The David Ortiz home run through the eyes of a Tigers fan: a play in one act

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The scene: the Calcaterra fortified compound during last night’s Tigers-Red Sox game. The lady of the house is a Tigers fan. She is enjoying some bourbon. She is also enjoying the Tigers’ 5-1 lead over the Red Sox.

But she is only enjoying it so much. For the bottom of the eighth inning is beginning and the bullpen is coming on. She has watched over 100 Tigers games from her current position on the couch this year. Approximately zero of them which involved the bullpen in anything approaching a stressful situation were truly enjoyable.

I, as a person who doesn’t have a deep rooting interest in this game and as a person who skews optimistic, make a mostly dispassionate observation about how, whatever the bullpen’s shortcomings, a 5-1 lead with two innings to go against a team who has looked lost at the plate seems at least moderately safe. It is met with a more-than-moderate sigh. I mistake this for pessimism. It turns out to be cold, hard realism.

Snapshots as the evening wears on:

[Eighth inning starts, Jose Veras comes in for Max Scherzer]

“Here we go.”

[Will Middlebrooks doubles]

“Can you get me a refill?”

[Alleged lefty specialist Drew Smyly walks left Jacoby Ellsbury]

“You had ONE JOB!” [takes drink].

At this point Al Alburquerque comes in and strikes out Shane Victorino. I look to my right to see if this has encouraged her. There is no sign of encouragement.

At this point Al Alburquerque allows a single to Dustin Pedroia to load the bases. I look to my right. I expect anger and/or anxiety and/or distress on her part. But there is none. She has already skipped over three or four stages of grief and seems to be in full acceptance mode already. Acceptance of some disaster which hasn’t even happened yet and, hey, may not actually happen. But acceptance is unmistakeable. It lasts throughout the entire pitching change.

[David Ortiz steps to the plate to face Joaquin Benoit]

“Just walk him,” she says. “He should just walk in a run and pitch to the next guy.”

[David Ortiz hits a grand slam]

She calmly picks up her iPad, hands me the remainder of her drink to finish and walks upstairs. I don’t ask why she is walking away from a tie game. She has traveled into the future already. She has done so by remembering the past and knowing full well this Tigers team she follows. And knowing this Boston team pretty well too.  She is as certain of the outcome of this game as she is her name, her address and her social security number.

I hear her washing her face and getting ready for bed. A few minutes later Jarrod Saltalamacchia singles in the winning run. I call upstairs to let her know what happened and that the game is over. I may as well be telling her what she had for breakfast today. She knows. 

I go upstairs, brush my teeth and get into bed, thinking how amazing baseball can be and how, as has happened so many times in my life, I just witnessed something that some people will remember for the rest of theirs.

“Baseball is stupid,” she says.

Remember for better or for worse.

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.