By now, we all know what happened. In fact, we’ll never forget it.
September 28, 2011 was a baseball lover’s dream. In make or break games, the true stars shined and those watching were priveleged to witness the game being played for a reason. Four teams were battling for their lives. The chance to keep playing the game they love, the game we love to pay and sacrifice to watch. They made sure the fans in the stands and the millions watching at home got their moneys worth.
It took extra innings, but the Braves couldn’t hang with the Phillies to live another day. Even when Philadelphia was bringing in their second hand specialties, Atlanta couldn’t get the job done. The Phillies really had nothing to play for. They had their playoff berth wrapped up weeks ago. But, Michael Martinez running in an all out sprint to deep center field to rob Chipper Jones of the walk off RBI showed that a fighting effort, day in and day out, is really the lifeblood of being a baseball player. That passion was just a small step against the favor of the Braves.
On the other side of the National League coin, The Cardinals did their part. But, before they could enjoy a politically correct Budweiser shower, they had to go out and dominant the lowly Astros. They did and when have to wait for a couple excruciating hours to see the Braves blow their chance of picking up the Wild Card or at least forcing a one-game playoff. It took an 8-0 win in convincing style for St. Louis to breathe a collective sigh of relief.
Evan Longoria’s magical game assured the Rays would live to see October baseball in St. Pete. Actually, an improbable comeback by the Rays guaranteed another round of playoff baseball in Tropicana Field. They surmounted an unsurmountable 7-0 deficit in the 8th inning against the Yankees. Dan Johnson forced extras, and Longoria further etched his name in Rays lore with a grand slam, earlier in the game, and a walk off blast in the 12th inning.
Just a few minutes, literally, a few minutes later Big Papi was more upset than he was at the above balls and strikes call. Mother Nature finally let up in Baltimore and the sure-fire Red Sox win gave way to perhaps the most heartbreaking loss in franchise history. After all, whenever Jonathon Papelbon enters a game, especially one as high-pressured as clinching a playoff spot, its a guaranteed win. Nolan Reimold and Robert Andino made their names known and Carl Crawford made his tarnished. Then, this happened.
With the talk of Boston squandering a sizable lead in the final month of September and the drama surrounding the aforementioned Crawford, along with his manager, well, ex-manager Terry Francona and GM Theo Epstein have floated on thin ice. The collapse of the Red Sox has taken over the MLB world. Questions of how could this happen? And, where do we go from here? They overshadowed the real praises of the night. The Baltimore Orioles pulled an improbable upset in front of a “home” crowd that was draped in red with hints of blue. Just look at them up there, playing the game of baseball the way it was meant to be played. It’d be hard to guess that it’s a 69-93 team on the final day of the season. Just a group of grown men, celebrating with the lifeblood of children. They may have been the real heroes of the night.
A night we will never forget.
photo credits: upi.com, jimrome.com, everyjoe.com, ajc.com, baltimore.com