More detailed game report, 10/1
This was the first game in months I’ve gone to with a buzz. New people on the bus who didn’t know what stop to get off at, but happily talking about Ichiro. Occidental packed with people. The Pyramid beer garden filled to the ropes again. It felt like heading into a game last year, when the team was still competing.
And people seemed to sense it and feed off it, too. People were grinning at people they didn’t know — “Ichiro?” “Yup. I’ve only been to a couple games this year, but—” “Yeah.”
I’ve wondered if the Seahawks are going to drain season ticket dollars off the Mariners, and if a competitive football team across the street would be good or bad for the team. I don’t think Seattle’s going to give up on baseball, even after a season like this. Ichiro! didn’t see that much in the way of interested crowds as he pursued this record. That’s not unusual, even if it is dumb. There were only what, fourteen people in Milwaukee when Bonds pursued his #700 home run?
To return home to try and break the record and go from a road game in Oakland to this must have been one of the more dramatic turn-arounds for the team this season. While I mentioned there seemed to be a huge number of casual returning fans, there were a huge number of serious fans (like me) who weren’t just happy to have a reason their interest in baseball wasn’t a waste, but also had a wary glance every once in a while at their watches — I’m not going to miss the first pitch, am I? I’m not going to have to give some more time at the gates, with more people here, and it’ll take longer to get to my seats — hours ahead of game time.
A game like this, here? When the bus stopped in the awful traffic on I-90 yesterday, I was seriously making plans to get out and go on foot if it came to that. I know where the path is, I’ve biked it, I’m in shape, it’s not thaaaat far… I wasn’t going to miss it.
I had a chance to go to a World Series game (Angels v Giants) at the last, last minute, and couldn’t swing a flight down. I almost drove down, knowing my chances of making it were slim, because it was worth gambling. But I didn’t, and even knowing the odds were terrible, I wonder if I shouldn’t have just gone for it.
The ovations for Ichiro were tremendous. It’s never been as loud as it was in the Kingdome, in the playoffs, but this was not only quieter, but more… respectful, insistent. You can carry on with the game, but we’re going to keep cheering for a while. We’re here for history, and we have time on our hands.
First hit: there’s almost a gasp, silence of breath for cheering, claps paused in mid air, and then as we see it’s clearly a hit over Blalock’s head — pandefuckingmonium. At first, Ichiro’s expression hadn’t changed at all. I love that about Ichiro, the level-headed stone-hearted killer personality:
Now I hitch up the sleeve of my jersey, which is the last thing I do before I get a hit off you.
I note that you have attempted to go to third on a single hit directly to me. You will find this decision unwise.
And yet I feel like we’ve missed out a bit, on the giddy, grinning Ichiro, and rarely get to see that side of him.
The Texas guys on the rail don’t applaud or react at all, either. They’re Showalter-coached, remember, there’s probably a $500 fine for applauding a good play by the other team.
Second hit: craziness. Teixeira shakes Ichiro’s hand, and the M’s come out from the dugout to swarm him, hug him, tossle his hair, slap him on the head, shake his hand. And it looks, from my seat, like he’s even grinning. This takes minutes, during which Drese occassionally windmills his arm, shrugs, walks around. Everyone’s still cheering for Ichiro, who walks alone over to the Commissioner’s box, where he bows, says something to Sisler’s kids and grandkids, steps back, bows again, and heads to first. Stadium’s still standing and cheering.
I had worried, and been afraid to say anything for fear it would come true, that the M’s would do something. They’d have Bavasi or Lincoln trot out on the field and hand him some novelty plaque, or something. I hate stopping the game for ceremonies, it’s just… I don’t know how to put this without sounding like I’m a crotchety old man, but the game is the game. Achievements stand for themselves, and are celebrated in the reaction of those present however they’re able — shaking his hand for Teixeira, tossling his hair if you’ve come out of the dugout, applauding until your hands are pink and raw if you’re in the stands — don’t drag out a podium and make it a production.
Ichiro’s gesture, though, was so kind and respectful that it honored baseball.
That’s all I have to say about it.
Ichiro comes back to first and between second-and-third, three Rangers stand in a line — Blalock, Michael Young, Ernie Young, I think — and tip their caps to Ichiro. He returns the gesture, and they trot to their positions. Also cool.
Then on base, his teammates in the dugout, Rangers in position, Drese trying to keep warm tossing a pitch occasionally, the applause goes on. Ichiro tips his helmet to acknowledge the crowd, still cheering for him, clapping. Once, twice, and now he looks like he’s a little embarassed, and I half-expect him to do the football down-with-the-noise arm flapping gesture. They announce Winn, and it’s not until we’re two pitches into his at-bat that we’ve returned to the game in any real sense.