Tramel: World Series Game 4 reminds us that baseball can still be fun
No one expected the kid put in the game late to hit the ball. Two straight strikes meant a strikeout almost surely was coming.
But then bat met ball, and a blooper found its way to right-centerfield. The centerfielder booted the ball, which rolled several feet away.
The third-base coach got all excited, waving home the runner who had started on first base and now was headed to third.
But more than halfway between third and home, the runner stumbled and fell. Sometimes, your legs just give out. The throw from the outfield went to the first baseman, who caught it and threw home.
The catcher, oblivious to the fallen runner, tried to make a tag before he had the ball, not so much dropping the throw as deflecting it. The reprieved runner scrambled to his feet, slid headfirst across the plate with the winning run and the home team celebrated wildly.
It’s a play we’ll remember forever from Game 4 of the World Series on Saturday night.
It’s a play similar to what I saw all summer and autumn around parks in Norman, courtesy of the 10-and-under softball Storm.
For 14 glorious seconds, baseball became a children’s game again. The kind of stuff I see from my granddaughter’s games at Griffin Park and Reaves Park.
Sadie’s league doesn’t have a lot of precision. The throws aren’t always on target. The catches aren’t automatic. The runners sometimes get detoured en route to the next base. But man, can the games get exciting, especially when a runner gets caught between bases or the ball gets away from the catcher.
Just like Dodgers-Rays on Saturday, which in the final at-bat had none of the scourge of the last decade.
Major League Baseball has become all walks and strikeouts and home runs.
Home runs can be majestic, and command of the strike zone is at the heart of the game. But baseball is most fun when the ball is put in play, and fielders scramble to control the horsehide.
A sharp grounder in the hole. A line drive in the gap. A high hopper behind the mound. A ball hit to the wall. A blooper into right-center.
That’s when baseball gets exciting. With ball and fielders and runners all moving, and some combination converging at one of the four corners of the diamond for a play with the dirt flying.
Plays at the plate, and bang-bang double plays, and daredevils trying to stretch a double into a triple, that’s what makes all those ball twos and fouled-back pitches worth the trouble.
The home run derbies of recent years have turned off some loyalists and failed to attract new fans. The incessant pitching changes have lengthened games insufferably.
Even Saturday night. Randy Arozarena fell, then dashed home with that headfirst slide, four hours and 10 minutes after the first pitch. The game ended about 11:15 p.m. Oklahoma time, after midnight back East.
None of the Storm saw the finish, I promise you. Which is too bad. I don’t know Sadie and her pals would have recognized the hijinks, but they would have enjoyed it.
And it would have been instructive, learning that even at the highest levels, screwups happen.
The Dodgers are the class of baseball 2020, but centerfielder Chris Taylor muffed the ball and catcher Will Smith failed to catch an easy throw and for a moment baseball seemed a little less robotic.
Brett Phillips, the Tampa Bay role player with 51 at-bats all season and just two playoff plate appearances, hit the blooper and while running the bases had a great view of the crazy finish at the plate.
Phillips, 26 going on 16, went into airplane mode, gliding around the field in glee, a much more satisfying end to a game than a slow jog around the bases.
Baseball celebrations are the best. Football jubilation can turn nasty, with machoism taking over. Basketball glory gets egotistical quite fast, as if coronation was destined.
But baseball celebrations are a jubilee. Sid Bream and the ‘92 Braves. The ‘86 Mets meeting Ray Knight at home plate after Bill Buckner’s gaffe. Raw joy, when defeat seemed certain only minutes later.
Baseball needs more moments like that. Baseball needs more balls put into play, so that anything can happen, and Saturday night, anything did.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at oklahoman.com/berrytramel.