Monday, June 15, 1998

Phenom is Short for Phenomenal

Last Tuesday night I joined 25,000 other people and watched the Minnesota Twins take their turn against baseball's latest phenom, Chicago Cubs' 20 year old pitcher, Kerry Woods. On this night Woods was less than phenomenal as he couldn't control his impressive fastball and the Twins hitters knocked him out in the fourth inning on the way to an 8-0 win. The Twins ace, Brad Radke was masterful, keeping the Cubs off balance and without a solid hit all night long. Radke, the American League's second best pitcher next to Boston's Pedro Martinez, proved on this night that he is every bit the pitcher Woods is only without the hype.

At the beginning of the game 70% of the fans in the Dome were rooting for the Cubs, America's trendiest losing team. By the ninth inning those same fans, many wearing Cub hats and jerseys were cheering on Radke and the Twins. I arrived early for the game to watch the Cubs take batting practice. Many other fans joined me and were oohing and aahing at every high arching, hard hit smash off the bat of red hot Sammy Sosa. The little kids were chanting "Sammy... Sammy," bringing to mind my trips to Chicago many years ago when the little kids' chant of "Jody... Jody," (for catcher Jody Davis) annoyed me endlessly but inspired my friend (or so was my observation) of wanting to name her first son Jody.

In a state where baseball has pretty much been declared dead and buried, Tuesday night was a reminder of how things can be and how things once were not all that long ago. The Dome was abuzz with excitement and the Twins played one of their crispest games of the year. The historical and trivia nature of the game is still unmatchable; the symmetry and poetry of the game is even occasionally present in the league's worst stadium.

During a break between innings I watched Radke warm up, and thought back to the winter of 1986 when my former roommate from my freshman year of college chided me for my devotion to the Twins. He had lived with a lot of dweebiness on my part but he no doubt thought my love of baseball was the strangest of my quirks. The Twins were losers he was constantly reminding me, especially after particularly rough 1985 and 1986 seasons that followed a promising 1984 season which was lost on Lake Erie one cold September night when Ron Davis gave up a home run to the Indian's Jamie Quirk to complete a loss that dropped the Twins out of the pennant race. This series also included the Twins blowing a 10-0 lead and losing the game 11-10. So to get my former roommate off my back I made a bet for a case of beer: that the Twins would finish the 1987 season over .500. He laughed at what he thought was easy money (or free beer). That of course was the year that everything fell into place and they went on to win their first World Series. Unfortunately the season ended in October and having graduated the previous June, I couldn't collect on my bet. I haven't seen my former roommate since, and am still owed one case of beer.

Of course if I were to see him these days I would no doubt offer him the option of double or nothing. Despite all the logic that points to the Twins finishing the season with a losing record for a record seventh straight time some things are worth having a little faith in. It's never wise to bet with the heart in spite of what the head says, but there are times when you think that believing in something will increase its chances of actually happening.

Besides I'm on a roll of sorts. The combined record of the two softball teams I am on is 9-1. Neither of these two teams has ever come close to having this kind of success and to tell the truth, I am not used to all the winning. I keep waiting for the other foot to drop and things getting back to normal.

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