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Friday, September 30, 2011

Baseball’s Greatest Night Ever

The title may appear to be hyperbole. After all, major league baseball is in its 143rd season of existence in America. There have been over 200,000 games played in the history of the major leagues.

Baseball, unlike any other major American sport, has fans and historians who follow the game and know its origins with an academic-like precision. Like many, I was glued to my television set before, during, and after the pivotal ball games. There were many occurrences, on the same night (concluding within the span of a few minutes) that happened for either the first time or had not happened in over a half century. Without question, Wednesday night was the greatest evening of regular season baseball in the history of the sport.

"You don't believe in curses? We'll see about that!" 1


There were four games played that would determine which team would clinch the final Wild Card spot in both the National and American League. The Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox were tied in the AL while the St. Louis Cardinals had rallied to tie Atlanta Braves in the NL heading into the final day of the season. The New York Yankees at Tampa, the Red Sox at the Baltimore Orioles, the Philadelphia Phillies at Atlanta, and the Cardinals at the Houston Astros would decide who would and who would not play on after the evening.

The Cardinals took care of business first, then sat back and watched the mayhem. 2


The walk off hit, in which the game is ended during the final plate appearance, is the most exciting play in a baseball game. They do not happen very often, and they always leave the home crowd with a thrill. Three of the four aforementioned, crucial games ended either with walk off hits or in extra innings. Only the game between the Cardinals and Astros, which the Cards won 8-0, was in the bag before the final swings were taken in the 9th inning.

The Philles nipped the Braves by tying the score in the 9th then taking the lead, 4-3, in the 13th inning. The Orioles beat the Red Sox with a walk off hit to cap a two run 9th inning. The Tampa Bays Rays finished off a historic, miraculous comeback against the Yankees in front of their fans with a walk off home run by Rays third baseman Evan Longoria in the bottom of the 12th inning.

Evan Longoria sends the Rays to the playoffs! 3

The choke jobs pulled off by multiple teams in one night, resulting in the two biggest September collapses in the history of baseball, taking place in the same season, is unprecedented. I stand to be corrected if anyone can provide evidence to the contrary, but I have yet to see it or hear it from anyone in our modern-day 24 hour news cycle. The Yankees, Braves, and Red Sox all led their opponents with two outs in the opponent’s half of the 9th. The Rays and Orioles were down to their final strike. All three teams on ICU would end up winning.

The most unlikely ending was between the Yankees and Rays. The Rays trailed the Bronx Bombers 7-0 at the start of the 8th inning and the Red Sox appeared to be playing with house money for most of the evening. A Rays loss would ensure the Red Sox no worse than a one game playoff in Tampa yesterday.

In case you didn’t pay your cable bill and just don’t believe in getting your sports news from the Internet, the Rays ripped off a 6 run 8th inning, sparked by a three run home run by Evan Longoria, then, down to their final strike, pinch hitter Dan Johnson (.119, 2 HR, 4 RBI) hit a solo home run to send the game into extra frames. Longoria would cap off the historic comeback with a walk off solo shot in the 12th.

The Yankees, a franchise whose history dates back to the turn of the 20th century, have only allowed two losses, ever, after leading by seven runs in the 8th inning, the last time being in 1953, according to MLB Network. Major League Baseball only had one instance in which a walk off home run in a regular season game clinched a playoff berth, the legendary “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” by Bobby Thomson of the New York Giants in 1951. Baseball fans witnessed sports history last night.

Of course, in the broader scope the bigger historic event was the totality of the Braves and Red Sox surrendering 8.5 and 9 game Wild Card leads, respectively, in a single month of play. No team had ever surrendered a 9 game lead for a playoff spot in the history of baseball. Yet the Red Sox meltdown and the Braves September choke, similar in scope, happened in the same season and concluded within less than an hour of one another.

The Orioles acted like they won the World Series. This was their World Series. A Red Sox player looks on (left). For the Sox, there won't be any World Series this year. 4


There were four playoff-deciding games played on Wednesday night. There were three games decided in the bottom of the 9th inning or later. There were two historic September collapses. Wednesday was the one, single greatest night in the history of Major League Baseball.

These fans left Tropicana field early. BOY did they screw up! 5

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