*Today's blog title comes from Major League: It's Indians radio announcer Harry Doyle losing his mind as catcher Jake Taylor lays down the bunt that scores Willie Mays-Hayes in the one-game playoff against the Yankees.
In August 2001, my future wife and I made a trip to her hometown in southwest Florida to visit her dad and go to her 10-year high school reunion. The trip to Florida was the front end of a two-part vacation, one that we had been looking forward to for a long time.
On the drive down from Virginia, we spent a memorable night in a cesspool of a hotel in Gainesville, Florida. And by "spent the night," I mean that we spent four hours hoping we weren't going to be murdered in our sleep before jumping in our car and hauling ass out of town at 4:00 a.m. like we'd robbed a bank.
We spent time with her old friends, we ate great barbecue, we watched the sun set over the Gulf of Mexico.
And on the night of August 5, 2001, ten years ago today, the three of us decided to watch the Cleveland Indians-Seattle Mariners game on television.
The Mariners jumped all over the Tribe in the early going, and by about the fifth inning, the score was 14-2. My future wife and father-in-law lost interest in the game and bid me goodnight. I was a little annoyed that the Tribe was getting housed so soundly and was too amped up to go to sleep, so I decided to read -- an actual book! Printed on paper! Stephen King's Carrie, if I remember correctly. I kept the game on as background noise.
As I read, I noticed the commentators becoming more animated as the game wore on. I looked up and saw the Indians had started to chip away at the lead. Not in big chunks, mind you, but little bits and pieces, like Andy Dufresne in Shawshank chipping away at the wall in his cell.
The Indians scored three in the 7th, four in the 8th, and tied it with 5 runs in the 9th (with two outs, mind you). It was ridiculous. This wasn't some chump opponent -- the Mariners' record entering that game was 80-30, and they had one of the best bullpens in baseball that season. As each Indian run crossed the plate, I was jumping up and down in the living room and doing that "yess! yesss!" in my best Inside Voice, careful not to make too much noise, because the last thing you want to do in your girlfriend's dad's house late at night is annoy him, especially since he probably wasn't too sure about this short kid with the big mouth dating his daughter. (Just kidding, he liked me).
The game went into extra innings tied at 14, and the Indians won it in the bottom of the 11th when Jolbert Cabrera drove in Kenny Lofton from third. It was and remains the greatest sporting event I have ever witnessed.
I remember that vacation very well. We spent three great days in her hometown, and then we spent another four terrific days with some family friends at their beach cottage in North Carolina. When we got back home to Virginia, I started a new job that I ended up liking very much.
The September 11 attacks happened a few weeks later.
I think about that vacation often. And I always think about it when I see, read or hear something about September 11.
I don't know why that vacation stands out in my mind so well. Was it the game? The barbecue? The reunion?
Or does it stand out because in the neighborhood of my memories, that vacation, complete with unbelievably happy memories, lives right next door to the terrible day of the attacks and those horrific images? Because let me assure you, it makes for some weird mental real estate.
2001 turned out to be a big year for me personally.
I proposed to my girlfriend that November, and we were married the following year. I started writing my first full-length manuscript around that time, too.
With that old manuscript, I took the first steps on what I planned to be my future career.
I was as happy as any person in their 20s had a right to be.
I saw the depths of human depravity.
I've seen some weird things happen in and to our country, not all of it good.
But on one unbelievable night ten years ago, the game of baseball reminded me that anything is possible.