There have been home runs in baseball history bigger than Raul Ibanez’s 9th inning, game-tying shot last night or even his 12th inning game-winning swat. Bobby Thomson’s, after all, won a pennant; Bill Mazeroski’s won a World Series. But I don’t think any pair of home runs turned so many careers on their heads as Raoul’s swings.
First off, think of the Yankees., who had been humiliated in their own park by a rookie pitcher, Miguel Gonzalez, for seven innings. Can you imagine the all-pervading sense of gloom and doom that every Yankee (and every Yankee fan) would have with Phil Hughes going tomorrow night and the Yanks down 2-1 in the series, one game away from elimination?
Think about Jim Johnson, who lead the American League in saves this
year and who now blew the lead – for the second time in three nights –
in what will probably, when the smoke clears, be called the most famous
game of the new century. Think about Joe Girardi, who, after taking hit
after hit from the press and fans for some stupefying decisions this
year, now gets to be called a genius for pinch hitting Ibanez for A-Rod
in the 9th inning.
Think about Ibanez himself, 40 years old, dumped by the Phillies last
year and picked up by the Yankees on what almost seemed like an
afterthought. He became last night the oldest player to hit a walk-off
home run in postseason and the only player to hit a home run in the 9th
and extra innings in the postseason. On the verge of seeing his career
end just a few months ago, he now joins the pantheon of heroes on
baseball’s winningest team.
And, finally, think of Alex Rodriguez. Movie star handsome, fifth on
baseball’s all-time home run list, paid $29 million this year with five
years left on his contract at over $20 million per — and the biggest
postseason goat in the game’s history. How much of what he has would he
give to be the homely, balding old guy with a one-year contract for $1,1
mil who hit those two home runs last night?