Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Most Exciting Games I've Ever Seen

That was a fast decade.
It was ten years ago that I took my daughter Caitlin Kelley to the Red Sox-Yankees playoff game at Fenway Park. It was a Sunday night, October 17th.

The night before I had taken my other daughter, Kara Kelley, to Game 3 in the series. The Sox were already down two games to none after Curt Schilling (Ace #1) and Pedro Martinez (Ace #1A) had both lost in the Bronx on Tuesday and Wednesday. Friday night was a rainout, and in Game 3 the Sox were pounded. We actually left during the 7th inning stretch when we were losing, 17-6. We got home in time for the opening of Saturday Night Live where they were making fun of the Red Sox being down 3 games to none and they might as well give up now and go golfing. I think that was the night Ashlee Simpson was caught doing a bad job of lip-synching.

Sunday night the place was buzzing.
A packed house, of course, with a ton of police presence. Every surrounding town was called in for backup. We bumped into Larry David on the way in, and I decided that I should say something to him. "Hey, you're Larry David" would be way too lame, so I decided to say, "Larry - who are you rooting for...the Padres?" He looked at me with his WTF expression and said, "Why would you ask me that?" I had no reply, and we went to our seats in Section 29. I had been thinking of an episode in "Curb Your Enthusiasm" where Larry is invited to a Padres-Yankees game but doesn't show up.

Then came the 9th.
The Yankees were leading in the game, 4-3, and leading in the ALCS, 3 games to none. No team had ever come back from a 3-0 deficit, and it's the bottom of the 9th, and we're facing the best closer in the history of baseball, Mariano Rivera.

We all know what happened.
Kevin Millar works a leadoff walk, Dave Roberts goes in to pinch run. Everyone in the ballpark knows that Roberts is going at attempt a steal, and Rivera throws over four or five times so Roberts doesn't get too good a lead. On the fifth throw over, Dave Roberts slides back to the base, then gets up and starts walking toward the dugout. From our vantage point in Section 29 it absolutely looked like Roberts was picked off. Oh, well...there goes the season. We'll wait till next year...again. But wait...Dave Roberts was not picked off. He was just brushing the dirt off his pants. They were pretty dirty after five straight slides back to first.

My favorite Jeter moment.
During the year-long Derek Jeter farewell tour in 2014 writers and fans talked about their favorite Jeter moments. Here's mine:

Jeter fails to make the tag.

Bill Mueller singles, Dave Roberts scores to tie the game, we go on to the 12th, when Big Papi hit a 2-run walkoff to send everyone home tired but happy. Joe Castiglione said, "We'll see you for Game 5 later today." (I was there, not listening to the radio, so I didn't hear that line until later.) When we got home at 2:30 AM...Caitlin had a class at 9AM at Providence College...I went online to figure out which episode of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" I had been thinking of. Turned out it was actually a "Sopranos" episode, where Finn, the boyfriend of Meadow, is invited to Yankees game by Vito but is afraid and doesn't show up. That's why Larry David had no idea what I was talking about.

Then the 14-inning marathon.
I went with my brother Hugh Kelley. It was a 5PM start. A mere 15 hours after the previous night's game ended. We were both scoring the game, as we usually do. The Red Sox took 2-0 lead, but New York went up 4-2 in the 6th, and the Red Sox tied it in the 8th (Mariano Rivera again giving up the tying run). As we flipped our scorecards over after each half-inning it seemed like the Yankees had jerks like Jeter and A Rod and Matsui and Bernie Williams and Hor-hay Posada leading off every inning. Tim Wakefield pitched the final three innings, and even though Jason Varitek was having a tough time catching Wake's knuckleballs, the Yankees got only one hit and no runs. In the bottom of the 14th Papi delivered again with an RBI single that scored Johnny Damon.

The rest is history.
Game 6 was the Schilling "bloody sock" game, Game 7 was all Red Sox. Then the sweep of the Cardinals to finally end the curse.

The most exciting games I've ever seen.
I've been going to games at Fenway since 1957. I've been to games at every Major League Ballpark (a total of 41), I've been to the All-Star game and seven World Series games...even saw the Red Sox clinch at Fenway last October, which was a very memorable game, but those two nights in 2004 were the most exciting games I've ever seen. Hard to believe it's been a decade.

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