Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Stolen Moment

It was in the pitcher's eyes. He was not looking in his direction. Brett Gardner's decision was based on those eyes.

Last night, in the seventh game of the 2010 World Series, the score was tied in the top of the ninth. Two men were out and Gardner stood 90 feet from his ultimate destination.

The Phillies had made the decision to pitch to Derek Jeter even though first and second base were unoccupied. The great Doc Halladay was on the mound and Jeter had been overmatched all night.

The noise of the crowd alerted Halladay to what was happening. It startled him to see the streaking figure in his periphery. He flinched, imperceptibly, but it caused the flight of the ball to be altered, slightly higher and a little to the left.

Carlos Ruiz noticed Gardner's movements at virtually the same instant as his pitcher. He sprung out his catcher's crouch, but maybe a little too violently. He found himself a few inches too far in front of the plate he was trying to protect. It left Gardner a tiny window of opportunity.

Jeter had seen almost everything imaginable in 16 major league seasons. This was the unimaginable. As he watched runner and ball on a collision course, as he felt the force of the catcher move from behind to in front of him, as he heard the roars and saw the images, he became as much a witness as a participant.

How could the human eye not be deceived by the events unfolding? The overwhelming speed of runner, catcher and ball all joining forces in that smallest of spaces, for just a whisper of time. The collision of these random particles had to be quicker than the eye could see or the mind could comprehend.

As Gardner's left hand seemed to strain beyond its limits, as the ball lodged in the glove of Ruiz, as Jeter fell backward, the umpire tried to freeze time.

When the umpire began to raise both hands, the Yankee dugout erupted in shouts, hugs and laughter. These were not men being paid millions of dollars to perform a task, but children enjoying the purity of the moment.

There have been many yesterdays and there will be many tomorrows in baseball lore. There will forever only be one last night.


PickleBiz said...

They'll still need Rivera to come in and lock it down...

Robert said...

In this world, the game has ended and the champagne is flowing in the Yankee locker room

PickleBiz said...

Yes, it would be cool if the Yankees got to bat 9 times and the oponents only 8 each game. I'll take a glass of that champagne please.

Robert said...

Not quite what I was suggesting. The piece is a retrospective. The game has already ended, and the Phillies have not scored in the bottom of the 9th. I am not trying to change the basic elements of baseball in this piece, only trying to create a perfect ending to an imperfect season.