I love baseball. So much so, that I don't need to be in front of a Phillies game to enjoy it, and I suspect that most fans are like that, too. During the course of a season, there are off days and rain delays, so you can't always watch Roy Halladay or Chase Utley. In that event, I'll plop down in front of the television and watch whatever game, or games, that happen to be going on at that time.
Assuming I don't have a dog in the fight (i.e., rooting against a division rival because it impacts the Phillies postseason chances), I'll always root for excitement. I don't really care who wins, just so long as the journey to the final out is a fun one. If a team is leading by four runs in the sixth, I'll root for the other team to come back and take the lead, and then I'll root for them to blow the lead. It's more fun that way, because you're not emotionally attached to a team, which frees you from any disappointment. It's refreshing.
Game 6 of the 2011 World Series between the Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals was, in my opinion, the epitome of excitement. Between the countless lead changes, comebacks, go-aheads, errors, and one final walk-off homer, it easily ranks as one of the greatest games I've ever seen. And that's before you take into account that it was the World Series and that the Cardinals were down to the final strike of their season on two separate instances before rallying twice to give themselves new life.
Ever since the Cards knocked the Phillies out of the postseason, I've been rooting against them. I've wanted nothing more than to see them make an early exit from October baseball. That said, I was still half-rooting for them in Game 6. Not because their gritty, come-from-behindedness reminds me of the Phillies from a few years ago, but because we haven't seen a Game Seven in a World Series since 2002, and there is no more excitement than in a win-or-go-home playoff game.
Our wish was granted, thanks to a game-tying, two-run, two-out triple from David Freese in the bottom of the ninth (with an assist from right-fielder Nelson Cruz, who played the ball about as bad as you can play it), and then a two-out RBI single from Lance Berkman in the bottom of the tenth. That second rally was incredible enough, but even more so when you consider that the reason the Cardinals were trailing again was because Josh Hamilton, the Rangers' outfielder, put them ahead with a two-run homer in the top of the inning, despite the fact that he is dealing with a significant groin injury.
It ended in the 11th, when David Freese, the hero from the ninth, deposited a 3-2 offering deep into centerfield to push baseball back for one more day. As that ball crossed over the fence, most everyone was convinced that they had just witnessed the greatest game of their lives. And maybe they did. For me, it was the greatest, non-Phillies game. Even though the first half of the game was fraught with errors and bad base-running and just a sloppy effort in general, the last 90 minutes is going to go down as some of the most exciting, heart-pounding, edge-of-your-seat baseball that has ever been played.
I can't help but feel bad for the fans of both teams. Having experienced a number of come-from-behind wins, as well as gut-wrenching losses, I know all too well how the roller coaster of emotions can take a toll. For the Cardinals, they went from downtrodden to elated to downtrodden to elated and back again, until they finally won the thing. For the Rangers? I can't imagine how sick their fans are feeling right now. The day after a tough loss is always the worse, because you keep playing it over and over in your head, echoing “if only this or that would have happened..."
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But this or that didn't happen, at least not for the Rangers. It was the Cardinals, America's comeback team, who once again pulled the old Lazarus trick and made fools of us all.
Other sports don't have this. They have time limits, deadlines. Baseball can go on forever, and sometimes I wish it would. The baseball gods have granted us one more day of baseball, nine more innings, at least, of the greatest sport in the world.
On Thursday night, it was Joe Buck, who, like his father Jack did in 1991 after another walk-off home run in a Game Six said, “We'll see you tomorrow night.”
Yes, we will, baseball. We will see you tomorrow night -- for the last time this season.