Tuesday, September 05, 2006

You Never Know What You'll See At The Ballpark

I believe one of the most wonderful things about baseball is that you never know what you're going to see at any given game. A triple play? A four-home run game by a slugger? A spectacular catch? A memorable managerial ejection?

A no-hitter?

Fans attending yesterday's Washington Nationals-St. Louis Cardinals game in Washington couldn't have felt that Nats pitcher Ramon Ortiz would do anything special. After all, in his four previous starts, Ortiz was 0-3 with an 11.43 ERA. It would be remarkable, perhaps, if he survived the very first inning.

Oh, he survived alright. He survived so much, the Cards didn't even get a hit off him until the ninth inning. Ortiz came three outs away from pitching the first no-hitter in MLB in two years. Totally unforeseen. But for one afternoon, Ramon Ortiz was nearly unhittable.

I've seen Travis Fryman hit for the cycle against the Yankees at Tiger Stadium, Mickey Stanley set an AL record for putouts by an outfielder in one game, and watched an inning almost begin without a Tigers centerfielder, until Chet Lemon came running out of the dugout seconds before the first pitch -- zipping up his trousers and fastening his belt.

The thing is, you just can't predict what you might see at the old ballpark.

When you look at the roster of pitchers who've thrown no-hitters, for example, sure you see the Koufaxes and Ryans. But you also see the Dick Bosmans and Mike Witts, who were nothing special but yet were able to hold a team hitless for nine innings. Witt pitched a perfect game on the last day of the '84 season.

I saw Jack Morris come one batter away from a perfect game in 1990. The Royals' leadoff hitter got a single, was wiped out on a double play, and Morris retired the remaining 25 men in order. I still have the nearly pristine scorebook from that game. The night before, the Tigers had lost by something like 13-3. Who can tell?

Think of the games you've attended. If you think hard enough, you'll come up with cool little memories, of things that happened that maybe never happened in any other game you've attended -- or seen on television.

It's what makes baseball a grand game. Even a "meaningless" game can provide long-lasting memories.

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