In 1975, Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk hit one of the most famous home runs in World Series history, standing at home plate, waving the ball fair – by inches—as it hurtled through the Fenway night. His homer came in the bottom of the 12th inning of a do-or-die game for the Sox against the powerful Cincinnati Reds.
For years afterwards, Fisk refused to watch replays of his heart-stopping blow. He wanted to remember the moment, exactly how he felt and what he saw during those magical few seconds that catapulted him into baseball lore.
The more you watch a replay, Fisk felt, the more it blurs the actual event in one’s mind. Instead of what really happened, one remembers the ubiquitous replay.
That’s how I feel right now about Saturday night’s unforgettable ending to the game between those same Sox and the hometown St. Louis Cardinals. A walkoff obstruction call. Who’s ever heard of such a thing? Certainly, nothing like it had ever happened before in the 110-year history of the World Series.
I want to remember how it was to watch that sizzling series of events unfold in little more than a twinkling of an eye. Rooting for the Red Sox, I was already on the edge of the couch, with the game tied 4-4 in the last of the ninth, runners on second and third and only one out, as Uehara pitched to Jon Jay (why didn’t they walk him?)…..Shades of Casey at the Bat: Jimmy safe at second and Blake a-hugging third….
In a flash, Jay hits the ball hard, Pedroia dives full out, snares it, scrambles to his feet and throws home, as tattooed Molina lumbers towards the plate. My first quick thought: would the catcher, with the unlikely name of Jarrod Saltalamacchia, make the tag? Yes! O joy!
Then, what the heck!? Saltalamacchia immediately throws to third in a risky attempt to nail the ailing Craig, already sliding for the base. The ball sails into foul territory. That’s it, the game is over. But wait. Somehow, Craig trips, Nava hustles after the wayward baseball, throws home, and it’s actually going to be close. He got him! Craig is surely out! Extra innings. More joy!
But wait, again. What’s that weird signal from the home plate umpire? He’s not calling safe or out. He’s waving his arms, as if it’s over. Leaping, chirping Cards are suddenly swarming the field. What on earth is going on?
All this drama unfolded in just a few fleeting seconds.
Let the debate continue into the next Millennium on the right and wrong of the obstruction call at third, allowing Craig to score the winning run on as bizarre a play as you will ever see. By an ump named James Joyce, too. (“Yes,” he thought. “Yes, I will make that call. Yes.”)
As for me, I will try to retain instead those precious moments when all hell broke loose, with the game on the line, the ending uncertain, and my emotions racing up and down like an out-of-control roller coaster.
For the umpteenth time, I give thanks to the great Umpire upstairs who made me a baseball fan.