Moments to remember

Cal Ripken Jr. is No. 1, the World Series is tied and Ray Liotta has something strange on his head.

By King Kaufman

Published October 24, 2002 7:00PM (EDT)

Now that the Most Memorable Moment in baseball history, as voted on by you, the fans, has been revealed, we can all get back to the main question of the 2002 World Series: What were those kids planning on "Boston Public"?

The 10 Most Memorable Moments in baseball history thing, as voted on by you, the fans, was baseball's gambit o' the night for making sure that all World Series games start late enough that no kid east of the Rockies can see the end of one without Child Protective Services coming into play. The ceremony, led by Billy Crystal, Andy Garcia and Ray Liotta, listed in ascending order of career decrepitude, was not as barfy as I expected it to be, although my expectations of barfiness were Brobdingnagian.

They counted down from Memorable Moment No. 10 (I think it was Steve Lyons pulling his pants down on the field) through No. 5 (Dave Winfield braining a seagull with a throw in Toronto), all the way to No. 1, as voted on by you, the fans. The winner turned out to be Cal Ripken Jr. breaking Lou Gehrig's consecutive game record in 1995. All the while the creepy Olympic Opening Ceremonies music gushed and crescendoed, thousands of American men looked at Ray Liotta's bad perm and reconsidered two decades of trying to act like his character in "GoodFellas," and Ripken looked appropriately embarrassed.

To paraphrase George S. Kaufman (no relation), they could put the world's second largest telescope inside the world's largest, and it still wouldn't be able to detect my interest in what you, the fans, voted as baseball's Most Memorable Moment, but I'll say two things about it:

First, I'm surprised that baseball and the credit card company that this whole thing is a commercial for didn't make Jackie Robinson's rookie season the No. 1 moment regardless of the vote, because that would have been both the politic and the nice thing to do, and nobody would have been the wiser. And second, anybody who thinks Cal Ripken Jr. breaking a meaningless counting record is the most memorable moment in baseball history would find a brief, informal study of baseball history to be both informative and entertaining. That was a nice night and everything, but baseball history is just a wee bit richer than that.

Speaking of which, this is turning into a nice little World Series, with three one-run games out of the first four, and a guarantee of at least a Game 6. The Anaheim Angels nibbled and pounded San Francisco Giants starter Kirk Rueter for three runs and seven hits in the first three innings of Game 4 Wednesday, and it looked like they were on their way to a third straight double-figure score and a 3-1 Series lead. But Rueter settled down, and he, Felix Rodriguez, Tim Worrell and Robb Nen allowed the Angels only three more hits and no runs the rest of the way.

The Giants, meanwhile, pushed across three runs in the fifth inning against Angels starter John Lackey on four hits, two of which didn't leave the infield. You sort of knew it was going to be the Giants' night after the second of those.

With Rueter at first after a 15-foot infield single, Kenny Lofton bunted along the third base line, trying for a hit. The Angels, with no hope of getting the speedy Lofton, let the ball alone, hoping it would go foul. It rolled along the chalk for a while, then appeared to curve into fair territory. The crowd roared. But wait! Still rolling, it bounced off the edge of the grass and angled back toward the foul line with Angels third baseman Troy Glaus standing over it. It crossed over the line and rolled into foul ground, and Glaus bent over to grab it. But Glaus is 6-foot-5, and in the instant it took him to get his hand down to earth, the ball rolled back onto the line. It was on the chalk when Glaus touched it. Fair ball. Base hit. Lewis and Clark followed a straighter path than the ball had.

Two singles and a sacrifice fly later -- sandwiched around the inevitable intentional walk of Barry Bonds, the third of the night but the first that was followed by a Giants score -- the game was tied.

After Bonds, the most talked-about man at this World Series has been Francisco Rodriguez, the Angels' 20-year-old Venezuelan fireballer who has been overwhelming in middle and setup relief in the postseason despite having pitched just five and two-thirds innings of regular-season ball in the major leagues. The Angels believe, with good reason, that if they can get to their bullpen with a lead or a tie score, they've got a good chance to win, especially now that they have Rodriguez.

After Ben Weber pitched an inning of shutout relief, the Angels brought in Rodriguez to pitch to the heart of the Giants order -- Jeff Kent, Bonds and Benito Santiago -- in the seventh. No problem. He blew them away. But in the eighth J.T. Snow, whose bat has suddenly revived in this postseason after about three years of slumber, led off with a single. After a passed ball and a popped up bunt by Reggie Sanders, David Bell singled him home. Nen pitched a shutout ninth and the Giants had tied the Series.

The Giants' Game 4 win was a lot like their Game 1 win. Tense, close, exciting, but not the stuff of Most Memorable Moments as voted on by you, the fans. The Angels' wild Game 2 win was more along those lines.

But this World Series has a good chance of reasonably Memorable Momenthood. The teams appear to be as closely matched as they seemed before the Series started, and Barry Bonds is around, alternately being walked, clouting gargantuan home runs and hitting smoking grounders into the glove of Angels first baseman Scott Spiezio for outs.

There's also Rodriguez, and a good selection of characters with a chance to become picturesque, or picaresque, heroes. There's ancient Benito Santiago and long-suffering Tim Salmon, plucky David Eckstein and lucky David Bell, whose father and grandfather were both better players than he is but never got a chance to shine in the Fall Classic. (Grandpa Gus went 0-for-3 in 1961.)

The Game 1 starters, Jarrod Washburn and Jason Schmidt, go again in Game 5 Thursday, and then the Series returns to Anaheim for Game 6 Saturday. Here's hoping we get to see some Moments even more Memorable than Memorable Moment No. 3, as voted on by you, the fans: Disco Demolition Night.

King Kaufman

King Kaufman is a senior writer for Salon. You can e-mail him at king at salon dot com. Facebook / Twitter / Tumblr

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