03 August 2007

Stand and Don't Deliver

by Joshua Worley

I think I must have stood up for more at bats in last night's game than for any game I had attended before. We stood up for Barry; we stood up for the many times the Dodgers loaded the bases. We stood and waited for the batter to deliver. None of them ever did.

There were a few Giants fans there, but it was almost entirely Dodger fans, especially down on the field level where I was sitting. And the Dodger fans were standing too, as if we were expecting something to happen, maybe even hoping? Surely not, and yet then why were we standing? I don't think the thrill of maybe seeing Barry strike out or fly out covers it. Sure, we wanted to see Barry go down. But if the home run happened, well ...

It was potential history, right in the moment we were living in. That, at least, deserved the respect of standing. I was dazzled by the number of home runs he had hit, when I thought of it. It's so many that I've wondered, occasionally, if maybe they've been miscounted? Of course they haven't, but it's so many that such a thing does, for a moment, seem plausible. 755. Though most people at the game jeered Barry whenever he did anything, I think everyone respected the number. That's why we stood, and took flash photos on every pitch to Bonds, just on the chance that 755 might be captured. Barry's third at bat in the fifth inning was the best, because by then it was dark enough for all the cameras to flash. It was like being in the middle of a fireworks show.

Fireworks without noise. Barry never did deliver, though he was walked two out of four plate appearances, the last time intentionally. The crowd jeered, and not because they disapproved the strategy, I think. That was not the reason for most of them. This was, again, the conflicted state of wanting to see him fail, but also wanting to see it happen. I was amused that the crowd kept standing after it was clear Barry would be intentionally walked. What did they think would happen? I know Pedro Guerrero once hit a double off an unwary intentional ball, but that was one in a million. We sat down for the intentional walk: it just felt absurd to keep standing. I suppose it was an unwillingness to let go of the potential moment of history that kept most others on their feet. But it was gone. Barry jogged down to first base, and then into the dugout, replaced by Fred Lewis.

The best moments of the game came after Bonds came out. The Dodgers loaded the bases in both the eighth and ninth innings with one out: these were beautiful chances to score. We were always standing, anticipating. Video of Kirk Gibson's 1988 World Series home run set to music from Star Wars played on the video board. Current Dodgers were shown hitting home runs. These moments when the team is behind but the comeback is just a swing away are why I love baseball. It's always the tides of fortune that determine who will be at the plate in that critical juncture. You can hope it will be the best hitter, the hero of clutch, but you can't plan on it. The entire team labors to keep the game close up and then load the bases, but then it's just down to one man at the plate. And it can be anyone. But it didn't matter who it was for the Dodgers last night. None of them delivered.

And that has to change. Barry Bonds and the weight of history are leaving town, and thank goodness for that. It's time to get back to more ordinary baseball. It's time for the Snakes and the duel for first place. No more excuses, Dodgers. Next time we're all standing, you'd better deliver.

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