baseball. As a Los Angeles Times sports reporter wrote about that glorious Pacific Coast League brawl, ``Who says that ... baseball is dying?'' That was 1953.

The two things which in particular make baseball America's game were on display again last night:

(1) History and tradition: There were not just 50 but hundreds of players on the field last night, from Cy Young to Babe Ruth to Chris Chambliss to Bucky Dent, etc., to now Pedro Martinez, Roger Clemens, Aaron Boone, etc. The place wasn't just thick with ghosts, but with stories that all of us know. It's the one game where what happened one hundred years ago still seems significant.

(2) Democracy: Everyone in America could second guess Joe Torre, who managed panicky, as if he'd never manage another game, and Grady Little, who maneged comatose, as if he'd never managed a game before. No one watches the Super Bowl and screams that the pulling guard screwed up.

And the hero of the game, as so often in such baseball events, was unlikely. Aaron Boone, who's actually a very fine player, had been consigned to the bench--part of Torre's panicking--but ended up hitting the homerun that won it all and broke millions of Puritan hearts...again.

Fifty years from now, our grandkids will be muttering about the 8th inning of game 7--no one remembers so much as a single play in any World Cup, Super Bowl, whatever.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 17, 2003 10:30 AM

No one watches the Super Bowl and screams that the pulling guard screwed up.

What planet do you live on? Oh, and:

no one remembers so much as a single play in any World Cup, Super Bowl, whatever.

Right. "The Catch." BradshawtoSwannbackoftheendzone. Riggo busting through for the clincher. Titans one yard short of holding on.

To my mind -- and this as a baseball fan -- the only folks who [obsess about] remember single plays in baseball tend to be folks who have long, cold winters, where there's nothing else to do but be maudlin for nigh on half the year.

Posted by: Chris at October 17, 2003 10:43 AM

Torre panicked? C'mon. Okay,he should have pulled Clemens earlier. But what else? Weaver instead of Mussina or Wells? Leave a less motivated Giambi in the three hole? Not play Wilson, who hit Pedro all year?

Posted by: Ted at October 17, 2003 11:06 AM

A few thoughts from a die-hard Yankee fan and someone who has probably watched hundreds of baseball games with Orrin over the years (although, sadly, we haven't watched one together since the 7th game of the '97 Series):

-- I don't know if I'd call Torre's moves (Giambi hitting 7th; Wilson for Boone) "panicky", but they were atypical. He generally stays with his regular season lineup in the playoffs, even when it's killing him. The Yanks' playoff wins in '99, 2000 and 2001 seem enevitable in our memories now, but they struggled at various times with Oakland, Seattle, Boston and, of course, Arizona mostly due to a lack of hitting by the older players....nevertheless, Torre kept sending O'Neill, Brosius and Martinez out there game after game, never (or rarely) moving O'Neill from the 3rd spot or Tino from #5.

- The middle of the game reminded me a Sox loss that didn't involve the Yankees: Game 7 of the '86 Series. Here, Mike Mussina played the role of Sid Fernandez...having failed in an earlier start in the Series, he, like Sid, pitched 3 scoreless innings to keep his team in the game until the inevitable winning rally.

- Is he now officially known as "Aaron F***ing Boone"?

- One political note (since this is OJ's web page): How about Hideki Matsui as an example of what makes this country better than the rest? As Orrin regularly argues, having our borders open to people who want to come here, work hard and succeed is the way we strengthen and renew the country. In Japanese baseball the number of foreign-born players is strictly limited; here, players from around the world are welcomed to test themselves against each other...so, in the key moment in the game, a Domincan pitcher gave up a double to a Japanese left fielder.

Posted by: Foos at October 17, 2003 11:39 AM

I wouldn't say Torre panicked, but he played Game 7 of the ALCS as though it was Game 7 of the Series as far as his pitching decisions went, which as it turned out were the right moves (though the homer Wells allowed should have been the final nail in the coffin). However, I would bet that shuffling in his normal starters, along with the natural letdown after a win like that and the Yankees' traditional suckiness in Game 1s of any playoff series, means the Marlins have a pretty good chance of taking a win out of the stadium on Saturday.

As for the memories, baseball's slower pace means you have more time to both anticipate a play and to mull over one after it occurs, which makes individual plays througout the game stand out more than those in other sports, where only the end-of-game plays (Norwood's missed FG in Super Bowl XXV), Jordan's final shot in the 1999 NBA Finals) in general are recalled.

