A couple of years ago, my son, now 17, and his friends walked into the house half-way through one of Pujols’s ridiculous games. I had a few a Budweisers in me and was feeling sentimental.
“You guys,” I said to the group, “are witnessing the begining of a legend. This is DiMaggio, Ruth, Cobb, Mantle, Gibson. Watch him, remember every at-bat. Get to the stadium so you can tell your kids, ‘I saw him hit a homerun off of whoever.'”
“Dad’s drunk,” I’m sure Jack thought.
Well, tonight, Jack came running up from his basement room when he realized that Pujols was up in the ninth with two out, two on, and two down. “The deuces are wild,” Mike Shannon might say.
When the camera angle switched from the outfield shot to Albert’s moon shot, Jack, my wife, and I said in unison, “Oh, my God.” We later saw on replay that Andy Pettitte, in the Houston dugout, joined our impromptu Gregorian chant.
I will have to confess my blaspheme before Mass, but no other phrase so perfectly describes Pujols’s shot.
“Oh MY GOD!”
Like the legend he’s becoming, his game-winning home run out-did the possible. It smoked the windows above the cheap home run seats into which Lance Berkman had deposited what everyone in Houston thought was the World Series ticket.
I had returned to Naval Weapons Station, Charleston, SC, just eight hour before seeing Ozzie Smith hit a 9th inning home run to beat the Dodgers in 1985. It was my first submarine patrol on the USS Woodrow Wilson, and my mom, sister, nephew Scott, and Uncle Pat came to Charleston to meet the boat and tell me that my best friend, Dan Psaris, had drowned just 3 days after I got underway in July. Bittersweet?
It would be a year before I got to St. Louis and heard, on KMOX, a replay of Jack Buck’s legendary call.
“Go crazy, folks; go crazy.”
No. Dan’s heavenly breath helped that ball over the right field wall where he and I had seen what seems like a million games when we couldn’t squeeze into the left field bleachers. Nothing bitter about that day. Dan’s tragic death would not hit my psyche until Don Deckinger blew the call at first. Dan wouldn’t let it, and he some pull with the Holy Ghost.
I bring this up because I didn’t hear Shannon’s call of Pujols’s homer. I can’t wait to hear it. I know it will sizzle in my memory like Ozzie’s, or Roger Freed’s 11th inning, two-out, full-count grand slam with a three-run deficit against the Astros in April of about 1978.
JACK BUCK: The runners will be going; watch the pick-off play. From the stretch position, the runners are . . . Going! the pitch is . . . Swung on! and a long one into left field. Way back! It’s gonna be a grand slam, and the Cardinals win, seven to six on a grand slam home run by Roger Freed.
Anyway, Pujols is a legend. He’s the greatest offensive player in the history game for the first five years of a career. And he’s only getting started.
Whatever the Cardinals do this post-season, savor the moment you saw one of the greatest players in 120 years of professional baseball win a game with a ninth inning home run against the best closer in baseball.