Slate's Robert Weintraub, like many of us, loves the old purple prose of early 1900s sportswriting, 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 Cubs' tought loss to the Pirates on Sunday.
The horsehide arced toward the heavens, and seemed surely to portend the finality of the afternoon’s proceedings. As it reached its apogee, and began a lazy descent, paying customers gathered up their purchased gonfalons and made ready for the trip homeward. Surely, the stalwart tasked with patrolling the liberal side of the Second City outfield, Alfonso “40-40 Sori” Soriano, would welcome the pill in a leathery embrace, and the 27th out would be recorded—and thus, another notch in the accursed Chicagoans ledger.
But wait! Notice the tentative step, the anguished look, and the glove hand outstretched, not with confidence but in feeble defense. The halting Alphonse had lost visual contact. Helios had seized control of the affair! The same sol that had scorched the grandstand with its warming rays, resulting in the pulpy whiteness of the assembled Pirate Faithful turning an angry shade of pink, now blinded the unfortunate Bear Cub to the pill’s parabola.
The seemingly doe-eyed fly lifted from the ash of Nate “The Peroxide Pirate” McLouth suddenly grew fangs, and thoroughbreding his way around the infield was Brian Bixler, recently called up from Indianapolis and now making like the diamond was the famed Brickyard. When ball met grass, the BB gun had already shot past the hot corner. He easily tallied the tying touch of home dish, hitching matters at 5-apiece, and for the second contest running, bonus base ball loomed.
(Somehow, the Scoring Solomon adjudged this egregious display of gloved maladroitness to be a two-sacker for the Bleached One, rather than an E-7, rendering immediately illegitimate the Halfway-Home lashes from the likes of LaRoche and Lee.)
“It's very tough when you don't see the ball," the Abashed Alfonso explained in a withering understatement. The Gods had made their presence felt, and for once, it was to the benefit of the Iron City Crew. Gazing down upon The Confluence from their bleacher seats upon Mt. Olympus, Zeus and Apollo, decked out in Bucs finery and washing down their Cracker Jack with ambrosia, hooted, “Get thee back to the keystone sack, sir!”
The BC Lion, Jason Bay, was the previous day’s hoagie, bringing a contest spanning fourteen innings to an abrupt halt with the winning whippet. Cue Punxsutawny Phil to emerge from his hole, for in a rerun of Saturday’s splendor, the Sabbath featured another skip away safety by the bountiful Bay. The Gentleman Masher plated Chris “Dirtbag” Gomez with a bingle in the eleventh innings, and the Burghers once again treated Chicago like Miss O’Leary’s cow, this time 6-5.
Prior to the sun-field shenanigans, appearances were that Luis “Muy Decepcionante” Rivas, of all flannelled figures, was to be the center of scribed attention. The puny utilityman had muscled balls over the planking only 31 times in his flaccid history, a “rate” of only once for every 63 strolls to the batting rectangle. In a development that would give Ripley pause, the suddenly hulking Rivas struck Long Socks in his first two trips to the plate, staking the Privateers to an early advantage with the first, and offsetting a Boulevard Blast from “What, Me Worry?” Al Soriano with the second.
But the day’s decisive blow seemed to have been landed upside the Pittsburgh brow, turning it crimson, by Aramis “Teen Sensation” Ramirez. The latter-day Santo completed the task begun by Derrek “Project 3000” Lee, bouncing one back through the box to bring the Lanky Lefty homeward, and punch Pirate pill-tosser Paul “Crystal Method” Maholm’s time clock for the day. The twirler who made the Borscht Belter look as foolish as he did during “City Slickers 2” performed admirably, hauling the mail for an octet of innings, but he was in position for a D when “40-40”’s mysterious outfield stylings removed the hook from his mouth.
Base ball, of course, is not only our Pastime, but our Passion. However, these two nines, when coupled here in the City of Bridges, take their love for the game to Don Juan-levels of ardor. In the half-dozen catered affairs thus held at PNC Park, a quartet have required surplus innings, and the assembled action has toted seventy innings in all. Now, every hour spent at the Elysian Field is one not spent toiling at life’s daily mill, so far be it for this reporter to knock overtime, but perhaps Messrs. Piniella and Russell would be so kind as to inform their charges that Mr. Doubleday ordained nine innings to be sufficient, and that sitting passively for nearly four hours is a recipe for tired blood. Otherwise, some fan or ink-stained wretch will surely succumb to heat stroke, or deep vein thrombosis, and that will be a dark day in the annals of the Clockless Sport indeed.