Posted by: John at October 17, 2003 12:42 PM

The difference between other sports and baseball is that in other sports, you can remember the athletics and execution, but only in baseball do you spend endless hours wondering over the decision. What will be remembered from last night won't be so much Boone's HR, it's in the inexplicable decision to leave Pedro in the game so long (the anti-McNamara decision). As Orrin says, our grandkids will be talking about the 8th inning, not the 11th.

Posted by: Bill at October 17, 2003 12:55 PM

i>No one watches the Super Bowl and screams that the pulling guard screwed up.

What Chris said. And I believe that there is still dispute about whether Jerry Kramer was offsides on the final play in the 1967 Ice Bowl NFL championship.

The reason there is more of that in baseball is that the fans have to do something to pass the time during all the lulls in the action. And I believe that when you are drunk, arguing about minutia is the logical thing to do.

Posted by: Brandon at October 17, 2003 1:21 PM

It was nice to see that Northside team keep their traditions alive ("lovable losers" are supposed to lose), but I'm still disappointed that the Red Sox won't have their chance to choose who would have been the Bill Buckner for a new generation.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at October 17, 2003 1:27 PM

If you polled the audience for this coming Sunday's NFL games and asked them who Terry Bradshaw is, no more than 40% would know he'd even been a player, never mind a single moment from a Super Bowl he played in. And not 2% of them, and those only in WI, would have any idea who Jerry Kramer is. 54% would guess he was on Seinfeld..

Posted by: oj at October 17, 2003 1:27 PM

Pedro's a little guy, esp. for a pitcher with power. It's amazing to see him standing next to other big-league pitchers such as Roger Clemens. He's dwarfed.

That said, the fact he was left in to pitch the 8th inning blows my sense that Grady Little has what it takes to be a successful coach.

This hurts. But as a young boy it hurt worse in 1978.

The Detroit Tigers, who have the worst team in baseball, will win a World Series before the Red Sox.

I'm never watching another major league game again. Ever.

In 1986 when the Red Sox were twice one stike out away from winning it all, I still had the bad taste of 1978 in my mouth and believed in The Curse.

This year I somehow let that damn team back into my heartfelt sentiments. Screw them. And especially that idiot, Grady Little.

Posted by: Brent at October 17, 2003 1:53 PM

This hurts so much, I'd like to have some of Rush's Baby Blues. If he has any left over.

Any truth to the rumor that manager Grady Little was counting sheep rather than pitches last night.

During the season, Pedro goes 96, 97 pitches--then he's pulled.

Little lied when he said he was going with his best pitcher in the 8th.

There's several article on ESPN.com that are must reads.

The BoSox: 85 years and counting of ripping the hearts out of its fans.

Does anyone care about the Marlins-Yankees, outside those areas?

A manager needs to manage. Take out a player for the good of the team. Not ask him for his opinion if he can go, when it's obvious he's laboring on fumes.

Baseball is so nineteenth century; I've got to join the new millenium.

Posted by: Brent at October 17, 2003 2:16 PM

If the decision were that scandalous why
didn't Grady get a call from the upstairs?

It's a game 7 after all and there is a time to
overrule the manager.

I'm not defending the decision outright, but
Pedro's velocity was still decent around that time and the fact that he was getting hit isn't
necessarily the same as running on fumes.

By the way although I am a Red Sox fan, it is
absurd to compare multiple era's and see some
sort of continuum (whether of success or failure).
This team has different ownership, different mgmt.
and a different batch of guys than years past.

It's only in people's imagination that this has
anything to do with '78 or '86. I tend to take
the long view of history. Who's to say that
within the next hundred years the Sox couldn't have a run similar to the Yankees.

Posted by: J.H. at October 17, 2003 3:57 PM

Who's to say that
within the next hundred years the Sox couldn't have a run similar to the Yankees.

Or, if not the next hundred, assuredly the next thousand. :-(

Posted by: Brian (MN) at October 17, 2003 4:03 PM

Who's to say that
within the next hundred years the Sox couldn't have a run similar to the Yankees.

Or, if not the next hundred, assuredly the next thousand. :-(

Posted by: Brian (MN) at October 17, 2003 4:03 PM

J.H., I think you are correct. Look at John Elway, he was a QB who couldn't win the big one. In his last couple of years, he disproved that notion.

However, it will be hard to equal the Yankees' dominance. 37 American League titles.

Posted by: pchuck at October 17, 2003 4:12 PM

Of course, moments from other sports are remembered - and not just closing moments, either. Those memories have little to do with the pace of the sport and everything to do with the importance of the game and the particular event in the game.

