I think of baseball a lot when I do my gesture poses. Throwing motions, runners leading off first base, fielders trying to make a catch on a ball over their head, and batting stances all make for good action poses. If you watched the video of me doing several gesture poses on my Warm Ups post of December 18th, you know what I mean. I am a baseball fan and a student of baseball history. I play vintage base ball several times a year.
Now that the Super Bowl is over, I am more than ready for baseball season to get started. Luckily, pitchers and catchers will start reporting to spring training very soon. Not too long ago, I put together a compilation of my top ballpark memories, and I thought I would share it on this blog. I edited it some, and it now reads like a top 25 list...
1. May 1, 1991 at Arlington Stadium. Nolan Ryan, then 44 years old, took the mound against the Toronto Blue Jays and turned in the most amazing pitching performance I have ever seen. He threw the Major League record seventh no-hitter of his amazing career, striking out 16 and walking only two. The last four innings were just edge-of-your-seat suspense like I have never experienced before. When he struck out Roberto Alomar to end the game, pure joy erupted at the old stadium.
2. April 15, 2009 at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Seeing a player hit for the cycle (single, double, triple, and home run in the same game) is about as rare as seeing a pitcher pitch a no-hitter. Seeing a player get six hits in one nine-inning game is even rarer than that. Seeing a player accomplish both feats at the same time was something that hadn’t been done by anyone in Major League Baseball in almost 110 years until Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler did it this night during the Rangers’ 19-6 win over the Baltimore Orioles. And he actually did it in eight innings since the Rangers didn't bat in the bottom of the 9th. Two singles, two doubles, a triple, and a home run. I wrote a little mini-article about the experience my son and I had at the game that got printed in the June 2009 issue of the Rangers game program magazine...
3. October 22, 2010 at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. 2010 ALCS Game 6. My son Seth and I went to our first ALCS game and got to see the Rangers beat the Yankees 6-1 to clinch the series win and celebrate the club’s first-ever American League pennant. We stayed for the celebration and the trophy presentation and had just a magical night. Former Ranger Alex Rodriguez struck out looking to end the game.
4. October 27, 2011 at Busch Stadium, St. Louis, MO. Game 6 of the 2011 World Series. I didn’t know where to put this for the longest time. It has been called the greatest baseball game ever played by more than one baseball expert, but for Seth and me, it was an agonizing defeat. The Rangers were one strike away from winning the World Series in both the 9th and 10th innings, but lost two run leads in both innings. Cardinals’ third baseman David Freese hit the game-tying two-run triple in the 9th and the winning home run in the 11th. We had trouble sleeping that night after that. And as agonizing as it was, it is still a game that I remember more than any other. And since we had tickets for Game 7, our stay in St. Louis was extended. As disappointing as it was, it was good father-son bonding time between Seth and me.
5. October 28, 2011 at Busch Stadium, St. Louis, MO. Game 7 of the 2011 World Series. This was the first Game 7 of a World Series in nine years, so getting to go to this was really special. Our team lost, but the real disappointment had come the night before, in Game 6. This Game 7 seemed anti-climactic after the incredible game that had occurred the night before. Still, it was GAME 7. I remember thinking as we waited for the gates to open that this was just too much importance put on one single baseball game. Maybe that's why recent World Series haven't gone to a Game 7 very often.
6. October 27, 2007 at Coors Field. Game 3 of the 2007 World Series. My National League team, the Colorado Rockies, went on an amazing run in which they won 21 out of 22 games. This streak included sweeps in the NLDS and the NLCS, and the team found itself in its first World Series. This was the first time that either of my favorite teams had ever made it to the Fall Classic, and I felt a strong urge to go to one of the games. I had just started a new job, and I couldn’t take any time off work. So, I grabbed Seth on a Friday after work and hit the road. We spent that night in Amarillo and got into Denver the next day. We went to Game 3 of the World Series on Saturday night and saw the Red Sox take a 3-0 Series lead by beating the Rockies 10-5. While the result was disappointing, nothing could beat the experience of going to our first World Series game.
