A little backstory before we get started: I went to my first MLB game when I was 6 years old, and since then, baseball has been my first and biggest love. I grew up right outside of Arlington, so I was a Rangers fan by default. However, I have an older brother who is a Yankees diehard, which has led to a lifelong
not so friendly family rivalry. My first game consisted of the Rangers beating the Yankees and me having the ultimate bragging rights against my teenage brother (which is a big deal when you’re 6). Regardless of the result that night, my first time at the ballpark made me fall in love with the game of baseball and everything about it. Since then, my emotions tend to take on a whole new range during April through October.
So naturally, while everyone obsesses over Lebron’s 25,000 points and the CFB selections, I’m still mourning the end of baseball season. In case you didn’t watch, the World Series ended this week in a dramatic, 12-inning showdown between the Kansas City Royals and the New York Mets. After tying the game in the ninth inning, the Royals went on to score FIVE more times in the top of the 12th to win their first World Series in 30 years and redeem themselves after a devastating game 7 loss to the Giants last year.
Stories like these are the reason I look at people like they have six heads when they tell me they don’t like baseball. Sure, it may be difficult for all 162 games to hold your attention, but the unpredictability and drama that accompanies the game is what makes it one of the most exhilarating sports to watch.
I always joke that baseball will be the death of me, especially being a Rangers fan. As miserable as it can be sometimes, very few things can compare to the happiness that comes along with a walk-off homerun or a diving catch to end the inning.
So without further ado, here are 5 of my favorite baseball memories.
5. Exit Sandman and Farewell, Captain — The Two Times it was OK to Cry in Baseball
It’s no secret that the Yankees will never be on my list of favorite teams, but real recognizes real and there’s no denying the iconic presence that Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter had on and off the field. The very first homerun I witnessed in person was by Jeter, and when I think of players that best exemplified excellence, Rivera’s name is one of the first to pop up. Even as an avid Yankees hater, I appreciated the talent and class of these two players and knew that their retirement would mark the end of an era.
So there I was two years in a row, tearing up over the retirement of these two players as if I was a Yankees fan or something. However, I will call your bluff if you say you didn’t get emotional when Jeter and Andy Pettitte walked to the mound to hug Rivera in the manliest of tearful embraces.
And if this image of Derek Jeter’s nephew tipping his hat to honor his uncle doesn’t hit you in the feels, I’m not sure you have a soul.
But seriously, who’s chopping onions here?
4. Those Four Days in October of 2004
Now that we got all that Yankee praise out of the way, I’ll touch on one of the greatest series in postseason baseball, the 2004 ALCS. The New York Yankees had just embarrassed the Boston Red Sox with a 19-8 win to lead the series 3-0, and the rest of the season was looking a little predictable for Boston. Their alleged curse began to break in Game 4, however, which consisted of extra innings and a walkoff homerun in the 12th by none other than Big Papi himself.
And then came The Bloody Sock.
Or better yet, The Bloody Socks. (pada-PSHH. I’ll be here all week, folks.)
Curt Schilling evolved from a pitcher to a legend during game 6, as he pitched despite having torn a tendon in his right ankle earlier in the season. He simply asked his doctors to sew that puppy into place and led the Socks to victory.
That same game also brought us an Oscar-worthy performance by Alex Rodriguez who was called out for interference after swatting the ball out of Red Sox pitcher, Bronson Arroyo’s glove during a play near first base. Rodriguez quickly took on the role of an unfairly punished child, claiming he never made a swatting motion, that’s just how his hands moved when he ran.
Boston went on to win the next three games and clinch the AL pennant, making them the first team to ever come back from a 3-0 deficit. They also won their first World Series since 1918 that year.
3. Heads up, Chase Utley
Rain during the postseason is just God’s way of telling us that things are about to get real. Coming into the storm-filled game 5 of the 2008 World Series, the Philadelphia Phillies were leading the series 3-1 against the Tampa Bay Rays. The game was delayed in the 6th inning, after the field was practically underwater. This wasn’t your typical rain delay where you go take cover and chug your beer while you wait it out. Also, a game is typically considered official after five innings, but Bud Selig stepped in and saved America from the disgrace of an anti-climatic Series clinch from a rain-shortened game.
So 46 hours later, the teams played the final three and a half innings of the Series. During the top of the seventh inning, Chase Utley made a play so memorable, that it made me feel something other than blatant indifference towards him. After hustling to grab a grounder, he brilliantly faked to first, deceiving the Rays’ Jason Bartlett into going home, and then made the throw to get Bartlett out at the plate. GOT EM.
The Phillies went on to score in the bottom of the seventh inning on a single by Pedro Feliz and win the World Series. Had it not been for Utley’s play, Tampa would have taken a 4-3 lead and then who knows what could have happened?
2. Baseball’s most famous fight
I don’t condone violence by any means, but I can’t say I’m not entertained by a good scuffle here and there. No, I’m not talking about the lame excuses for “fights” we saw this season where players mouth off to each other and everyone clears the bench just to stand around and awkwardly puff their chests (refer to multiple games during this year’s ALDS featuring Texas and Toronto, if you’re looking for an example).
I’m talking about the infamous mound charge, where Nolan Ryan showed the world why you don’t mess with Texas.
Okay so maybe I didn’t watch this live, being that I was 3 years old. However, growing up in Texas, the fight between Nolan Ryan and Robin Ventura is more than just a baseball highlight, its an iconic symbol. Sports bars, homes, and diners are adorned with the image of Ventura in a headlock. It plays in almost every video containing some sort of Texas pride. Heck, I even have it on a shirt (sorry, mom). God bless you, Nolan.
1. The 2010 ALCS – It Was Time
It’s not surprising that my favorite moment in baseball would include a Rangers win over the Yankees. However, this one also included the most meaningful strikeout in Texas history.
Texas pitcher, Colby Lewis, had managed to shut out the Yankees for the first five innings. Then comes former Ranger, Alex Rodriguez, to hit a double and later score off a wild pitch.
Later that inning, the Yankees walk Josh Hamilton for the third time that series to reach Vladimir Guerrero, who had not been performing at his usual ability. This time however, they tugged at Superman’s cape one too many times. Guerrero doubles bringing in Moreland and Hamilton and the Rangers score twice more that inning. By the top of the ninth, the Rangers had a 6-1 lead.
As I mentioned before, history is what makes this sport so great. It’s no secret that most Ranger fans have a personal vendetta against A-Rod; he could easily be named one of the franchise’s biggest mistakes. So when he came up to bat during the top of the ninth with two outs, I remember thinking this was too good to be true. One more out until the Rangers FINALLY made it to the World Series. One more out until they beat the Yankees in order to get there. But the last out being against A-Rod? There was no way that the cards would play out this perfectly.
At this time, I vividly remember not knowing what to do with myself. I couldn’t watch. I couldn’t not watch. I didn’t even know where to position my body. So naturally, I stood on top of my living room couch, with my hands on my head, and absolutely no control over what came out of my mouth. My dad laughed from the doorway and my mom sat there shaking her head; i’m sure it was quite the sight.
Sure enough, rookie Neftali Feliz threw the last pitch and Rodriguez struck out swinging. The Texas Rangers were going to the World Series for the first time in franchise history.
And that was it. That’s where the story ended. The World Series didn’t happen that year or the year after. The End.