Monday, August 07, 2006

"...the Braves go to the World Series..."

by Doug Silversten

What’s your favorite baseball moment? Bill Buckner? Kirk Gibson? Bobby Thomson? Bucky Dent? Chris Chambliss? Luis Gonzalez?

All excellent choices. But for me, it is none of the above. There has always been one baseball moment that has risen above all else in my mind. It manages to encapsulate, in just a few seconds, so many reasons why I love baseball and why it is the best game of them all. Of course, baseball is the greatest for countless reasons and no one moment can illustrate them all. However, one moment does an awfully good job.

Francisco Cabrera.

As a die-hard Mets fan, it is ironic that my favorite moment occurred during a Braves game, but it isn’t a question of rooting interests for me. It was just the perfect baseball moment. While there are several reasons why it was so perfect, in this column I want to highlight four specifically. Not only do they help explain why it is my favorite baseball moment, but also goes a long way in demonstrating how great baseball is.

The Perfect Situation: You dreamt about it as a little kid. You’re standing at the plate. Game 7. Bottom of the 9th. Bases Loaded. 2 outs. I mean, come doesn’t get any better than that. Each pitch can end the favor of either team. In some sports, even that cannot happen. In hockey (or soccer, tennis, volleyball, etc., for that matter), you cannot go from losing to winning (or vice versa) in one moment. A team needs to tie the game first.

The Perfect Hit: Homeruns get all the attention, but what’s more pure than a perfectly placed hard-hit single. And perfectly placed it was. In fact, if you watch the replay, it was basically a ground ball to where the shortstop usually plays. And Barry Bonds’ throw was...nearly perfect. An inch, literally, to the right, and Lavalliere probably nails Bream at the plate. But what else is baseball if not a game of inches?

The Perfect Unknown Hero: Bob Costas always talks about this…and he is 100% right. In basketball, you can design the final play to make sure your superstar takes the final shot. In football, you can throw to your best receiver. In baseball…no such luck. You can criticize Bobby Cox for not managing his bench better, but in the most critical moment of the year, with his team’s season on the line, Bobby Cox couldn’t just have Terry Pendleton or David Justice bat. He called upon the last player on his bench, who had a total of the entire year. And with that, baseball history was made.

The Perfect Call: What other sport are announcers’ calls so intimately tied to the moments themselves? Actually, since I don’t really follow other sports too much, I can’t really back that claim up with any evidence. However, when I think of Scott Norwood’s miss in the 1991 SuperBowl or Jordan’s game winner in the 1998 Finals, no famous call comes to mind. In fact, the only non-baseball call that I can think of from the top of my head is the “Matteau! Matteau!” call when the Rangers reached the Stanley Cup in 1994. I have to say, that’s pretty impressive considering I couldn’t name you one more famous NHL moment, although I don’t even know who that announcer was.

Anyway, in baseball, moments and calls are interrelated. Bobby Thompson. Kirk Gibson. Bucky Dent. Joe Carter. At least for me, when I think of those moments, I immediately associate it with the call. And Sean McDonough’s call of the Francisco Cabrera moment was absolutely perfect. I sometimes recite it out loud at random moments for no reason whatsoever. You think I’m kidding? Ask my wife. It can be the middle of January and we can be shopping together and all of a sudden I blurt out, “Line drive and a base hit!”

So, what better way to end this column, then with the transcript from Sean McDonough’s perfect call of the perfect baseball moment:

He doesn’t walk much. He walked only 17 times in 300 at-bats in Triple-A this year. He hacked at the 2-0 and now the 2-1.

Line drive and a base hit. Justice will score the tying run, Bream to the plate...and he is...SAFE. SAFE AT THE PLATE. The Braves go the World Series.

(A long pause, as McDonough allows the viewer to take it all in. The Braves, the crowd, the city of Atlanta goes nuts. The stunned faces on the Pirate players… priceless)

The unlikeliest of heroes wins the National League Championship Series for the Atlanta Braves. Francisco Cabrera who had only 10 at-bats in the Major leagues during the regular season, singled through the left side, scoring Sid Bream from 2nd base with the winning run. Bream, who’s had 5 knee operations in his lifetime, just beat the tag from his ex-mate Mike Lavalliere, and Atlanta pulls out Game 7 with 3 runs in the bottom of the 9th inning.

This place is bedlam. There will be no 2nd nightmare for Bobby Cox. The final score in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series: the Braves 3 and the Pirates 2.

Doug Silversten's column, "The Big Picture", appears alternate Mondays


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Friday, February 16, 2007  

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