Baseball Toaster Bad Altitude
Rockies 6, Diamondbacks 4
2007-10-16 01:14
by Mark T.R. Donohue

Let's do a preamble first: There is no way this is going to scan coherently. I have so many thoughts right now I feel like all 50,000 people at Coors Field tonight came home in my brain. But the fact remains that nothing like this has ever happened before -- or will ever happen again -- and at some point in the next few hours, I am going to pass out from exhaustion, hypothermia, and/or overstimulation. It is possible I will not recover until the World Series begins, in March of 2009. It would be unfortunate were there to be no fresh posts on Bad Altitude for that whole time.

I understand that even though I ran all the way back from the parking lot to change a possible mistake I might have made in the text of the post from this afternoon, I neglected to proofread the headline, which was "NLCS Game 3" instead of "Game 4." You know what, that's fine. Better I make that mistake than accidentally take the tickets printed "Home Game 3" instead of "Home Game 2." I heard a fairy tale true story on the radio as I was driving to the game tonight about a family of four that went to the game Sunday only to realize at the gate they'd made that very mistake. Out of politeness's sake a ticket agent checked to see if any last-minute seats had become available, and... like magic, six were, as if out of nowhere. Stuff like this is happening all around metro Denver. I heard a goat with two heads was born out in Deer Trail.

I like to park really far away from Coors Field and walk the same route there every game. I was nervous that my parking spot would be taken away tonight, but I don't know why -- there is a logical limit on the number of people that can be parking in the area even when the game is sold out, and my pointedly inconvenient spot is farther away than anyone without a superstitious reason to do so would ever park. It wasn't until tonight that the ritual significance of my weird fixation struck me in full. It was when I walked over a little hill and saw the lights of Coors Field; I made a mental note of the intersection -- 27th and Blake.

In the places where baseball is most magical -- the Cactus League, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, and a handful of other lucky cities -- the approach to the cathedrals where the games are played is something of a pilgrimage. You start walking from far away and as you draw closer to the park, streams and currents of other fans begin marching with you, and the next thing you know you're swept up in a wave of shared experience that sweeps you in through the gates and into your seat.

After years of absence, baseball as a presence has returned to Denver, Colorado, and it's terrible indeed -- as crazy as this city has gone in the past for their Broncos and their Avs, there remains still even among those whose activity as baseball fans has long been dormant a vague awareness that baseball has a greater significance. Football and hockey and basketball are marvelous but ever-changing and hardly recognizable from the forms they were played in even 25 years ago; baseball is more the same than ever. I don't know to what degree most of the fans at Coors Field tonight could articulate these concerns. I do know at several points during the contest this evening the crowd seemed for all the world to will the team to an NLCS sweep; no one had any interest in returning for another game Wednesday night, as wonderful an experience as every home playoff game has been so far. Rockies fans might not get all the details yet -- the rather crude group of enthusiastic but recent converts behind me couldn't stop talking about how Matt Herges had "done it for us all year" when Herges only threw 10 innings for Colorado before August 1st. But they do understand that the team is in the middle of something utterly unique and ineffable, something delicate -- were the Rockies to fail to take care of business on this night, the magic could be over like that. And that would be a shame, because on the whole I think it would be quite pleasant to win the World Series.

What's great about baseball, I always tell people, is that they play so many games that the wildly improbable happens rather often. No-hitters are unusual, but when we go more than a couple seasons without one, that's what's remarked upon as being really odd. Back-to-back-to-back-to-back homers shouldn't happen hardly at all, but we've had what in a relative sense is a rash of them lately. And of course the first remarkable thing the Rockies did in 2007, Troy Tulowitzki's unassisted triple play, looks pretty commonplace now -- I mean, Tulowitzki came this close to starting another one in Game 3 and that play might not even make the top ten of Tulo's defensive gems in this postseason.

