(The Rays, above, and Albert Pujols ,below, celebrate their wild-card-clinching victories. Photos by Associated Press and Getty Images).
Best day of regular-season baseball ever? Well, I wasn’t there on Oct. 3, 1951, when Bobby Thomson hit his “Shot Heard Round The World” (and yes, that counts as a regular-season game, because it was part of a playoff to break a tie in the standings). That was pretty good. But it was just one game, albeit a legendary one.
I was there 42 years later, on Oct. 3, 1993, when the Giants, the team I was covering, and the Braves went into Game 162 in a dead heat at 103-58, and witnessed the highs and lows as their two games unfolded, with the season on the line. But in the end, it was anticlimactic, the Giants getting bashed, 12-1 (just say the name Salomon Torres to a Giants fan and watch their face turn ashen)at Dodger Stadium, while the Braves held off the Rockies, 5-3.
There have been other moments of grand theater in the century-plus of baseball, of course, and I have become irritated at our tendency to declare everything and everyone “the best ever.”
But to heck with it: Wednesday was the best day of regular-season baseball ever. Or as the hip nomenclature of the day demands you put it (preferably on Twitter or Facebook): Best. Day. Of. Baseball. Ever.
Never have three games of such import gone down to the wire, virtually simultaneously, on the final night of the season — with no tomorrow, unless tomorrow was a one-game playoff. And each game was memorable in its own right, the very best baseball has to offer — rallies, clutch hits, strategy, and delicious, almost unbearable tension. And that’s from someone with no stake in the outcome, either professional or personal. I’d imagine that the agony (for fans of the Red Sox and Braves) and ecstasy (for fans of the Rays and Cardinals) was multiplied exponentially.
Cheers to Bud Selig and the powers that be at MLB for changing the schedule in 2011. It was a stroke of genius to have the season end on a Wednesday, when all eyes were on the sport, unencumbered by the NFL. Last night’s magnificence would have been lost in the shuffle if it had been up against regular-season football, as would have been the case in previous years, when the season ended on a Sunday.
Cheers to MLB Network for doing a masterful job of switching back and forth between games at lightning speed, capturing every moment of high drama and adding to the feeling that something unique and magical was happening. Here is a great clip of analysts Harold Reynolds and Dan Plesac reacting, off camera, to the climaxes in Baltimore and Tampa Bay, mere minutes apart.
Cheers to social media, particularly Twitter, which is a new and wonderful element to following sports, unimaginable back in Thomson’s day (or even Torres’s day). My Tweetdeck was the perfect venue last night for capturing the emotional ups and downs, the quips, wisecracks, putdowns and valedictories of a group of like-minded baseball fanatics, all of us giddy with delight.
If I seem a bit over the top with glee, well, I plead guilty. It was an exhilirating night, and I’m still riding high. I was in the Mariners’ press box, trying to keep an eye of a crushingly boring M’s game but completely pre-occupied, frankly, with Tweets, gamecasts of each game, the MLB Network telecasts, and the in-person camaraderie with my fellow scribes doing the exact same thing.
It was great stuff, and a fantastic segue into the playoffs. If the postseason is half as exciting as last night, it’s going to be a great month.