On Wednesday I took my son to the first post-season game at Pacific Bell Park, and watched the San Francisco Giants take the New York Mets down decisively with great pitching, clutch hitting and some brilliant defense. And all against the Big Bad Nine-and-0 (against the Giants) Left-Handed Monster, Mike Hampton. There we were, 40,930 people barking like kenneled fools in the top of the ninth as closer Robb Nen shut the Mets down. It was sweet.
Or so I thought, until I turned on ESPN's "SportsCenter" that night and learned I had the game all wrong. The Mets was robbed by a team from the wrong coast when a meek, bought-off umpire, under the sway of Barry Bonds' superstar aura, brazenly refused to call Bonds out on what all the ESPN commentators and all the Mets they interviewed could clearly see should have been a called third strike by the Mighty Hampton, who was then so dispirited that Bonds cheaply slapped a hit down the right-field line, driving in the go-ahead run, and then, even longer after the inning should have been over, Ellis Burks hit a cheap 90-foot-high home run off the left-field foul pole, driving in more runs! How unfair is that? It almost wasn't a home run and they counted it as a home run! Against New York guys! And this in a game when every other ball-and-strike call was right-on and robotlike, just like they have been all year!
And then in the next inning Giants third baseman Bill Mueller cheaply caught a line drive that was such a righteous hit that it almost ripped the webbing out of Mueller's glove -- and they still ruled it an out! It nearly ripped his glove apart and they still counted it as an out against the New York Guy! It was almost a hit! The gods must be crazy!!! There's dismay and consternation in Bristol, Conn., alright.
Now if the Giants win, the whole series is tainted. The Mets had the Giants all the way, except for that one pitch, even if the Mets' No. 2 through 6 hitters went something like 2-for-17. If the Giants go on to take the World Series, surely Sports Illustrated will run a photo on its cover of Bonds not being called out on that pitch.
Thursday night I must try to sneak in to see how the Giants find a way to cheat Mets pitcher Al Leiter. Or else I can wait and watch it on "SportsCenter."
"The very ink with which history is written is merely fluid prejudice."
-- Mark Twain
"History is always written wrong, and so always needs to be rewritten."
-- George Santayana
"It was a great pitch. It's just a shame we couldn't get the call."
-- Mike Piazza on "SportsCenter"
Postscript: Thursday night the Mets beat the Giants 5-4 in 10 innings, ending the game on a questionable called third strike to Barry Bonds. Last word from SportsCenter, as Bonds winced at Strike Three: "That's for Mike Hampton." And all's right with the world.