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The Beauty of Baseball

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  • The Beauty of Baseball

    As this long winter drags on, how about we tell about some of the most beautiful and inspring we've seen in our careers as fans?

    There are so many beautiful things about baseball, and one of the most beautiful is not a single play, or a single game, or a record set or broken. It's an idea. It's redemption. It can be the redemption offered when an error is followed by the erring player making a great play, or driving in the go-ahead run. In 2001 Scott Hatteberg hit into a triple play, then immediately was redeemed by hitting a grand slam. Of course the 2004 ALCS was a study in redemption (if you see it from the Boston side, of course). But one of the most inspiring instances of redemption I've seen happened in 2002.

    (This got to be kind of long... I didn't mean for it to, but it got away from me.)


    Derek Lowe had suffered through a miserable 2001. His ability to close games abandoned him, and he faltered, and blew saves, and lost games, and lost his confidence, and lost his way. Strangers cursed him, and he received venomous letters, even death threats in the mail. He began the 2002 season as a starter, trying to recapture his "stuff" and the confidence of the fans.

    On a cold night in Baltimore he took a no-hitter pretty deep into the game, in what was I think his second start of the season. When it was broken up with a bunt, he was pulled, and of course all of us thought "what a shame! He'll never get that close again."

    April 27th was a sunny Saturday, not too cold, a light breeze, hinting a little at May's warmth. It was Kids' Day at Fenway, and some lucky children got to announce the players, battling the park's echo and stumbling over players' names. The Devil Rays were in town, with their team of young, uncertain but nonetheless professional players. Lowe set them down easily in the first and second, then walked a man in the third, but sustained no damage from the baserunner. The Sox, on the other hand, soundly thrashed the Rays' young starter, and before long the outcome was a foregone conclusion, but the park remained packed. Lowe was pitching well, getting ground-out after ground-out, with a couple easy fly balls and pop-ups now and then.

    Along about the sixth (in which Lowe easily struck out the side), I noticed that the Rays had not yet managed to get one hit. I was chewing a piece of gum which had started to go bland, but hesitated before getting rid of it. You don't change anything when there's a no-no on the line. I'd had a window open next to my chair earlier, but had gotten cold and tossed a throw-blanket over my feet. Now with the sun streaming in the closed windows, it was getting pretty warm. Did I kick off the throw? You don't change anything when there's a no-no on the line.

    The announcers started getting antsy in the seventh, and the crowd now cheered each out as if it were the final out of a winning game. Other players sat far from Lowe in the dugout. Even his catcher Varitek didn't speak to him. Lowe sat by himself, shrugging into his jacket and rolling a towel around his arm, chewing his gum (was his gum as stale as mine?). John Henry, who had just bought the team a couple months before, sat stiff as a scarecrow in his front-row seat, and appeared to be holding his breath.

    The Sox were retired in the seventh (my gum was pretty awful by now, and I was dying of the heat, but could I kick off that blanket? Of course not), and Lowe peeled off the towel and jacket, adjusted his cap and bounced out of the dugout to a rousing cheer. Jason Conti flied out to Manny in left -- Fenway roared. Greg Vaughn hit a foul pop snared by Jose Offerman outside of first -- Fenway roared. Brent Abernathy grounded out to Nomar -- Fenway roared even more.

    The Sox half of the eighth was very frustrating. The Sox were already comfortably ahead; we wanted to see Lowe. But the Sox sent eight men to the plate in that inning, and scored twice more, making the score 10-0. After Trot made the final out, the crowd began to cheer. There was no cut to a commercial; the camera focused on Lowe, all alone in one end of the dugout, shunned for luck, as he took off the jacket, adjusted his uniform and cap, and climbed out of the shadows into the bright spring sunlight. Everyone in Fenway (except those glowering from the opposite dugout) rose and gave voice to their hopes for this game and that man skipping over the foul line on his way to the mound.

    Russ Johnson stepped in, and watched a ball go by, outside the zone but called a strike with the generosity umpires sometimes give a pitcher on the brink of history. He swung at a sinker and made contact, and the ball sailed, and the crowd gasped, ready to wail in dismay, when the ball seemed to grow tired of flying and dropped easily and harmlessly into Rey Sanchez's glove. A gasp, then a roar from the crowd. Felix Escalona stepped in and he too made contact, the ball sailing, the crowd gasping, a few wails already escaping, when ageless Rickey Henderson, playing his first game in center field in at least a generation (newcomer Johnny Damon having hurt his knee), sprinted in and stuck out his glove and caught the ball about knee-high, and an even greater roar shook that old ballpark.

