Twice this week, I’ve seen things at baseball games that may end up being some of my favorite sports memories, ever. One was nothing historically significant; just a really well-pitched minor league game that ended with a walkoff home run. The other probably also holds no huge, big-picture significance, but it was good for a chuckle: Royals shortstop Tony Pena, Jr. pitching. Pitching really, really well.
Maybe these two games won’t stand the test of time; but some moments will be with me forever:
(In no particular order)
October 27, 2001: Nebraska v. Oklahoma (starring Eric Crouch)
In my family, one tradition we have is that each of us gets two Husker football tickets for our 13th birthday. I lucked into tickets to the Oklahoma game, so I went with my Dad. Sporting events had just resumed for the first time since September 11, and it was great to be back in the stands, but it felt different. We sat next to a loudmouth OU fan, and the game was a tight one. Then this play happened:
That’s quarterback Eric Crouch receiving the touchdown pass that basically sealed the victory for Nebraska. The OU fan next to us shut up, then quietly disappeared. I’ve been to some big Husker games since then, but the stadium has never felt as alive as it was for that play.
October 2004: Yankees/Red Sox ALCS
Partly because of my disdain for the Yankees (sorry to keep piling it on, Yanks fans! That’s just how I was raised!), and partly because I love seeing history happen, watching this series on TV will always be among my fondest baseball recollections. My mom and I watched each of the games together, even when it seemed like there was no way Boston had any shot at clawing out of the 3-0 deficit. The Dave Roberts steal, Schilling’s bloody sock, these things are bits of legend that are so completely identifiable as part of a great – legendary, even – postseason, I probably didn’t need to link to their explanations. You didn’t need to click the links to know what I was talking about. Mom and I went to school and work exhausted that week; that many innings of edge-of-the-seat baseball will do that to anyone. I can’t imagine how gut-wrenching it felt for both Boston and New York fans.
April 2, 2007: Opening Day in Kansas City
This one involved Schilling, too, but did not serve as fodder for his Hall of Fame argument. In an interview with Royal Reflections a few months ago, I described the day thusly:
…It was the kind of day that makes people get that fond, faraway look in their eyes as they describe seeing the greenest grass they’ve ever seen, and feeling the most perfect sunshine they’ve ever felt, and all of that. April 2, 2007 was exactly like that for me. I went with two of my brothers and two of their friends, and the day could not have been more flawless. It was the first time I had seen Curt Schilling pitch in person, and my Royals flogged him. I had never seen Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz bat in person, and Royal pitching held them to a combined 1-for-7. Royals fans everywhere were anxious to see if Gil Meche was an ace, a waste, or somewhere in between, and he went a beautiful 7.1 innings with only one run given up. On that day, the Royals had a taste of success, and a share of first place that would disappear the next day. But that slice of non-loserdom was the most glorious day of my baseball life.
I suppose I have other favorites, like a high school football playoff game my Mom and I went to on a whim, which turned out to be one of the finest displays of defense I’ve seen at any level of football, and happened on a glorious warm autumn day. And any time I get to see Joakim Soria pitch in person…that’s about as badass as it gets.
What are your favorite sports memories?