Mention the "hand of God" to any Englishman, even one who professes to hate soccer (or football), and you'll get a reaction. It might be humorous or angry or philosophical, but there WILL be a reaction.

I wasn't drunk last night, but I enjoyed the game along with over twenty million other people, if you can believe Nielsen Media Research. Sure, Little probably goofed by sticking with Pedro too long, but nobody can ever know for sure. That's because baseball depends on the tiniest details. It's not a game of inches, it's a game of thirty-seconds of an inch. Posada's bat swings through the ball a thirty-second of an inch higher, and the ball carries to Damon for an easy out. The bullpen then mops up a 5-3 Boston win.

Yes, it's a silly game, and arguing over the merits of any sport is the ultimate in de gustibus futility.

But I liked watching what happened last night. And I hate the Yankees.

Posted by: Casey Abell at October 17, 2003 4:15 PM

By the way, the final comment on last night's game, from the highest source:


Posted by: casey Abell at October 17, 2003 4:24 PM

As a recovered Red Sox fan living in Minnesota, I knew that they were going to choke as soon as Joe Buck said "the Boston Red Sox are 5 defensive outs from the World Series". I felt the "choke" coming on, it's a visceral thing. It's in the bones of any New Englander.

Now I root for the Minnesota Vikings, the Boston Red Sox of football. The 1998 Vikings, with Randall Cunningham, Chris Carter and Randy Moss went 15 and 1, and set a new NFL team record for scoring in a season. Then there was the missed Gary Anderson field goal in sudden death overtime of the NFC championship game against the Falcons. It was Anderson's only missed field goal of the entire season! AArrrrgggghhh!!!!!

Posted by: Robert D at October 17, 2003 9:35 PM


Heck, that's nothin' Fran Tarkenton was my favorite player as a kid--his Vikings teams choked yearly.

Posted by: oj at October 17, 2003 9:41 PM


History and tradition: There were not just 50 but hundreds of players on the [course] last night, from [Francis Ouimet to Bobby Jones to Walter Hagen to Ben Hogan to Arnold and Jack and Tom], etc., to now [Tiger and Ernie Els and Tiger and Vijay Singh and Tiger and...well, ok, but there was Faldo and Strange and Norman a few years back], etc. The place wasn't just thick with ghosts, but with stories that all of us know. It's the one game where what happened one hundred years ago still seems significant.

Democracy [well, ok, only in Scotland].

Posted by: jsmith at October 17, 2003 11:07 PM

Oh, and I forgot--

The shot heard 'round the world.
Palmer's drive at Cherry Hills.
Venturi winning and collapsing at Congressional--and nearly as an amateur at Augusta.
Nicklaus driving over the 18th at the Old Course.
Trevino and the snake (and the Masters).
Nicklaus and his goofy putter at Augusta in '86.
Lyle from the sand on 18.
Faldo in the dark over Floyd (choker). And over Hoch (choker). And not in the dark, but pulling the 3-iron out and striking it pure to the heart of the 13th, snuffing out Norman and his 6-shot lead (my personal favorite).
Strange winning the US Open...Seve winning the Open, and bouncing in delight.
Couples' shot on 12 hanging on the edge.
Rocca from the Valley of Sin--twice.
Duval (a flash in the pan) from the Road Hole Bunker--how many times?
Stewart making the putt to win...

Oddly, I can't really think of any great single moments from Tiger (though his play at the Postage Stamp and the third round at Muirfield do stick in my mind). His putting at the '97(?) Masters was phenomenal, as was his trouncing of the field at Pebble Beach.

Posted by: jsmith at October 17, 2003 11:16 PM

And as far as football, Riggins was the one...

Posted by: jsmith at October 17, 2003 11:18 PM


But it's only known to a bunch of rich white twits and their caddies.

Posted by: oj at October 18, 2003 6:17 AM


Not fair. jsmith is right although not quite up to those peculiar moments in baseball. There are certain universal as well as personal moments that stay with fans forever. Those K.C. vs. Yankee playoff series for example are probably meaningless to you Sox guys while unforgettable to me.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at October 18, 2003 9:52 AM


With Aaron Boone as Chris Chambliss doppelganger...

Posted by: oj at October 18, 2003 9:54 AM

Yeah, or the Munson left field, line drive home-run, Brett missing 4 homers by a whisker, Pinnella antics at home plate and in left field game...I was at the Chambliss game in the bleachers in right as well.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at October 18, 2003 10:05 AM

Sorry, Pinella was playing in right .

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at October 18, 2003 10:06 AM