Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The World Series

Have you ever written a love letter to someone whose love in return may be in question? I can't imagine a more awkward endeavor and I assume most people, at most times in their lives, would consider themselves incapable of doing so...right up until that point that they go crazy over some other person and they simply can't stop themselves. Or at least that's how I imagine it. And then they get on a roll, pouring out all of their most private thoughts and emotions...and before they know it, their masterpiece of heartfelt sweetness is signed, sealed and delivered. And then, almost immediately, the embarrassment upon re-reading the 1000 words saved on their word processor, frankly makes them ill to even consider the unseen response of the desired.

This isn't exactly how I feel about writing on the subject of baseball, but it's close. People who read this blog ask me all the time, why don't I write about baseball? After all, I am a baseball guy...I get season tickets...I play and win fantasy baseball...I analyze statistics...I read all I can about the game, baseball in literature and baseball theory...most of my favorite links on THIS blog page are other baseball blogs...I love the history...I love baseball movies above most other movies... It just doesn't make any sense that I have not been writing about baseball!

Top of the first:
Cliff Lee strikes out Andres Torres. Then he shatters the bat of Freddy Sanchez, out first to third, but just before that we get to see highlights of Lee's baffling the Yankees in last year's World Series...pretty cool. Buster Posey temporarily spoils the Cliff Lee love fest with a single to right, but then Cody Ross pops out to left and is not happy about it.
Giants 0, Rangers coming up

My love for the game makes it hard to even consider not writing about it. And I do from time to time and intend to far more on this site, but there's been a problem so far every time I've attempted it: why does it always seem so damned cheesy? Is it just me being hard on myself? Am I afraid of the unseen response to my impassioned thoughts of a game that maintains as much splendor to me as this one?

Bottom of the first:
Timothy LeRoy "The Freak" Lincecum takes the mound for the Giants. He makes a nice play on Elvis Andrus on a one-hopper back to the mound. Michael Young gives a ball a bit of a ride to right field, but nothing comes of it, two outs. And then a quick Tim Lincecum promo...the song: "Here Comes the Freak!" The highlights show him beating Derek Lowe, beating Roy Halladay, and then of course, beating Cliff Lee in game 1 of this series. We return to the game and he gets Josh Hamilton to ground out to first.
Giants 0, Rangers 0

Does baseball not love me back? Is that it? Is that the problem? I am a Royals fan. And I hate the Yankees. I couldn't fathom the strike in 1994 and the steroids era infuriated me. It seems intent on driving away fans, leaving me and a small circle of my friends all alone to grow ever angrier at the game I continue to love more and more nonetheless. Does baseball not love me back? It's possible.

Top of the second:
Cliff Lee strikes out Juan Uribe. Aubrey Huff grounds out to Kinsler at second and Pat Burrell flies out hard to left. That was quick.
Giants 0, Rangers 0

I will always have 1985. I was ten. The Royals were World Series Championships. We made signs and had a parade at school. It was so much fun! So much love! Baseball loved me then. But what happened? It seems like we've been fighting ever since.

Bottom of the second:
Vladimir Guerrero swung at the first pitch (big surprise) and flies out to right. So does Nelson Cruz, who grounds out to second. Two pitches, two outs. Ian Kinsler grounds out to third and we've got a pitcher's duel.
Giants 0, Rangers 0

I think it's because of 1985 that the St. Louis Cardinals might be the only team I've never pulled for at any given time, although I can't recall the specific instance that I pulled for the Chicago White Sox either. The Cardinals were so unprofessional in that series. They cried about "the call," never acknowledging all the other circumstances. They threw temper tantrems on and off the field. They destroyed dugouts and locker rooms, even injuring themselves in the process. This is what happens when your team forgets how to act. They lost. And I loved every moment of it.

Top of the third:
Edgar Renteria pops out to first. Aaron Rowand lines out to left. Then Torres singles! He's fast so there could be something to this, but you don't get the feeling that there is. Cliff Lee is really rolling. Cliff Lee is really good. And Cliff Lee can play defense too, as he snags a line-drive off the bat of Sanchez.
Giants 0, Rangers 0

I've even pulled for the Yankees now...albeit only once. It was the last time that they played the Red Sox in the postseason. I've pretty much had it with the Boston Red Sox. They just became too trendy for my taste, I suppose, and I got sick of them. But really, really sick of them. I wonder what would happen if the Red Sox or the Yankees played the Cardinals in the World Series again. Who would I pull for? One can never predict these things. I probably wouldn't watch. OK...yeah...I'd watch.

