While I am always a little remiss to post twice in a day, muchless the same hour, I cannot let this go.
Yesterday was, regardless of what happens in the next few weeks, the greatest moment in baseball history as far as I'm concerned. This six hour monstrosity that was the longest game in baseball postseason history was destined to be our undoing or our greatest moment ever. I figure if the Astros hadn't been able to pull this one out after coming from behind they had no chance of winning a game 5. Even with Pettitte on the mound (I just glanced up at my Andy Pettitte autographed baseball to check my spelling) I don't think there is any way we could have recovered. But, oh, I need not worry about that, my friend. Yesterday was amazing. I need not worry because thanks to Clemens, Burke, Ausmus, Berkman, and the rest the Astros pulled it out to win this amazingly long, tedious, painful, and glorious contest.
I won't bore you with the details of the game. If you don't know them already, my brother gives a pretty good account. I think the interesting part lies within the story that every Astros fan has with regard to this game. Where were they when the Astros beat the Braves in the 2005 NL Division Series. Like every Rita evacuation story, Houstonians are going to long be able to account for their every move and thought over this 6 hour marathon. If you are like my brother and I you may be able to recount multiple places. Or, like my uncle, Steve, perhaps the first quarter of the game was simply too painful and you had to go do something else to get your mind off of it, only to realize later that the boys had come through and you were left to hang your head in shame for giving up so soon.
My tale isn't that of a traveling family man or shamed gardener. Mine is more akin to that of the Hobbit Frodo in Lord of the Rings, or the Knights of King Arthur's Court in search of the Holy Grail. Yes, my tale begins simply enough, but alas, comes to light in victory and heroics and romance. Ah, yes...romance. Baseball, my friends, is not just any game.
The journey began as my friends Eric and Paula and Amanda and I were trying to decide where to eat lunch. They were here visiting from the far away land of "Toronto" and we wanted to watch the game. Eric, a native of these lands, was a championeer of the Houston ballclub. In fact, Eric pays for internet TV in Canada just to watch the Astros. He is a true soldier, I can tell you that. So we decide on this little local restaurant called Baytown Seafood and are delighted to find out that it indeed has two TVs, one on either side of the room. That way we can all watch the game and talk to each other face to face at the same time. Eye contact had to be sacrificed, but in a battle like this one, something had to give.
By the end of lunch it wasn't looking good. On the way home things became worse. Finally, one run, but it was match by a Braves run. It looked like this adventure would extend to yet another day. The longer I sat waiting for the Astros to make their move the more futile it became. I had some errands to run, so I opted for the inferior car radio. The entire drive to my destination was riddled with peril and challenges. I was pulling a very heavy bar-b-que pit and having to carefully maneuver through potholes and curves and crappy drivers and pygmies. At least I think they were pygmies. But it was perilous, nonetheless. The radio of silenced Astro fans was simply background noise. It was the same scoreless inning after scoreless inning. A voice inside my head thought, "I wonder if there have ever been two grand slams in one game. If we could just get another grand slam." Then another voice in my head thought back, "Way to go, dillhole, now that you thought of it it'll never happen. Never!" So my other voice though, "Nuh-uh. Remember back in May when Jason Lane hit that slam to come from behind and win that game. You had predicted it then." So my other voice said back, "That was a once in a lifetime fluke. It'll never happen again."
"Settle down, boys!" I said out loud informs of my friend's dad who had loaned me the pit. "See you." I blushed.
Back in the car, to my surprise, "Two grand slams in one game. This is a record for post season play. There has never been two grand slams in a single post-season game."
Two grand slams?! Who did it? Who hit the other one?
Oh, my heart was racing. Had I predicted yet another grand slam?
"First LaRoche and now Berkman with his first post-season slam..."
They did it! I couldn't believe it! This was awesome. We were back in. I was at a self carwash, washing out some coolers that had stored greasy briskets and the guy next to me must have heard me freak out when Ausmus tied it because he came around the corner and asked, "What happened?"
I finally made it back home to watch the rest of the game on television. The next three hours were difficult, to say the least. Imagine being in a waiting room at a hospital not knowing whether or not your new baby is going to be a healthy baby boy or something else that is bad. Like a troll, or a warlock, or something. (I got weird just now because the only other funny things I could think of were highly offensive, and I'm trying something out called "sensitivity to the audience.") So I waited and waited and inning after disappointing inning I paced in my sterile waiting room, checking back every so often to ask, "Is it done yet?" It got to where I couldn't watch. I took breaks while Atlanta was at bat, listening from another room. While I would never miss the victorious triumph of the Good Guys, I couldn't have handled it if the strong side of the bat lay on the third base side.
Finally, it happened. The inevitable. This was the only way the game could have possibly ended. Clemens after basically pitching the second game of a double header as masterfully as we would expect, stepped up to the plate. As much a position player now as any man sitting on the bench (or rather, leaning up on the rail). I thought for sure he was about to hit his first career post season long ball. Those massive whiffs would have taken a basketball yard if contact had been made. I wasn't the only one who thought the Rocket was going to bag this one. Garner, himself, said later that he really thought Roger was going to hit a homer. It didn't fall that way and now an unlikely candidate approached to take a crack at glory. The rest doesn't have to be recounted again.
But I will anyway. Chris Burke lived the dream of every boy who ever put on a pair cleats and knocked the dirt off his shoes before approaching that strange looking pentagon. Burke was the envy of every inner-child from California to Tokyo who had been told to choke up and wait for a good one. Burke got a great one and this young man took his shot, swung the bat and simply had to let his intuition, everything that he'd been training for take control. As he rounded the bases there was a stoic look of duty on his face, as if the task had been an honorable, yet humble task that would have been done by the next guy if he hadn't been able to do it. Turning second the weight of such a swing could be seen melting on the 25 year old's face. On the final stretch his composure was no longer need, as if it ever was. Burke could no longer contain the elation that boiled over all the more with every bag that he stomped. Coming down the stretch he laughed with glee as he was engulfed in the already celebrating mass of red and gold and black uniforms, jumping and hugging and laughing and back slapping and high fiving. These men had been tired and now they exuded more energy than a ADHD kid without his Ritalin.
I celebrated right along with them. Amanda was afraid people across the hall would think people were dying. I told her that they would understand and I picked her up. She caught the bug from me and jumped into my arms, screaming and hollering right along with me. She would tell you that she was happy for me. That her exuberant behavior was simply out of joy for my sake. If that simple gesture doesn't make the woman wonderful enough, I actually think she is using that as a front to mask her ever-growing and undying love for the 'Stros, herself.
It was almost as if they were destined to win this game and it was only a matter of time. I really can't even imagine this game ending any different. This was how it had to be. This was destiny, drama. Yesterday was a prime example of what I love so much about the game of baseball. Patience. Art. Determination. Character. Love. Astros.