Friday, June 25, 2010

When Kids Cry-bump bump, bump bump

There he was, on my television screen, all smiles as only a seven or eight old can be; so happy his favorite team had scored a run in the twelfth inning of a rare college pitchers’ duel where double digit scores are not uncommon, especially deep into the brackets of a double-elimination series. He was so happy. I couldn’t help but think back to my earliest memory of being a Gamecock fan. It was at the 1977 College World Series and I was eight years old. I do not know why I was so interested as sports were not a big thing with my parents, and neither of them had any special interest in the University of South Carolina or its athletics. Maybe it was because I had started playing baseball the year before, and I saw a future for myself in the exploits of what must have looked like grown men to me at the time. In the opening game against Baylor, Chuck McLean hit a ball deep. I clearly remember him approaching third and blowing through the stop sign to make it all the way home for an inside the park home run to win the game. Now that is excitement for a kid. I remember being so happy; Just like that little kid in the Oklahoma cap. That’s when I said it. Out loud. “I want to see that kid crying in thirty minutes.”

A Carolina fan is sure it is going to go wrong in a tight game. Tanner is going to order a bunt, the batter is going to pop it up, and the rally will be killed. The best hitter on the team is going to go 0-5 and strike out looking to end the game. A freshman is going to be called on to pitch and allow a home run to win the game for the Sooners. Well, a lot of that happened last night. I am rapidly losing my affection for the bunt as a valid baseball tool. Argue it all you want, but someone will make one that makes just as much sense as yours, if not more. I know the desire to get the runner into scoring position, but with Tanner’s long-standing Earl Weaverian ways, it is shocking to see him call for so many bunts, and then numbing to see so many attempts go awry. I am convinced selective memory plays a part in this. “It worked against Auburn in 2004, so it should work again.”

So, when the freshman gave up the home run, and Marzilli went 0-2 on two bunt attempts and then popped out, and the best hitter came up for his sixth at-bat on the tail end of an !OH FOR FIVE! Night, it would be natural for the Carolina fan to turn away from the TV and decide how much they really wanted to pull for Clemson the beat OU and make it to the finals. Selective memory plays a part here as well because I know you remember that time that USC lost the game because that great hitter struck out looking after being up 3-0 in the count and the wind was blowing out and there were five guys on base because the umps wouldn’t let the runners cross the plate because the ACC still has a conspiracy against the Gamecocks because they are still mad Lew Alcindor was supposed to come to USC so they screwed us on that deal too and told him he wouldn’t be accepted in Columbia which is so untrue it’s not even funny because we would have embraced him as soon as he led us to a national championship which would have changed the entire fortune of all the programs and we wouldn’t be reduced to only being able to give the ladies track team a standing ovation every time they are mentioned which isn’t a bad thing because those girls were fast and smokin’ and I think there is an equestrian championship as well, but that may not even be an NCAA recognized event so we just usually lean forward in our chairs and get most of our butts off the seat to clap before realizing the horses probably did most of the work anyway and the team just sat on them so it’s probably OK for us to sit and clap for them, but if those horses were there by gosh, those beasts would get a standing O plus an apple or some other delicious treat that was handy, but then we remembered the batter did strike out and the Gamecocks lost yet another close one and we felt bad about it, but how bad could we really feel knowing another tough one was bound to come along sooner and later?

But this time we remembered: That was Jackie Bradley Junior at the plate and 0-5 be damned. This kid can hit. He wasn’t even sweating in the Omaha heat like the rest of us back in Columbia. He was cool man, cool, and took the count full for drama before smacking in the tying run in the form of Robert Beary who is my new hero because he bats Vlad Guerro style with no gloves. If Ted Williams didn’t need them, why does anybody on the Pirates? Would Williams have hit .500 in ’41 if he had worn them or would he have been beaned for being a glove-wearing dandy? Damn it, Jackie Bradley Junior, you are one awesome cat and up there with Francisco Cabrera in my book, big man, with that game tying hit. But wait, let’s send up Brady Thomas after a walk from the rattled OU pitcher . Thomas is the kid who is playing because the other kid who hit a million home runs last year was ineligible to play early this season and hasn’t been able to get his groove back since. Brady didn’t have time for the drama and took the first pitch he saw in the twelfth straight back up the middle to make his night a 1-6 one as well to knock in Jackie Bradley Junior who was able to make it even with the stumble around third caused by a conspiracy of turf specialists still mad at Carolina for having artificial turf in the football stadium in the 70’s.

It ended right there, 3-2 Gamecocks and I smiled. They didn’t show the kid. I would have been sad if they had. Then, I would have remembered he will grow up a Sooner fan and will feel entitled to a national championship in football every three or four years at least. Then, I would have smiled again and thought, “We’ve got Jackie Bradley Junior. We’ve still got a chance.”


Gamecock said...

Helluva game. Now we need to replicate 2002.

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