Bottom of the third:
Timmy Lincecum strikes out David Murphy. And then Benji Molina too. The announcers are telling us now that Lincecum was singing and dancing to Mexican music in the locker room with Pablo Sandoval before the game. And he wears a bow tie. Who couldn't possibly like this kid? But he did just walk Mitch Moreland. No problem though as he strikes out Andrus. Yep, struck out the side. Stud.
Giants 0, Rangers 0

I have to hand it to the Red Sox though, Fenway Park is quite awe inspiring. I've been to a lot of ballparks in my life, finally made it to Wrigley Field last year...twice. And I think that Fenway might be my favorite, well, my favorite out of town ballpark anyway. Kauffman Stadium is like a second home to me. And there's no place like home.

Top of the fourth:
OH, Buster Posey just missed extra bases! Foul ball though and he grounds out to Young at third on the next pitch. Ross strikes out. Uribe musters a high, too high, pop fly to center. Nobody is even getting in scoring position. For either team.
Giants 0, Rangers 0

One stadium I've been to is the venue in which the game I'm watching now is happening, Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Oddly enough though, it wasn't for a game. I was with my family in Dallas for some kind of weekend getaway, a while back in the month of March...so the season hadn't started yet. But after our arrival, we somehow figured out that the brand new stadium was having an open house, open to the public for viewing, so we did just that. Nice place.

Bottom of the fourth:
Michael Young just got the Rangers first hit to leadoff the inning. Oh-oh. One question though, where has Josh Hamilton been this series? He just struck out. Guerrero, first ball swinging again, grounds to short and Young is out at second. And then Cruz strikes out. Nice start to the inning, but Lincecum has control of this lineup tonight.
Giants 0, Rangers 0

Kauffman Stadium may be my second home as far as buildings go, but really, my second home is the San Fransisco Bay Area. I lived there and loved it for six years. Still think about it often and miss it sometimes. And while there, at some point along the way, maybe after a year or two, I became a Giants fan. Being on the road a lot, I listened to a lot of their radio broadcasts, and seldom missed them on television when I was home. I caught a Barry Bonds homerun ball at Candlestick Park, and showed up for their first game in the new stadium. I was really enjoying this team and they were starting to play pretty well. Maybe baseball did love me!

Top of the fifth:
Wow, Kinsler just made a great bare-handed play at second but Moreland dropped it at first. Error and Huff is on. Burrell strikes out; he gets a lot of those. Cliff Lee does too. Renteria grounds into a double play. The error is erased, the crowd is amped and so is Lee.
Giants 0, Rangers 0

But then I realized something. Baseball didn't love me at all. It had pulled maybe its most crooked, cruel, unusually painful trick on me yet. The Giants had never won since they had moved to San Fransisco. The franchise itself had not won since 1954, when they were in New York. At least I had 1985 to think back on! My new friends in "The City" had no idea what it was like to have a parade for their baseball team. And I had jumped on board without any consideration for my well-being.

Bottom of the fifth:
Lincecum gets Kinsler to hit one off the end of his bat. Nice play by Sanchez at second and one down.
Murphy strikes out and looks stupid doing it. Another one off the end of the bat, this time Molina's and Lincecum makes the play to finish another easy inning.
Giants 0, Rangers 0

And still a Giants fan, always to be a Giants fan, second only to my beloved Royals, I had to call an end to my time there. On my last day/night out in the city, a couple of my friends took me to a Giants game. One of my friends bought me a Giants hat and I would wear it proudly in Kansas City for years to come.

Top of the Sixth:
Rowand strikes out. Torres grounds to short. Cruz misses while diving for a shallow bloop to right, but keeps it in front of him and limits Sanchez to a single. Then as if making amends, Cruz tracks down a ball crushed by Posey to the warning track. Nice catch.
Giants 0, Rangers 0

Just looked up to notice a commercial in which there are robots fighting each other in some guy's kitchen...and the guy is just watching...and eating breakfast or something. Anyway. Where was I? Oh yes, upon moving back, I immediately resumed my attention to the Royals that I had left behind. It had been a rough six years for my boys in blue. In a time of economic riches elsewhere, inside and outside of baseball, the franchise had been left behind, without any true ownership, squandering whatever few resources they had and failing to develop new. To say that the fan base had been cut in half would probably be an understatement.

