Photo from MLB.com
Ironically enough, tonight I finally got to see the pitcher's duel, barn-burner, come-from-behind victory I've always longed for, but the part I'll be boring my grandchildren with was a play in the outfield--specifically, the eye-popping catch by Coco Crisp to save Mike Timlin's bacon and end the eighth.
I'll never forget seeing him leap, fly, dive, and roll on the warning track from my clear vantage point in Loge Box 150; I'll never forget how wide my father's eyes were as he put his hands up in surprise and celebration. All 36,000 in the ballpark screamed for minutes on end, screamed and screamed and somehow no screams of joy and gratitude seemed loud enough.
But, of course, it had been a magical game before then. That was just the cherry on the perfect sundae that this game had been--my first Curt Schilling start, live and in person (and I would submit one relief appearance by the Ghost of Schilling last July hardly counts as really having seen him).
The biggest difference between Schilling and the other pitchers, now that I've experienced his day to pitch, is how everyone talks to him constantly in the stands. They call him "Schill" and "Curt" and "baby" and "buddy" and "boy" as in "atta boy". Red Sox fans in the stands at Fenway talk to Curt from their seats like he can hear them, and like he'll respond--and he does respond, by reaching back for 95 and striking the motherfucker out. When he does so, the fans continue their chatter in praise and encouragement, to let him know he's on the right track. "Atta boy, Schill, all right, atta baby."
Fitting for a guy who likes to talk as much as Schilling does--I've never heard fans be so verbal about a pitcher.
Schilling, and his fellow lion in winter, the once-indomitable Tom Glavine (who is from Billerica, as is mentioned every single time his name has been brought up on NESN) were each exquisite in their own way; Schilling muscled his way through seven strong, arm-wrestling most of the batters he faced into submission, while Glavine, in characteristic style, floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee. The two remained neck and neck until the sixth, with just zeros on the board until a towering homer to straightaway center by Official Pain in the Ass Carlos Beltran put the Mets on top.
After that, two incredible things happened--first and foremost, the ballpark erupted into cheers. I had noticed an unusually strong number of Mets jerseys coming in, and a few "Let's. Go. Mets. Hoo!" chants had been started, but it wasn't until Beltran's homer that I realized just how out in force Mets fans were at this game. It seemed like half the ballpark stood up. A taste of our own medicine, the way RSN takes over other ballparks like a virus, but I'm afraid I'm just not a big enough person for it not to have made me fairly angry. I was also, as you can imagine, pretty pissed off that Schilling had cracked first, to boot.
But then the second amazing thing happened--both pitchers, heretofore locked in stalemate, began to decline in precisely the same perfectly dovetailed arcs as the innings wore on, and Glavine posted a matching "2" in the bottom of that same inning.
For both pitchers it had been a total shutout until the sixth inning, and for Glavine, a no-hitter through almost that much. These two were continually outdoing one another--and themselves. Schilling's fastball blazed; Glavine's changeup was filthy. I, for one, was in heaven.
And all that is to say nothing of the breathtaking infield defense we were also treated to tonight, especially on the part of Messrs. Youkilis and Lowell. Lowell in particular came through with several gems, including a putout on a bunt-for-base-hit attempt that was a thing of tearjerking beauty. And Youkilis made a diving stop at first, and then there was the pickoff of Reyes attempting to steal second (though I still maintain he'd been out at first three times already), and then when the crafty Mark Loretta helped Schilling pick Julio Franco off second...I lost count of how many times my dad said, "That was a BEAUTY!"
If the game was a five-course meal of baseball gourmet, Jonathan Papelbon was dessert. And a sinful Black Forest Cake at that--even the Mets fans behind us, who had insisted on remaining dourly seated as the home crowd exploded around them when Coco Crisp finally scored the go-ahead run in the seventh and Papi added insurance with a 20-kiloton bomb to the bleachers in the eighth, wound up sheepishly standing to watch Jonathan.
Already juiced by Coco's dazzling catch just moments earlier, "Sweet Caroline" rousingly sung and the Papi blast, the crowd went so completely wild as the first chords of Jonathan's entrance music sounded that I wondered seriously if we might ever just shake that old place down. It took him just a handful of pitches to retire the Mets, and I was there, goddammit, watching every one, screaming my fool head off, happy just to be alive.
The Sox are rollin'.
Many, many thanks to YFSF for pointing to the YouTube video of Coco's catch:
Mike Timlin's eyes at the end look just like my dad's did.