As 2011 draws to a close, we’re wading in a steady stream of “favorite moment” stories and blog entries. Be sure to roll up your pant legs.
I’m not a huge fan of the format because it’s cliched and formula. Every newspaper in the country falls into this trap. Reporters submit their amusing or touching anecdotes from the year in sports. Whatever happened on their respective beats that will somehow stay with them until they die - or until they’re given another assignment by their respective editors.
I can’t stay above the fray.
Unfortunately, my fondest memory from the 2011 season is shared by just about every beat writer, talking head and fan. I’m not thinking outside the batter’s box.
It took 162 games for the Orioles to provide a defining moment. And it all started with a seemingly innocent two-out double by Chris Davis off Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon, who had struck out the first two batters he faced in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Nolan Reimold followed with a ground-rule double, tying the game and silencing Red Sox Nation.
Anyone remember who scored that run? I didn’t until looking up one of the many stories written that night and discovering that Kyle Hudson crossed the plate.
Robert Andino won it with a single into left field, the ball glancing off Carl Crawford’s glove. The Orioles spilled out of the dugout and piled on Andino as if they just won Game 7 instead of game 162.
A little over the top? Absolutely. Understandable? Absolutely.
As I tried to soak in the moment while fumbling for my notepad and pen, I glanced at the television at the far right end of the press box and saw Tampa Bay’s Evan Longoria being mobbed at home plate after hitting a walk-off home run to beat the Yankees.
The Red Sox weren’t going to the playoffs. Their epic collapse was complete.
I shifted my focus and scanned the seats behind the visiting dugout at Camden Yards as their fans stood motionless, their eyes glazed over and their jaws hanging low enough to scrape the concrete.
It was surreal. It was a shot of adrenaline for an organization, a fan base and a weary group of reporters who were beaten down by a 14th consecutive losing season.
I can’t come up with a better moment. Maybe you have a different one.