Friday, June 30, 2006

Fireworks At Fenway – An Instant Classic

Forget objectivity. Forget the fact that we have not even reached the All-Star break yet. Forget moderation. I am in the thrall of Pennant Fever over the Red Sox recent string of 12 consecutive victories and 16 consecutive errorless games – a major league record! And last night’s gladiatorial gem of a contest between Curt Schilling and Tom Glavine was one for the ages. It was a joy to be there, and I feel the need to share the joy with those who read The White Rhino Report.

I think most of us had anticipated a classic pitching duel that night before when Pedro returned to the Fenway mound. The 10-2 blowout by the Red Sox seemed almost anticlimactic. But the subsequent match-up of two career 200 game winners – the first such match-up at Fenway since Luis Tiant faced Jim Palmer in September of 1978 – lived up to, and exceeded, expectations. Both pitchers were dominant – matching scoreless innings through the first five frames. Glavine, a native of Billerica, Massachusetts, had a loyal group of family and friends cheering him on. Around the third inning, I realized I was sitting directly behind the Glavine clan – Tom’s parents, wife, children and countless other family members and friends. During a break in the action, I leaned forward and whispered to Tom’s mother: “It looks like you brought half the town of Billerica with you tonight!” She slowly turned her head, nodded in affirmation and offered a wry and knowing smile.

The Mets dented Schilling’s armor for two runs in the 6th, but the Red Sox came storming back with two of their own in the bottom of that inning. The score remained tied until Coco Crisp started the winning rally with a bunt single, stole second, advanced to third on a beautiful bunt by Alex Gonzalez, and scored on Kevin Youkalis’ sacrifice fly. The heavy hitting Red Sox can choose to play “little ball” when the situation calls for it.

Joining me for the game were my friend, John Anthony Simmons, an attorney from North Hampton, New Hampshire, and his five year-old son, Johnny, the most precocious and knowledgeable young baseball fan I have met. When Crisp reached base after his picture perfect bunt, I yelled: “That was a great a great infield hit!” Johnny whispered in my ear: “You can also call it a ‘bunt single.’”

The game included more than a dozen notable plays – each one worthy of “Web Gem” status. A spectacular diving stop by Youkalis at first base, snaring what looked to be a sure double. Varitek throwing out the speedy Reyes trying to steal second. Schilling deftly picking Franco off second to squelch a potential Mets rally. Loretta spearing a line drive. Kapler making a fine running catch in right. But all of these fine plays were mere prelude to the play of the game – nay, the play of the season, decade, century, millennium – you choose!

In the 8th inning, with the score 3-2 in favor of Boston, the game on the line and a Mets runner on second base, Mets star David Wright launched a Mike Timlin pitch into the steamy night air towards the centerfield wall. It looked like a certain game-tying double. Coco Crisp sprinted to his right, and at the optimal moment, made a balletic leap into the air, catching the ball across his body, and slightly behind him. Players on both teams who were interviewed after the game called it the greatest catch they had ever seen. I would have to agree. I have watched a lot of baseball over the years, and can count on the fingers of one hand the plays that took my breath away. This play did just that. I was stunned, and felt a frisson of chills at the immensity of what Crisp accomplished in that split second. The crowd rose as one and screamed their approbation and delight as the hero of the moment jogged towards the dugout and walked into a new niche of respect and a place of legend in the hearts of Red Sox Nation - instantly eradicating any residual hold that his predecessor in center field may have had on Sox fans. Johnny who?!

If you have not yet had a chance to see “The Catch,” go to http://www.mlb.com/ or http://www.redsox.com/ to replay the video of Crisp’s historic leap of faith. The stories in today’s Globe, Herald, New York Post and New York Daily News are worth reading.

Oh, yes. Papi capped a 3 for 4 night at the plate when he rocketed another gargantuan homerun into the bleachers in center field to add an insurance run in the bottom of the 8th inning. Yawn! I have run out of superlatives when it comes to trying to describe the exploits and heroics of Senor Ortiz.

One more thing. Wunderkind closer Jonathan Papelbon put his oar in the water to bring this Love Boat cruise into home port by dispatching the Mets on 8 pitches in the 9th inning, notching his 24th save - a Red Sox rookie record shared with the late and legendary "Monster," Dick Radatz.

The Red Sox can’t keep up this string of perfection forever, but it is fun while it lasts.

Bring on the Marlins!

Al

1 comment:

D.J. Chase said...

I also have seen many a Red Sox game in my years, which by the way are fewer than Al's:)

Crisp's catch was nearly impossible to make and a thing of true beauty. The Museum of Fine Arts should be bidding on a life size frame of that miracle as we speak... as it truly was a masterpiece.

The whole game was a joy to watch, real old time baseball. Ortiz chugging along for his double was also a picture that will remain in my Red Sox history brain...what a complete team player he is. MLB should require every player in both leagues to sit and listen to him concerning what baseball is about. He is a rare gem amidst a drawer full of zirconium.