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.