STEEEEEPHEN STRAAAASBURG (clap-clap, clapclapclap)

At the end of the seventh inning, when the kid was about to mow down the side Yet Still Again against the Pittsburgh Pirates, the chant went up. It built to an enormous, stadium-shaking, sing-song roar: STEEEEEPHEN STRAAAAAASBURG (clap-clap, clapclapclap)…STEEEEEPHEN STRAAAAAASBURG (clap-clap, clapclapclap)…

Strasburg got Strike Three, walked off the mound with that bow-legged cowboy strut of his, and I couldn’t help but think there was a new sheriff in town. And the best baseball game I’ve ever seen reached its dramatic high point.

It is simply not possible to put in words what it was like to be standing in the crowd at Nationals Stadium as the seventh inning ended. The joy, the outright jubilation, poured across the park in waves. Strasburg had just put on an utterly electrifying display, striking out 14 in those seven innings, incredibly walking no one, and giving up one homer on what actually was a decent pitch.

I’ve been in the crowd for World Series and playoff games; I’ve seen major league games in 11 different stadiums; I have seen many of the greatest players of the last 50 years play ball in person. I heard Bob Gibson’s record-setting 1968 Series game via the transistor radio I sneaked into my second-grade classroom; I was building my high school sophomore class float for Homecoming when I saw Carlton Fisk wrap his homer around the left field pole in ’75; I was practicing for a gig in an old furniture warehouse and listening to the radio play-by-play when the Mets of ’86 made that amazing Game 6 comeback; I was part of the crowd at Camden Yards when The Streak came to an unexpected end in ’98. None of those things — none of them — was as thrilling as watching this kid start his major league career.

Get your tickets now. See what happens when a town falls in love with a new baseball star, especially a humble kid who’s been given gifts that one pitcher per lifetime might be lucky enough to receive. You’re going to want to witness this, because it’s not just a celebration of a new star — it may, at long last, be the end of accursed baseball in Washington.

Randy

5 Comments

  1. You are getting sucked in for the inevitable, in only the way baseball can do it, rip your heart out like when you discover your girlfriend made “special friends” with the entire visiting football team, letdown. Hopefully it will be fun till then.

  2. Randy,

    When I read this post, I thought you were a tad over the top in hyping the experience. You know, caught up in the moment. Well, a dash of envy very well might have colored my first impression as well. But then I read this comment on the game from Charles Krauthammer:

    “Yes. I was there. I must say, it was the best game I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot. I saw Sandy Koufax [pitch] . . . The greatest performance in a debut ever and the most exciting game I think I’ve ever seen.”

    Okay, okay, if Strasburg can coax agreement out of you and Mr. Krauthammer, then you must be right!

    Noel

  3. You also have to understand the pain associated with baseball in Washington. The phrase “First in war, first in peace and last in the American League” was created for a reason, with two iterations of the godawful Senators destroying generations of hopes and dreams. Then came the Nationals, with their high-profile management and exciting new owners, and they promptly led the National League East for the first half of their first season. And then everything went into the dumper; last year’s team was the most pathetic excuse for a major league ball team I’ve ever seen, and nights at the park were exercises in pain.

    And then the Nats started winning a little and — even better — stopped playing such consistently boneheaded baseball this year. Pudge and Hernandez have been terrific; Zimmerman and Dunn have performed like Zimmerman and Dunn; really, only Nyjer Morgan has truly disappointed, and he always might turn things around. And then Drew Storen and Steven Strasburg showed up, and we’ve got another kid in successful-so-far elbow rehab — Jordan Zimmermann — who was the team’s best pitcher last year.

    Suddenly, the Nats are deep in starters (Strasburg, Zimmermann, Hernandez, Jason Marquis when he heals, John Lannan, Luis Atilano), deep in the pen (three legit closer types out there now — somebody will probably get put on the block), have some outfield defense and speed, are at least somewhat scary from the 1-6 spots in the batting order and genuinely tough 3-6…but really need to improve their defense, especially right up the middle. This is why people are excited: We might not suck and we don’t know how to handle that.

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