North of the 400

North of Toronto, South of a championship

The Houston Marathon / By the Rocket’s Red Glare

with 2 comments

Yesterday, we all (at least those of us not watching NFL, Nascar, NHL or the Cooking Channel) saw one of the longest, most exciting and most dramatic baseball game in recent memory.. we all saw one man, who has a knack for saving the day, hold an entire team at bay when it was needed the most, while another fell apart at the seams. But this story starts almost two decades ago, in 1986…

It was in the same town, although in a different venue, in the National League Championship Series, that we saw (as broadcasted by ABC, if my memory serves correctly) New York Mets and the Houston Astros play a 16 inning marathon in the old Astrodome for entry to the World Series – and when the Mets finally won, it was the longest game ever played in postseason baseball.

And it was less then two weeks later, in Boston’s Fenway Park, that Roger Clemens led the Red Sox to what should have been a series-winning victory – until the Red Sox bullpen let the Mets tie in the 9th. Then, only one inning later Mookie Wilson’s ground ball dribbled between the legs of Bill Buckner (who, if the Red Sox had won, would have been a major candidate for playoff MVP) in one of the most infamous baseball errors of all time.

In the nineteen years since that game-ending error, the Astros have never again been as close to the World Series, Bill Buckner moved to Idaho, the Astrodome was left empty and Roger Clemens won two World Series, eventually winding up with the Astros.

We now go to the 1992 World Series – where the Toronto Blue Jays defeat the Atlanta Braves. Or the 1991 World Series, a victory for the Minnesota Twins over the Braves. Or the 1996 or 1999 World Series. Or any MLB Postseason from 1991 to the present. Every year, save 1995, they lost. And they needed a victory this year, save they lose to the NL Wild Card.

So, we finally arrive at Minute Maid Park in Houston – The Astros lead the series 2-1 but the Braves lead 6-5 in the top of the ninth inning. However, an Astros home run sends the game to extra frames. And the game remains tied. Running out of relief pitchers, the Astros are forced to call in one of their starting pitchers – Roger Clemens. But still, nobody scores.

NFL games that started at the same general time as the game have all ended; games that started at at 4 are getting close to halftime. Still, nobody scores. Atlanta changes pitchers. Not a single runner scores. The clock ticks ever closer to six PM EST.

By now, all of the football games that are still playing are in their fourth quarter. All the existing time records for a Major League Division Series have been broken – and it’s getting close to the all-time Baseball Postseason record – that fateful night in Houston almost 20 years before. Still, not a run scores. Indeed, it could be argued that only one man is still keeping the Astros in the game: Roger Clemens, pitching his heart out and keeping the bats of the Braves at bay.

It was close to seven, almost six hours since the game started, when the Astros hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 18th. Who hit it is almost irrelevant, like who finished first in the last leg of the Tour de France or the winner of the Bronze Medal game of the World Cup; it was only needed because of the masterful pitching of the Rocket, who came out the bullpen and delivered when it was needed the most and who, in the process, looked like that other famous Texan who pitched for the Astros; like Nolan Ryan in the fading light of the Texas sun.


Written by M.

October 10, 2005 at 8:22 pm

2 Responses

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  1. That brings back memories.

    In fact, you might like my novel.

    Graham Jones

    October 10, 2005 at 11:05 pm

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    October 13, 2005 at 9:02 am

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