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 Rockies' 2-1, 22-inning win over the Padres.
This writer was not fortunate enough to have been at Marathon as Pheidippides ran his final 26, nor with the GIs at Bataan, nor in New Orleans for the infamous 77-round fight between Burke and Bowen (I was supposed to be, but got drunk on the Crescent City Limited and woke up in Nacogdoches, Texas wearing only my underwear — but that's a tale for a different time, dear reader). However, yours truly can safely claim to be an expert on endlessness, for I have witnessed 22 innings of base ball at its most benumbing. 22 innings of ineptitude, farce and lack of imagination one hoped could no longer be summoned by today's "professionals."
And it was all so you, the prized reader, could concentrate your limited energy and resources on matters of more import; goldfish swallowing, perhaps, or flagpole sitting. I suffered so you wouldn't have to.
The pertinent details are thus — the Mountain Men from Denver, last season's Senior Circuit Surprise Squad, triumphed over the Holy Nine from San Diego, 2-1. The winning tally advanced the required 360 feet in the tourist half of the 22nd frame, and the determinative pitched ball came six hours and sixteen minutes after festivities were commenced at Roscoe and Mittens Memorial Park. But any interest had been vacuumed from the affair eons before, in an affront to this beautiful Mission City and its proud German heritage. It was the type of contest that confirms the worst approbations from those who call for the banning of the sport on grounds that impressionable youth are being sidetracked from their classical educations by a game that dulls the senses and narcotizes the synapses.
To those cynics I say, Fie! Remember with me the Homeric duel contested only last autumn, in the shadow of the Continental Divide. The eliminator game decided by the width of a mountain goat's whisker that propelled the Coloradans to the Fall Classic. The mere fact that these exact same squadrons of base ballers could engage in two such disparate examples of Our Game is testament to the utter perfection and uniqueness of it. Would you prefer the paper doll sameness of baskets, or the grunting metronomy that is gridiron? Methinks not.
This contest's victorious rally came, fittingly, as the result of maladroitness. Batsman Willy The Weakling Tavares should have been retired on his tenth appearance of the evening, but a toss by Kahlil "BMOC" Greene was too tall for even Pterodactyl Tony Clark to reel in. Tavares is a Django of the Banjoes, and like most of his ilk he can run like a lynx. He pilfered second, and went to third on another throw that appeared the result of a miscalculated sextant, this one by Ignorance Tool-wearer Josh Bard. The anchor leg in Willy's 4 x 90 foot relay came at a trot, after a scorched shot to left by Troy "Cooperstown" Tulowitzski. The Left Coast Fathers were unable to match this outburst of scoring, having managed only a single tally over 21 prior innings, and when Robert "Kip" Wells blew an adjudged backwards K past fellow slabber Glendon "Lungs" Rusch, the few hardy souls left nibbling kibble in the grandstand were rendered disappointed as well as exhausted.
It was a struggle out of Shaw, whose "Arms and the Man" was penned after a similar battle in Piccadilly Circus some time ago. The Moccasin of the Mound, Mr. Peavy, was untouched for an octet of innings, and his replacements kept a clean sheet for five more. That Baker's Dozen proved a lucky number across the field, as Centennial State tossers spackled opposing batsmen for an equivalent number of run-free slates. In the fourteenth (early days in this Joycian game), the Rocks finally got rolling, scoring an actual run, courtesy of a free pass with no room at the Inn to Hawppy Brad Hawpe. Naturally, with a chance to rivet the game shut, the boys from Pikes Peak surrendered meekly — a foul pop from the ash of Clint "Venison" Barmes traveled thirty feet backwards, and was caught to give the side the gold watch.
The Celibate Crew, their Blessed Backs against the wall, fought back to prolong the agony. They too filled the sacks with clergy, and Stratford-Upon-Josh Bard lined a safety to balance the abacus at one. But alas, the game could not be concluded at an hour fit for Gentlemen. Tall Tony Clark was forced out at the pentagon, and Colt Morton harmlessly rolled one to third, meaning the fight would continue, like the Battle of the Marne, on and on and on.
The game's two squatters, The Bard and Yorman Victor Torrealba, deserve an exclamatory note, having caught all score plus two innings, a Shackletonian feat of endurance not seen since Double Duty Radcliffe pitched the first game of a doubleheader and caught the second every day for two weeks straight. Their knees and hip flexor muscles should be the centerpieces of a traveling Medicine Show in the off-season, hawking the benefits of the snake liniment oil the two used to make it through this memorable tug-of-war.