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August 23, 2000

The Daily Prospectus

I Love This Game

by Joe Sheehan

One of the late-night discussions I'd imagine many of us have had at one time or another with our friends is talking about what time period we would have liked to live in. When I was younger, my standard answer was the 1950s, because it seemed like a fun time to be young in America, pervasive Communist threat notwithstanding.

Nowadays, though, there's simply no question--I wouldn't want to live anytime but now, and the last two nights, watching baseball from my living room and office, are a prime indication why. As a baseball fan--OK, a baseball junkie--there's simply no time like the present, thanks to modern technology.

Monday night, I was privileged to watch the incredible Angels/Red Sox game. Rob Neyer, over at ESPN.com, was at that game and did it more justice to it in his column than I can, so I encourage you to read his piece. It would be hard to cram more stuff--more baseball--into one game than the two teams did on Monday night.

Go read Rob's column, and then tell me if you think Brian Daubach will pay for a meal for the rest of his stay in Boston. Sure, there's no such thing as clutch hitters, but there is clutch hitting, and Daubach packed a season's worth of it into one night. Nights like that are how players become heroes and they make lifelong fans out of little boys.

And because I'm alive in the year 2000, I got to watch it.

But that wasn't all. On a different channel, the Braves were taking on the Rockies at Planet Coors, and I was treated to that rare thing: a quality pitching performance in Denver. Kevin Millwood threw almost all fastballs in tossing seven excellent innings in a game the Braves would win, 7-4.

It was after Millwood left the game, though, that its most memorable moment occurred. In the ninth inning, Andruw Jones hit a home run onto the concourse that runs behind the left-field seats at Coors Field. I've watched a lot of baseball, and this was probably the most impressive home run I've ever seen on television, and maybe the second-most impressive I've ever seen, behind a shot Mickey Tettleton hit off Andy Hawkins at Yankee Stadium. Jones's shot was just an absolute bomb; that's not the nicest phrase I've ever turned, but there's just nothing more pithy that describes it.

Then tonight, I was treated to four more games. I didn't see much pitching, but there were a whole lot of runs scored in Boston, Houston, Los Angeles and Denver. And the night ended with one the great stories of the season: a player's first major-league hit getting the first major-league win for his teammate in the 12th inning.

His teammate, the team's starting catcher!

I can't summarize this game briefly. For those of you who don't know, in the 11th inning of the Rockies/Braves game, John Wasdin hit Andres Galarraga with a 3-2, two-out curveball with the bases empty. No intent, obviously, given the situation, but Galarraga looked offended. Wasdin took offense to Galarraga being offended, and the two of them met at the mound to discuss the situation, getting ejected for their troubles.

Unfortunately, Wasdin was the Rockies' last reliever. That forced Monday night's starter, Brian Bohanon, into the game to get out of the 11th, which he did. The Rockies didn't score in the bottom of the innings, and to start the 12th, the Rockies brought their tenth pitcher into the game: catcher Brent Mayne.

The Braves were out of position players thanks to the Galarraga ejection, so to start the 12th, Tom Glavine pinch-hit for Scott Kamieniecki. Meaning, we had a position player pitching to a pinch-hitting pitcher. I'll dare any of you to find another instance of that happening.

It got better.

Mayne retired Glavine on a groundout and Walt Weiss on a fly to center field. Rafael Furcal singled and Mayne walked Andruw Jones, but Chipper Jones grounded to third on a didn't-mean-to swing, ending the inning and sending Mayne off to raucous cheers.

The Rockies started the bottom of the inning with singles by Neifi Perez and Todd Helton off John Rocker, and it looked like Mayne was going to be the first position player to get a decision since 1989 (the Dodgers' Jeff Hamilton) and the first since 1968 to get a win (the Tigers' Rocky Colavito, according to AP).

Not so fast. Jeffrey Hammonds hit a screamer to center field that should have won the game, but Andruw Jones was playing shallow, and snagged it for an out. Rocker out, Stan Belinda in to face Terry Shumpert. Strikeout, and now it started to look like Mayne would have to pitch the 13th. The Braves walk Jeff Cirillo to get to Mayne's spot.

But Mayne can't bat because of his sore wrist, so the Rockies have to send up their last position player, Adam Melhuse, just called up on Monday and 0-for-6 in his career.

Single. Ballgame. Mayhem.

There are some significant social problems in the world today, and sure, maybe there were some better times to be a 29-year-old writer. But I wouldn't trade living today for anything else, and if I needed a reminder, well, I just got a whole bunch.

Joe Sheehan can be reached at jsheehan@baseballprospectus.com.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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