Game 24, Orioles at Mariners
(the real game, obviously, is Mariners at Orioles @ 4:05 — we don’t play 4:05 games, this is a road trip, etc)
I feel responsible. I know it’s impossible, that my part in this was insignificant, but I can’t escape it. I got out of work early to go catch the game, and there was almost no one on the streets. A guy in a suit sold us two amazing box seats up the third base line, only a couple of rows back, for half face. Half face! Said he was tired of seeing Meche pitch while I was fishing out the money.
Dammit. I hadn’t checked the starters before I headed down. No big deal, though, it’s a beautiful night to see a game, and it beats working, anyway.
I buy some kettle corn and we head in. The usher gives our tickets the twice-over at the gate and on the aisle, but whatever. These are the best tickets I’ve ever had at Safeco, I don’t care if the average per-seat income level took a kidney punch for it to happen. Come focus group me. Please.
Good beer’s $8 a cup now. For $8 a cup I should be able to tell Beltre to just bunt at every pitch for all the good swinging does him.
Being far away, you don’t realize that the game’s not silent on the field. A few rows away, you can hear them talk about where they want to get dinner, or which guys on the other team they played with in the minors, and which ballgirl they find more attractive that night. The ball cracks into gloves as players tossing the ball back and forth in along the baseline.
So there’s the Ceremonial First Pitch, the Safeco Field Welcome Pitch, the Sponsor of the Night First Pitch, and all of them: the banker, the kids, the relief worker, they all throw horrible pitches to random Mariners, way out of the strike zone, short of the plate, and I mention this because the dozen people who came on and off the mound to throw fake first pitches, all of those people threw better first pitches than the professional did when he finally got up there. It was a fastball thrown up and way behind the batter, and Johjima, having reacted instantly to jump out of his stance and watch if sail, seemed to sigh behind all that equipment. Just above the background noise of people chatting happily and yapping into their cell phones there were boos. On the first pitch. These smaller crowds have a lot sharper edge to them, and it suits me.
Four balls in a row and Roberts was on first. Then Meche plunked some guy I’ve never heard of with a curve ball that doesn’t break. He got a strike when Mora watched a 3-0 fastball, hold the fast, came right down the pipe. Mora stepped out of the box and looked back at the dugout with an expression on his face that said “the next time you tell me to take, I’m missing that sign”. Meche puts a fastball low and away for ball four.
Three men on, and only one strike thrown in what, fifteen pitches. The boos rain down under the clear blue sky.
Johjima jogged to the mound for a word with Meche, which I like to imagine was “Boooooooo.” No one got up in the pen. My eight dollar beer had a weird aftertaste and I started to wonder how well the volunteers really clean the tubes and taps.
Chavez came out from the dugout and Bloomquist walked in from second. If he was so scappy and versatile, why wasn’t he pitching? The ump took his time sauntering out to break up their chat. No signal from Chaves, still no bullpen action. What could Meche have possibly said to the coach to convince him not to get someone ready? “Sorry about that, coach, but it turns out knowledge is power and now that I know that I don’t have control or stuff or speed tonight, I’ll be able to figure out Tejeda, no problem.”
Meche dropped something weak a foot ahead of the plate that bounces and Tejeda twitched, as if considering hitting it off the bounce, Ichiro-style. Meche stepped off the mound, took off his hat, wiping sweat off his forehead with his sleeve. The anger bubbled inside me.
“Throw strikes, you moron!” I yelled.
Meche looked at me, turned the ball over in his hand, and stepped on the rubber.
The pitch was a 90-mile-an-hour fastball right down the plate, and Tejeda hit it so hard it sounded like lightning had struck the batboy. The ball hit the center-field scoreboard in an instant, and I’d swear it was still rising.
The boos came in waves, washing over Meche. In the bullpen, I see movement, a jacket being taken off.
Meatball to Gibbons, and Gibbons yanks it into the left-field bleachers, a monster shot. The boos were louder than the announcement of Lopez, louder than the piped noise to accompany scoreboard instructions to do anything but keep booing Meche. Everyone was booing. My throat hurt. Lopez took two balls and doubled past Ibanez. The boos got louder. First pitch to Millar was the third home run of the inning, left-center, banging off the head of Woods, who was warming up. Woods went down. There would be no relief.
I looked around and everyone in the stadium, all twenty thousand and change of us, are yelling at Meche now. The bandwagon fans, the players’ wives, the guys in the press box, the ushers, everyone. There was a little girl, maybe seven, eight, standing on her seat yelling the craziest playground obscenities at Meche in this piercing scream that made my ears feel like they would burst. I heard curses so hazardous they’re normally restricted to members of the armed forces who are trained in their use.
Then we lost the roof. I don’t know what happened, I’ve been watching CNN and they’ve been running experts through on a conveyor belt talking about strutural harmonics and single points of failure, but there was a groan louder than the world heckling Meche and I looked up to see the whole north support structure accordian into itself and the whole thing dropped.
We’ve got a better idea of what happened then. Seattle’s on a fault, we all live like we don’t know it, but just because it’s not named San Andreas and doesn’t have movies made about it doesn’t mean it’s any less dangerous, and it turns out dropping something as heavy as the roof in one spot, right on the glacial silt over a tectonic fault makes things happen. Seattle’s sinking into the sea, and soon Elliot Bay and Lake Washington aren’t going to need locks, and that downtown we could never get right’s going to be under fifty, a hundred feet of salt water.
Seattle’s gone. Bellevue is the new Seattle. Or West Seattle’s the new San Francisco, and Bellevue’s Oakland, and Renton’s San Jose, and the U District’s what — San Rafael? I don’t know what to think. The team’s going on the road indefinately, and I was one of the last people to ever see live baseball in Seattle proper.
I’ll never complain about Gil Meche again.