|Still buzzing in Cali|
By Eric Neel
Page 2 columnist
Editor's Note: From his home on the Northern California coast, Page 2's Eric Neel is keeping a diary of the 2002 pennant races involving the Giants, Dodgers, A's and Angels. This is the seventh installment of Neel's journal.
Tuesday, Sept. 17
Status: NL wild-card and AL West division races are both tied with 12 games to go.
Hideo Nomo jumping and landing in a crouch
Barry Bonds' record-breaking ball rolling on the grass
There is a case to be made for how important walks are and for how, like hits, they represent a certain high level of skill and analysis on the part of a hitter, especially one as good as Bonds. But a whole lot of Barry's walks these last couple of years have come as a result of folks not really pitching to him at all, which I suspect makes it hard for him to take much pride in the record on some level.
He didn't ask for the ball, someone else did, and Nomo just slowly rolled it across the infield grass toward some guy who looked like maybe he was a trainer.
Brian Jordan's stance
Benito Santiago's glove
Barry Bonds flies to shallow center
So Nomo made him look bad, which was remarkable enough, but what was really interesting about the moment was Bonds' reaction as he walked back to the dugout after the fly ball. He pointed at his helmet twice, as if to say to himself, you got out-thought out there just now. Then he nodded his head and looked ever so slightly up at the night sky, as if he were saying, and you won't be out-thought again, will you?
The fan's finger
The standard story is that Los Angeles fans are too cool to care, but this crazy mug was busting that theory wide open, letting his angry-young-man flag fly. It was kind of funny -- kudos to Goodwin for thinking so, too, and for staying cool about it -- but he was so dead earnest that you had to admire it, too. And it seemed to change things in the stadium a little. Like a table full of pingpong balls on mousetraps (remember that high school science film demonstrating catalytic reactions?), hard-core fan gestures started popping up all over the place. By the time Eric Karros hit a home run in the seventh, whole families were literally jumping in place and waving their arms from side to side in the seats behind home plate.
Jesse Orosco vs. Bonds
I say to my wife, "See that guy, he's 45 years old." "Must be a left-hander," she says without looking up. (My wife, she's smart.) "He's a Bonds-killer," I tell her. Two pitches into the at-bat, I look like I know what I'm talking about; 1-1 count, Bonds looks out of synch. Four pitches in and I look like a fool, because he tatooooooos it over the right center field wall. "Bonds is real good, isn't he?" my wife says. 6-5 ballgame.
He hit a pitch up around the eyes; drilled it to left. He ran the bases quickly, with his head down, and when he got back to the dugout, he took his helmet off and stared out at the field, breathing hard. Things haven't been super easy for Karros these last couple of years, but he delivered a big hit tonight, and he had this look on his face, not blank exactly, but kind of distant, like he had gone back into his head for a bit, like he was wondering, "where the hell did that come from?"
Marquis Grissom and Rich Aurilia
The same was true of Aurilia, who came just inches from being a hero. For three or four seconds, as the ball hurried toward the center field fence, he was the guy we've all dreamed of being, the one who delivers in the clutch. And then in an instant, as Grissom rose up and yanked the ball back over the wall, Aurilia was no different than any of us; just another poor bum suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. He kept looking back over his shoulder as he walked off the field. The abrupt change from exhilaration to frustration seemed to have given him whiplash.
Eric Neel reviews sports culture in his "Critical Mass" column on Page 2. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.