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Game 1 - Flirting With History.
October 15, 2004

by Bill Hogan


 
 

There sure are a lot of Yankee haters out there. And a lot of baseball fans who don't give a hoot about the "Curse of the Bambino" and the 86 year championship drought through which the Red Sox and their fans are going.

So the opening game of the American League Championship Series held little interest to a bevy of Dodgers fans, Mets fans, Indians fans, Angels fans and – insert the name of your favorite team here. Makes you wonder if it's possible to root against two teams playing in the same game.

 
 


That's the problem with your team not making the playoffs, there's no real vested interest and, chances are, you don't even like the teams that are still playing. Most baseball fans need a good reason to watch; something beyond the usual Boston-New York anything can happen at any time atmosphere.

There's always an aura of unpredictability with the Sox and Yanks; where you never know when someone is going to get beaned by a high, inside fastball that launches a bench-clearing brawl or when an old, bald guy is going to get thrown to the ground by a physically superior pitcher from the opposing team.

At least this year's ALCS Game 1 gave baseball fans a reason to stay tuned to the telecast. And it has nothing to do with the "Who's Your Daddy" chants coming from the Bronx bleachers. Nothing to do with the empty beer bottles Manny Ramirez had to clear off the field out in left.

And nothing to do with the desire to watch Curt Shilling fall flat on his face after boasting that he's "…not sure [he] can think of any scenario more enjoyable than making 55,000 people from New York shut up."

Which, by the way, was a statement which had no other choice but to come back to haunt him. I realize this Boston team does their best to refute "the curse." Frankly, I too don't believe in "the curse." But, on the off chance that I and the Red Sox players are wrong, why would he want to tempt fate and awaken the baseball gods? What Shilling should have done is keep his mouth shut and try hard not to look directly at the Babe Ruth monument beyond the left-center field wall.

Game 1 was special to the "impartial" baseball fan because there existed the possibility that this game could become part of baseball history; the stuff of which legends are made.

When Yankees pitcher Mike Mussina walked to the mound in the seventh inning, he took an eight run lead and a perfect game with him. The kind of revelation that gets the imagination and emotion of any baseball fan stirring. Mussina was nine outs away from doing what has only been done one other time in the history of the game.

On October 8, 1956, the Brooklyn Dodgers had fallen victim to an unlikely hero when Don Larsen tossed the first and only perfect game in post-season baseball history. When Brooklyn's Dale Mitchell struck out to end the game, Larsen became a baseball icon.

Mussina was on that road – 19 up and 19 down into the seventh – before the other shoe hit the floor. By inning's end, Mussina was in the shower and the Sox had five runs on the board. By the middle of the eighth, the 8-7 score had many "impartial" baseball fans thinking in a different direction.

The largest comeback in post-season baseball history was eight. The Sox scored seven unanswered runs, hmm. This game still had a chance to go down as one of the most memorable ever. Not since the Philadelphia A's beat the Chicago Cubs in game four of the 1929 World Series has a team came back from an eight run deficit.

This game – Game 1 of the 2004 ALCS – still had possibilities. A game that kept the "impartial" baseball fan that wished there was a way for both teams to lose interested.
There's no reason to go into the detail about the outcome of Game 1 of the ALCS, if you're a baseball fan, you already know.

Neither scenario materialized – no perfect game, no insurmountable comeback - but it was a heck of a lot of fun to watch. Oh, the scenario Shilling was dreaming of never came to be as well, the Yankees fans, although nervous at times, never had reason to "shut up."

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