Tomahawked

Saturday, August 18, 2012–Braves 2, Dodgers 6

If I had come for the sole purpose of seeing the Civil Rights Game, and if I had missed the banquet or the round-table discussion on issues of race in sports (as I did), I expect I would have been very disappointed by the presentation on the field at tonight’s game. Fortunately, that was not my sole intent. There was a short presentation as Don Newcombe, members of the band Earth Wind and Fire, and Congressman John Lewis—winners of MLB’s Beacon Awards—were recognized on the field. Aside from that, there wasn’t much about civil rights for anyone who was actually in the stands. This led me to the conclusion that there was probably quite a bit more said on the subject during the telecast. I guess that’s a good thing, ’cause the broadcast would’ve been dreadfully dull otherwise.

Aaron Harang started for the Dodgers, and it looked like the Braves would get him for a big first inning. When David Ross struck out with the bases loaded, the large clump of Dodger fans around me breathed a large sigh of relief. In the bottom of the second I noticed something odd about Atlanta’s scoreboard. After Hanley Ramirez hit a home run off Ben Sheets to tie it up, the scoreboard registered the hit right away, but didn’t register the run until Ramirez had circled the bases. It’s a nice little nod to the most esoteric sensibilities, a run doesn’t really count until the runner touches the plate. I don’t know if Atlanta’s scoreboard operators are the only ones who do this or not, but it’s the first time I noticed it.

Then, two pitches later, when James Loney hit a ball that bounced just above the yellow line in right for another homer, I got another chance to test this theory. Again, the run was not awarded until Loney touched home. On the very next pitch, Louis Cruz hit another homer, much to the consternation of most of the fans. Sheets had given up three taters… on four pitches.

From the second through the fifth, the main highlights were defensive. On back-to-back plays, Dodgers second baseman Mark Ellis made outstanding plays—going up the middle and making a nice jump throw to rob Martin Prado, then diving to his left to take a sure single from Jason Heyward. Not to be outdone, Braves second baseman Dan Uggla dove even deeper into the gap to rob Shane Victorino in the 6th. But the fans could sense trouble when Sheets walked two batters, and when Ramirez hit his second homer of the night, there wasn’t much of interest after that. Well, except my little obsession over the scoreboard: sure enough, all 3 runs were added one-by-one as the runners crossed the plate. In all, the Dodgers only got four hits, but all of them went over the fence.

Here’s the scorecard. I made this one at home—from one of my own templates—because the Braves’ printed scorecard is simply too small for any practical use.

Rocky Mountain highlight reel

Sunday, April 29, 2007–Rockies 9, Braves 7 (11)

This was a bus-by-night operation. I went up to Denver on the overnight Greyhound, went to the game and came back on the overnight bus back. I couldn’t sleep on the bus, and because there wasn’t much to see, I wound up spending the entire trip up looking at the moon. About the time we got Las Vegas (New Mexico, that is), I felt a tickling at the back of my throat. By the time we got to Springer, I was talking to the moon. In Raton, I bought a roll of cough drops and found myself dizzy walking around.  By Colorado Springs, I was half expecting the moon to start talking back. It was just about the worst 24-hour flu I’ve ever had–I  belonged at home, in bed with a thermometer in my mouth and a cold compress on my forehead.

In Trinidad, the entire bus got a very important civics lesson. A gentleman who didn’t speak English wanted to get off the bus, not understanding that we weren’t scheduled to stop there. At first, the driver tried to explain to him that he’d have to go to Pueblo and change busses there, but then made an announcement over the PA, explaining the situation in succinct terms. “Who wants me to keep on schedule, and who wants me to turn around, let this guy off and possibly make you miss your connections?”
     “I don’t mind turning around,” I said.
     “Is that the consensus?” he asked.
     “That’s just me.” Nobody else said anything, so we turned around. Later, people who were trying to catch a connecting bus in Denver were grumbling about being late. A nice little fable about taking part in our great democratic process, two of them would have been able to outvote me.

I walked around Denver a bit in the early morning, but soon decided that if I couldn’t be in bed, I should be as inert as possible, so I went to the ballpark at 10:00 for a game that started at 1:30, and sat outside the gate. I swore I’d keep the cheering to a minimum because my throat was really bothering me. That proved to be problematic.

I know that usually when I see a team on its way to the World Series, I say that there was some sort of special buzz around the stadium. Not so here. It was April 29, and the Rox were still in single digits in the win column. In the sports section, there were suggestions from (those oh so erudite and refined) sports fans that the owners be fired, that the manager be fired, that the GM be fired, and my personal favorite: that the team change its name to the Pebbles. About a third of the announced attendance of 31,445 came dressed as empty seats, and another sixth were in Braves apparel. There was no buzz at all—until the seventh inning.

On my scorecards, I use exclamation marks to denote moments of great excitement. Usually, an outstanding defensive play or a walk off, but also occasionally a particularly high-tension strikeout or other moment when a pitcher wiggles his way out of a jam. I do not hand out exclamation marks liberally. A typical game gets one or two, and some don’t get any at all. This game has nine. Here’s the rundown:

  • 1) Chipper Jones robbed Troy Tulowitzki of a double down the line in the first (Remember that-Jones and Tulo, it comes up again). 
  • 2) In the third, Tulowitzki went deep into the hole to take a hit away from Edgar Rentaria.
  • 3, 4 & 5) In the seventh, Tulo was in the right place at the right time, snaring a sharp line drive off the bat of Chipper Jones on a hit-and-run. He then stepped on second to double off the runner there before tagging the guy coming in from first. An unassisted triple play¹, which gets three exclamation points. (Why three? Because it’s an Unassisted! Triple! Play!) That preserved the tie.
  • 6) On the other side of the stretch, Jeff Francouer got an exclamation point for hauling in what should have been an RBI double by Garret Atkins…
  • 7, 8) …and then picked up two more in the ninth with his diving, corkscrewing robbery of what would have been the game-winning hit, a little Texas-leaguer off the bat of Clint Barmes, to send the game into extra innings.
  • 9) In the eleventh came the cherry on top: one point inside the diamond representing Matt Holliday’s walk-off 2-run homer.

So much for not cheering. Because it was a 9-exclaimation-point game, and I found myself in a section with a large group of Braves fans doing their tomahawk chops, I took it as a point of pride that even though I am not a Rockies fan, I was able to drown them out on the line “Root, root, root for the ROCKIES…” In the ninth inning, a young boy in orange was having a grand time dancing in the aisles on the jumbotron. He had an even grander time in the eleventh when he was again on the big screen with the words “rally dancer” superimposed and the crowd going nuts for him.

I got home entertained, but feeling like I was gonna die. But I didn’t, and that’s what’s given me the opportunity to upload the scorecard.


¹ This is one of the rarest plays in the game. In the hundred-plus years that Major League baseball has been played, Tulowitzki’s unassisted TP was only the 13th to be turned in a regular season game, and the 14th overall.