    Jason Tyner, first man up, last man up, stepped in, and swung at a sinker, which did exactly as it was designed to do, and the ball hopped past the mound and into Sanchez's glove, and he tossed the ball to Offerman at first, and Derek Lowe, maligned, insulted, threatened just a few months before, had pitched a no-hitter.

    The dust on the mound rose like a cloud of gold around him, and 35,000 fans thrust their fists into the air in unison in a gesture of complete triumph, and Lowe's teammates rushed to embrace him and share in this moment of his redemption.

    I whooped, and finally cast off the smothering blanket, and jumped out of my chair, as if I too could join that happy bouncing mob on the infield.

    It was a clear moment of redemtion for Lowe, whose athletic ability and mental state had been picked apart in the newspapers for most of the last year. There was a fear that he was broken, unable to pitch, unable to get his head and his "stuff" together, and would be remembered only for his spectacularly bad 2001, and would fade away into obscurity as only a footnote in the long history of The Game. But instead, Lowe had faced his fears, and faced his detractors, and with great faith in himself, had been redeemed. Instead of a footnote, he made history.

    Until the nights of October 20th and 27th, 2004, when the Sox won the Pennant, and then won the World Series (in great part due to the man now so happily and publicly redeemed), I had no greater sense of relief and happiness connected with baseball.

    It was such a beautiful thing -- the people in the stands pulling for a man they wanted so badly to succeed, and Lowe's teammates, all struggling under the burden of history by virtue of the uniform they wore. The setting -- the perfect spring day, the golden sunlight, the brilliant green of the grass, and the golden dust that swirled around his feet.... Then that feeling of utterly cleansing happiness....

    Is there any sport as beautiful as baseball?
    Be civil to all, sociable to many, familiar with few, friend to one, enemy to none. -Benjamin Franklin, statesman, author, and inventor (1706-1790)
    Remember Yellowdog

  • #2
    That was just beautiful. Take me to the game with you next time?
    "He can get 10 hits in five at-bats." -Joe Torre, exasperated after seeing Ichiro hit a routine ground ball to shortstop and cross first with an infield single.


    • #3
      Wow Annnie, your the best at these type of threads. Might as well close the thread now because no one's going to top that.

      One little thing that I always find beautiful about the game, is the way the fans react to a homerun. I always watch the fans for some reason.

      For example, when they show a close-up of a batter who's watching his ball sail deep into the night, I always look to the background. The fans first reaction is always to jump up and throw their hands up in the air. But the part that I always find fascinating is when the ball lands in the bleachers. I love the way tens of thousands of people all raise there arms and pump their fists in triumph at the exact second the ball lands in the bleachers. It's like a two part celebration.

      That's my little story.
      Montreal Expos 1969 - 2004


      • #4
        "Where is God's perfection?" (The Shaya Story)

        In Brooklyn, New York, Chush is a school that caters to learning disabled children. Some children remain in Chush for their entire school career, while others can be mainstreamed into conventional schools.

        At a Chush fundraising dinner, the father of a Chush child delivered a speech that would never be forgotten by all who attended.

        After extolling the school and its dedicated staff, he cried out, "Where is the perfection in my son Shaya? Everything God does is done with perfection.

        But my child cannot understand things as other children do. My child cannot remember facts and figures as other children do. Where is God's perfection here?" The audience was shocked by the question, pained by the father's anguish and stilled by the piercing query.

        "I believe," the father answered, "that when God brings a child like this into the world, the perfection that he seeks is in the way people react to this child."

        He then told the following story about his son Shaya.

        One afternoon, Shaya and his father walked past a park where some boys Shaya knew were playing baseball. Shaya asked, "Do you think they will let me play?"

        Shaya's father knew that his son was not at all athletic and that most boys would not want him on their team. But Shaya's father understood that if his son was chosen to play it would give him a sense of belonging. Shaya's father approached one of the boys in the field and asked if Shaya could play. The boy looked around for guidance from his teammates and getting none, he took matters in his own hands and said "Well...we are losing by six runs and the game is in the eighth inning. I guess he can be on our team and we'll try to put him up to bat in the ninth inning."

