My Favorite Games: #1

Today is the start of the Major League season. Unless you count the two games played across the ocean. And unless you count the fact that only one game is played today. So maybe the season starts tomorrow. With that in mind my countdown is set to end today. The game that I have chosen will probably never be knocked off the list. It had everything that you could want. A good pitching matchup. Jose Contreras went up against Curt Schilling. You had eleven runs scored. Forty players took the field. This game had everything that you could want. Maybe that is because it took nineteen innings to complete. Today’s game was played on July 9th, 2006. I really did not want to go to this game. I wanted to attend the fireworks on Lake Michigan back at home so I kept trying to buy tickets to Saturday’s game on eBay. I could not get any so I settled for Sunday’s game. I figured it would be no problem getting back to LaPorte by dark. The fireworks were scheduled to start around 9, and the game started at one. Boy was I wrong.
The game was a fun one to watch. In the top of the first Kevin Youkilis walked and was driven in by David Ortiz. That was pretty much standard the last couple of years. The score stayed the same until the fourth inning. With two outs Mike Lowell homered. Jose then walked a batter, gave up a single, walked another batter, then hit a batter to give up another run. He go David Ortiz to fly out to end the inning. Disaster was averted here. Iguchi led off the next inning by hitting a home run. What can I say Iguchi comes up big in games that I go to. In the sixth Jim Thome singled in Brian Anderson to bring the Sox to within one. Konerko and Dye could not get Iguchi home from third though, and the inning ended. The score stayed the same until the ninth inning. Jonathon Papelbon retired the first two batters. Dye then hit a home run that barely cleared the left field wall to tie up the game. I just sat in the stands shaking my head. I had already seen some great things that year, but this was pretty good. The Red Sox scored two in the eleventh because Bobby Jenks was left in the game too long. By the time Ozzie got him out the damage was done. The Sox responded by getting two in the bottom of the inning, but once again they left men on base. Thins pretty much settled down until the bottom of the 19th inning. Cintron, Mackowiak, and Podsednik all singled. So now the bases were loaded with one out. Who could possibly be the batter at the plate? Tadahito Iguchi. He singled scoring Cintron and ended the longest game I have ever seen. I was able to see over two regulation baseball games. I love extra baseball, but I am not sure that I want to break this record just yet. How fitting that the two teams that I historically love to watch play would play a game like this. I was able to see every player on the Sox roster that day except for three players. I have a feeling that it will be sometime before this game gets knocked off the top of the list. Maybe a World Series game could do it.
Incidentally we did make it to the fireworks, but I was so tired from the day that I just went home after I dropped everyone off.

My Favorite Games: #2

Two days after the Barrett sucker punch game I drove the 50 minutes back to Comiskey to watch another White Sox game. This game was special because it was the first time that Frank Thomas returned to Chicago since he left the team that winter. Anyone who knows me knows that I had a love hate relationship with the Big Hurt. For some reason at the end of his stay in Chicago I thought he was doing more harm than good. I even pointed out to anyone who would listen in 2005 that it was no coincidence that in his absence the Sox played better. That being said he is probably one of the greatest ball players that I will ever see, and I am proud that he wore a White Sox uniform. I hope that one day when he is enshrined into Cooperstown he will be wearing a Sox hat. They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder so I actually found two tickets to each game of the series on eBay for under $20 with shipping. The seats were in the upper deck on the first base side, but I like the view and ended up sitting here for some more games that year. One of which is on the countdown already.
On to the game. Jon Garland (who we can greet this year as a member of the Angels) had the daunting task of facing the Big Hurt. Frank came up to the plate to lead off the top of the second, and the ovation was so great that the game actually was stopped. Frank then put us in our seats by hitting a shot to left. The picture below (although bad detail) shows that home run swing. In a way I was glad that he hit the home run, but he was also the enemy now. When he came up to the plate the next time the crowd booed him mercilessly. Such is the nature of Chicago fans. I like you until you do something to hurt our team. It didn’t matter though. Thomas hit another home run. He ended up going 3-5 on the day. Everything so far would be enough for this game to be on the countdown, but wait there is more. The Sox were down 4-1 going in to the bottom of the eighth inning. Jermaine Dye hit a solo shot to get us a little closer. Uribe then hit a double. The tying run would now come to the plate against A’s closer Huston Street. Rob Mackowiak pinch hit for Brian Anderson and hit a two run homer to tie the game. I went crazy. Rob was not a home run hitter, and the ball barely made it over the right field fence. The whole flight of the baseball had me yelling for it to go. Anther two out miracle for the Sox. In the tenth A.J. walked, and advanced to third on an hit by Rob Mackowiak. Pablo Ozuna with two outs bunted the ball down the first base line and beat out the throw. A.J. scored, and the crowd could go home happy. This was one of those games that I thought I would never see again. I thought to myself what could possibly top this. It would take something extra, extra special to knock this game down a rung.
Some games on this countdown I had to rely on outside sources to make sure that some details were correct. This was one game that was written solely on memory. It is etched in there, until another great event knocks it out.

