Baseball BeatOctober 13, 2004
A Nearly Perfect Night
By Rich Lederer

Game One. American League Championship Series. Red Sox @ Yankees. FOX TV.

4:30 PST -- My son Joe, donning his Red Sox jersey, and I stretch out on the leather couch. Time to take in the pre-game shows on YES and NESN.

4:58 -- We switch the channel to FOX and put the remote control away for the evening.

5:00 -- Star Wars pre-game spoof complete with Johnny Damon as Chewbacca and Don Zimmer as The Emperor.

5:13 -- Commercial break. After having several fall previews forced upon me, I'm not sure why anyone would ever watch FOX other than to take in a ballgame.

5:15 -- Joe Buck begins by calling the Yankees and Red Sox "The Best Rivalry in Sports." He is joined by Tim McCarver forever plaid and Al Leiter, who is looking dapper in his suit and tie. Leiter just might be the best left-hander in the ballpark.

5:20 -- The action begins and Mike Mussina strikes out Johnny Damon on three pitches.

5:22 -- McCarver informs us that the Yankees are the only team to win 100 games without having a 15-game winner.

5:24 -- After the second Moose call of the evening, Manny Ramirez grounds out to John Olerud who tosses the ball to Mussina for an easy out.

5:26 -- The George Steinbrenner-Joe Torre ("with two Rs") Visa commercial makes its debut for the evening.

5:28 -- Curt Schilling faces Derek Jeter, who is 3-for-21 off the Boston right-hander. First pitch, a fastball down the middle for a called strike. Jeter hits a long fly ball that Trot Nixon runs down in right-center field.

5:29 -- Alex Rodriguez comes to the plate. His steal of third base in the fourth and deciding game of the ALDS didn't get as much pub as I thought was warranted. Without that theft, A-Rod doesn't score on the subsequent wild pitch.

5:30 -- Ten minutes into the game and Leiter speaks for the first time.

5:33 -- Gary Sheffield rips a line-drive double into the LF corner on a hanging slider over the outside part of the plate. Does anybody hit the ball harder than the Yankee slugger?

5:36 -- Hideki Matsui does his best impression of Ichiro Suzuki by chipping a one-handed double to left field. Sheffield scores and the Yankees draw first blood.

5:37 -- Bernie Williams hits an RBI single up the middle. Three two-out hits. NY 2, BOS 0. A graphic is displayed, indicating that the Yankees were 55-18 when scoring first this year--the second best record in the majors behind the St. Louis Cardinals.

5:38 -- Jorge Posada grounds out 4-3. Inning over. Time to put the fish on the grill.

5:46 -- Kevin Millar, with his paint-brush looking goatee, grounds out 6-3. With the way Millar yanks things, he's bound to end up blind.

5:47 -- McCarver: "Jeter has the calmest pair of eyes under pressure." The love affair begins.

5:53 -- Mariano Rivera arrives at the ballpark.

5:56 -- Having lost track of time, I make a dash for the barbeque. Opening up the hood, I haven?t seen salmon that done since Tim went on the DL earlier this year.

5:58 -- Jason Varitek, who was moved down to seventh in the batting order apparently in response to an 0-34 season with 18 Ks in New York, flies out to left.

6:01 -- Bill Mueller pops out to short. Nine up, nine down.

6:05 -- A-Rod follows a Jeter single with an infield hit. First and second with Sheffield coming up.

6:08 -- Buck and Leiter discuss the fact that Schilling appears to be favoring his ankle. He is throwing 5 mph below his normal velocity and is leaving the ball up in the zone. The replays show Schilling is not pushing off the rubber. Great work guys.

6:10 -- Sheffield walks on a 3-2 pitch to load the bases with no outs.

6:10 -- Godzilla mashes a three-run double off the wall in right field, clearing the bases. Yankees up 5-0. Much to Schilling?s chagrin, the New York fans haven't "shut up" yet.

6:13 -- After a Bernie Williams ground out that advances Matsui to third, Posada hits a sacrifice fly to center. A productive out I hear Buster Olney whisper. 6-0 Yankees.

6:14 -- As John Olerud draws a four-pitch walk, a "Curt Shelling" banner is shown hanging over the facade down the right-field line.

6:21 -- Damon strikes out looking on a 3-2 pitch which the replay shows was inside.

6:22 -- A Gillette M3 Power razor ad is displayed behind the batter. Does Boston have any razor ads or razors, for that matter?

6:23 -- Mark Bellhorn is also called out on strikes on another 3-2 pitch that the replay clearly indicates was a ball. Instead of two on with nobody out, Manny strolls to the plate with nobody on and two outs.

6:25 -- Ramirez takes a called third strike for the first legitimate K of the inning.

6:35 -- With Schilling watching from the dugout, Lofton and Jeter draw back-to-back walks off Curtis Leskanic.

6:40 -- After A-Rod hits into a 6-4-3 DP, Sheffield strikes out looking in an at bat which features Varitek framing pitches in a manner resembling a Little League catcher.

6:45 -- McCarver points out that Mussina has taken perfect games into the ninth inning twice.

6:48 -- Mussina fans Ortiz and Millar, tying a LCS record with five consecutive Ks (a record he already shared with Schilling).

6:50 -- Leiter explains the knuckle curve grip from the booth and a video still of Mussina adds to the excellent presentation. However, I could do without Scooter.