        Shaya's father was ecstatic as Shaya smiled broadly. Shaya was told to put on a glove and go out to play short center field. In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shaya's team scored a few runs but was still behind by three. In the bottom of the ninth inning, Shaya's team scored again and now had two outs and the bases loaded with the potential winning run on base. Shaya was scheduled to be up. Would the team actually let Shaya bat at this juncture and give away their chance to win the game?

        Surprisingly, Shaya was given the bat. Everyone knew that it was all but impossible because Shaya didn't even know how to hold the bat, let alone hit with it. However as Shaya stepped up to the plate, the pitcher moved a few steps to lob the ball in softly so Shaya should at least be able to make contact with the ball.

        The first pitch came and Shaya swung clumsily and missed. One of Shaya's teammates came up to Shaya and together they held the bat and faced the pitcher waiting for the next pitch. The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball even more softly toward Shaya. As the pitch came in, Shaya and his teammate swung at the ball and together they hit a slow ground ball back to the pitcher.

        The pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could easily have thrown the ball to the first baseman. Shaya would have been out and that would have ended the game. But instead, the pitcher took the ball and threw it on a high arc to right field, far beyond reach of the first baseman.

        Everyone started yelling, "Shaya, run to first, run to first."

        Never in his life had Shaya run to first. He scampered down the baseline wide-eyed and startled. By the time he reached first base, the right fielder had the ball. He could have thrown the ball to the second baseman who would tag out Shaya, who was still running. But the right fielder understood what the pitcher's intentions were, so he threw the ball high and far over the third baseman's head.

        Everyone yelled, "Run to second, run to second." Shaya ran towards second base as the runners ahead of him deliriously circled the bases toward home.

        As Shaya reached second base, the opposing short stop ran up to him, turned him in the direction of third base and shouted, "Run to third." As Shaya rounded third, the boys from both teams ran behind him screaming, "Shaya run home, run home!"

        Shaya ran home, stepped on home plate and all 18 boys lifted him on their shoulders and made him the hero, as he had just hit a "grand slam" home run and won the game for his team.

        "That day," said the father, now with soft tears rolling down his face, "those 18 boys reached their level of God's perfection."
        Last edited by Elvis; 01-18-2006, 08:44 PM.


        • #5
          Annie, I haven't even read the whole thing, but can tell you that it's just beyoooooooooooooodeeeeeeeeeeeful!

          Hey, nice to see there's something great about the game that can always be of such great interest. Truly a thing of beauty!
          Please read Baseball Fever Policy and Forum FAQ before posting. 2007-11 CBA
          Rest very peacefully, John “Buck” O'Neil (1911-2006) & Philip Francis “Scooter” Rizzuto (1917-2007)
          THE BROOKLYN DODGERS - 1890 thru 1957
          Montreal Expos 1969 - 2004


          • #6
            It is my son's final season in little league and he is 12 years old. He has never been on the Championship team in seven years despite never being on a losing team. Once again his team is not given too much consideration after the draft is over. My friend will manage the team and I will help coach for my seventh season in a row. We both feel this might be the year. Our team is the typical LL team with great players, average players, and players who may only get a few hits all season. One of our 10-yr olds is the slowest player in the league. The other 10-yr old is the shortest player in the league and is actually 9, but looks more like 7 or 8.

            We breeze through the first half of the season in 1st place. We struggle in the second half, but wind up in 1st place when the playoffs begin. We get into the Championship Game and face a team coached by an ex-college pitcher whose son can throw four pitches very well. It is scoreless until our #3 hitter hits a double and my son doubles him home. The score stays 1-0 into the 6th inning. My son is pitching a no-hitter! He gets the first two batters out, but their coach's son is up. He breaks up the no-hitter with a solid double. The next batter hits what should be the final out to our 1B who kicks it for an error and then freezes as the tying run scores. I heard their parents roar in unison.

            Nobody scored in the 7th inning as rules require two new pitchers. Our #2 is much better than theirs so we think we have the edge. They score 2 runs in the 8th, and us coaches prepare for the worst if we don't score. We manage to score two runs ourselves to tie it 3-3. No runs are scored in the 9th inning so we move into the 10th inning. It is bedlam in the dugouts and in the stands and the coaches are arguing back and forth trying to gain an edge.

