For some time now, I’ve been trying to decide on the five most memorable professional baseball games I’ve attended. I live in Giants and A’s territory here in the Bay Area and I’ve gone to countless Padres games over the years, so I feel that I have a good variety of games to pick from. I’m sure as the years go by, some of these picks will be transitioned out of my top five, but I’ll certainly never forget these games as they’ve made an impact on me. So without further waiting, here are my top five games I’ve been to, in no particular order.
Atlanta Braves vs. Richmond Braves (1985/1986?)
This is a a game I remember very little of due to the fact that I was incredibly young; I’m thinking I was probably no older than six years old. Still, what makes this memorable to me is that it was the first baseball game I remember attending. I lived in Richmond, Virginia for a number of years during my childhood and at that time the Braves AAA affiliate was the Richmond Braves and they played at a park called The Diamond, which featured a HUGE fiberglass sculpture of a Native American outside of the park named “Connecticut.” This surely would not fly today as it would be deemed racist, but as a kid I thought it was creepy, intimidating and cool all at the same time.
I seem to remember it being late in spring training and that the big league team came to town to play an exhibition game against Richmond. I have no recollection of who won the game or even who played for the teams at the time, but I do remember being fascinated by the size of the stadium, the bright green grass and having a great time with my Dad and brother. It was my first introduction to the game of baseball and it’s a memory that I’ll cherish for life. Too bad I can’t figure out much about the game.
October 3rd, 2012 is a day that I’ll never forget. Besides the fact that it was my birthday, I rolled out to the Oakland Coliseum with friends to see the A’s battle the Rangers for the division on the last day of the season. It was a warm and sunny day, which is very typical for the Bay Area in October and there was so much electricity in the air due to the fact that Oakland could potentially lock up a division championship for the first time in over half a decade. In a nutshell, it was a perfect day for baseball.
By the third inning, the Rangers were up 5-1 and the normally loud and ecstatic Oakland crowd were now quiet with thoughts now shifting to winning the wildcard game to get into the ALDS. This all changed in the 4th inning when Oakland put up 6 runs, with 2 coming in after Josh Hamilton dropped a ball in centerfield. I’ll remember that moment forever as it seemed so unreal. After that, momentum shifted in Oakland’s favor and they easily won the game with a final score of 12-5. I got to admit, as someone who’s a big fan of the A’s, that was one hell of a birthday.
Anyone that knows me or reads this blog is well aware that my baseball hero is Tony Gwynn. I absolutely worshipped the guy and followed his career as close as humanly possible for the majority of my childhood. With that said, my family left San Diego while I was young and we spent minimal time there after that, usually for random trips during the holidays and summertime. In 1993 I ended up spending a summer in San Diego and I finally got to see Tony Gwynn play in person.
On August 6th, the Padres played the Rockies in a doubleheader and Tony started the day 4 hits away from reaching the career hit 2000. For most players, you can’t count on them getting 4 hits in a doubleheader, but with Tony Gwynn it was pretty much assumed due to his unbelievable hitting ability and the fact that he said he was going to do it. In game 1, he reached base 5 times with 3 hits and 2 walks, which left him at 1999 hits. When game 2 started and 1 hit away from reaching 2000, and those in attendance were ready to see their hometown hero reach the hitting milestone. The inevitable happened in the 6th inning when Tony hit a ball right up the middle against Bruce Ruffin and Jack Murphy Stadium went crazy. By the crowd’s response and the game delay that took place, you’d think it was hit number 3000. This reflects just how much the people of San Diego adored Tony Gwynn. Oh yeah, in typical Gwynn fashion, he was not finished as he knocked in yet another hit after that.
A fun fact about this night is that Tony hit number 3000 exactly 6 years to the day after this, which also happens to be his Mother’s birthday.
San Rafael Pacifics vs. Maui Na Koa Ikaika in 2012 (Bill Lee game)
Bill “Spaceman” Lee is one of my baseball heroes. He may be the complete opposite of someone like Tony Gwynn, but I’ve always loved the guy for his unorthodox approach to the game (and life), what he accomplished on the baseball diamond during his major league career and what he continues to accomplish well into his 60’s. He’s a modern day Satchel Paige and I draw inspiration from him in the sense that I’d love to continue to play baseball into my senior years as well.
When I heard that the Spaceman was going to pitch for the San Rafael Pacifics, a Bay Area minor league independent baseball team in the North American League, I knew I HAD to be there. The day of the game, a few teammates and myself made the 45 minute drive to Albert Park, the home of the Pacifics to watch what turned out to be one hell of a spectacle. There was a buzz in the air and the game was over capacity with ESPN, MLB, The National Baseball Hall of Fame and various other media outlets present to witness the hometown hero attempt to break the record as the oldest man to win a professional baseball game.
What Lee proceeded to do that night still amazes me as he pitched a complete game victory at the age of 65 against guys in their 20’s and 30’s. This is in addition to going 1 for 4 while knocking in the first run of the game for the Pacifics. I filmed the final out (video above) and I’d say it’s worth watching just to see him drop to his knees and kiss the grass while walking off the field.
After going to Game 1 of the ALDS the night before and seeing Max Scherzer and the Tigers narrowly beating my A’s to a final score of 3-2, my expectations were low for Game 2 as Oakland were set to once again battle their postseason nemesis in Justin Verlander. What ended up taking place was an absolute pitchers duel for the ages between Verlander and rookie sensation Sonny Gray.
After the scoreless game was handed to the bullpens, the stand-off continued into the 9th inning. This changed when perennial underdog and my favorite current player in MLB, Stephen Vogt came through with a game-winning RBI single against Detroit reliever Rick Porcello. The Coliseum exploded and Vogt won the hearts of A’s fans for eternity. I remember waking up the next day and my ears were ringing due to how loud the past two nights were. Unfortunately for A’s fans, they eventually lost the series against Detroit in 5 games for second straight year. In retrospect, Game 2 was somewhat bittersweet due to losing the series, but I’ll always remember it due to how unbelievable it was.