6:51 -- With the home crowd chanting, "Who?s your Daddy," Mussina flashes his five-time Gold Glove skills by fielding Nixon's checkswing groundball toward the third base side of the mound with ease.

6:54 -- Matsui flies out to deep left field off Ramiro Mendoza. Is it just me or has Manny made some big catches this year?

6:56 -- Rivera appears in the Yankees bullpen, hugging his fellow relievers while the fans cheer "Mar-i-an-o."

6:59 -- Olerud, a Wayne Gretzky lookalike, hits a slapshot to shallow left, advancing Posada to third.

7:00 -- Buck and McCarver are talking ad nauseam about Schilling's ankle, covering it more than Curt's sock.

7:03 -- With five perfect innings in the book, when will we hear the first Don Larsen reference?

7:06 -- After witnessing another one of Mussina's knuckle curves, I wonder if it has ever been referred to as a "moose dropping?"

7:07 -- Aha, the Larsen reference is displayed graphically.

7:08 -- Mueller flies out to shallow left. Mussina has gone through 18 faster than the first group off your local muni.

7:09 -- How good is that Louis Armstrong song ("When We Are Dancing I Get Ideas") in the RICOH commercial? Satchmo is the best.

7:11 -- Lofton pulls a Tim Wakefield knuckler down the line for a solo HR to give the Yankees a 7-0 lead. Deja Boone?

7:16 -- With two outs, Sheff cooks a ball between Ramirez and Damon for a double.

7:17 -- Matsui singles down the first base line, scoring Sheffield for his 5th RBI of the game (tying an ALCS record). Yankees 8, Red Sox nothing (and I mean NOTHING).

7:25 -- With one out in the top of the seventh, Bellhorn breaks up Mussina?s perfect game with a double off the left-field wall. The Yankee faithful reward their ace with a standing-O.

7:29 -- One out later, Ortiz singles to right. Mussina looks spent.

7:31 -- Millar doubles just over Matsui's glove, driving in Bellhorn and Ortiz. Perfect game. Gone. Shutout. Gone. Mussina. Gone?

7:32 -- With Mussina still in the game, Millar trots in with Nixon's single up the middle. Yankees 8, Boston 3.

7:33 -- Tanyon Sturtze gets the call from the bullpen as Mussina exits stage left. Who do you like now? NY -5 runs or BOS +5? Give me Boston and the runs, thank you. Heck, I might just take Boston straight up.

7:36 -- Sturtze gives up a two-run homer to the Catcher Formerly Known as Oh-Fer. 8 to 5. What a way to make a living!

7:37 -- Let me get this straight?Mussina started the inning with a perfect game and ends up not getting a "quality start"?

7:45 -- Terry Francona hands the ball over to Alan Embree to start the bottom of the seventh. Boston's going through pitchers quicker than a frat party.

7:48 -- Embree, who sports more cheek than Paris Hilton (that should earn me a couple of Google searches!), gets Posada and Olerud quickly.

7:52 -- After a Miguel Cairo single, Lofton pops out to Ramirez. Manny has seen more flies than the New York Sanitation Department.

7:58 -- After Mueller opens the inning with an infield hit off Tom Gordon, Damon whiffs--giving him more Ks for the evening than Mike Krzyzewski.

8:01 -- Manny fists a two-out single to left center, advancing Mueller to third.

8:03 -- Ortiz makes his way to the plate, representing the tying run. I live for this!

8:04 -- The Boston DH launches a triple off the top of the left-field wall, missing a homerun by two feet. Do Red Sox fans now think Ortiz is Mo better than Vaughn?

8:06 -- With the Yankees clinging to an 8-7 lead, Torre calls on Rivera to get the game's last four outs.

8:10 -- Millar pops out to Jeter to end the Red Sox rally. Looks like Papi's not coming home.

8:26 -- Two on and two out?Bernie jazzes the crowd with a double just out of Ramirez's reach. Is it just me or has Manny made some big catches this year? Yankees 10, Red Sox 7.

8:35 -- McCarver announces that the Yankees are 88-2 this season when leading after the 8th inning. The good news for Boston is that both losses were at the hands of the Red Sox.

8:39 -- Varitek and Orlando Cabrera mount a one-out rally with successive singles.

8:40 -- It's Mueller Time. Another home run by the Red Sox third baseman off Rivera would sure taste great to Boston.

8:41 -- Mueller is apparently less filling. Bill grounds into a 1-6-3 double play to end the game.

8:42 -- Rivera is all smiles as his teammates pour onto the field to congratulate him. What a day for Mariano. What a night for baseball fans!

Comments

Great rundown.

I had already blocked Scooter from my conscious memory thanks for bringin it back. This image will now be repeating in my head like an ABBA song.

Great point about the normally motor-mouthed Leiter not being able to get a word in with McCarver and Buck yacking away. I wish Al were this quiet two years ago when Fred Wilpon asked him whether he should fire Bobby V.

Re Leiter -- How about the late July Mets trade of Scott Kazmir for Victor "The Wrong" Zambrano that Al supposedly influenced?

Rich: Eighteen minutes on the grill? Can you say "blackened"? And my Google search came up with no good cheek shots of Embry.

Nice review. As a New York friend said: This is his real World Series.