Marty Lurie Talks San Francisco Giants Baseball

Wildest Night Of 2003 Sends A's, Twins, Yanks Into The Playoffs

The baseball season unfolds very slowly. It starts with spring training in February, moves into a six month regular season covering 162 games and then finally into the postseason in October.

As fans we have plenty of time each day to analyze the outcome of the prior night’s game and get ready for the game coming up.

Because we can think about the season daily and all its ramifications over six months, we can remember the twists and turns and key events that occurred 10, 20, or 30 years ago as if they happened yesterday.

Last night was one of those magical historical baseball night’s that unfolded right before our eyes ever so slowly, each pitch, each at bat, each key game coming down to the last at bat. Things were not easily settled, emotions ran the gamut from dejection to ultimate exhiliration depending on which side of the fence you were on.

But one thing is for sure, if you are a baseball fan, Tuesday Sept. 23rd unfolded ever so slowly allowing the indelible prints to be fixed on your baseball mind forever.

Let’s start in Oakland where the A’s won the West.

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Rookie Rich Harden nursed a two run lead into the late innings before the Texas Rangers tied the score. With the A’s needing any combination of two wins (A’s) or losses (Seattle) or one of each by the Mariners and the A’s to win the West, the tension rose as Todd Greene homered off Keith Foulke to lead off the top of the ninth, giving Texas a 3-2 lead.

Now the unforgettable drama I spoke of earlier, took hold in Oakland.

Texas brought in Francisco Cordero who throws consistently in the high 90’s to close the game (you could almost hear the music from “The Natural” in the background). Before you knew it, the A’s were down to their last out with Jermaine Dye at the plate, runner on first. Dye hitting about 2/3 of his weight (.170) incredibly fouled off the nastiest fastballs Cordero could muster. With the count 1-2 and the Mariners rallying against the Angels, all hope seemed lost and the scheduled trip to Seattle this weekend took on additional meaning for Oakland.

Cordero threw a 95 MPH fastball that Dye could extend his arms on, up in the strike zone and Dye didn’t miss his pitch, the key phrase for good hitters. Rocket to right center, Chris Singleton scored, tie game.

Almost at the same moment in time, Mariners tie their game 1-1 as Randy Winn lines a Troy Percival pitch to center with two outs in the ninth.

Now already on the scoreboard on this magical evening, we have watched the Marlins rally for a tense 5-4 win over the Phillies with a five run seventh to extend its lead to two games in the NL Wild Card race.

Miami’s Jeff Conine hit a three run homer, the biggest hit of his life in the seventh and Ugueth Urbina closed the game after Braden Looper tried to give the game back to the Phils an inning earlier.

Now in Boston, Todd Walker saved the Red Sox from certain defeat as he hit a two out, two strike, three run homer into the bullpen in rightcenter field off Oriole closer Jorge Julio to tie the game 5-5 in the ninth in Fenway. The Sox fans went nuts. The Mariners scouts cursed Julio.

Game goes onto the tenth inning and David Ortiz, who not only looks like a younger Mo Vaughn, but is having a September like Vaughn used to have for Boston, lines a game winning homer into the Monster Seats in left field for a 6-5 win. What a sight on the scoreboard: Boston 6 Baltimore 5 (10 inns.) when five minutes earlier it was 5-2 Baltimore in the bottom of the ninth.

Incredible, but we aren’t done yet.

Kerry Wood is no hitting the Reds in Cincinnati in the seventh and the score is 5-0 Cubs. My eyes drift over to the San Francisco-Houston game and I can’t believe what I see. The Giants are leading the Astros 10-0 in the second inning behind Jason Schmidt, meaning that the Cubs will lead the NL Central by one full game in about an hour and a half.

In Minnesota, the Twins are beating Cleveland as Kenny Rogers continues his transformation into Mr. September with a shut out brewing. If the Twins win and the White Sox lose it’s all over in the AL Central.

Yanks lead the Sox in Chicago, Detroit is finishing KC off, too. Jason Giambi hits a slam, Rogers shuts down Cleveland and the scoreboard tells the story. Twins win the Central. Yankees win the East.

Amazing what is unfolding ever so slowly as the implications of what we see on the scoreboard are replayed over and over again as the A’s and the Rangers go to the tenth inning tied 3-3.

In Anaheim the Mariners Rafael Soriano throws overwhelming heat to end an Angel rally and they, too, go into extra innings.