            They score two runs in the 10th inning and my friend walks over to me and discusses his concession speech to the kids after we lose. I look at our batting order for the 10th inning. We are down to the lower half of it and they have all done little all game. I talk the manager into putting in a pinchhitter because the boy assures me he got a hit off of their pitcher once. Sure enough he gets a hit. Then we get another hit.

            Then who should come up to bat but the shortest guy in the league who has maybe two hits all year. He gets a hit and we are only down by 1 run and still nobody out! The next batter had made the error at 1B to cost us the game way back in the 6th inning and had cried afterward. I had coached him for three years and knew how to give him a pep talk. He steps up to the plate and whacks a solid hit to tie the game! We have the winning run at 3B and still nobody out. The other manager moves his outfield in just behind their infielders. The next batter somehow hits it between all their players and the shortest guy in the league races home to win the game!

            It is a storybook finish. His teammates run out and hoist the little guy up on their shoulders and carry him over to our dugout. I shake every players hand that I could. The parents come toward us and mob us and they are jumping up and down and screaming. My friend and I step aside for a moment and are relieved that somehow we came back twice in extra innings to win a three hour marathon. My son realized that he finally won a Championship in his last little league game. He had played his heart out for us.

            I received a metal stand made by the father of the shortest player in the league. On it is one of the game balls signed by all of the members of the team. It reminds me to this day that we won that game because every player contributed somehow and never gave up. A game played by a group of kids sure teaches a powerful lesson sometimes.
            "He's tougher than a railroad sandwich."
            "You'se Got The Eye Of An Eagle."


            • #7
              Before I read the others ... let me give a round of applause to Annie. As a writer, I must say that those are some of the most beautiful words that I have ever read typed unto baseball fever. Thank you for sharing. I had Derek Lowe on my fantasy team when he threw that no-hitter.

              This reminds me of a thread that I wanted to start for wanna be baseball writers. During the season, we could - like newspaper writers - write about the games that we saw... or whichever games we want to report. Mattingly, would that go in current events or somewhere else?

              But, anyway .... thanks again Annie. 'Twas beautiful.


              • #8
                Thank YOU, Brannu, and everyone else, for the kind words. I love The Game so much... and I proudly wear my heart on my sleeve. Elvis and TonyK -- you brought tears to my eyes. Thanks for sharing your stories!

                I think a thread for writers would be a fine idea.
                Be civil to all, sociable to many, familiar with few, friend to one, enemy to none. -Benjamin Franklin, statesman, author, and inventor (1706-1790)
                Remember Yellowdog


                • #9
                  Annie, you have a wonderful way with words and that was so beautifully written. Have you sent (or have have you ever thought of sending) that to Derek Lowe himself, or maybe even having it published somewhere?

                  The most inspiring thing that happened me in baseball is meeting my darling wife at Dodgers Stadium in 1986, but I have written about it before so I wont bore you all again. I did enjoy a shutout game at Dodgers Stadium in 2001 against the D'Backs.
                  "A hot dog at the ballgame beats roast beef at the Ritz." ~Humphrey Bogart

                  No matter how good you are, you're going to lose one-third of your games. No matter how bad you are you're going to win one-third of your games. It's the other third that makes the difference. ~Tommy Lasorda


                  • #10
                    Down Under: good suggestions. I hope you are enjoying your hot summertime weather. Cheers!

                    Annie: As a Derek Lowe fan I enjoyed your piece about him. He somehow got it back, and just in time for the Red Sox.
                    "He's tougher than a railroad sandwich."
                    "You'se Got The Eye Of An Eagle."


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Brannu
                      This reminds me of a thread that I wanted to start for wanna be baseball writers. During the season, we could - like newspaper writers - write about the games that we saw... or whichever games we want to report. Mattingly, would that go in current events or somewhere else?
                      IMHO, it should go someplace else -- into a book, co-written by all. I propose a BBF writer's blog, and the legal niceties (there have to be some) can all be worked out among us with BBF's assistance. But I think that we could do much, much better than the newspapers, way beyond the level of "wannabes." Is there a publication anywhere that can claim the same level of writing talent -- and passion for baseball and humanity -- that this forum possesses? I don't think so, and the posts in this thread alone back that up. I'm sitting in my office with very moist eyes, hoping my colleagues don't notice. Matt, you guys game for this?


