Um … wow.
It’s the day after what many have described as the greatest night in the history of regular-season baseball, and I’m still struggling to comprehend that all of those things were both jaw-dropping and real.
Prior to last evening’s theatrics, I was going to do what every other Angels-centric writer had already done thus far – review the Angels’ disappointing 2011 campaign, look ahead to the future, acknowledge those standout performances we were treated to watching – the usual. And then, without warning, everything we love about baseball erupted into a veritable smorgasbord of late-game drama. It was Mount St. Helens all over again, if it were waiting to burst, not with destructive ash and heat, but expensive candy and pure ecstasy.
And let me tell you, people – it was absolutely delectable. Every morsel to which we were so generously treated was more delicate and flavorful than the last.
There were the widely hated Red Sox, sitting in a rain delay in the seventh inning. They were ahead 3-2. The Sox waited patiently, tensely, excitedly. Baltimore looked lifeless, and Boston would not be denied their rightful spot in the playoffs. The Rays were down 7-0 early to the hated Yankees, who seemed to be doing the Sox a favor for the first time in what seemed like ages. It looked like Boston, who had squandered a huge lead and what was widely regarded as the best roster in baseball, would still manage to weasel its way into the postseason.
I’m an Angels fan, and, therefore, a Red Sox hater. So it will come as no surprise to you that I was not a very happy camper with the prospect of yet another Boston postseason run staring me directly in the face.
The mountain stood still.
But then, the Rays loaded the bases in the eighth.
The surrounding animals perked up their heads, sensing significant turmoil in the immediate future.
The Yanks walked in a run. Then plunked a guy. Then the Rays brought someone home on a sacrifice fly.
The animals fled.
Then came Evan Longoria to the plate for an at-bat we’ll be talking about for years.
The forest around the mountain was vacant. All that remained were trees and silence.
Crack. A collective gasp from the baseball world, and the ball was over the wall in no time. 7-6 Yankees. The Rays were still alive.
The mountain was ready to burst.
The Rays were down to their last out. Dan Johnson came up to the plate, and his sickly average indicated the Yanks would enter the postseason as winners.
A low rumble.
Crack again. The ball sailed out of the ballpark, and the Rays were tied with the Yankees.
The mountain was silent again.
The Rays and Yankees moved into the bottom of the 12th inning, still tied. Meanwhile, the Red Sox had given up the game-winning single with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. Evan Longoria was up to bat again.
And then, the mountain burst.
Longoria lifted a line drive over the left field wall, just fair. The Rays stormed the field, probably in disbelief at what had transpired over only a few hours.
Down from the sky rained truffles and gumdrops and money. A rainbow danced across the sky spouting everybody’s favorite song. It was glory embodied in a single moment, with Tampa Bay fans jumping for joy along with the rest of the country while the few Red Sox fans that dotted the Trop hung their heads in disbelief.
For the neutral fan, it was only one more great moment in a night full of them. But for those embittered, miserable Sox haters like me, this was the moment you could savor for a lifetime.
You knew right off the bat this would be one of those moment those few Sox fans you knew would reference for all eternity, like the ’03 sweep at the hands of the Yanks or Bill Buckner’s famous gaffe. The only difference between then and now is that instead of lending a sympathetic ear, you’ll flash a cruel smile and use the moment to mock them.
Now, my Halos are no stranger to moments akin to what the Sox suffered last night – Angel fans will always have the Donnie Moore game and Aybar’s infamous bunt attempt in 2008 (both suffered at the hands of these same Red Sox), along with a 1995 collapse that ranks up there among the worst late-season choke jobs in history. But all of that is forgotten, at least for a moment, in one fantastic night of schadenfreude. We’re still losers, but at least we can bask in the glory of a massive Red Sox choke.
And that, people, is how I will remember the 2011 MLB season.