Thursday, August 28, 2008

A happy B(aseball)irthday story

Originally posted April 10, 2000:

Diane's birthday party last year went off much better than I could have ever planned. Diane bought herself her birthday presents, then, miraculously, Mom sent us a check that covered the cost of her presents. She didn't want a party, so we drove around and looked at houses for sale on Friday, so we could visit them on her birthday. (Which, eventually, led us inch-by-inch to our new home ... because we always kept that dream alive). But, Mike Malovic called up and invited us to an Orioles baseball game for Sunday. I was ecstatic. Diane is a big baseball fan, so the gift was perfectly timed. All Saturday, Diane practiced the song, "Take me out to the Ballgame"; learning Doug Auclair's version of the lyrics (à la Dad's way of changing words here and there until, years later, it's nothing like the original).

The Baseball Game:

We arrived a little late, because Mike and Pinky drove us up in their Mercedes after Church. The Orioles were down 0-3. Oh, no! That's okay, though, BECAUSE we sat in the shade and did the whole thing: hotdog, beer ("Git chur be-ah he-ah!" the vendors shouted their calls), cheers, sassing the referee. It couldn't have been a better game. The Orioles caught up in the third inning to fall behind 3-4 in the fourth. Then, in the seventh, they fell back even further when the designated hitter for the Angels placed the ball between the short-stop and Cal, the third baseman, with the bases loaded to bring in three more runs for the Angels. (When I say Cal, I mean the Cal Ripken, Jr. a.k.a. "Iron Man" because he's got the record for playing the most games without a break (it's somewhere around 3,000 games straight))

We were down 3-7 for a long time. What made things worst is that the Angels brought in a hot pitcher: he threw fastball after fastball without tiring. The Orioles seemed unable to get a hit off of him (but he hit, or almost hit, a couple of the Orioles, letting go a few bases to walks. He even (almost) hit Cal on the head, which caused an extended period of boos from the crowd and a talking to from his coach. He throws fast, but he needs to get some control).

Then, in eighth and ninth innings, one of the Orioles players (Belle) evened the score by hitting two homers: the first with two on base and then one alone. When he hit the tying run in the bottom of the ninth, the crowd (and I) went into hysterics. The inning went on a little longer, but no more runners came in. The game went into extra innings.

Nothing happened on the tenth, except that each team changed out some of their players (notably the pitchers). Then, on the bottom of the eleventh, a new pitcher for the Angels, Hasegawa, walked a couple and then hit Belle.

Belle was furious. I believe he told the umpire to ignore the pitch so he could hit a homer again. The umpire got ready to throw Belle out of the game, so the Orioles' coach jumped between the two and walked Belle to first base, all the while talking to him, calming him down.

Then, Cal got up to the plate. Each and every time that he did the crowd became full of energy. He got up to the plate four times before and got a hit to base each time except against the fast pitcher (he struck out); one time he hit a homer that tied the game. The bases were loaded; there were two outs against the Orioles. Hasegawa was good: he mixed a couple of balls with a couple of in-the-box pitches which Cal hit into the foul zone. Eventually, the count was 3 (balls) and 2 (strikes). Hasegawa pitched. Cal hit it into the foul zone. This happened three times on the 3-2 count.

Can you feel the excitement of the crowd? Diane was chanting: "Please, please!" Pinky was saying, "No pressure, Hal, just get a hit [she thought his name was Hal]." Mike responded, "Well, he doesn't need to hit the ball if he can walk." As Hasegawa threw each pitch, the energy would bring me to my feet in expectation.

Hasegawa pitched; Cal hit a grounder to centerfield, bringing the man on third home, and the crowd went wild. The final score was 8-7 at the bottom of the eleventh inning.


We finished off the night by watching "You've Got Mail" (I love the sly observations it has) with Diane's birthday Peach ice cream with Chardonnay dessert.

I call her up and sing "Happy Birthday" to her. She asks, "Do I get to celebrate my birthday this whole week?" "Sure," I say, thinking of Pooh:

… you can't help respecting anybody who can spell TUESDAY, even if he doesn't spell it right; but spelling isn't everything. There are days when spelling Tuesday simple doesn't count.

"By the way, Pooh, how do you spell Tuesday?"
"Spell what?" asked Pooh.
"Tuesday. You know - Monday, Tuesday…"
"My dear Pooh," said Owl, "everybody knows that it's spelled with a Two."
"Is it?" asked Pooh.
"Of course," said Owl. "After all, it's the second day of the week."
"All right, Owl," I said. "Then what comes after Twosday?"
"Thirdsday," said Owl.
"Owl, you're confusing things," I said. "This is the day after Tuesday, and it's not Third - I mean Thursday."
"Then what is it?" asked Owl.
"It's Today!" squeaked Piglet.
"My favorite day," said Pooh. (1)

Mine, too. Please enjoy this wonderful day called today.

(1) Tao of Pooh, Benjamin Hoff, E.P. Dutton, New York, 1982, pp. 27-28.

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