My Favorite Games: #3

As I said yesterday the next three games all came from the 2006 season. It is also another Cubs game at Wrigley field. The one redeeming quality is that the Cubs were playing the White Sox. The game was played on July 1, 2006. It was the Fox game of the week, and the Cubs owned the Sox most of the game. This was shortly after the Barrett sucker punch game that was featured earlier in the countdown. Needless to say the tensions were high between the fans all game. I had my Sox jersey on, and I was just ripped on all game long.
The Sox sent Javier Vazquez on the hill against Greg Maddux. Vazquez gave up 5 runs in six innings off 11 hits including a 3 run blast by Aramis Ramirez. Maddux did not fare much better he gave up four runs in six innings off of 10 hits. Thome hit a two run homer, and Crede hit a solo shot off of Greg. Konerko added a Solo shot off of Eyre in the 7th to pull the Sox a little closer. The real magic happened in the ninth inning though. The Cubs brought in Ryan Dempster to close the game. The Sox started a two out rally that brought some hope to the Sox fans in the crowd. A.J. Pierzynski who had been getting booed all day stepped into the batters box. After the brawl he was a marked man at Wrigley. He pulled a Dempster pitch down the right field line and out of the park for a three run homer that put the Sox ahead. The Sox fans (including me) went crazy. The Cubs fans took it up a notch from us. They were so frustrated with how the season was going that they started throwing things on the field. Jerseys, cups, hot dogs it didn’t matter it went on the field. The last picture on here is off the grounds crew picking up the mess. I have never seen fans so upset with their team. I have a video that I took with my camera that day that shows most of the madness. I was on cloud nine. We did not just beat our rival, but we demoralized them. Before 2006 every Cubs/Sox game that I went to the bad guys won. This was part of the magical year of 2006 for me. Future Cub Neil Cotts had pitched the eighth so he got the win, and Bobby Jenks pitched a perfect ninth (after a delay to clean the field) to get the save. This was a great game that would be number one on my countdown except for two exceptional games.
When I go to another teams stadium I am a low key fan. I know how much I hate fans from other teams that come to my park and act obnoxious. I went against my own unwritten rule at this game. I was on fire letting Cub fans have it. I had an El trip to the South Shore train, and for that two and a half hours I was a walking mouthpiece. I had heard Cub fans rip my Sox for the whole train ride there, and the majority of the game. I snapped and gave a little back to the Cub fans. That is a little out of character for me, but in a way it is totally me.

My Favorite Games: #4

Today’s game was played on June 30th, 2000. I had just come back from Purdue and did not have much money to throw around on sporting events. My friend Joe called me up and asked if I wanted to go to Milwaukee with him. his uncle lived up there and had free tickets to the Cubs game that night. We went up to Milwaukee, watched NASCAR truck qualifying at their track, toured the Miller Brewery, and then went to the Cubs game at County Stadium. I had always wanted to go to the stadium before they tore it down, and thanks to construction delays I was able to. I am not happy that a crane killed someone don’t get me wrong, but I am thankful that I was able to see the stadium. It was a great stadium that I will remember fondly. It was old, and I have been to Miller Park which has many more amenities. There is something about the old stadiums that you have to love. It must be the history involved with them. The large beer barrel in center field. The old school scoreboard. The fact it looks so small from the road. And also the Green Bay Packers played in that stadium at one time. What more could you ask for? Anyway on to the game.
The Cubs were down three going in to the eight inning. They got one back on a homer in the eighth, and then scored two in the ninth. What I remember most about those runs were the way that they were scored. For the seventh inning stretch in Milwaukee they play ‘Roll Out the Barrel.” I was singing along with the song, and because of the long day I kept singing it. I was singing it when Reed hit the solo shot in the eighth. I was also singing it when a run was walked in, and then another scored on an error in the ninth. I just knew that my singing caused extra innings. As the game went on I just knew that I would get to sing the song again in the middle of the 14th inning. I was all keyed up to do so and even went dancing up and down the mostly deserted aisle. I am sure someone put me on WGN acting like a fool. I was also singing the song when Sammy Sosa doubled in Girardi and Leiber to win the game in the 15th. A great day at a new stadium, and what at the time was my longest game ever made for a memorable occasion. Until 2006 this game was by far my favorite ever. They next three games come from that year. Only three days left on this countdown. Hard to believe. The season is almost here.