Bottom of the sixth:
Moreland got a hit to lead off. This is a good Rangers lineup that has been asleep for most of this series. Is this where they break out against Lincecum? Andrus flies to center. There was a hit and run in the works...good idea, I felt that aggressive baserunning was key in the Rangers beating the Yankees. Young flies to center on yet another first pitch. Man, Lincecum could probably do this for 15 innings if this keeps up. Hamilton breaks his bat and Sanchez takes care of him. Where have you gone, Josh Hamilton? The Yankee Nation would like to know.
Giants 0, Rangers 0

So as I settled in to attend memorable back to back Royal losses in 9 hour, 100 degree heat doubleheaders at the K, I couldn't help but notice that something special was going on back on the other home front. Bonds was killing it; his splash hits were a nightly feature on the highlight reels, and more importantly, the Giants were winning. This looked like fun and I wished that I could still be there. The fruition of course, was a World Series in 2002. They had made it!

Top of the seventh:
Cody Ross is up again. Talk about a revelation, this guy has been incredible this postseason. I for one, have enjoyed watching the terror he and Uribe have gifted otherwise great pitching. He singles up the middle. And then so does Uribe. I've got a really good feeling about this. Nice bunt by Huff, nice play by Lee, one out, runners on second and third. Pat Burrell now, not my favorite Giant. This is taking some time. He strikes out. Cliff Lee being Cliff Lee and yes, Pat Burrell is still Pat Burrell. Renteria is the last hope for the lead. Remember his big hit to win for the Marlins? Who doesn't? But that was only a single and I would have never expected this. What is your favorite World Series home run? Gibson? Carter? Fisk? Well, I think that for my friends in San Fransisco, their answer from now until eternity, just might be a resounding: Renteria. Deep left center, 3-0 Giants. I have chills. Rowand flies to right, nice play by Cruz but...uh...wow.
Time for God Bless America. Giants 3, Rangers 0

To this day, that 2002 World Series is something of a blur to me. There were a lot of runs. There was a dancing monkey. KRod was born. Troy Glaus went off. And the Giants lost. As they should, I suppose. This kind of thing just doesn't happen for Giants fans in San Fransisco. They don't get to have parades for baseball...only parades of...other sorts. I remember scrambling to a bar to catch the end of that series. Had a burger and a beer just like I would have had if I had been at Red's Java House, just down the street from Pac Bell Park. By myself that night, I watched the Giants lose and then had another beer to watch the Angels celebrate. I was saddened. It was a two beer night.

Bottom of the Seventh:
Lincecum strikes out Guerrero. They're getting closer and closer. But wait. Cruz just went yard, and crushed it, 3-1. Please, let's not let this go. Oh no, Kinsler works the walk and Dave Righetti makes his trip to the mound. One out, one on, and a crowd that is starting to get pretty loud again. Lincecum strikes out Murphy. Huge. One more kid, get out of this. Done. Molina strikes out as well.
Giants 3, Rangers 1

Things would get worse before getting better for Royals fans and Giants fans alike. The Royals had a new owner, but he didn't want to spend any money. Their GM was trying, I believe really trying, but he was spinning his wheels. And for the Giants, who had recently come so close, things may have been worse. The steroids thing had put the spot-light on the Bay area. Barry Bonds, their favorite son, had become the poster child. All very sad.

Top of the eighth:
Neftali Feliz is pitching for the Rangers now. Goodnight, Cliff Lee, let's not go and do something stupid like becoming a Yankee this offseason, please. Torres pops out behind the plate. The crowd likes it, but you can almost hear their concern. Yeah, they need Giant outs, but more than that, they need Ranger runs and they know it. Sanchez flies out to left. Posey gets nothing of the ball, but gets on anyway, another hit, of the infield variety this time. The Rangers can't let this get any worse and Cody Ross is up again. He grounds out to Young at third.
Giants 3, Rangers 1

So in some way, not entirely, but to at least a certain extent, the Giants left my consciousness. Now focused on the Royals, I was determined not to get too frustrated. Baseball might not love me anymore, but this stuff builds character. I keep telling myself that. After a glimmer of hope in 2003, the Royals went back to losing again...and by that I mean, really losing. Whoever your team is, trust me, you likely haven't experienced the kind of losing we have had in Kansas City between then and now.

