(UPDATE: Changed references of time since this game was no longer last night. - S.)
Not that any of you care, but I spent the other night doing some serious interior painting in my home. Out in my garage on a wall at one end of my very large workbench is a DirectTV DVR receiver, an LCD flat-panel TV, my Slingbox setup, and miscellaneous other entertainment gear. This allows me to do my home project work and keep up with a game in progress as I mosey in and out of the garage and listen to Victor and Gubi keeping me up to date in the next room.
The pace of the game of baseball, and the comfortable climate of SoCal summertimes, makes this an ideal way to create a background to my necessary labors as the hours of chore-related tedium drift by.
And, for any of you who missed it - even some of you who were watching - what happened that evening was a glorious reminder that baseball is woven out of a uniquely human tapestry, and presents itself at a cadence that can emblazon itself into the fabric of one's memory.
When all was said and done, I realized that I had just been rewarded by baseball with a satisfying experience that dominated my evening as I spent a rather humid 3 hours moving my personal lifestyle forward. And the story that can be taken away is very human one.
That particular game was epic, and one of those tales we should remember back upon once safely tucked into our rocking chairs years from now. While everybody was heads down sniping and snarking over every new weed on the forest floor, the forest itself had risen up in a rare display of human drama. This was not a disposable game in a disposable season, manned by disposable uniforms. The stakes were significant in many directions. That the outcome was positive for all involved except the competition only makes it that much more satisfying to look back upon. Here is my takeaway:
We had a man now battling recovery as a member of MLB Busts Anonymous, with his journey of redemption now on public display, who was thrust into the spotlight deep within the September heat wave of a division title race. Behind him stood a fluther of defenders who had just gagged up 4 miscues in the field the night before, handing a precious victory to one of the worst franchises in baseball. And these same position players have spent nearly an entire season sputtering and spewing with their bats, with no assurance that our man would get even a single run to support his desperate trajectory away from Perdition.
Our man sustained 8 innings a sweat-dripping excellence and induced the opposition into near silence, shielding we mortals from MOST of the nerve-racking angst that comes among the tight quarters of a 0-0 duel. And the duel itself was conducted under the melting stars of one of those hot SoCal September nights, usually reserved for Labor Day Weekend. The one flaw in his ever-building performance was a meek-hitting centerfielder, who nearly took him out of the park in his first at-bat and who later inserted himself onto the scoreboard by sneaking a legit two-run double into a cheap-seat corner of the outfield, and who was then gifted an additional two bases by over-eager ignoramous of a home-town fan who snagged that double and lifted it over the fence for the cheapest home run of which we will ever bear witness.
Even that did not phase our man. He held fast and carried the team through the top of the 8th, over and over taking his place in the dugout and suffering the grueling echo of us fans: watching his offense run out one feeble frame after another.
Finally, after striding off the mound for the final time of the night, and before the home crowd had a chance to reward him for one of the top-10 hurling performances of this particular season for this particular franchise, our man took a seat and bore first-hand witness to the Rally Monkey Miracle that is uniquely Anaheim. Now firing on a correct cylinder, three runs were sent home as the Angels took the lead. And this offensive outburst was conducted by a parade of anti-heroes who, one note after another, created a melody of sweet frustration to pour upon the ears of Texas.
A rookie-to-be flies out.
A tiny shortstop fresh off a major slump snags his only hit of the evening.
A manager dares to mess with his battery and replaces a .194 hitting catcher with a .279 third baseman that he didn't bother to start, and he did this sub knowing that he could fall back on his other .178 hitting receiver, his love, for the balance of the game.
But the .279 hitting third baseman does NOT get the hoped-for hit. Instead, and practically as good, he draws a walk and puts the tying run into (at least) scoring position and the winning run on base.
The manager then replaces that .279 hitting third baseman with a pinch runner who is a .000 hitting, kerosene-burning, dragster to add even more speed on the bases than he had with the mere methanol-burning .279 hitting third baseman.
Yet another .279 hitter steps to the plate. He of fragile body but confident ability in times of great need and well-presented opportunity. Apparently inebriated from a fresh shot or two of modern sabremetrics, the opposing manager ignores the myth of "clutch" and leaves his tiring pitcher on the mound, saving himself from having to worry about righty-lefty or lefty-righty matchups with a potent switch-hitting midget at the plate.
Sitting on the sweet 2-0 count earned against a desperate hurler, this second .279 hitter expects - and RECEIVES! - a grooved fastball from a wasted arm and launches it into the deepest gap in the park, all the way to the wall. He ends up on second base as both our baserunners score, most importantly our speeding dragster as he flies around the basepaths from first to home and brings in the go-ahead run.
And we are yet not done.
A .276 hitting creature of speed, slowing growing in stature as an offensive force to match the defensive skills already relied upon, next steps to the plate to face a fresh pitcher. And before that new pitcher can even think about settling in, he whacks a hard grounder right back up the middle and drives in our insurance run to seal the deal.
The contest concludes with a mere 7 pitches in the final inning, all thrown by a rookie reliever who might possibly etch his name in the annals of the game over the upcoming decade, as he plays with the gas pedal and toys with his minimum three opponents at speeds ranging from 83 to 99mph.
Human challengers, human drama, conflict, suffering, misfortune, and unexpected heroics from a company of badgering banjos and reclaimed souls, all culminating in a still-important victory amidst a still-important race on a night filled with the hellish atmosphere normally consigned to the armpit that our enemies call home.
Not just another event.
No World Series title was won. No playoffs were clinched. No records were set. Nothing will be written in the history books.
But it was not just another game. This was fun. This was baseball.