It's official: I have now seen more games having nothing to do with the Red Sox, in ballparks far away from Boston, than I have watched or listened to in any form for the Olde Towne Team this week.
Tonight found me in Columbus, OH, on a trip to visit my sister (who is a veterinary student at THE Ohio State University--and not a word out of you, Sam), who, knowing how much I love baseball, got us tickets to the nearest ballpark. Said ballpark, Cooper Stadium, is home to the AAA affiliate of the New York Yankees, the Columbus Clippers.
And yes. I did, in fact, take some shit for the RED SOX 2004 WORLD CHAMPIONS T-shirt I wore into the place (you also have to understand that most of my t-shirt wardrobe says RED SOX on it somewhere). Some guy who was with a group of people my sister knew said I had some nerve wearing it, and I said I'd wear it into Yankee Stadium, to which he responded that I was a bandwagon fan, to which I said I wasn't going to dignify that with a response. Then a little kid who was with the group said something about "We have 25 championships and you only have one." I didn't have the heart to correct his precious little frontrunning self on the precise numbers, but I did say, "You don't have any since you've been alive."
"She's tough," my sister said, by way of apology, and I went back to keeping my scoresheet. Since keeping score earlier this week at Wrigley, I've gotten into it. It helps me keep better track of the game and remember it better, too.
So, tonight, I finally witnessed a walk-off win in person. Too bad it was for a team I care nothing about except for their associated Major League club. But still, it was a hard-fought, back-and-forth game--it wasn't until there were two down in the bottom of the eleventh that the Toledo Mud Hens made what I consider the crucial error, what the baseball-inclined have called the "crisis" of the game: with two balls on Clippers third baseman Russ Johnson, who remained 0-fer even given five previous at-bats, with one out and one on in the bottom of the eleventh, the pitcher threw the next two balls intentionally, giving Johnson a pass.
This intentional walk essentially meant that the Hens were gambling that they could avoid having to face former Tigers first baseman Carlos Pena, a run-of-the-mill major leaguer who was still a man among boys in AAA, with two spectacular home runs on the night in back-to-back at-bats. The Hens were also saying they'd be able to secure the two final outs before Pena's turn by earning an out on the owner of the other Clippers homer on the evening, Terrence Long, another journeyman major leaguer whose last known big league address was Kansas City.
Which, surprisingly, they did, on a sinking liner snapped up by the shortstop. I thought there might be a method to their madness after all as they faced right fielder Robert Stratton, another Clipper boasting a goose egg for his five plate appearances. But then Stratton worked a walk, and here came the big man. Pena promptly singled to shallow left, driving in second baseman and erstwhile New York Met Danny Garcia for the walkoff win, and what could have looked like a kind of harebrained genius merely remained an inexplicable move in retrospect--such is the essential risk of baseball.
Pena was briefly mobbed at first, and then the players hurried off the field into the dugout while what few of us remained in the stands hurried toward the gates. Even among those who had stuck it out to cheer for the only team in town, there was hardly the delirium I'd expected with such a finish.
But it was still baseball, and along the way I did hear that we beat our so-called "natural rivals" in Philly for the second time tonight. Also from what I hear, Philly is a good team this year, so I'm proud to hear we've been victorious (but it's also reported the Yankees overcame a 4-0 deficit to win over the Mets this afternoon, so we need to keep the Phanatics' feet to the fire tomorrow night).
This after the first homer for a Red Sox pitcher since 1972. Beautifully done, fellas. Wherever you are.