But this thing now, this thing with the Rockies, I mean -- well, it's not like that at all. This hasn't happened ever before to any team or competitor in any sport. Colorado is on the hottest run a baseball team has ever been on -- at the time of the year when it's most difficult to win even a single game. Hardly any of their wins have been blowouts, and it was only fitting that Brian Fuentes (and a rare lack of focus by the Rockies' hitters, who were clearly looking forward to champagne showers while Juan Cruz and Brandon Lyon whiffed 9 of the last 13 of them) conspired to prevent this series from ending in one by allowing an eighth-inning home run. Manny Corpas had to work the tough, multi-inning save (the "Mariano Special") and the Diamondbacks (who deserve kudos for even staying on the field against a team that was not only on a once-in-a-lifetime run but was also flat-out better than them -- by a lot) put the tying run on in the ninth. That's how it is. These Rockies don't dominate. They just win. Every game.

We'll have lots and lots of time to break down last night's action, and the action ahead, and also to watch our children grow old, while waiting for the World Series to begin. My vision is beginning to go now as I haven't really properly slept or eaten in some hours and both my shoulders ache from my advanced twirl towel/pump broom cheer technique. As for now, well, I didn't name the site Bad Altitude, a top-secret Baseball Toaster focus group did, but it's mostly appropriate -- I'm a dour dude. It's my nature.

I'm happy now.

Update: A few posts ago I took what I thought in retrospect might have been a gratuitous shot at Tracy Ringolsby, what with all the general goodwill buzzing around all involved with the Rockies these days. Turns out for the first time ever I was almost a prophet. Indefensibly, this childish, petty man has elected to make his first published work after the greatest triumph in franchise history a raging, incoherent attack on a five-year-old book written by a baseball outsider. Tracy, you're embarrassing yourself. Make the Rockies celebration complete and retire effective at the end of these playoffs. Please.

2007-10-16 02:24:49
1.   xaphor
And that would be a shame, because on the whole I think it would be quite pleasant to win the World Series.

Great line and worth repeating. Here's hoping the Rockies can bring home the pleasantness.

2007-10-16 05:03:23
2.   Josh Wilker
Congrats to the Rockies, and to you, Mark--you've done a fantastic job taking everyone along for just about the greatest ride that any team's ever been on.
2007-10-16 06:36:17
3.   MollyKnight
Yes. I love the Rockies so much right now. I have no doubt they will win the World Series. I am so happy.
2007-10-16 06:50:52
4.   Murray
Hottest hot streak I've ever seen. This is what it was like watching the 1998 Yankees, but even they dropped two games to the Indians in the ALCS. Enjoy the ride.
2007-10-16 07:49:06
5.   Vishal
congrats and good luck in the Series!
2007-10-16 07:49:55
6.   Daniel Zappala
How can anyone not be a Rockies fan right now? Their story is fantastic. It reminds me a lot of seeing the Angels win in 2002 -- all the craziness and magic with so many improbable things happening to the Angels of all teams. I'm almost persuaded to jump on board full-time, but you've got me for this season at least.
2007-10-16 08:16:40
7.   mehmattski
Not only was this post coherent, it was beautiful. Thanks Mark, and good luck in the Serious.
2007-10-16 08:42:47
8.   berkowit28
I'm curious as to what your reference to Tracy Ringolsby (someone I've never heard of, I'm afraid) was about. Your link leads to what's evidently a new update celebrating last night's game, with no navigational map or links that I can find to get to the previous story.
2007-10-16 09:03:20
9.   Bob Timmermann
Tracy Ringolsby is a long time Denver baseball writer. He wears a BIG hat.
2007-10-16 09:08:28
10.   Ali Nagib
8 - The reference to the previous post is here, specifically in the last four paragraphs:

2007-10-16 09:17:16
11.   Connector
I set my alarm for 4:00 AM this morning to catch the game, live. We're 7 hours ahead of Eastern Time where I live (Israel).
I doozed off for awhile at the bottom of the second inning, but woke up in time for the Rockies magical 4th inning.
I think the Rockies' total team effort is the main factor behind their incredible streak. Consider the fact that game winning hits during the current streak have been contributed by 12 different players.
May my beloved Dodgers learn a lesson or two.
2007-10-16 09:34:05
12.   Andrew Shimmin
Now that my D'backs are done, I'm on the Rockies' bandwagon. I hope you beat the Indians in four straight.
2007-10-16 10:16:07
13.   uess
Mark, you are completely right about Ringolsby. This sentence from the Fox Sports piece says it all: "It has been something to be a part of." Tracy, you are NOT "part of" this. At least you're not supposed to be. You are supposed to be a detached reporter. Pathetic.
2007-10-16 10:20:30
14.   LogikReader
I'll be honest, I never thought I'd see the day when the Rockies would be in the World Series. This is so great, I can't begin to describe how cool this really is.