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by sandlot:
                        I propose a BBF writer's blog...
                        Sean started this up about a year ago:

                        Around The Horn

                        I'd like a writers' forum, not just a single thread, for seeking advice and critique on writing of any style -- essays, fiction, poems, game stories, etc. There seems to be a paucity of sportswriting forums on the 'net.

                        More about Lowe: HIs no-hitter wasn't his only saving grace, of course. He was called in to pitch late in games twice, as well as make a start, in the '03 ALDS. Game 1 he lost on a squeeze play; game 3 he started but did not get the win, despite pitching well. Game 5 he came in to close, with two men on and no one out, and threw to that point probably the best pitch of his career in striking out Terrence Long to win the chance to go to the ALCS. In '04 of course, he'd pitched himself right out of the postseason rotation, so it seemed, with a lousy record down the stretch, and redeemed himself once again by being the first pitcher to earn wins in all three series-clinching games. That someone whom all columnists and armchair psychologists declared unstable would turn out to be one of our best big-game pitchers...that in itself is remarkable redemption.

                        A. Knoefel Longest (essayist for the Bartlett Park and The Remy Report
                        websites), in his 2004 essays "Swept Up" and "Beyond Belief" (about a sweep of the Angels and the '04 ALCS respectively) said that Lowe, in his reactions to his own work, embodied the Sox fan experience. When he was happy, he showed it in his bouncing stride and confidence on the mound; when he was frustrated or angry, he showed it, kicking the dirt, punching his glove, rolling his eyes...

                        I miss him. He could be tremendously frustrating at times, but he never gave up on himself, when it might have been easier to do so than to press on. That's a lesson for fans and certainly for real life. Keep faith in yourself and there's nothing you can't do.
                        Last edited by VTSoxFan; 01-19-2006, 05:44 AM.
                        Be civil to all, sociable to many, familiar with few, friend to one, enemy to none. -Benjamin Franklin, statesman, author, and inventor (1706-1790)
                        Remember Yellowdog


                        • #13
                          Sniffle. Yes.
                          Varitek=Future Red Sox Manager
                          Boston Boxer - a Real Hero


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by VTSoxFan
                            Sean started this up about a year ago:

                            Around The Horn

                            I'd like a writers' forum, not just a single thread, for seeking advice and critique on writing of any style -- essays, fiction, poems, game stories, etc. There seems to be a paucity of sportswriting forums on the 'net.
                            Thanks. Looked this over, but while interesting, it doesn't seem to include the kind of straight-from-the-heart material that you and others have been posting here.


                            • #15
                              This can be considered a beautiful moment:
                              The crowd standing up in the Olympic Stadium...cheering on the Expos...watching this at-bat:
                              Pitch 1 - Ball
                              Pitch 2 - Ball
                              Pitch 3 - Ball
                              Pitch 4 - Called Strike
                              Pitch 5 - In play, out recorded

                              Terrmel Sledge pops out to third baseman Mike Mordecai.
                              That turned out to be the last pitch ever thrown in the Stade Olympique, I remember all those fans...the most in years...crying and bidding Nos Amours a very loveable goodbye.h:
                              W: C. Pavano (18-8, 3.00); L: S. Kim (4-6, 4.58);
                              HR: FLA: M. Cabrera (32)
                              There was nothing poor Sun-Woo could have done, he felt just as bad being the last starter to take the mound for a dying franchise
                              The score reflects more of how the Expos would die.
                              It does not reflect a regular loss, this was no regular loss, this was the loss, the loss of a franchise, the loss of the team, the loss of the Expos.
                              I'll never forget when Ryan Church popped out to bury the Expos in New York...I'll never forget Jamey Carroll's last run, the Expos' last run...and finally I'll never forget Brad Wilkerson, The Last Expo.

                              Remember the Expos, born Jarry Park 1969, left this world, Stade Olympique 2004.

                              1. Brad Wilkerson signs a sign before Black Wednesday's game
                              2. A classy move by a classy guy...Brian Schneider
                              3. Sun Woo KIm throws the first last-pitch ever at Stade Olympique
                              Attached Files
                              Last edited by wilkerson_rulz-06; 01-20-2006, 08:53 AM.


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