The scene: On a cold Sunday night in Boston, beloved Red Sox hero David Ortiz steps to the plate. Boston trails the Detroit Tigers 5-1 in the bottom of the 8th inning, two outs and bases loaded.
To this point, the Red Sox have been thoroughly dominated by the Tigers’ ace, and for all accounts, the 2013 American League Cy Young Award Winner, Max Scherzer, who took a no-hitter into the sixth. His brilliance on the mound – seven innings, two hits and 13 strikeouts – had the Tigers in position to take a 2-0 series lead back to Detroit in the American League Championship Series.
But with one swing of the bat, with one misplaced fastball, with one last-ditch dive into the Boston bullpen by Tiger outfielder Tori Hunter, everything changed.
Ortiz, the hero of Boston postseason’s past, sent Tiger reliever Joaquin Benoit’s first offering screaming into right field. Hunter, who is searching for that elusive championship, tracked the ball to the warning track.
Hunter, with an outstretched arm, reached over his head in an attempt to catch the ball, but instead caught the right field wall, and was sent head over heels into the Boston bullpen.
And not a fraction of a second later, Ortiz’s fly ball followed him as well, tying the game, and possibly changing the landscape of the ALCS.
The Red Sox would end up winning the game an inning later on a Jarrod Saltalamacchia walk-off single, tying the series at 1-1.
The performance – the Major League Baseball playoffs.
While the settings and the scenes change, the play remains the same. The drama never subsides. And the endings see both heartbreak and euphoria.
The playoffs consistently deliver each October, and most years into November, supplying the masses with three-act plays that would make Andrew Lloyd-Webber envious of its score.
The crowd, rising into crescendos with the triumphs and crashing down with the disappointments, fills the cool October air with an atmosphere and ambience that, in my opinion, can never be duplicated. And the cast of characters the playoffs roll out each year has its host of villains and heroes. This year’s cast is no different.
You have the Red Sox, who are carrying with them an entire city’s dreams, hoping to give the city something to cheer about following the Boston Marathon bombings this summer.
Opposing them, you have the Tigers, who in their own right, are carrying the burden of giving the City of Detroit a ray of hope and belief in a year that saw a proud city beaten to its knees, filing for bankruptcy – the largest municipality to ever file for such.
The theatre in the National League is just as intense. One on side, the St. Louis Cardinals, who with their veteran leadership and savvy, play the role made famous by actors like Clint Eastwood, the fearless, gray-haired man, who is intent on proving he wont be pushed around by younger opponents.
And then you have the Los Angeles Dodgers, the prettiest girl in school. The glitz and glamour exudes from its dugout as stars like Clayton Kershaw, Adrian Gonzalez, Yasiel Puig, Zach Grienke, Manager Don Mattingly and part-owner Ervin “Magic” Johnson wave as adoring fans gaze upon them.
Of course who could forget the Pittsburgh Pirates, Cleveland Indians and Tampa Bay Rays? The loveable underdogs who rallied a city behind them, but only to fall just short this time.
In my short life, the playoffs have supplied me with moments that have made me jump for joy, sit in shock and even, yes, shed a tear or two. Moments like Aaron Boone’s walk-off homer in the 2003 ALCS against Boston, Magglio Ordonez’s walk-off hit against Oakland in the 2006 ALCS, the infamous “Bartman” incident at Wrigley Field in 2003 and Derek Jeter’s backhand flip against Oakland in 2001, will always be etched in my mind. And even before my time, legends like Reggie Jackson, Ozzie Smith, George Brett, Don Larson and Kirk Gibson gave the generations before me moments they will never forget.
So with the league championship series’ well underway there is only one thing I can do – enjoy. Sit back, grab a cold one, and enjoy, because you never know when the playoffs will deliver another heart stopping moment. But when that happens, you won’t ever forget it.