Last night, baseball lore received a twist so ironic it borders on unbelievable—and only fans of teams other than the ones involved would think so.
The Seattle Mariners beat the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (still the dumbest name in baseball, by the way) 5-0 in a fairly pedestrian mid-July contest, except for the fact that the loss kept the Angels from leapfrogging the AL West-leading (!) Houston Astros in the standings. But two important plays in the game—one a rally-squashing catch; the other a strikeout to ice the victory for Seattle—seem otherworldly in the memories they stir up for fans of the St. Louis Cardinals and the Texas Rangers.
The Angels threatened in the top of the first, loading the bases with none out and the middle of the order looming. But two unproductive outs later, the bases were still loaded when David Freese stepped to the plate. Freese ripped a line drive to right-center that was hauled in with a spectacular diving catch by none other than Nelson Cruz.
Yep…that guy. Only, last night he actually made the game-saving catch on a well-hit David Freese liner.
If that wasn’t enough to make Cards and Rangers fans cringe—albeit for vastly different reasons—the end of the game certainly would.
The Angels couldn’t get much going after that deflating first inning, only putting together four hits on the night. But one of those was a two-out single by Erick Aybar.
Coming to the plate? David Freese.
Standing on the mound? Mark Lowe.
Yep…that guy. Only, this time Lowe struck Freese out to preserve the victory.
That these three players would cross paths again isn’t all that surprising, since it’s been less than four years since that fateful Game 6 night. But all three in the same game, where Cruz DOES make the crucial catch against Freese and Lowe DOES get the crucial out against Freese to end the game? That borders on absurd–not for Angels or Mariners fans, necessarily; for Rangers fans, who can only wonder what might have been…and for Cardinals fans, relieved at what actually was.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one.
The life of a transplanted baseball fan can be interesting, especially if transplanted to a city without a Major League team. The Austin, Texas area has plenty of Rangers and Astros fans, but because so many people continue to move here from other areas it’s not uncommon to see many different teams represented while walking down a busy street. Still, looks of confusion, bewilderment, or even contempt come my way from time to time when I’m representing the Cardinals in public.
This afternoon while out running errands I stopped in a local hooch parlor to pick up a beverage for this evening’s writing adventures. The store had a half dozen or so people milling about, but my mind was made up before I opened the door. I grabbed a bottle of 8 year Haitian Rum and headed to the register. A guy paying was counting out bills, one was behind him on a cell phone, and a third guy kept walking up to the counter to set down three bottles and then walking away to grab more. The cash counter completed his transaction and left right when cell phone guy ended his conversation, so I waved cell phone guy to go ahead of me.
Cell phone guy apparently has a credit card that pays homage to his favorite team, because when he handed it over the cashier said, “Oh, wow, you a Pirates fan? That’s cool, I respect them. I’m a Cubs fan.”
They had a quick exchange about how excited they both are that their respective teams are doing so well. I said nothing…I just waited for the right moment. As Cell Phone Pirates Fan finished his transaction and turned to leave, Cubs Fan Cashier said, “Yeah, man, good luck to your team. I have no hate for the Pirates. But I’d give you a hard time if you were a fan of the Yankees, or the Red Sox, or…”
I figured this was the perfect time to interject. But I said nothing—I simply took out my own credit card, emblazoned with the Birds on the Bat of course, and set it on the counter with a shit-eating grin on my face. Cubs Fan Cashier stopped mid-sentence and said, “Whoa…you a Cardinals fan?”
Cell Phone Pirates Fan, who was halfway out the door, whipped around with eyes as big as saucers. “No way! Are you really?”
Why yes…yes I am.
“Man, this weekend is going to be some series, huh?” Cell Phone Pirates Fan continued. “Or, at least, I hope it is, if you guys manage to lose a game or two!”
I replied, “I think they definitely lose one, but probably not two.” He chuckled and left.
I turned back to Cubs Fan Cashier just in time for him to hand me my receipt. I signed it and said, “So…how about that game last night?”
His smile faded. Mine broadened.
This rum is really good.
Wow…I almost forgot I had this blog. I looked at my last post (of a robust 2) and it was before the 2005 season. A lot has changed since then. Here’s a quick review:
- In 2005, the Cardinals won 100 games but lost in the NLCS to the Houston Astros. The Astros were then beaten by the Chicago White Sox in the World Series.
- The Cards moved into a new version of Busch Stadium, which is spectacular. No one will ever forget the memories of our old cookie-cutter, but this new home is beautiful.
- THE ST. LOUIS CARDINALS WON THE 2006 WORLD SERIES!!!
- 2007 and 2008 have been down years when compared to the glory days of 2004-2006. Jim Edmonds, Scott Rolen, and David Eckstein are gone. Jason Isringhausen is not likely to return. Mark Mulder turned out to be a bust. But a new crop of youngsters have come through the system, and with some surprises (namely Rick Ankiel and Ryan Ludwick) this team is watchable if not exciting.
So this offseason, the Cards find themselves in the position of having money to spend and prospects to trade. So far, they’ve brought back Kyle Lohse and Jason LaRue, signed Trever Miller, and traded for Khalil Greene. The remaining holes to fill? The Cards still need a second baseman, a closer, and some insurance in the rotation because, let’s face it, counting on Carpenter will be just as much a mistake in 2009 as it was in 2008. They need to make whatever he contributes a nice bonus, not a glaring necessity.
Greene is a nice low-risk/high-reward guy. He only has one year left on his contract, and he’s in desperate need of a fresh start. Miller will fill the need for a lefty reliever nicely, as long as his shoulder holds up.
It’s great to be back but I’m going to have to wrap this up for now. I’ll be posting as often as I can. Next week’s Winter Meetings should be pretty active. Check back for more info…