Baseball has always been my very favorite sport. My Dad loved baseball, and I remember he started teaching me how to catch and hit when I was only three years old. As soon as my two younger brothers, Steve and Paul, could walk, they became part of the team.
And we played and thought about baseball everyday. In the summer we were either playing baseball in pick-up games beginning at 8am, playing on little league teams, watching baseball games on TV, or listening to games on the radio in our bedroom.
We usually pretended to be major league players. Since I was a SF Giants fan, I was usually Willie Mays when I was batting or Juan Marichal when I was pitching to my brothers. Steve was Roberto Clemente of the Pittsburgh Pirates, and Paul was Harmon Killebrew of the Minnesota Twins.
When I came up to bat in pretend games, I often imagined that it was the bottom of the 9th inning with my team losing by three runs. There were two outs, and the bases were loaded. Magically, I swung at an inside fastball and hit a game-winning grand slam home run!!!! I would wave to the pretend cheering crowd as I rounded the bases.
Which brings me to last Sunday’s game at Wrigley Field between “my” Chicago Cubs (I became a Cubs fan 40 years ago when I moved to Chicago) and the Washington Nationals.
Julie and I and some good friends had tickets behind the Cubs dugout, and for the first 7 innings, it was a fantastic pitching duel between the Nationals’ Max Scherzer and the Cubs’ Cole Hamals. Both pitchers gave up only one hit and struck out a combined 20 batters. I love a real pitchers’ duel.
Well, with Cub relief pitchers coming in the 8th inning, the Nationals scored several runs, and the Cubs started the bottom of the 9th losing 3-0. And this is where the game really became amazing. The Cubs got a single and two hit batters, loading the bases for rookie David Bote with two outs. Hmmm, bottom of the 9th, losing 3-0, two outs, bases loaded. I thought to myself: I have seen this situation many times. A ground ball, and it’s over. Or a single scores a run, but we’re still down 3-1, or, or….and then it happened: Bote swung at a fast ball and hit a walk-off GRAND SLAM 444 feet over the center field wall!!!
Bottom of the 9th, two outs, two strikes, bases loaded, down three, rookie pinch-hitter:
Take it away, David Bote. #EverybodyIn pic.twitter.com/ZXzHaV0u5V
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) August 13, 2018
It felt like the 7th game of the World Series!!!! The Cubbie fans, including Julie and I, went absolutely crazy!! The crowd was stunned and began hugging one another.
“It’s a walk-off, bases-full jack that erases a three-run deficit. It should really come with a side of pancakes,” wrote Teddy Greenstein in the Chicago Tribune the next day.
Baseball is the best. I love the fact that in our time-pressured world there is no clock. Those 9 innings — or more if the game goes extra innings — is a chance to temporarily forget about the day-to-day and focus exclusively on “the game.”
Here’s wishing you a great rest of the week…and go Cubbies!!!!
PS: For those wanting to really get a feel for the game of baseball, I recommend George Will’s classic, “Men at Work.”
A truly credible ending with so much boyish joy exhibied on the field. Thankfully, it is contagious. George Will’s book is a delightful read for fans who want to feel what goes into being a successful major league player by three of the best at what they did. It is my favorite baseball book — and a very well-written one at that.