7. November 1, 2010 at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Game 5 of the 2010 World Series. 2010 was the first World Series appearance by my American League team, the Texas Rangers. I managed to get on the website and snag tickets for Game 5. Unfortunately, this turned out to be the final game of the 2010 season with the San Francisco Giants winning the World Series. The game was a pitchers’ duel between Cliff Lee of the Rangers and Tim Lincecum of the Giants. The score was 0-0 until the seventh inning, when eventual World Series MVP Edgar Renteria hit a three-run home run off Cliff Lee. The final score was 3-1 after a solo shot by Nelson Cruz.
8. April 26, 1995 at Coors Field. The Rockies and Mets played the very first game ever played at the wonderful new Coors Field. About five inches of snow had fallen earlier that day, and I was worried that the game might be postponed. This concerned me a great deal since I didn't have tickets for the next day. But the snow stopped, although the temperature only rose to about 39 degrees by game time. The Rockies fell behind by one run in the top of the ninth, and then rallied to tie it in the bottom of the ninth. They fell behind by one again in the 13th, but managed to tie the score again in the bottom of that inning. The Mets scored another run in the top of the 14th. Dante Bichette of the Rockies then hit a walk-off three-run homer in the bottom of the 14th to give the Rockies an 11-9 victory in the new ballpark.
9. October 16, 2011 at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. 2011 ALCS Game 6. The Rangers won their second consecutive pennant by beating the Detroit Tigers 15-5. It was like deja view all over again after seeing the first pennant win the previous year. This year, there seemed to be more confetti, and the Ballpark had been improved in the previous off-season with a much larger High-Definition video scoreboard.
10. April 5, 1993 at Shea Stadium. The brand new expansion Colorado Rockies played the very first game of their existence on the road against the Mets. I happened to be living in New York at the time, so I got to see this one. Unfortunately, Dwight Gooden pitched a four hit shutout, but I have been a Rockies fan ever since, literally from day one.
11. August 22, 1989 at Arlington Stadium. Nolan Ryan struck out Rickey Henderson to become the first pitcher with 5000 career strikeouts. He finished with 13 Ks for the game, but Oakland won 2-0 as Bob Welch and Dennis Eckersley combined for a shutout of the Rangers.
12. March 31, 1998 at Bankone Ballpark. My Rockies were playing the Arizona Diamondbacks in the D-Backs’ very first game ever. I flew out to Phoenix to see the Rox beat the new team 9-2. This was also the very first game ever played at the Bankone Ballpark, and the pre-game festivities included a spectacular roof-opening ceremony. This was the second time I had seen a new Major League team play in its very first game and the third time that I had been to the first game ever played in a new Major League ballpark.
13. April 11, 1994 at The Ballpark in Arlington. The Rangers finally got a wonderful new ballpark, and I was able to attend the first game ever played there. And I managed to only pay six bucks for my ticket. Needless to say, I didn't have the best seat in the house. World-renowned pianist Van Cliburn and the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra performed the finest rendition of the National Anthem that I have ever heard. The Brewers wound up spoiling the Rangers' Opener, 5-4.
14. May 1, 2007 at The Ballpark in Arlington. The Rangers were playing the Yankees, which is always an event at the Ballpark. The Yankees pitcher, Phil Hughes, took a no-hitter into the 7th, and I think he would have finished it if he hadn't pulled his hamstring. He left the game, and the Yankees bullpen wound up giving up a run and a couple of hits, but the Yankees still won 10-1. My four year old, Elijah, spent most of the game talking to a young couple sitting in the row in front of us (Elijah is not shy). In the 9th inning, Derek Jeter hit a foul ball into our section, and the young man in front of us managed to get the ball. He took a look at it, turned around, and gave it to Elijah. So my four year old got a Major League Baseball game ball even though I never have (after I don't know how many games attended). I guess it pays to be outgoing...
15. September 3, 2011 at Wrigley Field. When I was in high school, I used to watch Cubs games on cable on WGN, and I always wanted to go to Wrigley Field and see Harry Caray sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the 7th inning stretch. After over 30 years, I finally got to go to a game. Unfortunately, Harry Caray has passed on, but the celebrity guest singing during the 7th inning for this game was Jon Lovitz. The game had an hour and a half rain delay in the bottom of the 7th, so I got to explore the park without missing any of the game action. When the game resumed, the Cubs led the Pirates 5-3. That score held until there were two outs in the top of the 9th. The Cubs needed just one more out, but former Cub Derrick Lee hit a grand slam to give the Pirates a 7-5 lead. The Pirates closer, Joel Hanrahan, pitched a perfect 9th, and the Pirates won.
