Slate's Robert Weintraub, like many of us, loves the old purple prose of early 1900s sportswriting, the Red Smiths, the Grantland Rices, the men who painted epic tales of warriors, grizzled combatants and lardywarks too manly to wear gloves. In an occasional series, Weintraub writes about the week's best baseball game in the style of the vaunted sportswriters of yesteryear. This week: The Angels' walkoff grand slam off Joe Borowski a week ago.
Save the unassisted triple play and the balk, is there a more exciting happenstance on the four-pointed meadow than the long sock with the bags bursting? The Grand Aria? The Cosmic Clout? How about a four-run four-bagger that propels your side to victory? Such a blazing instance of base balling prodigiousness is excitement enough to keep one awake until the wee hours.
So blame Two-I Torii Hunter for your inability to enter the land of Nod. His biggest of big flies turned defeat into glorious, unexpected joy in Disneyland, home of the fairy tale. The skip-away homer gave the O.C. boys a 6-4 win over the Cleveland nine and a half, and its hapless anchorman Jittery Joe Borowski.
Yes, 'tis true — the glue-handed patroller of the middle exterior known far and wide as "Butterfly Net" won this encounter with his ash, not his cowhide. Hunter socked as many balls over the distant fenceline as ego-letters contained in his forename. The first of his brace came in the penultimate innings, snapping a theretofore-tied 1-1 encounter.
Unfortunately for the Winged Ones, ordinarily terrifying concluder Francisco "Babalu" Rodriguez engendered little fright. Santeria let down the slightly built winger on this evening, as the Cuyahoga Chiefs popped a cap in Sancho in their final at bat. Right away, Frank gave a free pass to Pronk Hafner, and his substitute legs, Asdrubal "Mouthful" Cabrera, scored on a laced two-bagger into the farthest reaches of right field by El Jugador del Jugadores, Victor Martinez. He too was deemed unable to propel himself around the sacks with sufficient velocity, and David "Red Stick" Delluci brought his superior speed into the game in his stead. Jhonny "Spelled Wrong" Peralta than blooped a well-placed double into right. That plated another run, but avarice cost the 'H' man his place on the paths, getting cut down at the corner sack attempting to advance after the throw homeward.
Nevertheless, the Clevelanders now led, and after another base on balls, Rodriguez was off to the clubhouse, where he may have shattered a few of those false idols. His barrister would point out that a bum ankle from a tumble down the dugout steps half a fortnight ago is giving the slightly built hurler fits. Rubber replacement Sturdy Scotty Shields fared little better, though, giving up consecutive safeties, and the lead swelled to 4-2, Tribe. But with the bases at SRO (a situation we would see again moments later), Shields whiffed Casanova Sizemore, and got a harmless bounder from Jason Michaels to staunch the hemorrhage.
Down a pair, California could at least take comfort in the presence of the Human Heart Attack toeing the slab. Borowski the Palpitating Pole managed an initial out, but the cursed base on balls energized the Haloes. The Brown Russian golfed a lancet into left, and another series of wide ones to Local Legend Garrett Anderson put three men on. Enter the Hector of this particular epic. Torii speculated slider, and was proven Buffet-esque in this capacity. The breaker came as expected, and Two-I pounced, sending a towering thunderbolt to left, one that arced around the fair pole, nestling deep in the grandstands. Quite a way to ingratiate yourself with a new band of mates, and earn that munificent bi-weekly pay envelope.
The great Mitchum, a devoted base ball fan, was not in attendance, no doubt canoodling with good friend Mary Jane, but even so, it was truly the Night of the Hunter. At the final Station of the Diamond, the entire uniformed contingent of the franchise greeted the hero with ferocious backslaps and a pounding not seen since the Molineaux-Cribb bout — all with good intent, let me assure you.
"I told you when I got here, me and the rally monkey would be good friends," exulted Hunter in the dressing room. Someone has to pal around with that mangy, unlovable ape, one supposes, and cheers to Two-I for taking that particular travail for the team. As for his buried meaning, there was never any doubt in this scribe's brainpan about Hunter's ability at the urgent moment—despite previous failures I may have ascribed upon his inking with the club to his lack of inner fortitude.
The rest of the choir showed another unusual appreciation of Hunter's valor, vim, and vigor by pouring several bottles of unquaffable, domestically crafted and bottled admixtures of barley and hops over the diminutive outfielder. Time was, rest assured, the assembled wretches stained by ink who took as much joy in Two-I's feat as did his mates would have joined in the damp celebrations.
Alas, times have changed.