Even if it won't happen I hope the Rockies sweep the Red Sox. If the Red Sox were in 4th place and stormed back to win 20 of 21 the world would be talking about how great it was. But with it being the Rockies, it's about 5 minutes on SportsCenter.

2007-10-16 11:55:44
15.   dzzrtRatt
On opening day 2005, I had to hike through the woods around Dodger Stadium to get to the stadium, as the entire parking lot was sold out before I got there. That was pretty dramatic, but a rare experience. I've also walked fairly long distances to get to what was then known as Pac Bell Park, to Yankee Stadium and earlier this year to Orioles Park at Camden Yards. (It's a crime that the Orioles aren't better. That park is a gem.) You've captured the feeling of making a pilgrimage to a cathedral quite beautifully in this post. It is not easy to write about a winning team, but you're doing a magnificent job. What's most encouraging is the feeling I get from your posts that the fans realize that this isn't just a special moment in Colorado Rockie history, it's one of those gorgeous rips in the fabric of baseball history, as you point out. What a privilege to be alive, to be in Denver and to be open to such a thrilling phenomenon. It does somewhat resemble Anaheim in 2002, but this seems even more startling.

I was waiting around in an office yesterday and picked up a Sports Illustrated from early in the season -- the one that did a double profile of Holliday and Atkins. The writer recognized what special players they were, but the whole tone of the article was, they'll always be a secret to most fans, and their time together will be short because the Rockies won't be able to keep both of them for long. Congratulations to the Rockies for proving the conventional wisdom to be wrong again.

2007-10-16 11:59:07
16.   Sospiro0
Cirillo was batting in the third or fourth inning, I can't remember which, and the Rockies fans started chanting what my roommate and I thought was, "Rockies Oh! or Rockies Go" (it was of course Go Rockies and they apparently chant it all the time), but I honestly can't recall ever hearing a louder, more intimidating chant in a baseball game. It reminded me of a College Football game. I had goosebumps.

They brought back the chant later in the game but it never equalled the boom that it was with Cirillo.

2007-10-16 12:08:53
17.   Woden325
16 There was a guy with a broom at the front of section 147 leading that cheer. It was pretty amazing watching him get the whole park rocking. The rockies need to give him season tickets, I think.
2007-10-16 12:09:17
18.   Kels
It hasn't sunk in yet, but I'm looking forward to when it does...
2007-10-16 12:12:38
19.   Sospiro0
Just a guy? No "Go Rockies" flashing on the scoreboard?

I was thinking it had to begin that way, like at Dodger Stadium when one yahoo starts the wave. I wish someone would start chants like that at Dodgers stadium instead of pressuring us to stand up and wave.

2007-10-16 12:24:15
20.   Mark T.R. Donohue
The back-and-forth "Go Rockies" chants started a couple of times but the first and the most memorable was when Morales was struggling in the fourth, as seen in 16 . It was inspirational -- and cued by no scoreboard. Cirillo had to call time and step out of the box.
2007-10-16 12:27:14
21.   Mark T.R. Donohue
And the funny thing about my rage towards Cowboy Tracy is I just found out this morning that Bill Plaschke's Crush Bill Stoneman campaign succeeded and the brilliant, successful GM of the Angels lost his job or at the very least the will to perform it. Bad sportswriters can do real damage.
2007-10-16 12:27:34
22.   Woden325
There were a couple of attempts to get the wave going. I'm happy to say that they all withered on the vine.

Our left-field corner had a pretty good "Byrnes You Suck" chant going for a while, though.

