One of the really cool things about last night is the way everyone seems to have a cool story about where they were or what they were doing when it all went down. It’s almost like the baseball equivalent of the JFK Assassination (does that make Robert Andino Lee Harvey Oswlad, Evan Longoria Jack Ruby, and Dan Johnson the second gunman on the grassy knoll?).
I thought it’d be fun to collect stories about where you were when the tide turned. Here are the stories of The Ray Area. Add your stories in the comments.
I missed all 7 Yankee runs because I was at an open house hosted by my 3-year-old’s pre-school. After the open-house ended, I headed to a local bar with the Mrs. and some friends to have one beer and watch the game. Boy, what a depressing place. At some point, I stopped watching the Rays altogether and just focused on the Orioles. We finally went home and I was sitting on my couch trying desperately to focus on a Motion I was editing that needs to be filed today. I was watching the game but, decided it was too sad to watch our boys flame out so, I was flipping back and forth with some show I couldn’t care less about. Then the walk, then the next walk, then the first bomb. Finally, the Mrs. joined me and we watched the rest. I threw the Motion I was editing around the room three times, once into a ceiling fan. Needless to say, my marked up copy was looking rough this morning.
Last nightʼs game was indicative of the Rays season. Never any quit, regardless of the situation. Whether down 7 runs in the ﬁnal innings of a game, or down 9 games in the ﬁnal month of the season, these guys show more heart than the Wizard couldʼve ever given to the Tin Man.
I got to a bar on the 3rd street promenade around 5:15. Living in California is generally cool for sports. I like Monday night Football being done by 9pm. I love waking up on Saturdays and waiting no time to watch College Football. But I do sacriﬁce early innings of baseball games that start at 7pm Eastern, so it was already the top of the 4th when I met up with some other Raysʼs fans living out here to watch the game. It was actually right before Teixiera hit his second home run off Price to make it 6-0.
Before I thank Longoria for the 3-run jack in the 8th and the walk-off, I have some other thank-yous to make.
Thank you Tampa Bay Bullpen…8 innings of 3 hit baseball, with the only run coming in the 5th on an Andruw Jones rare air. Thank you Buck Showalter…you got your team ready and wanted to win what couldʼve been a meaningless game to the Orioles organization. Thank you Waitress at the bar…sure you only brought me 5 wings at a time for All you can eat Wings, but you kept bringing them without judging me. Thank you Jonathan Papelbon…now you can do your stupid stare into the mirror all off-season and think, “why did i throw fastballs down the middle of the plate to every batter”? Thank you Dan Johnson…your .108 average was not at all in your mind when you took the pitch over the wall. Thank you 3 guys playing pool rooting for the red sox…you left during the rain delay when the sox were up and the rays were down and made me like you less. Thank you Joe Maddon…I heard Dick Vitale say that if Maddon doesnʼt win Manager of the Year, they should stop giving out the award. I agree. Thanks for everything Joe.
And now for the thank you of the night. This one goes to Evan. i know it was a team effort, but thank you Longo for the 30th and 31st home runs of the year. Iʼll never forget where I was for a lot of events in my life, and Evan Longoriaʼs double down the line that cleared the fence on the ﬂy is one of those moments. He was on deck when we learned the Sox had lost, and he reached in to his inner superstar and made a decision to end the game and send his team into the playoffs.
Thank you all for the season…and thank you for extending it. I look forward to seeing what this group of scrappy, young, Major-League-Baseball-poor ballplayers.
Bless me baseball Gods for I have sinned. I lost faith. I questioned The Process. As Pedroia’s home run cleared the left field fence and the NESN announcer proclaimed that the second baseman was “willing his team to the post season” I could not have slumped further in my chair. By that point I’d all but surrendered hope for the Rays who had fallen behind 6-0 just moments before. Denial, anger and bargaining had all flown by in a matter of minutes and now depression was threatening to give way to acceptance. We made it close just to lose like this? To lose with errors from our MVP infielder and a miserable performance from our All Star ace? The next hour and half were bordering on sadistic as Rays batters came to the plate and were sat down again by a mixed group of relievers including the much maligned pair of Phil Hughes and AJ Burnett. Baltimore were doing their best to keep the Sox in check but the end was nigh for another year.
As Damon stepped to the plate in the 8th, the win percentage for the Rays was 0.3% (echoing the odds of making the playoffs back in August). Forgive me baseball Gods, but to my earthly mind, that rounded down to zero. His single barely registered; just another man to be left on base. Then came Zobrist’s double and Kotchman’s walk. Still not much, but I did flip the sound back to the Rays from the Sox game. Fuld and Rodriguez put the Rays on the board but with Jennings and Upton going down, the brief rally (and the season) seemed to be over.
I believe in stats. I love stats. For once, I ignored them. The stats said hope was lost, and even with Longoria’s blast, the chances of winning were still slim, but suddenly, we had life. What had started a few minutes earlier as a quiet single and a couple of walks had snowballed into a comeback and you just knew the Sox were watching in their locker room: frustrated and increasingly nervous. They were just taking to the field as Dan Johnson worked his magic and, though it was far from clear at the time, momentum would be the Rays’ for good.
The ten minute span from the time Papelbon came on to close out the game to the moment Longoria’s line drive crept over the left field wall, serves as a microcosm for the Rays season. All seemed lost on so many occasions but whether by skill, luck or blind persistence the team kept going and those few minutes will become entrenched in baseball folklore, sure to be told (and embellished by those who left the stadium or turned off the TV early) for years to come. Even the shot itself made us wait for a couple more glorious seconds; unsure if the ball would drop in, drift foul or deliver the most unlikely victory. I know there are at least a couple of residents in Toronto who were unknowingly impacted, as a yell of disbelief, relief and joy exploded at around midnight last night. I hadn’t dared to think about the impact of a play-in game, the playoffs or anything beyond the next at bat, but suddenly everything was released in those few moments.
“I normally like to try and attempt to say what I’m thinking, but I don’t even know what I’m thinking right now”. Maddon was speechless. I was speechless. We were all speechless (or just yelling/tweeting/emailing/texting nonsense). At one point I was just sat with my hands on my head, mouth ajar, staring at the reactions online and on TV, trying to process what just happened. The importance of those moments in baseball history is still to be determined, but what is certain is that they will not be forgotten by anyone who lived them.
I tried in vein to write something on the games in the immediate aftermath, but everything just sounded too cheesy and more at home in Orlando than St Pete’s. But there will be enough time for people to be down on the fans for not buying tickets or management for not calling players up sooner, so for now, let’s just enjoy being part of history, oh, and promise not to doubt the team, The Process, or the baseball Gods again.