A long time ago, in a galaxy identical to our own, I went to see Star Wars: Attack of the Clones on my twenty-first birthday. (This probably says something about me, that rather than go to a bar I opted for a sci-fi flick (there was some drinking at midnight the eve before, but still...)). It was May 17, 2002, and I will forever remember the Twins game from that day.
They were playing the Yankees in New York that night, and my friends and I had caught a good portion of the game prior to the screening of the film. It was the end of the 6th inning when we went into the film, and the Twins had just pulled ahead 9-8, with a 6 run outburst. We were feeling pretty good when we walked into the theater. Walking back out we were still feeling good, though slightly numbed from George Lucas' awful dialogue. We decided we'd find a restaurant where we could catch a bite to eat and a last birthday brew.
Getting back into the car we were shocked to hear that the game was still on. The Yankees had tied it up in the bottom of the 9th on a home run by Bernie Williams. We came in at the end of the 13th, where a perfect relay from Denny Hocking caught Jason Giambi at the plate as he tried to score the winning run. Giambi was in his first season as a Yankee, and really hadn't done anything noteworthy yet. It felt pretty good to hear our defense keep that frustration going.
They moved quickly into the 14th inning, and things were going well. As we drove to the bar the Twins strung together a bunch of hits and pulled ahead, 12 to 9. The inning ended and the Yankees were coming to bat as we pulled into the restaurant. The Twins were up by three and we felt like celebrating. We got out of the car. Some other friends had rethought staying out, as we'd caravaned to the restaurant, and so they were going to head back home. We said our goodbyes and they pulled away.
This all took a while, and by the time we actually made it into the restaurant the Yankees had the bases loaded. Jason Giambi stepped to the plate. We walked through the door, looked up at the TV screen above the bar, watched the ball sail out of the park for a game-winning walk-off grand slam. Ouch.
I honestly don't remember if we stayed at the restaurant or just turned around and walked out. All I know is that we had been on a high. A Twins win had seemed almost certain. They were up by 3 in the 14th. What are the odds? But that's the way it goes with the Yankees: they're a team that causes an utter obliteration of joy.
I still feel the pain of that game to this day. Everyone has those painful baseball memories. For me, that game is number one on the list of worst baseball moments.
It seems too that ever since that game the Twins play the Yankees every year around my birthday. Maybe not exactly, but sometime in mid-May. And it always seems like they're some of the most painful losses we could ever suffer.
This year again the Yankees took a birthday - Morneau's - and crushed his otherwise beautiful day (2 HR!). I felt good throughout the game, but I've learned my lesson, and wasn't too surprised when things ended the way they did. I'm expecting much the same when my birthday rolls around on Sunday.
I know better than to trust a lead in Yankee stadium in mid-May. It's just a prelude to the pain.