Bottom of the eighth:
Lincecum returns. And promptly strikes out Moreland. Ten strikeouts. I love this kid. Andrus hits one back to him and he takes care of it. 4 outs remaining for the Giants. Make that 3 as Young bounces out to Uribe.
Giants 3, Rangers 1

And then something funny happened. I moved in with my brothers and shortly after, we purchased the baseball package on cable. We had every game, every broadcast! Being a bit of a late night guy, I started watching West coast games after everyone else was in bed. And naturally, I was watching the Giants.

Top of the ninth:
Uribe strikes out. Feliz is dealing but it just might be too late. Huff grounds out to Kinsler. Burrell strikes out again.
Giants 3, Rangers 1

The Giants weren't good yet, but one thing was very apparent: they had a very young, but very talented pitching staff. And they seemed to be having a lot of fun, as was I. I had been reunited with the familiar voices of my Giants broadcasts of old. It took me back and caught me up, all at the same time. A small piece of heaven.

Bottom of the ninth:
Lincecum or Wilson? Wilson or Lincecum? Wilson. Good choice, I think. He is their closer; this is his job. And this postseason, he's yet to give up a run. Hamilton strikes out. 2-20 in this series, wow. Guerrero grounds out to Renteria, not a good series in his own right. One more out, and it's Nelson Cruz at the plate. The ball never gets put into play, strike three.
Giants 3, Rangers 1

It wasn't really supposed to happen this year. They didn't score a lot of runs, the whole country knew this. Their fans called it "torture."  But the momentum was also noticeable. I could go on about the celebration, tell you how it makes me feel, or how I think it makes my friends in the Bay area feel, but I won't. I think I'll wait for my friends, life long Giants fans, names like Barnhart, Carbone, Baldini, Concannon and many more to tell this story. After all, it turns out that baseball does love them, and maybe before too long, in a very Royal blue way, we'll find out that it, in fact, loves me too. Have a great parade, my friends!


Frankski said...

HEY ! you really caught a Barry Bonds home run ball at CAndlestick ?!?! why isn't it on my mantel /!? huh/?! your old landlord , Uncle Frank (:^)) and when ya commin back and slicing (oops , power fading) a few Titlists into the big aluminum Lockheed building off the 2nd tee at Moffett !!? I miss hearing the sound you could hear for miles ! great Beisbol Blog,, Yer uncled Frank. ,

D Kyle Burkett said...

Hahahaha, is that what you call it? My "power fade?" I usually just call it a shank! Good thing you always offered a lot of mulligans...and yeah I caught that ball in July of 1997 at Candlestick. Actually, it's sitting on my mantle, but it's half chewed up after the cleaning crew knocked it off one day and our bulldog got a hold of it. All is well though, I heard the same thing happened to Papelbon's World Series ball. I'll be back, Frank, and hopefully with more frequency, but I have a couple other stops to make first.

Anonymous said...

What's true here is that you've never fallen out of love with baseball. Many would find that commendable, Kyle. But what's also true is that the rest of the country has most certainly fallen out of love with this sport. Witness the ratings: the world series was beat out on both game 4 and 5 by the nfl's sunday and monday night games

Anonymous said...

Great story.
These Giants were certainly endearing, at least for those who watched. A bunch of idiots and maybe even more so than the Red Sox team that won the first of their two recent championships. They were just fun to watch, pull for and dress up as for Halloween.

Jason Concannon said...

That was awesome, Baseball does love me and the Giants and I Love them right back. Miss you Brother. Go Giants, and ...I can't believe I am saying this... Go Royals!!!

Anonymous said...

Well if I ever see a book cover with Fabio holding a baseball bat in one hand and a wanton woman in another....I'll know you wrote it :-)


Leslie said...

Loved this post, but I must say... I didn't want the Giants to win. I was pulling for the Rangers all the way; although I am a Red Sox fan. ;) I heard the Hallelujah chorus when I visited Fenway - like the mother ship was calling me home. lol