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The David Ortiz home run through the eyes of a Tigers fan: a play in one act

Oct 14, 2013, 9:10 AM EDT

ALCS - Detroit Tigers v Boston Red Sox - Game One Getty Images

The scene: the Calcaterra fortified compound during last night’s Tigers-Red Sox game. The lady of the house is a Tigers fan. She is enjoying some bourbon. She is also enjoying the Tigers’ 5-1 lead over the Red Sox.

But she is only enjoying it so much. For the bottom of the eighth inning is beginning and the bullpen is coming on. She has watched over 100 Tigers games from her current position on the couch this year. Approximately zero of them which involved the bullpen in anything approaching a stressful situation were truly enjoyable.

I, as a person who doesn’t have a deep rooting interest in this game and as a person who skews optimistic, make a mostly dispassionate observation about how, whatever the bullpen’s shortcomings, a 5-1 lead with two innings to go against a team who has looked lost at the plate seems at least moderately safe. It is met with a more-than-moderate sigh. I mistake this for pessimism. It turns out to be cold, hard realism.

Snapshots as the evening wears on:

[Eighth inning starts, Jose Veras comes in for Max Scherzer]

“Here we go.”

[Will Middlebrooks doubles]

“Can you get me a refill?”

[Alleged lefty specialist Drew Smyly walks left Jacoby Ellsbury]

“You had ONE JOB!” [takes drink].

At this point Al Alburquerque comes in and strikes out Shane Victorino. I look to my right to see if this has encouraged her. There is no sign of encouragement.

At this point Al Alburquerque allows a single to Dustin Pedroia to load the bases. I look to my right. I expect anger and/or anxiety and/or distress on her part. But there is none. She has already skipped over three or four stages of grief and seems to be in full acceptance mode already. Acceptance of some disaster which hasn’t even happened yet and, hey, may not actually happen. But acceptance is unmistakeable. It lasts throughout the entire pitching change.

[David Ortiz steps to the plate to face Joaquin Benoit]

“Just walk him,” she says. “He should just walk in a run and pitch to the next guy.”

[David Ortiz hits a grand slam]

She calmly picks up her iPad, hands me the remainder of her drink to finish and walks upstairs. I don’t ask why she is walking away from a tie game. She has traveled into the future already. She has done so by remembering the past and knowing full well this Tigers team she follows. And knowing this Boston team pretty well too.  She is as certain of the outcome of this game as she is her name, her address and her social security number.

I hear her washing her face and getting ready for bed. A few minutes later Jarrod Saltalamacchia singles in the winning run. I call upstairs to let her know what happened and that the game is over. I may as well be telling her what she had for breakfast today. She knows. 

I go upstairs, brush my teeth and get into bed, thinking how amazing baseball can be and how, as has happened so many times in my life, I just witnessed something that some people will remember for the rest of theirs.

“Baseball is stupid,” she says.

Remember for better or for worse.

  1. phenom - Oct 14, 2013 at 9:15 AM

    I was going to say that Allison wasn’t alone in those feelings; it’s exactly how the 8th went for me, too. When it was 5-1 I was going to go to bed because the Tigers were either going to win, or lose in a way that I didn’t want to see. I should’ve listened to myself then. Stupid baseball. Stupid Tigers.

    • petey1999 - Oct 14, 2013 at 12:10 PM

      She’ll be back. We all will.

  2. skeleteeth - Oct 14, 2013 at 9:16 AM

    Oh so sweet…

  3. sdelmonte - Oct 14, 2013 at 9:19 AM

    Did I miss something, Craig? Are you two married or engaged yet?

    • DAVID - Oct 14, 2013 at 9:37 AM

      They must be, otherwise they’d be LIVING IN SIN!

      Right?

      • sdelmonte - Oct 14, 2013 at 9:54 AM

        She’s living with Craig. That must be some sort of sin against good taste.

        (Just asking because “till death do us part” implies something.)

  4. rbj1 - Oct 14, 2013 at 9:22 AM

    Having watched enough Mud Hens games this year, there was no bullpen help in the farm system. I’m glad I went to bed at 11 pm.

  5. makeham98 - Oct 14, 2013 at 9:22 AM

    Your mom is a Tigers fan?

    • kruegere - Oct 14, 2013 at 5:08 PM

      Also, why is your mom watching TV in the basement?

  6. jarathen - Oct 14, 2013 at 9:31 AM

    Welcome to the 5-0 Comeback Club, Red Sox. Feels so good.

    • aceshigh11 - Oct 14, 2013 at 10:30 AM

      Is that like the SNL Five-Timers club?

  7. cubanxsenators - Oct 14, 2013 at 9:40 AM

    An F-150 would cure it all

  8. pwshrugged - Oct 14, 2013 at 10:17 AM

    Great post, Craig. Thanks for the share from the personal life.

