The cure for cynical fans

My plan this evening was to relax. Read. Read Bukowski. But I had to work late. Fortunately, I have a TV on my desk. I tuned in to ESPN2. I saw Oakland score five quick, easy runs. The first inning of a potentially history making game. I thought, this is baseball. Breaking a big record isn’t going to be this easy, so when I came I home I tuned in. It was soon 11-0. This is baseball, I thought. It isn’t going to be this easy.
How could Miguel Tejada, of all players, make a stupid error that turns a one-run inning into a five run inning? But without Tejada, the A’s streak would have ended at least two games ago, so I kept a civil tongue in my mouth.
Imagine the pressure on the A’s. Good ball players dream of being part of something special in a game so steeped in history. On top of that, the A’s winning streak should have made them runaway leaders of the American League West, but the pesky Angels have been playing good ball, too. Matt Welch‘s favorite team has hung tough, remaining three games back. We have a real pennant race here.
In the 8th, I began to worry the game was slipping away. Tejada made another bonehead play, trying to get the tough out at home when he should have gone for the easy one at third. Instead of 11-6 with one out and runners on first and second, it was no outs with the bases load.
The Royals scored another run. It was suddenly 11 to 7. A four run lead is nothing for any major league team to overcome.
In baseball, nothing worthwhile ever comes easy.
The camera gave us a look at the on-deck hitter. Never have I loathed such chiseled good looks as I did at that moment. I said to my wife, “There’s the most dangerous hitter on the Royals. He worries me.” Mike Sweeney was on deck. The score was 11-7 and there were two men on base. Sweeney couldn’t tie it, but he could change the whole complexion of the game.
Billie left the room, but rushed back when she heard my blood curdling, “Oh Fuck.” She arrived in time to see Sweeney’s base-clearing shot land in the left field bleachers — barely fair. “What did I tell you,” I moaned. “It’s now a one-run game.” My wife stated the obvious: “This game is too exciting. I’m not leaving the room again.”
At that point, she didn’t even realize the A’s were trying to win an AL-record 20th-straight game.
Billy Koch will never be mistaken for Trevor Hoffman, the most proficient closer in MLB history. Koch is the King of Coaster Kingdom. He takes A’s fans on more wild rides than any closer in baseball. Still, he throws hard and is effective more often then not. If Hoffman were closing the game, you would feel like it was almost a sure thing; with Koch, you never know.
Yeah, you don’t want to leave the room with Billy Koch enters the game.
With a runner on second, Luis Alicia came to the plate. The thing about Alicia is he’s a veteran. He knows how to be patient at the plate and get a good pitch to hit. He isn’t swinging for the fences. He isn’t going to give you a cheap out.
Koch against Alicia. You don’t want to leave the room.
Now, it’s 11 to 11. All square. Tim Hudson ain’t getting the win (bad for my fantasy team), and you’ve got to think, “maybe it wasn’t meant to be.” But if you’re an A’s fan, you also know that this is a team with a flare for the dramatic. Tony Gwynn remarks in the bottom of the 9th, “You get the sense that the A’s fans are just waiting for this game to end this inning. They don’t know who is going to win this game for them, but somebody is going to do something this inning.”
Scott Hatteberg comes to the plate as a pitch hitter with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning. I like Hatteberg. He’s a good solid, middling ballplayer. He’s done reasonably well for one of my fantasy teams this year. I thought, he would be a good guy to hit a home run.
Barely had the thought crossed my mind —
It was a blast.
There was no doubt.
Going …
Going …
I shouted. I screamed. I jumped. I yelled. I didn’t care what the neighbors thought.
The A’s win number 20. Truly amazing.
See, what makes baseball so great is that nothing worthwhile is ever easy.
What was it about all this strike talk last week? Such a distant memory now.

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