I never know how to write about the teams or players I like. I could pen 2,500 words on Albert Pujols in 20 minutes, literally breaking Mavis Beacon records along the way, and none of it would be coherent or old-time-y poetic like in the days when you had to read sports writers to see a swing.
If I had to describe The Machine’s mechanics today it would be different from his first stint in St. Louis. During that initial go-round with the Red Birds, he turned on offerings like someone yelled “Pull” when the pitcher released the soon-to-be-in-the-stands baseball. The current iteration reminds me of a beer-bellied professional softball slugger, making sure to get the girth and launch angle behind the bat. He’s a power puncher with enough physicality remaining and old-man strength to knock balls out of the yard like 45-year-old George Foreman KO’ing Michael Moorer.
If you’re done indulging me, and haven’t been watching the highlights on a loop as I have, Pujols clubbed home runs No. 699 and No. 700 at Dodger Stadium on Friday night. The first, a two-run shot, came in the top of the third inning on a 1-2 count from Andrew Heaney that he crushed 434 feet.
With two on in the very next inning, Albert got more than enough of reliever Phil Bickford’s pitch to make it milestone home run No. 700. (St. Louis went on to win 11-0.)
Pujols joins Barry Bonds, Babe Ruth, and Hank Arron in the 700 club, and he did it with a tireless work ethic, a lumberjack-ian swing, and the consistency of a tool that they don’t make like they used to. It was the three-time MVP’s 21st dinger of an enchanted season.
The home run races of 2022 — Aaron Judge’s pursuit of the AL home run record, and Pujols trying to get 700 in before the buzzer on his career — haven’t captivated sports fans the way Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire did in 1998. We’re too jaded for that, and no one is naive enough to blissfully ignore scientifically improbable achievements.
When McGwire hit No. 62, I ran outside and tracked down my dad walking the dog to tell him what happened. I can’t remember what he said, or much else, because I was 12. However, I do recall the euphoria that washed over me.
I had a little bit of that Friday night with news of Pujols’ feats, watching the ESPN app refresh, and then searching out the highlights on Twitter. It wasn’t as satisfying as when I was in middle school, and, honestly, every fan base outside of St. Louis and New York can’t wait for Cardinals and Yankees’ diehards to shut up about it already, but making grown-ass adults misty-eyed for the past is what baseball is best at.
Hey, the loss of innocence isn’t all bad. I can at least celebrate this record-book moment with a glass (or two) of brown liquor.
Hey, Apple+ TV or whatever you call it, go chew on a rock
If someone wants to draw up an easily dismissible lawsuit over what the hell MLB did to its biggest regular-season moment in years, let me know how I can contribute. The tech company could’ve bungled both historic calls had Judge hit No. 61 against Boston in the first of the service’s Friday night doubleheader. (St. Louis-LA was the nightcap.)
Fuck you, Ted Lasso. Release desirable content more than twice a decade, and I won’t cancel your shit-bag service. I’m not mad at the faceless announcer who had the privilege of calling both those home runs. Apple put him in an impossible spot, and he didn’t do a horrible job.
Baseball fans irrationally love their team’s booths. All St. Louis fans wanted was John Rooney or Dan McLaughlin’s voice over that highlight. Instead, I had to comb the internet for an interminable amount of time to find it.
Here’s Rooney’s call if you want it.
I would’ve embedded that call up there, but if I have to watch it come into the world that way, so do you.
At least that Apple TV broadcast got names right.