Before anything else, let me just tell you... this is a long post. I just let my mind go in explaining what happened and tried to write with my memory and my heart. If you don't want to read it, I don't blame you. Go ahead and scroll towards the bottom to see my favorite highlight if it will save you time. Let us know what yours is in the comments though. I'd love to hear what meant most to people. On to the story:
When I began to think of my all-time favorite sports highlight, a number of high profile images passed through my mind: Jordan sinking the game-winning shot to defeat the Utah Jazz, USA winning at Lake Placid, Duke losing in the first round this past March Madness… but in the end I decided I needed to go with something more personal.
As an Argentina fan I love the "hand of God" play, but ultimately, I’m not that big a soccer fan and it would just be disingenuous. As a UNC fan there are any number of great moments I’ve been around for, but I tend to remember the bitter defeats (damn you Austin Rivers!) more than the good wins. As a Tampa Bay Buccaneers supporter, I’ve lived through the creamsicle unis, the Derrick Brooks, John Lynch, Warren Sapp and Ronde Barber (still going) era and have a championship to show for it…but there’s not one highlight that would take the cake for me there.
Read the rest of my rambling after the jump...
Instead, with baseball as my favorite sport and all-consuming passion I was left to choose between a few choice highlights. I was present for Cal Ripken’s record-tying game (#2,130) and that’s an experience I’ll never forget in my lifetime…but as a highlight…it’s somewhat lacking. My first thought was Kirk Gibson’s home run off of Dennis Eckersley, as I am a Dodger fan, it occurred in my lifetime (I was 2), it involves Vin Scully, took place in the World Series, and would eventually lead to the Bums latest world championship. However, this didn’t seem quite personal enough to me… The Gibson home run is probably my objectively favorite (that’s a thing, right?) highlight of all time, but that’s the thing about favorites. They’re not objective. So that leads us to my true all-time highlight. I’ll set the scene(s):
The first scene is about me and my life at the time. I was in my third year at a university I pretty much hated, and without knowing it at the time, was fairly depressed. I have always cared way too much about sports, and the Dodgers winning or losing have consistently affected my mood but this was a high point in terms of how much each win or loss would affect me. Being a west coast game, the start time was 10 PM, and being in college and not caring enough about morning classes (I skipped my 9:30 am class after this game), I spent the evening alone, in my room, mostly cratering but occasionally peaking while experiencing this game. I called my father something like four times to express my disgust, and alternately, my unabated joy at the goings on in the game despite his being asleep. I left him numerous messages that I can safely say have been deleted or lost, and we are all better off because of it. Let’s move on to the actual game.
September 18, 2006 – The Dodgers enter the day a half game back of the Padres having lost their last two games and with the Padres having won their last two. On the bump for San Diego? Staff ace Jake Peavy. Taking the hill for the Dodgers? The fittingly bum-like Brad Penny.
To no one’s surprise Penny gives up four first-inning runs and all hope is essentially lost for the Dodgers. Not only are the Dodgers traditionally a poor offensive club, but they’re facing Jake Peavy. And this wasn’t the hit-or-miss Jake Peavy that we all know in Chicago. This guy was nails. And he owned the Dodgers. Well to everyone’s surprise the Dodgers scratched together a run off Peavy in the first using the always reliable single-single-double play-double method. Efficiency! The Bums got another in the second via August trade pickup Marlon Anderson’s solo home run, and I’m not ready to believe, but am starting to hope. The Dodgers tag Peavy for a third straight inning with a Furcal home run and back-to-back doubles and we’ve got a tie ballgame. At this point I’m thinking "you can’t blow this. You never beat Peavy…this is your shot." I was way too invested in this game.
Scoreless 4th and 5th innings for Penny and Peavy, and with 109 pitches in 5 innings, the Dodgers call forBrett Tomko in the 6th. I lost it at this point as Brett Tomko shouldn't even be involved in baseball games, much less one with playoff atmosphere and playoff implications. Of course, I failed to see the true genius of the decision to bring Tomko in. With the 7-8-9 hitters coming up, if you bring in a competent reliever who retires the first two batters, the Padres leave Peavy in, having thrown 93 pitches thus far. However, the incompetent Brett Tomko immediately serves up a double to Geoff Blum, which leads the Padres to pinch hit for Peavy one out later. Fast forward to the top of the eighth and Big Jon Broxton gives up two runs facing the bottom of the Padres lineup. I am inconsolable. Voicemail message left for my father. Tears may have been involved.
The Dodgers respond with one run in the bottom of the 8th, after a triple and single, followed by Jim Tracy pinch-hitting the double-play-in-waiting Olmedo Saenz, who, no surprise, hit into a double play. Rally killed. Tracy then brings in then closer Takashi Saito in the top of the 9th, down a run to try and keep the game close, but also under the misguided notion that you have to use your closer in the top of the 9th at home. I don't fault him for using Saito in this situation, but I can almost guarantee it wasn't for the right reasons. Naturally, as it was a Jim Tracy decision, the move backfired resulting in 3 runs scored and a lonely college junior on his floor fraught with despair.
This brings us to the highlight...only 1000 words in. I know, you hate me by now if you haven't stopped reading already. But you know what? It's my favorite highlight and if I'm going to share it with you, I'm going to share the whole story. *Steps down off his soapbox*
Anyway, here we are at the top of the ninth. In a move that would either prove to be unwise - or have no effect whatsoever, we don't really know - Bruce Bochy calls upon unheralded reliever Jon Adkins to polish off the game with an 8-4 lead instead of Trevor Hoffman because, y'know, manage by the save! Well, he would come to regret that move and here is why...
Dodgers 4 homeruns in a row 9/18/06 (via mega dodgerboy)
Man, I waited way too long to let Vin tell you what happened. My humblest of apologies. I apologize for the edited footage, but that was the only video I could find for it. You'll also notice there was a fifth home run in there from Nomar Garciaparra, that was a walkoff after Aaron Sele gave up a run in the 10th inning. The four home runs are what I will always remember though. After the first two I was insulted. Why bother hitting back-to-back home runs just to ultimately lose? This notion was reinforced when the Padres called upon Trevor Hoffman before he gave up the latter half of the four consecutive bombs. I can't properly express what was going through my head or my heart at the time. I don't even think I was happy. I was just stunned.
When I picked my jaw up off the floor, I called my father, this time with tears of joy. I left another voicemail. I don't know what I said, though I'm sure it wasn't coherent.
Look, in some ways this is an obvious choice for me. It's the Dodgers. It's an incredible comeback featuring a quirk of baseball that hadn't been seen in decades. It involved Vin Scully. But it is also a weird choice in certain ways. I'm as surprised as you are that my favorite highlight of all time includes JD Drew or Marlon Anderson. That the build up heavily featured Jim Tracy, Olmedo Saenz, and Aaron Freaking Sele and not one but two comebacks from a Dodger franchise that has almost always prided itself on pitching. But that's how it goes.
I'll leave you with one last thing that is actually my favorite part of this game. Right before Nomar Garciaparra'swalkoff - and you can't hear him say it in this highlight - Kenny Lofton had singled to lead off the inning. Vin then says "well now we've got a rabbit on board!" I know I can't adequately explain the emotion in Vin's voice, but if you've ever listened to him, I am sure you can imagine. It is quite possibly my single favorite Dodgers moment ever because of the anticipation he created. There wasn't a better person for this call and thankfully enough, the Dodgers didn't need the rabbit to use his legs in this one.
You were kind enough to let me share my story, so what is yours? What's your favorite sports highlight of all time? Let us know in the comments.