My Favorite Games: #5

Todays games took place on September 2nd, 2003. This day was made possible by the rainout of the mother’s day game earlier in the countdown. We sent in our tickets and requested the game on 9/2 to replace it. We got our wish, but I never heard anything more about it. Without knowing what the status was on the game my friend Rob bought tickets to the night game. When I got the replacement tickets in the mail I realized that we had created a doubleheader. This would be a great day where we would be able to watch 18 innings of baseball. The first game was started by Carlos Zambrano. He pitched seven innings allowing only 2 earned runs. The Cardinals also gave up two runs, but they were unearned due to an Albert Pujols error. That error was costly for me because since he was playing the Cubs he became my favorite player for the day. Rob got sick of me talking about what a great player he was. Overall the pitching was great on the day. It was so great in fact that the game went to extra innings. In the bottom of the 15th all former Cub Jeff Fassero had to do was get Sammy Sosa to ground into a double play to end the inning. So far in the game Sosa was 0-5 so the prospects were looking good. Instead he served up a meatball that Sosa crushed to end the game and send the crowd into a frenzy. The crowd in the bleachers went absolutely wild. I have never been a part of so many drunk people losing control of their inhibitions. This was a well played game that had a dramatic inning. It was fun to be a part of.
Game two would not be on this countdown if not for its ties to game one. Matt Morris went up against Kerry Wood. Wood gave up both runs in the game and the Cardinals won 2-0. Jim Edmonds hit the game winning home run in the second inning. Not quite as dramatic as the home run hit in game one. Sammy Sosa came into the game late and went 0-1. On the day he was 1-7, but that one was a big one.
That is four Cubs-Cardinals games out of 26 in this countdown. I am starting to think that I am a closet fan of one of these teams. Either that or a sports junkie who will go to anything that you ask him to. I went into the day excited about seeing 18 innings of baseball. I ended up seeing 24. For a sports junkie that is a great day no matter who is playing.

My Favorite Games: #5

Todays games took place on September 2nd, 2003. This day was made possible by the rainout of the mother’s day game earlier in the countdown. We sent in our tickets and requested the game on 9/2 to replace it. We got our wish, but I never heard anything more about it. Without knowing what the status was on the game my friend Rob bought tickets to the night game. When I got the replacement tickets in the mail I realized that we had created a doubleheader. This would be a great day where we would be able to watch 18 innings of baseball. The first game was started by Carlos Zambrano. He pitched seven innings allowing only 2 earned runs. The Cardinals also gave up two runs, but they were unearned due to an Albert Pujols error. That error was costly for me because since he was playing the Cubs he became my favorite player for the day. Rob got sick of me talking about what a great player he was. Overall the pitching was great on the day. It was so great in fact that the game went to extra innings. In the bottom of the 15th all former Cub Jeff Fassero had to do was get Sammy Sosa to ground into a double play to end the inning. So far in the game Sosa was 0-5 so the prospects were looking good. Instead he served up a meatball that Sosa crushed to end the game and send the crowd into a frenzy. The crowd in the bleachers went absolutely wild. I have never been a part of so many drunk people losing control of their inhibitions. This was a well played game that had a dramatic inning. It was fun to be a part of.
Game two would not be on this countdown if not for its ties to game one. Matt Morris went up against Kerry Wood. Wood gave up both runs in the game and the Cardinals won 2-0. Jim Edmonds hit the game winning home run in the second inning. Not quite as dramatic as the home run hit in game one. Sammy Sosa came into the game late and went 0-1. On the day he was 1-7, but that one was a big one.
That is four Cubs-Cardinals games out of 26 in this countdown. I am starting to think that I am a closet fan of one of these teams. Either that or a sports junkie who will go to anything that you ask him to. I went into the day excited about seeing 18 innings of baseball. I ended up seeing 24. For a sports junkie that is a great day no matter who is playing.

