Stayed

Guess Writer BHSPORTSGUY

As I gathered my fleece blanket at the gate, I walked toward my seat at Dodger Stadium not knowing what to expect.  The Dodgers needed this game but their nemesis, Jake Peavy was on the mound for the Padres and while Brad Penny was an All-Star, he had not pitched well in the second half.

I invited a friend from my office to the game and he was excited to come.  He is a big baseball fan (Yankees but he is pretty cool) but he appreciated the history of Dodger Stadium and the Dodgers.

There was a buzz in the stadium but that soon fell to something close to despair as the Dodgers got behind 4-0 in the top of the 1st.  I could not recall the Dodgers winning after being down by that much so far in that season (they hadn't) and with our lack of power, it did not look good especially with Peavy pitching.

But the Dodgers got a run in the bottom of the 1st as Jeff Kent doubled in a run and as the inning closed, I saw Mariano Duncan and Peavy exchange words.

Penny calmed down in the 2nd inning and then Marlon Anderson homered and the Dodgers were only down by 2.  A sense of hope wafted its way through the stands like the scents of Dodger Dogs and beer.  When Furcal homered and moments later Drew doubled home Kent in the bottom of the 3rd, all of sudden it was tied and what seemed hopeless only a few innings before was as Vin likes to say, a brand new ballgame.

Penny left after 5 but the Padres' bats remained quiet and when the Dodgers loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the 6th, one more hit and we can start thinking victory.  But as fast as they loaded the bases, the Dodgers made three out with no runs scoring.

It was still tied 4-4 in the top of the 8th but the Padres pushed across two but before I could start thinking about leaving, Marlon tripled to lead off and then he scored but the tying and winning runs were left in scoring position as Nomar struck out.

As the top of the 9th began, I looked around and while many of the sold out crowd had left, there still was a good crowd to hopefully see one more comeback.  Takeshi Saito, who had only given up one earned run in his last 20 appearances, came in and just had a horrible inning, 3 hits, a walk, a wild pitch, no strikeouts and more importanly 3 runs to make a nearly impossible task of scoring a run against Padre closer, Trevor Hoffman into no chance of scoring 4 runs against the Padre bullpen to even just tie the game.

As I type this, I cannot say that I would have stayed, I mean they were down by 4, there was still a good sized crowd, it was late but my friend was going to stay so I just stayed with him.  I remember talking to him as Kent stepped into bat against someone not named Hoffman and as Kent hit a fly ball, I glanced toward Padre centerfielder, Mike Cameron and he was running back and back and as the ball went over the wall, I thought, two things, Kent wouldn't have done that against Hoffman and now we probably will see Hoffman come into the game.

J.D. Drew, after a few pitches, hit a ball that you knew was a home run, the second it was hit, and while Drew was making his way home, I saw Hoffman appear at the bullpen gate and I knew that our fun was probably over.  But the crowd was buzzing with the back to back home runs so even as Hoffman wound up and threw his first pitch to Russell Martin, again, I can't say that I was locked into that at-bat, I mean it was the first pitch.

Russell swung and it seemed like every time a fly ball was hit, a Padre outfielder was running toward the wall.  As it went over, the crowd was beyond yelling, it was drunk with the excitement of seeing something that you could not believe was happening, right in front of your eyes.

And as Martin walked into the dugout, Marlon Anderson who had already homered and then tripled to lead off the previous inning, stepped in and before you could say back to back to back to back, Anderson who had only been on the team for less than 3 weeks was now a Dodger hero.  If the crowd was drunk after Martin's homer, the only thing I could do was just laugh, it was beyond belief, in about 10-12 pitches, the Dodgers had done something that even now, one year later, seems so unbelievable that when the Red Sox did it this year (Drew being part of that one too) I felt it cheapened my experience because I wanted my game to stand out.

But even after the 4 home runs, the game was only tied and when Furcal's fly ball fell short, we went to the 10th tied at 9.  But Aaron Sele could not keep the Padres scoreless and while it was only one run, the excitement that filled the stadium turned to despair as those of us who stayed now faced the reality of having our moment become meaningless if the Dodgers lost the game.

But when Rudy Seanez came in to pitch, I held out hope that we could tie the game and when Kenny Lofton walked, I thought he would try and steal, especially because Nomar was a threat to hit into a double play.  So I kept watching Kenny as Nomar worked the count to 3-1.  With the crowd beginning to stand and scream as Seanez threw his 5th pitch to Nomar, I kept looking at Kenny to see if he was going, the pitch came, Nomar swung and as the ball was heading to left, I glanced at Dave Roberts and as he stood still, I knew it was gone.

I stood and screamed and then, me and my friend headed up the ramp and I said something like "picked a good game to come to" as we headed to our cars.  And even though we were all stuck for almost an hour in the parking lot, no one cared, we were giddy from the experience.

Here are two home video experiences, the first one, and a little closer, this one.

I have relived that moment many times, watching the replay, buying that game from MLB.com, and countless times on the radio archives.  And while they all capture the excitement, it was nothing like the shared experience one has when you are present at an event like this one.

When the Dodgers clinched a playoff spot a few weeks later, I was thrilled, not just because they had made the playoffs but it made the now named 4+1 game like the 9/11/83 game, memorable games on their own, but now part of a playoff bound season.

I can proudly say, I was at both of them and as I close, when I talked to my mom about the 4+1 game, the last game she remembered as being as exciting was that game against the Braves on at hot Sunday afternoon.  I told her that was the 9/11/83 game and she could not remember of the details but she said there had never been an ending like that one until that night when they went back to back to back to back and then had Nomar close it out with his 2 run shot.

I heartily agree with that assessment.

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