The Nor'easters are considered a fun team to play by our opponents. I am pretty sure of this. We can laugh at ourselves when necessary and tip our hats to our opponents when they get the better of us. But we are also a team populated mostly with alpha males. We know what a big game is and we like to compete and win. This game was circled, and we were going to play it in Al Lang Stadium (now called Progressive Field). It was the most beautiful park I have ever played a baseball game in. Everything about it was perfect, including the weather and the opponent.
With Grass on the mound, smiling that smile to the hitters this time, we had to score off a very good pitcher, the Virginian free agent pitching for the Thunder.
Although the game was full of scoring opportunities for both teams, the Nor'easter third inning was the game changer. Web and Nails led off with singles, and after fouling off a SAC attempt, Joltin' clutched a single to left, loading the bases. "Mike" followed with a Ribbi single and the first run of the game. The Thunder then made two nice force plays at home, only to be foiled by a clutch Ice 2-out single for a run. The Thunder run came in the 5th, with Omar blooping in a 2-out single for an unearned run. This is how the game stayed until the top of the 7th.
Nothing else I know of feels like being on a baseball field in the last inning of a big game just needing 3 more outs. We had the bottom of their order up (at least the guys who would have been the bottom of their order). Bo fisted a little bloop to Ski at second. One out. Wally, fouled off several good Grass pitches and finally blooped a single over Ski's head. Getting these 3 outs would be water torture... Drip...Doc bunted right back to Grass, who looked at second and then decided to get Doc at first, Ski covering. The throw wizzed past Ski and down the right field line...Drip...Wally ended up on 3rd, Doc on second. It could have been worse...Drip...Hap mercifully hit a 3-hopper back to Grass who checked Wally at 3rd and threw him out. Two outs...Drip...Kris Gaida is now standing in the batters box with the game on the line; with Sammy and Omar to follow. The last time I was in left field with a 1-run lead in the last inning and Kris was up, he tripled to right center...Omar homered on the next pitch...Drip, Drip...Grass got Chris to fly to Web in right and we win. halle freakin' lujah!!.
Ahh, what a feeling. Packing up our gear and heading to the Clubhouse after a cross-town bus ride. I took one more look around Al Land Stadium as I headed to the Stadium exit beyond sunny and wind-blown left field...where I had spent most of this tense game. "Hey Buck!", I heard from above me, and there was Dog! Dog had come over to watch the end of the game but the game flew by so quickly that he had missed it. Dog had pitched right here as a Yankee Rookie in 1961. We briefed each other on the day's events, Dog telling me that the wooden bleachers had been replaced with the current concrete version. I can't tell you how great it was seeing Dog there at the end of the game.Game 5 Box Score 1-22-11
Nor'easters 2, Thunder 1