It was at that same Opening Day that Jan’s daughter told us a story that shook us to our very core and made us question our own existence. She was a communications or broadcast journalism major at Arizona State in 2001, the year the Diamondbacks beat the Yankees in what is often regarded as the most exciting World Series ever.
The Phoenix Metropolitan Area was enthralled, of course, to find its team with a 2-game lead in the best-of-seven series against the most storied franchise in all of sports — especially since the team was founded a mere four years earlier. After crushing the New York in the first two games in Arizona, they headed to the Bronx, where the Yankees scratched out three thrilling victories. In the months after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, it suddenly didn’t seem so bad to cheer for the Yankees.
After Derek Jeter hit a walk-off home run to tie the series at two games apiece in game four, the announcer Joe Buck said, “It is that time of year again; it is this city again; it is this team again… and on a cool November morning Derek Jeter ends a long, thrilling night of baseball.”
But the Bombers came back to have the heavy artillery of the Big Unit, and the D’backs forced a deciding Game 7. Sitting around the fire pit in the Miller Park parking lot with sleet skewing sideways, Jan’s daughter told us she was at a bar down the street from Bank One Ballpark on that night.
Craig Counsell, the Milwaukee boy who grew up to win a World Series with the Marlins in 1997 and now is a veteran bench players for the Brewers, was hit by a pitch from Mariano Rivera and went to first, loading the bases in the bottom of the ninth. Luis Gonzalez came up to bat.
At the bar, the television feed had an 8-second time delay, so the crowd often knew something was happening because of the cheers from the stadium before they saw it happen on their screens. Suddenly, from up the road there came a deafening roar — the sound of the very Earth itself cracking open. The patrons, packed shoulder-to-shoulder, froze clutching each other in a panic. Then they saw it: Gonzalez hitting a blooper over Jeter’s head FTW and they all, together, lost their minds.
Wow. Good story, we all said. As we walked into stadium, straining to finish the one or two beers we brought for the walk, we all worried that maybe we would never know that joy, that terror. Maybe it will come when we look up to the sky in the few seconds before the Earth explodes in one final flourish — a cataclysm, the Rapture.
Or maybe… Maybe this year…