    When Ortiz stepped to the plate, I felt it. I wasn’t surprised when he took Benoit deep; Benoit’s been the shakiest reliever as of late. As soon as Leyland took Smyly out, I was concerned. As soon as Al-Al went out, I looked at my wife (a fan-by-marriage, although she’s turning into a pretty legit fan by her own accord) and said “I don’t like this move.” Boom. I wasn’t surprised.

    Ortiz’s slam last night was the first time my wife was ever rendered into complete shock and silence by sports. I was resigned to defeat when I saw Benoit looking nervously into those sort-of-reddish madman eyes Ortiz has. That guy is something else.

  9. aceshigh11 - Oct 14, 2013 at 10:29 AM

    Every baseball fan has been on both sides of such extreme elation and heartbreak.

    It’s all a part of being passionate about something.

    That said…WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! [/styles and profiles like Ric Flair until my knee gives out]

    • theskinsman - Oct 14, 2013 at 7:41 PM

      200 thumbs up for the nature boy reference. What a terrific game!

  10. indaburg - Oct 14, 2013 at 10:37 AM

    I understand completely how the lady of the house felt. As a Rays fan, I’ve had to deal with a shaky bullpen and these Red Sox all season long. I was mostly resigned during the ALDS. Substitute her bourbon for my whiskey. But I know–watching with that sense of calm dread, knowing that you are going to meet your inevitable fate. Hearing the sound of that inevitable fate–that whack of Big Papi’s bat off a baseball that is traveling into the stratosphere. Walking out of the room calmly and wondering, why do I watch this stupid game anyway?

    • aceshigh11 - Oct 14, 2013 at 10:48 AM

      Keep in mind that the Red Sox were being completely humiliated by the Tigers up until that swing.

      Two straight nights of almost being nearly no-hit by Tigers starters…the series couldn’t have been more demoralizing for the Sox or their fans.

      I still think the Tigers have the upper hand, but the reset button was hit on the series last night…neither team will go quietly.

      • kruegere - Oct 14, 2013 at 5:09 PM

        Eh, they took an away game.

        I don’t think thats resetting the series.

    • stex52 - Oct 14, 2013 at 1:24 PM

      Heya, Indy. I admire that ability to walk out of the room calmly. Exemplary self control. No dogs yelled at, nothing thrown, no drinks chugged. An exercise in self discipline (Dare I say self-mortification?) we should all seek to achieve.

    • Reflex - Oct 14, 2013 at 2:36 PM

      The Tigers fan I’m providing emotional support for this series went through basically the same thing. I got repeated texts of “f*ck” over and over with each pitching change. The worst part was I got an important call halfway into the meltdown and was not able to respond until after the game.

      She is not forgiving me for that and now blames the loss on me. Its tough supporting a super fan.

  11. jeffchadwick - Oct 14, 2013 at 10:37 AM

    Pretty much how the night went for every Tigers fan last night. But seriously, could Benoit have thrown Ortiz any more of a meatball?

    • aceshigh11 - Oct 14, 2013 at 10:46 AM

      After re-watching it several times, I swear, it looks like the kind of pitch you’d throw in batting practice.

      A terrible mistake under any circumstance, but especially to David Ortiz when the bases are loaded..

      • jeffchadwick - Oct 14, 2013 at 10:56 AM

        It was an 86 MPH change-up that didn’t move an inch. Ortiz will crush that ball 100 times out of 100. Forget about the pitch though, why the hell are the Tigers even putting Ortiz in a position to tie the game? Definitely an instance where Leyland’s “old school” managing style worked against him.

  12. drelms - Oct 14, 2013 at 10:51 AM

    hey calcaterra, what happened, you forgot to mention face painting and the Washington Redskins name needing to be changed? Hey if I had a face like yours I’d wear a lot of face paint myself, and get a hat to cover up what you lack.

    So your mommy let you up late to watch the game, how nice.

    • jarathen - Oct 14, 2013 at 11:15 AM

      You must feel really good about yourself, now that you’ve used an anonymous handle to sling feces at someone you don’t even know across the internet.

      Walk tall, my friend. Walk tall.

    • stex52 - Oct 14, 2013 at 11:18 AM

      Go away, stupid troll.

    • yahmule - Oct 14, 2013 at 11:54 AM

      Kind of early for mosquitoes.

  13. moogro - Oct 14, 2013 at 11:23 AM

    Guess who is available out of the bullpen tonight? Verlander.

    • ptfu - Oct 14, 2013 at 11:43 AM

      Verlander should be permanently in the bullpen, on days when he’s not starting. On any amount of rest, including zero, I’d trust V more than any of those other guys in a critical spot.

      Also, I hope historiophiliac is OK. Anyone heard anything?

  14. yahmule - Oct 14, 2013 at 12:03 PM

    My girlfriend walks away from the TV when the Broncos seem certain to lose. I won’t pass up the opportunity to wallow in bitterness and self pity.

    • stex52 - Oct 14, 2013 at 1:25 PM

      You bet. That’s the guy way to handle it.

  15. xxakshunxx - Oct 14, 2013 at 7:15 PM

    If you can’t sit until the end and watch your team lose, then you don’t deserve to watch them win

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