“How long can he keep this up!?” we asked each other, as we watched Josh Hamilton hit back-to-back-to-back home runs in the first round of the 2008 Home Run Derby Monday night.
Hamilton, who had called his 71-year-old batting coach and asked him to pitch for him at the game, had been kicked out of baseball in 2004 and spent his days drinking, doing drugs, and getting tattoos. But in 2005, he’d found Jesus. And now he’s back. With a vengeance. After hitting 13 consecutive home runs at one point, Hamilton ended the first round with 28, a Derby record. (He beat out Bobby Abreu’s 24 home runs in 2005. Even Yankee fans were rooting for Hamilton that night, saying Abreu didn’t deserve to keep the record.) I had chills the whole time. We were watching the highest-rated Home Run Derby in history.
But then, Joshy got tired. He hit for about four outs in the second round, and then, unable to produce six runs in the last round, got beat by Twins’ first-baseman Justin Morneau. How anti-climactic. Besides, I hate the Twins. At least, hubbub of the new record set by Hamilton will surpass talk of Morneau’s victory. Everyone will forget about it—soon. Which is evident from one of the AllState guys a few minutes after Morneau’s victory: He called him Jason! Ha! See?! I’m vindicated. No one’s gonna remember him.
And then, we had last night—a grueling extra-innings All-Star Game that tested 26 pitchers, Francona’s perseverance, and about 12.5 million people’s sleep schedules. Quite a few AL players pitched in for the win—Young (walk-off sac fly), Drew (two-run, game-tying homer), Longoria (game-tying RBI double), Rivera (quickest half-inning I’ve ever seen)—most literally, Drew, who has been begging Francona to let him take the mound. (Tito admitted he came close to letting him last night.) Notables who didn’t perform: Jeter, A-Rod, Pedroia, Youk, Pap. The game, full of new records—game time (4:50), stolen bases (7), strikeouts (34), men stranded (28)—and defining moments—Steinbrenner tearing up, a Sox MVP (Drew) in the Stadium’s last year—was, literally, like no other.
In the 15th, a little before 2 a.m., with press deadlines unmet, half of America falling asleep on their couches and the other half drunk at bars, and friends text-messaging “Please, let this be it” to me, the American League won the game, making it 12 straight years that the NL has lost the All-Star Game. All eyes were on Selig after the ninth, though, in case of his decision to call the game a tie. A tie, he said today, was never an option.
Also not an option was fans in the stadium forgetting that it was an AL vs. NL game. The Sox players got booed all night—even Drew, after his home run. What really gets my goat, though, is that the players had also gotten booed during Tuesday’s parade on Sixth Avenue. Even Francona, 8-0 in the World Series and manager of the AL team last night, got it: “I learned two things. They want Rivera to pitch, and I suck.”
How classy. And yet, how typical.