Two of my closest friends told me that they missed the end of game six of the World Series last week. In both instances I was stunned, since both are avid baseball fans (well, maybe not as avid as me, but then I’m a total nut for the game). And in both instances, their reasons struck me as almost unbelievable.
Before I get to their “excuses,” let me bring everyone (especially those for whom baseball is that sport that fills up the few months from the end of the basketball season to the start of the football season) up to date.
The sixth game of this year’s World Series was one of the truly great World Series games of all time. In my lifetime, only the sixth game of the 1975 Series (when the Red Sox beat the Cincinnati Reds on a “Stay fair! Stay fair!” home run by Carlton Fisk) and the seventh game of the 1960 series (when Bill Mazeroski’s walk off home run gave the Pirates the victory over the Yankees) rival it.
Simply stated, game six of this year’s Series was one of those games that baseball fans talk about forever.
Both teams were tense (five errors were committed in the first five innings, which might be some kind of a record, but the game was too exciting to look it up), and the starting pitchers were out of there almost before they had warmed up.
The score was tied as the game moved to the seventh inning. Then the Rangers erupted, scoring three runs, two on back-to-back homers, to take a 7-4 lead into the later innings. After getting the first out in the eighth, they needed only five more outs to secure their first-ever world championship. It wasn’t going to happen.
Things started to get interesting when the Cardinals closed to within two runs on an eighth inning homer. But the Rangers still had it in the bag in the ninth, or they should have. They had their flame-throwing closer, Neftali Feliz ready to end the game. But he couldn’t do it.
With two outs, and runners on first and second, he got two strikes on the Cards’ third baseman, David Freese. He should have made Freese chase a pitch, but instead he threw one too close to the plate and Freese nailed it, sending a scorching line drive deep to right.
But the game still should have ended, with a catch against the wall, but the Rangers’ right fielder, Nelson Cruz, was inexplicably playing too shallow and then didn’t get a good read on the hit. It crashed off the wall, and the two Cardinal base runners scampered home to tie the game.
Feliz got the next out, leaving Freese stranded at third, and then the Rangers took control again, scoring two runs in the top of the tenth on a Kirk Gibson-like home run by Josh Hamilton, who had played the whole series with a bad groin injury. And this time, as the Cards came to bat in the bottom of the inning, they appeared all but dead, with two weak subs due up followed by the pitcher (they were out of possible pinch hitters due to earlier substitutions).
But the Rangers gave it up again. This time it was the manager who did something inexplicable. He pulled Feliz and replaced him with a 41-year old veteran whose pitches probably can’t break glass. And, sure enough, the first two hitters reached base on singles, were sacrificed up a base by the pitcher and scored on a ground out and a base hit (that last hit again coming with two strikes on the batter).
And so, once again, the Cards, down to their last strike, had averted defeat.
The Rangers went down in order in the eleventh inning. But in the bottom half, Freese, the same player who had saved the game with his triple in the ninth, hit a bomb to straight away center that easily cleared the fence for one of the most dramatic walk-off home runs in World Series history.
But then, the game was full of those kinds of moments, the kind of moments that a true fan lives for. And to see them in a must-win game for one team (really for both teams, because as we now know, losing the game ultimately meant losing the series for the Rangers) was to see history unfold before our eyes.
So, with all of that going on, how did my two friends miss the exciting conclusion of the game? In both instances their spouses insisted that they change the channel to watch something else.
And that brings me to the topic for today’s lesson in marital harmony: Know who controls the remote.
In my family, my wife lets me control it most of the time. (Notice how I said that.) She has her favorite programs (mostly reality shows on the food channel, the golf channel, and the home and garden channel). I have mine (baseball games, coverage of baseball on the MLB channel, and the political news shows on MSNBC and CNN).
We both enjoy good movies and sometimes watch a classic on TCM (Turner Classic Movies) or a more current release on one of the pay cables (we get them all – HBO, Cinemax, Starz, Showtime, et al.).
But when push comes to shove, I’m in charge of the remote.
Er, let me put it another way, when the sixth game of the World Series is developing into one of the greatest games of all time, my wife is kind enough to let me control what we watch.
My friends (the two who weren’t allowed to watch the end of the game) claim to have good marriages. For all I know, they do. But when it comes to control of the remote, they make sacrifices that I don’t have to make. It’s all about communication. In a good marriage, the spouse who needs to control the remote is allowed to do so.
For my friends’ sakes, I’m hoping that their wives read this column.