To diehard fans, leaving a baseball game is seen as a faux pas. “True fans” generally will not leave a game early. However, whether or not some people want to admit it, most have done this at some point during their life and nothing is worse than when the most exciting part comes after you leave the stadium. This happened to me on June 11th, 2005.
On that day, I was attending a birthday party at the Anaheim Angels vs. the New York Mets game at Shea Stadium. Baseball games and birthday parties don’t always go according to plan. And this was no exception. With a 7:10 PM game start and a time expectancy of 3 hours, the likelihood of me staying for the entire game was slim as it was a bunch of middle schoolers and there was an hour drive back home after the game. To complicate matters, it had rained during the day and into the early evening. As a result, the game did not even begin until after a rain delay of 1 hour and 24 minutes.
While I was there, the game was rather unmemorable–except for one moment. With the Mets down 2 to 1 in the bottom of the 7th, Bengie Molina stepped up to the plate against Kris Benson and launched a pitch deep to center field. Carlos Beltran ran all the way to the dead center field fence, leaped up and brought the baseball back from over the wall. My friends and I were in awe at what we just saw. To this day, it was the most amazing catch I have ever witnessed in person.
We stayed until the bottom of the 8th inning. With the Mets still trailing 2 to 1 and Francisco Rodriguez coming in for the 9th it was not promising for the Mets. And with the clock getting close to 11 PM and an hour ride home; the choice was made by my friend’s dad to depart. Unfortunately, that was when the best part of the game began.
Walking to the car, we missed the top of the 9th inning and it was time for K-Rod to come into face David Wright, Chris Woodward and Kaz Matsui. Now just outside the stadium in the car, we listen as Wright strikes out and the Mets bring in Marlon Anderson to pinch hit. Anderson hits the ball deep to centerfield but as centerfielder Steve Finley tries to make the sliding catch he kicks it into the right field corner. Anderson races around the bases for an inside the park home run to tie up the ball game. It was an incredible and memorable call on the radio and as I was still right outside the stadium, I could still hear it rocking as fans are exuberant. It was truly an incredibly scene that, unfortunately, I could only witness via the radio from the outside looking in. With the game then tied 2 to 2, it was headed into extra innings.
Braden Looper allowed a run in the top of the 10th to give the Angels the lead but the Mets had one more opportunity in the bottom of the inning. After a leadoff single by Jose Reyes and walk to Mike Cameron, both Carlos Beltran and Mike Piazza struck out. That meant Cliff Floyd was up as the last hope. I do not remember the exact sequence of pitches, however the count came to 3-2; the two strikes were due to two deep fly balls that hooked foul. On the next pitch, Floyd rocketed one deep over the Right Field wall for a 3-run walk-off home run and the Mets won the game. As most of the fellow birthday party attendees had dozed off in the car, I listened with quiet excitement. They would find out once we got home what happened, but for me, it was one of the most exciting moments I had ever listened to. Partially because of what had occurred in the 9th and 10th inning but also because I had been at the game itself.
I still regret leaving early from that game to this day. However, I still have the memories of listening to the game in the car ride home. I wonder though what my memories would have been like if only my friends and I had been allowed to stay to watch the game end. The one thing I learned that day: never leave a game early.Next post: Mop-Up Duty: The Off-Topic Podcast – ’90s Sitcoms Draft
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