Baseball has its all-time greats residing in our minds and in the
Hall of Fame; plaques that speak of high consistency and of longevity,
And the excellence that we aspire to, if not in sport, then in our work and lives.
These are players that we worship, masters of the meaningfully expected,
Worthy of the pilgrimage taken every year to Cooperstown — legends, even gods . . .
But they are just a part of the never-ending story,
A magnificent but limited chapter of the Majors and its legacy.
Just as vital to the game are the unexpected heroes of post-season
And they are worthy of our time; there are more than you might think:
In 1969, the New York Mets, after finishing next to last the year before,
Led by Seaver, took on the powerful Orioles — and won the Series,
Partly thanks to two unexpected success stories: Donn Clendenon,
Who didn’t play in the NLCS, hit homers that broke ties in Games 2 and 4
And another in the final game, then was honored as the Series MVP —
But even more unexpected was the contribution from Al Weiss,
Who hit .215 during the season but answered the call and in the Series
Made solid connections and raised his game to bat .455! (and an OPS of 1.290).
There are images that can’t escape our minds — Kirk Gibson’s limping
Around the bases, badly injured but hitting the winning homer for L. A.
Against Eckersley, a future Hall-of-Famer, in the ’88 Series’ first game; it was
His injury, severe and limiting, that made his pressure-filled heroics unexpected.
A pair of Yankees, Bucky Dent and Aaron Boone, hit home runs dramatically.
Boone’s won the final game of the 2003 ALCS, a walk-off in extra innings;
Dent, a very light hitter, hit his in ’78 to decide the AL East Champ
In a single playoff game, sending home so many disappointed fans, shocking them
With his Fenway shot, haunting them with the sale of the Bambino many years before.
So many surprise heroics by the Astros’ Backe, the Athletics’ Ehmke,
The Giants’ Renteria, the Rays’ Brosseau, the Red’s Bates, The White Sox’s Blum,
The A’s’ Tenace, the Angels’ Kennedy, the Padres’ Hitchcock, the Pirates’
Holdzkom — the list goes on and it will never be completed: Baseball is a winner
Because it surprises us — and its heroes come from unexpected places all the time.