Craig Calcaterra

Blogger at NBC's HardballTalk. Recovering litigator. Rake. Scoundrel. Notorious Man-About-Town.
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What’s your greatest memory from a series your team lost?


A friend reminded me that today is the 15th anniversary of Derek Jeter becoming “Mr. November.” That was in Game 4 of the 2001 World Series — which started on October 31 but ended after midnight, on November 1 — when Jeter hit his famous walkoff home run in the 10th inning.

Because I’m a jerk sometimes I remind him that the Yankees actually lost that series. I likewise remind Red Sox fans who talk about Carlton Fisk’s homer in the 1975 Series that Boston lost that series. Of course my friend and those Sox fans know this, but there is a tendency among Yankees and Sox fans to talk-up those events in ways that almost makes it seem like they’ve momentarily forgotten or that they want you to, so it’s fun to mess with them when they do.

In all sincerity, though, those were great moments. A lot of fans have “greatest moments in a losing cause” memories, actually. In some ways the defeat which follows makes those memories resonate even more because, at the time, you had to try to reconcile those disparate feelings. You had to find a way to be happy that a moment happened and to not let the ultimate loss sully it too terribly much. If you could.

For me, it’s probably Andruw Jones’ two homers in Game 1 of the 1996 World Series. It was the national coming out party of a superstar and a ton of fun to boot. Unfortunately for Braves fans 1996 was more properly the coming out party of the Yankees Dynasty. A Mark Wohlers slider and a Jim Leyritz homer was not far in the future, and those made most people forget about what Jones did in Game 1. But I remember it fondly. A lot of Braves fans do.

Older Cardinals fans have Bob Gibson’s 17-strikeout performance in Game 1 of the 1968 World Series to chew on. It was the most dominant World Series start ever. It was also a reminder that one pitcher cannot win you a World Series, as the Tigers won it in seven.

There are a lot of others. Barry Bonds’ homers and overall dominance in 2002. Josh Hamilton‘s home run — which he said God told him he’d hit — in Game 6 of 2011. Curt Schilling’s shutout in the 1993 Series. I’m sure there are a ton I’m forgetting.

Which now makes me think of tonight’s Game 6 and, if necessary, tomorrow’s Game 7. It makes me wonder what the most dramatic/traumatic ending of this Series would be for each team and its fans. They probably almost have to include some signature-moment-in-a-losing cause to truly sting. Off the top of my head, I got this:

Worst case for Chicago: A Carlton Fisk-style homer tonight — can’t be a walkoff because they’re on the road, but close enough — most likely by Kyle Schwarber. Joe Buck gets such a case of the vapors over it all that Smoltz has to call the bottom of the ninth and no one remembers to say “And we’ll see you . . . Tomorrow night!” In Game 7, Corey Kluber is dominant, the Cubs get three-hit and score no runs. Alternatively, there’s a second Bartman moment involving a Cubs fan in the Indians stands and/or a goat runs out on the field, injuring Kyle Hendricks in the first inning, leading to a bullpen game the Cubs lose badly.

Worst case for Cleveland: A loss tonight, obviously, followed by the Indians building a large lead in the late innings tomorrow, centered on Francisco Lindor doing something amazing like hitting for the cycle or something. The crowd is ecstatic and, out of an abundance of caution, Terry Francona calls on Andrew Miller to close it out. The Cubs mount a John Elway-style rally against Miller, knocking both him and the overall “Indians Bullpen” narrative out of the series. An Earnest Byner-style error by the Indians allows the Cubs to score the go-ahead run.

Oh well, enjoy Game 6, everyone. And Game 7 if we need it. And remember: baseball moments are often complicated.

Hunter Pence dressed up as Napoleon Dynamite for Halloween

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My kids are 11 and 12 now, but still dressed up for Halloween and went out trick or treating. I’m thinking I stopped doing it by the 6th or 7th grade, but I can’t remember precisely. I asked them if they thought they were too old for it, but they each had a bunch of friends doing it, so whatever.

My daughter went as Eleven from “Stranger Things.” I know that’s a popular costume among older Halloween partiers, but I didn’t see any other 12-year-olds dressed like that. Probably because most parents didn’t let their 12-year-olds watch the show like I did, due to it being scary and having some adult situations and what with it being obviously aimed at 80s nostalgists and GenXers like me and stuff. Oh well, she didn’t have any nightmares. If it warped her, the effects likely won’t manifest themselves until she’s moved out and then it’s really not my problem, right? Acknowledging that is just good parenting.

My son dressed up like Napoleon Dynamite. Also a bit of a strange choice as that movie came out a year before he was born and was aimed at ironists, Millennials . . . and GenXers like me. But he’s an odd duck, he liked the movie and liked the costume, so it wasn’t like I was going to object. I didn’t see any other grade schoolers or junior high school kids dressed like Napoleon Dynamite either, so both of my kids were weirdos.

My son at least has a baseball role model in this respect. Also, as far as baseball players go anyway, a weirdo:

Pence’s Pedro is his girlfriend (fiancee? I dunno) Alexis Cozombolidis of CSNBay Area. My son did not have a Pedro. The friend he went trick or treating with dressed up as “An Ohio Sports Super Fan” with a Cavs jersey, Indians cap and Ohio State pants and stuff. I asked him where his Browns gear was and he said “the Browns suck.” They then left and I handed out candy on the front porch while drinking bourbon.

Hope you all had as happy a Halloween as we all did.

Tomlin on short rest vs. Arrieta on extra rest as the Indians try to clinch a title

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The Game: Chicago Cubs @ Cleveland Indians, World Series Game 6
The Time: 8:00 PM EDT
The Place: Progressive Field, Cleveland
The Channel: FOX
The Starters: Jake Arrieta (Cubs) vs. Josh Tomlin (Indians)

The Upshot:

The cliche in baseball is that you have to take things one game at a time. The reason for that is to keep one focused on the task at hand and to not get too far ahead of oneself. In this instance it’s probably good for helping the Cubs maintain their sanity too as, if they reach a Game 7, they have to face Corey Kluber which has not been fun for them thus far. While Josh Tomlin gave them nothing to work with in Game 3, he lasted fewer than five innings and has not historically been the type to string together a bunch of dominant starts. His nice outing last week notwithstanding, he’s the number 3 guy in this rotation for a reason and the Cubs have to have viewed him as a guy they can get to before the series started.

Chicago counters with  Jake Arrieta, who won Game 2 last Wednesday, taking a no-hitter into the sixth inning while throwing only 98 pitches. Tomlin, who pitched on Friday, is coming in on short rest. Arrieta, is on an extra rest, having enjoyed five full days off since his last start. You have to think that the Cubs have the advantage when it comes to starters in this game. That said, it’s a potential clincher for the Indians, so if they get a lead, expect Terry Francona to go to Andrew Miller as early as we’ve seen him do so and to ride him hard as he has been ridden all postseason.

In Chicago’s favor is the fact that the move back to the American League park gives the Cubs Kyle Schwarber in the lineup. In the Indians favor: home cookin’, home cheering and the knowledge that there will be champagne on the premises, waiting for them to uncork if they take care of business tonight.

The last time a team came back from being down 3-1 was in 1985, when the Royals did it. The last time a team came back from being down 3-1 to win it while having to win Games 6 and 7 on the road was 1979 when the Pirates did it. Now the Cubs, the consensus best team in baseball all season, has to do it.