2007-10-16 12:41:37
23.   dzzrtRatt
The Wave is a sheer imposition on the attentive fans by people who are bored with, or don't understand, the game. It would be easy enough to ignore unless you're sitting in a section with a lot of kids who, for some reason, get upset if everyone around them doesn't participate.

It's sort of like the beachball thing. You could ignore it if you weren't surrounded by kids screaming "hit it here!"

2007-10-16 12:44:32
24.   Mark T.R. Donohue
There were some people trying to start the wave in my section and they were shouted down.

This is unique -- it's as if the city developed an entire baseball culture in 11 days.

This is why the arguments of wankers like Bill Simmons that a baseball team has to have a history in order for people to care are stupid. This is a team INVENTING a history right in front of our eyes. It's better.

2007-10-16 12:48:05
25.   Mark T.R. Donohue
And I want to say I stand by everything I wrote about Big Hat, No Cattle. How lame was it to return home from the most exciting baseball moment of my life and find that the most "respected" sportswriter who covers my team used the occasion to launch a ridiculously uncalled-for attack on the best baseball book of my adulthood, one of the first books I can remember in ages that made a compelling argument for people without a childhood connection to the game to become baseball fans. I give my copy of "Moneyball" to all the girls I date after a few weeks and if they don't come out from reading it as enthusiastic baseball fans I break up with them.

No, really, I actually do this.

2007-10-16 14:09:17
26.   Ken Arneson
25 Hmm...that strikes me as Not The Most Brilliant Idea I've Ever Heard.

There are probably thousands of ways to convert a non-fan into a fan, and I doubt that reading Moneyball is even among the top 1000 most effective methods.

2007-10-16 14:29:52
27.   Mark T.R. Donohue
27 Obviously you don't hang around exclusively with math nerds.
2007-10-16 14:34:07
28.   Hythloday
26 - As I understand it the Moneyball part is secondary. He first converts the girl into someone who will sleep with him. Being a baseball fan and sleeping with a non-baseball fan definitely has to break the top 1000. Together with the Moneyball shibboleth I have to imagine it breaks the top 250.
2007-10-16 14:35:11
29.   Ballorado81
The "Go...Rockies" chant started in the Mile Hi days, when 80,000 people would go back and forth with the chant. It became a staple even in the early days of Coors when 50,000+ were there every night. It was great to see it return for the game last night, and to hear it booming even over the TV and radio broadcasts
2007-10-16 14:37:47
30.   Linkmeister
28 Paging Dr. Kinsey. Dr. Kinsey to the white courtesy phone, please.
2007-10-16 14:37:59
31.   Ken Arneson
27 Oh, I didn't realize you only dated math nerds. I take it back then.
2007-10-16 14:47:33
32.   Mark T.R. Donohue
31 Thanks, but it's OK -- I should have been more clear.
2007-10-16 16:34:09
33.   gpellamjr
I've been trying to find someone who remembers when we used to get the "Go Dodgers" chant going back in the mid-90s, but nobody seems to. I can't stand "Let's go Dodgers", or anything that involves rythmical hand clapping. I always loved "Go Dodgers", it really has an intensity that the college-y chants don't have.
2007-10-16 18:07:32
34.   Sospiro0
33 I don't remember that but I'd sure like to start up what you're talking about, or at least begin a unique one of our own. Loud, booming roars are much better than clapping. Word should spread on Dodger Thoughts.....
2007-10-16 18:10:20
35.   Sospiro0
33 I don't remember that but I'd sure like to start up what you're talking about, or at least begin a unique one of our own. Loud, booming roars are much better than clapping. Word should spread on Dodger Thoughts.....
2007-10-16 18:14:10
36.   Bob Timmermann
I think the Rockies fans should bring beach balls to the World Series because I want to see at what temperature they freeze.
2007-10-16 21:55:23
37.   Dano
Best line from a sportswriter re: the Rox (ESPN Page 2)

"Just how good are the Rockies right now? If you were playing them on your Xbox, you would have hit "restart game" about 50 times by now and probably smashed at least one controller."

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