16. September 8, 2007 at LaGrave Field, Fort Worth, TX. The Fort Worth Cats were playing the Saint Paul Saints in Game 5 of the best-of-5 American Association Championship Series. The game was tight until the 7th inning when the Cats scored 3 runs to take a 4-1 lead. They wound up winning by that score, and the championship celebration was something to see. My son Seth, who was 8 years old at the time, was with me, and we watched the trophy presentation, etc.
17. October 3, 2004 at Minute Maid Park. I took my son on a day trip down to Houston on the last day of the season since the Astros were playing my Rockies in an afternoon game. The Astros won 5-3 and wound up clinching the National League Wildcard spot, the only time I have ever seen a team clinch a spot in the playoffs at home. The celebration was something to see and even included confetti falling from the roof.
18. April 8, 1991 at Arlington Stadium. This was the first Opening Day I ever attended, and I was treated to a ceremonial first pitch thrown by President George Bush. This is still the only time I've ever seen a sitting US President in person. Watching the Secret Service operation was worth the price of admission (I was only in the four dollar seats, haha). Even though Nolan Ryan was pitching for the Rangers, the Milwaukee Brewers wound up winning the game.
19. October 3, 1993 at Arlington Stadium. This was the last game ever played at the old Arlington Stadium. Even though it was a former minor league park and was lacking in a lot of areas, the place carried some great memories for me. I still miss it sometimes. This was also the last game ever played by George Brett of the Kansas City Royals. He singled and scored in his very last at-bat. And even though Nolan Ryan was hurt and didn't pitch, this was the last game in which he was on the active roster.
20. April 6, 2012 at Minute Maid Park. Opening Day is always special, especially when I can see the Rockies play. Yes, the game is just one of 162, but the fact that it’s the first of those 162 and that it comes after a long winter without baseball, makes it a very special event. I took both boys with me down to Houston for this one. The Astros were moving to the American League in 2013, so this was their final Opening Day as an NL team. The Rockies won 5-3, and Troy Tulowitzki hit a home run that bounced on the railroad tracks high above the left field stands and went completely out of the ballpark (the roof was open).
21. July 25, 1990 at Arlington Stadium. Nolan Ryan had 299 career wins when he took the mound against the Yankees. He didn’t have his best stuff, and the Rangers were trailing when he left. But the Rangers came back and won the game in extra innings thanks to a walk-off home run by Rafael Palmiero. The hoopla surrounding Nolan’s first attempt at 300 wins made this game very special. He wound up getting that 300th win in his next start, way up in Milwaukee.
22. August 24, 2012 at Wrigley Field and U.S. Cellular Field. This day was special because we all (Jen, Seth, Elijah, and myself) got to attend two baseball games in two different ballparks in one day. We went to the 1:05 game at Wrigley Field and saw the Cubs come from behind to beat the Rockies. After the game, we grabbed a bite to eat at the McDonald’s across the street from Wrigley Field and then caught the train and went straight to U.S. Cellular Field. In that game, the White Sox blew a huge lead to the Mariners in the top of the ninth but then rallied to win the game in the bottom half of that inning. An amazing day of baseball…
23. October 2, 1998 at The Ballpark in Arlington. The first postseason game I ever attended. 1998 Division Series Game 3. The Rangers had the misfortune of playing a Yankee team that had won a record 114 games in the regular season. Texas lost this game 4-0 and wound up only scoring 1 run in the entire series.
24. September 14, 1978 at Arlington Stadium. My first major league game. The Rangers and Angels played into the ninth inning with the Angels holding on to a 3-1 lead. California then erupted for 13 runs in the top of the ninth, setting a major league record for most runs scored in a ninth inning. That record still stands to this day.
25. June 30, 1992 at Candlestick Park. This was my first game away from Arlington Stadium and my first National League game. I loved the fact that the pitchers had to bat! John Smoltz started and won for the Atlanta Braves over the San Francisco Giants.