Keep in mind that both games are being played out simultaneously on television in front of the entire press box in Oakland.

Rangers gone in the tenth. A’s up. Erubiel Durazo slams a single to right, his fourth hit of the game. Eric Chavez strikes out, but Durazo steals second. Buck Showalter walks Miguel Tejada intentionally after having a lefty pitch to Tejada two innings earlier with runners on first and second.

Scott Hatteberg does what he does best, he walks to load the bases, bringing Adam Melhuse up. I said it when the A’s played the White Sox in July or August in Comiskey, this guy can swing the bat. Melhuse hits a shot to the right off A Rod at short, A Rod “oles” it, tries to backhand instead of getting close to the ball, the ball goes under his glove and the A’s win the game in unbelievable fashion (two walks, a stolen base, and two singles).

With the magic number now at one all eyes in the Stadium go to the Jumbotron board to watch the end of the Mariner game. Tim Hudson and Barry Zito sit together on the pitchers mound watching the game on the big screen with 23,000 of their friends.

Angels go out in the tenth, everyone retires to the clubhouse to wait for the outcome. It doesn’t take long. Shigetoshi Hasegawa grooves one to Tim Salmon, deep homer to left center, and the A’s win the division and everyone goes nuts in the clubhouse.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox magic number is now two to eliminate the Mariners from the 2003 playoff picture.

With Pedro and Derek Lowe sure to pitch again soon, it seems that the clinching won’t be far away.

What a night of baseball and it all unfolded ever so slowly over three and one half hours allowing us to create the mental notes that will last forever.

So, today:

The Marlins face the Phils and throw Josh Beckett, just a few years out of high school against fellow youngster Brett Myers in Miami. Phils wild card life at stake.

Shawn Estes, in his biggest start for the Cubs all year, is asked to hold the NL Central lead in Cincinnati.

Sidney Ponson tries to regain his touch before next week and further finish the Astros when he faces Roy Oswalt in Houston.

John Burkett faces Pat Hentgen in Fenway tonight. By the time the Sox take the field they will know the outcome of the Angel-Seattle day game in Anaheim where Ryan Franklin faces sixteen game loser John Lackey.

The Braves got a clean ninth from John Smoltz last night (three K’s) and are still locked in a battle with the Giants for first in the NL and homefield in the NLCS.

Atlanta has Russ Ortiz going for number 21 today against the Expos.

What a night of baseball.

I know I won’t forget it and we are just starting the most memorable time of the year.


1 Anonymous { 09.24.03 at 11:28 am }

a veritable feast for the fans
baseball at it’s best-wow

jerry F

2 marty { 09.24.03 at 11:45 am }

A couple of more thoughts. This season’s playoffs will be the best and most evenly matched among the eight teams no matter how it all ends up in the regular season, that we have ever seen under this format.
If somehow the neither the Braves nor the Yankees get to the series, we will have one of the classic underdogs going for the championship (Boston, Cubs, Giants, A’s?).
Much to look forward to and I say the heavy lifting is over it is now time to enjoy the party.

3 Anonymous { 09.24.03 at 1:01 pm }

Are the Giants considered underdogs?

4 Anonymous { 09.24.03 at 4:58 pm }

it is entirely possible that the cubs will meet the red sox for the championship. the drought would be over for one team,at least. Baseball has
made the race for the championship an absolute delight. 8 evenly matched teams going for the big prize. The tension has to be just unbelievable.
Every pitch, every ground ball, every hit can make the difference. Defense, small ball,long ball
will all be a part. The starts Pedro,Manny,Lowe,
Tejada,Hudson,Chavez,Zito,Foulke and those
I forgot.
In the National League Bonds,Schmidt Ponson,
Grissom,Santiago,Kerry Wood,Pryor,Zambrano,
Smolt,Sheffield,Andrew and Chipper and
Jeff Conine and all the other players that have
made this a memorable season.
Houston still has a chance so Bagwell,Kent,Hidalgo,Berkman and crew- best of luck to all the teams Jerry F

5 marty { 09.24.03 at 6:55 pm }

When was the last time the Giants won a world series? 1954, so I would consider them one of the Cinderella teams for that reason alone.

6 Anonymous { 09.22.07 at 1:14 pm }

7 Anonymous { 09.22.07 at 1:51 pm }

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