My Favorite Games: #6

This is game that started it all. This was the very first Major League game that I attended on August 25th, 1985. I kept asking myself how this game is not in the top 5. I really tried to get it in there, but just could not. I have five actual games that are much better than this one. The experience of this one though was great. First you have to go back to the first time you walked into a Major League stadium for the first time. It was something else to see your heroes on the field taking batting practice. I really had no favorite player so they were all my heroes. Somehow my dad got us in some tunnel under the stadium where we ran into Rich Dotson. He signed my program, and that was that. I had met a ballplayer at my first game! Then we just sat outside of some room for a few minutes. What happened next would alter my childhood tremendously. My dad told me that one of the players was in a slump, and that he would probably be taking extra batting practice in this room. The door opened, and out came Carlton Fisk. I knew he was the star of the team so I nervously asked him for his autograph. He was walking fast, but after about ten feet he stopped and looked for me and asked me if I wanted it or not. He signed his name in my program on his picture, and went about his business. How many people get to meet their hero at the same time they become their hero? I have since met him one other time, but this one will always stick in my brain.
The actual game was won by the Sox 5-3 over the Toronto Blue Jays. It was an amazing result because the Sox were not that good, and the Blue Jays were a playoff team. I guess they knew that memories were being made that day. Floyd Bannister out dueled Jimmy Key to get the win. George Bell homered for the Jays, and Baines homered for the White Sox. The Baines shot was part of a four run first inning for the Sox. My new idol Carlton Fisk went 0-3 on the day. Not everything was meant to be I guess. That day I did get a sweet new backpack that had the Sox logo on it just for attending the game! As a kid this blew my mind. I was thrilled to be at the game, but they were paying me to be there. I wanted to go all the time. Sadly the backpack was cloth and broke the very first day of school. I guess they needed to up their pay.
On a side note August 25th has been a special day to me ever since this game. It is ironic that this post comes on March 25th. A day that is historically bad luck for me. Hopefully this does not jinx the August date by having them in such close proximity.

My Favorite Games: #7

This game was played in June 10th, 2006 between the Sox and the Indians. C.C. Sabathia went up against Mark Buehrle. This was another game that it appeared that the Sox had lost. It was the Fox game of the week. The great pitching matchup really produced a low scoring game. Sabathia gave up one run on four hits in six innings. Mark gave up two runs on 6 hits in 8 innings. Scott Podsednik hit a pinch hit single in the eighth to tie the game and eventually send it to extra innings. Victor Marinez hit his second home run of the day in the 11th to put the Tribe up by one. Once again I put my things away, and was ready to make a quick exit. The Sox answered in the bottom half though scoring 2 to win the game. Once again the man who ended the game with a big hit was Tadahito Iguchi who hit a single with two outs to win the game. The play before Ozuna hit one to the outfield with Mackowiak on second and Rob was tagged out at the plate for the second out. On the throw Ozuna moved into second to set up the heroics. Another great game in 2006. I must have been blessed.

My Favorite Games: #8

This game was played on June 25th, 2006. It was a matchup of the previous years World Series that was telecast on ESPN for Sunday Night Baseball. It was supposed to be a 1:05 start, but that changed to 7:00 for TV. I was not able to go to any World Series games so for me this was it. Roy Oswalt was matched up against Javier Vazquez. Javier gave up nine earned runs in just six innings pitched. The game was pretty much over when the top of the eighth inning started. The Sox were down 9-2. I was already packing my things to beat the rush. That is when Tadahito Iguchi stepped up to the plate and hit a three run homer off of Russ Springer to pull the sox to within four. That is all that we could muster in the inning so we went to the ninth. In the ninth we loaded the bases. Who could it be up at the plate. Tadahito Iguchi. I have said it a couple of times in this countdown, but they should have paid me to attend games. Iguchi was unstoppable when I was in the stadium. Iguchi turned around a Brad Lidge pitch for a grand slam to left center. The stadium went absolutely crazy. I have never seen it so wild. That is why this game gets a spot in the top ten. The Sox went on to lose the game in the 13th, but those two innings were part of the never say die attitude that we had that whole year. If things looked bleak I would just load up my stuff, and in the process we came back. A couple more instances of this will come up later in the countdown. By the way what was supposed to be an afternoon game ended later than heck at night making me very tired at work on Monday. It was okay though. I had a great story to tell.

My Favorite Games: #9

This is a game that was mentioned earlier in the countdown. In 2003 I saw both the first and the last games in a home series against the Red Sox. I already had tickets to the Thursday game, but this game on Monday was a surprise. My brother’s girlfriend got tickets to the game, and I was able to go. This game was a great contest. Two teams that I enjoy watching going head to head. Pedro Martinez had just come off the DL and took the mound for the Red Sox. Mark Buehrle was on the mound for the Sox. Pedro looked good, but could only go five innings. His replacement Ryan Rupe gave up a three run homer to Joe Crede that ended up being the game winner. Buerhle pitched eight innings only giving up one earned run. That was on a Manny Ramirez 2 out home run. Besides the Crede jack the Sox offense was held pretty much in check. His heroics helped the Sox to a 4-2 victory. Flash Gordon came in to save the game for the White Sox.