[In Honor of Dusty Baker’s book Kiss The Sky, to be released on November 10th, 2015, and this fine little New Yorker article, as well as the Cubs losing the NLCS yesterday to the Mets (on “Back to The Future Day”, no less), we re-post this article from August 11th of last year.]
“Longing on a large scale is what makes history.”
-Don DeLillo; Pafko at the Wall
“God’s on both sides; he ain’t just on my side. If he was, I would’ve won a long time ago.”
Dusty Baker; Esquire, 2004
There were only eight outs left.
When your starting pitcher has already made 19 outs through seven innings of two-hit shutout ball, and you have a healthy five run lead, eight outs seems like a mere handful. The last few stones in the path that have finally led you home out of the dark and terrible woods, the warm light of the hearth glowing in the distant windows. It seems like the giddiness you feel being so close to the first World Series Championship in your city since the club moved there 45 years ago can safely start to supercede the tension and anxiety you’ve had to wade through in the last weeks and months to get here. It seems that even though that same starter just gave up back to back hits, and the Manager decided to pull him so that the bullpen could knock off those last eight outs, that he is deserving of the game ball. Game 6 of the 2002 World Series, your team up 3 games to 2, ready to close it out on enemy turf. Your visiting locker room draped in plastic, the champagne on ice, a whole city 400 miles to the north on the edge of their seats, barely able to contain themselves.
So when Russ Ortiz comes off the mound in the seventh inning, and you’re the Giants’ Manager, you do just that. You give him the “game ball.”
And then, inevitably, horribly, all hell breaks loose.
I was watching the game at Lefty O’ Douls on Powell Street, just off Union Square in San Francisco, surrounded by hundreds of Giants fans, all of us jostling, laughing, cheering, ready for the biggest celebration in that city since my birthday in 1995, when the 49ers had last won the Super Bowl (Yeah, that was a pretty awesome day.) But within minutes of Ortiz’s departure, those cheers were replaced by groans of disbelief. His bullpen replacement, Felix Rodriguez, gave up a 3-run homer to the very next batter, Scott Spiezio, cutting a cushy 5-0 lead to a suddenly very precarious 5-3.
With only a two-run cushion, eight outs now seemed like a massive number to get through.
And it was. Monumentally so.