“All I know is that the only thing they’ll be talking about in the city of New York for the remainder of this season is National League baseball.” — Omar Minaya
Well, no. The Yankees led SportsCenter. Tidings of our doings didn’t even arrive until after the first commercial break. WFAN? Wall-to-wall Yankees. Tomorrow’s back pages? A split at best.
And incredibly, I couldn’t be happier.
Ladies and gentlemen, if ever I’d told you we’d sweep our NLDS opponent and have to compete for the headlines, the reaction would have been ugly. Outrage! Frustration! Betrayal! What story could possibly be bigger than us?
And if I’d told you we’d be beaming about this slight? You’d never, ever, ever have believed it.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
By the time Emily and I left the house with our houseguest Pete — who may not be allowed to leave until Halloween — and friends Chris (aka the Human Fight) and Peggy along for the ride, Jeremy Bonderman’s astonishing demolition of the Yankees was well under way. Getting ready to go out, I flipped over to WCBS and couldn’t believe the bitterness. Paul O’Neill opined that the team down below him was panicking. If there’d been an attending physician, I think the diagnosis would have been that John Sterling was in shock. Suzyn Waldman? She sounded like she was going to fling herself out of the pressbox, spitting through clenched teeth that this was worse than getting ousted in the first round by the Angels, worse than the unbelievable 2004 Red Sox comeback. “Total embarrassment,” she kept saying. Later, she trudged through a Saab promo like a captured fighter pilot forced to recite an anti-American screed.
Needless to say, I loved every single shocked syllable.
After a hasty dinner we walked into Toad Hall (a Met bar, for anyone who finds themselves near Soho come game time) in time for the final three outs in Detroit and the Tigers’ gloriously loopy celebration, complete with Leyland kissing fans and Kenny Rogers (of all people) spraying champagne on fans and cops alike. We soaked it in, chortling. Then it was time to open a tab, put on the colors, relax briefly, and then shelve the undercard and bring on the main event.
My prediction before the game: We wouldn’t beat Maddux, but he’d exit after his habitual 70-odd pitches and we’d beat whomever shouldn’t have been brought in instead of him. Not exactly. Maddux’s location was horrible from the get-go, with Reyes driving his first pitch a long way, Lo Duca getting thrown out at third and Jose Valentin coming within an eyelash of making the score 5-0 before Maddux could find three outs. If anything, he was left in too long: Yes, the top of the fourth was his strongest inning, but he should have been pinch-hit for leading off the bottom of the third. Down 4-0 in an elimination game, and you’re giving away an out to start an inning? I don’t get it.
Maybe Grady Little was thinking, “Hey, that’s Trachsel out there.” Which is defensible, because he wasn’t much better. Nobody we threw out there before Mota was: Darren Oliver lucked into a double play on a screaming line from Andre Ethier, but then let Jeff Kent (whose every appearance on the TV, I’m pleased to say, elicited a “FUCK YOU, KENT!” from me) tie the game; Chad Bradford was ineffective; and Pedro Feliciano paid homage to Kenny Rogers and the victorious Detroit Tigers by walking in the go-ahead run.
By then it seemed likely this was going to be one of those avert-your-eyes slugfests in which punches would be traded at point-blank range until someone faceplanted into the canvas — and I was confident the last fighter standing would be us. (Not that this confidence prevented me from wanting to vomit throughout the ninth inning.)
But if this was an ugly game, our indignant uprising just minutes after Feliciano’s indiscretion was beautiful. Reyes hammered a hanging curve into center to tie things, Lo Duca sent a little parachute over Furcal’s head (from the camera angle, everyone watching on TV anywhere in the world thought the ball had been caught), and Beltran followed with a little doink of his own. Not exactly screamers, but we were off and rolling, all the way to Wagner outlasting the pesky Ramon Martinez and the 10th pitch of that seemingly endless at-bat winding up, deservingly, in Shawn Green’s glove.
All the way to the strangest, happiest case of playing second banana I can recall. All the way to one of the happiest days to be a Met fan, ever. Freude of the Schaden- and the plain old variety, all within the same five-hour stretch. I can’t wait to wake up and buy every paper in sight and have Emily add the covers to her ever-growing shrine.
(Now keep reading — are you really surprised we’d both weigh in on this amazin’, amazin’, amazin’ night?)