Jul 12, 2011

On May 11, 2011,

Rest in peace, brother.
The A's battled the Rangers in Arlington, Texas, on a "get-away" day.  It was A's All-Star, Gio Gonzalez, facing off against the Rangers' lefty, Matt Harrison.  Harrison had been battered by the A's up in Oakland about a week and a half earlier, a game which I attended.  We sat right behind the Rangers' dugout and when Harrison trudged back to the dugout after one and two-thirds innings, someone whose features and build are eerily similar to mine yelled at Harrison, "Hey, Harry! Thanks for showing up today!" Right before Harrison ducked in to the dugout he looked up to find the heckler but looked in the wrong direction.

So, Harry was looking for redemption, or revenge, of a sort.  (Or more likely, was a professional and just wanted to help the ball club win.)  Meanwhile, Gonzalez has been having a real break-out year for the Athletics and has been tough to hit all season long.  Gonzalez' biggest enemy throughout his young career has been himself, and his control.  But this season Gonzalez has not been walking batters and sports a sub-three ERA.

This was the rubber match of a three game series and skies were clear to start the game but there were very ominous warnings coming from the meteorologists re thunderstorms, hail, tornados, etc, ...

Harry was v sharp on May 11, shutting the A's down on a few hits, maybe a walk or two, and held them scoreless through four innings.  The Rangers, meanwhile, scored early on Gonzalez, and then busted through big-time in the bottom of the fourth, just as the massive storm was about to hit the ballpark.  Mitch Moreland hit his first career Grand Slam and then the Rangers added a couple of more runs, to boot, to make it seven-zip, Rangers.

I was at work.  I worked my normal seven am shift that day.  I sat down for my break and followed the action on the computer upstairs.  I had joined right after Moreland's slam.  My buddy, and DTS guy from work, a massive A's fan, who has a ginormous  Rickey Henderson, Man of Steal pennant hanging above his computer in his office, muttered to me as he went past, "I hate Mitch Moreland."  I decided to join the BBTiA game chat and was shocked to read comments from Ranger fans that the team should stop trying to score in the fourth, hurry up and get the inning over with, so it can be considered an official game, meaning that if the Rangers get three outs in the top of the fifth (and preserve their lead, natch) and the game gets called due to rain, the Rangers would win the ball game.  The team trailing has to have at least fifteen outs, five innings, for a game to be "official."

Sure enough, after my break, I went up to my buddy's office to get some shelf tags and asked him whether they called the game.  They did.  All the stats, the Grand Slam, the seven earned runs added to Gio's v pretty ERA, Harry's shut out through four was all wiped out, as if none of it had ever happened.  The storm was brutal, no doubt, but the kids at BBTiA (albeit v biased for the Rangers) all maintained that the worst did not hit until well after what could have been a v quick inning for Harry in the top of the fifth.  Of course, the A's would have stalled, taken tons of pitches, choked up, and try to foul every pitch off, but the general consensus was they coulda got that inning in.


Last year, right around July 4th, I wrote a post about Renee and I's fabulous July 4th meal and about wine, my life in general, films prob, and the Texas Rangers.  Here is that post.  A firefighter tried to retrieve a ball at a Ranger game and fell from the upper deck on to fans below him.  He was hurt, a fractured skull, but survived, and got to meet Nolan Ryan later.


May 11th's wash out had to be replayed, from the beginning, zero to zero, in Arlington on July 7th, 2011.  Both the Rangers and A's were off that day and the A's were in town to play the Rangers that weekend, right before the All-Star break.  The pitching match-up was different.  Derek Holland squared off against Rich Harden of the A's.  In the top of the second, Josh Hamilton threw a foul ball that could not be corralled by the fans down the left field line in to the left field bleachers, at a Dad, who had asked Hamilton to remember him if a ball came his way. The Dad caught the ball, lost his balance, slipped, fell over the railing and landed head first on concrete about twenty feet down.  The Dad's name is Shannon Stone.  He, too, was a firefighter.  He was with his six year old son.  It was the Son's first baseball game.  The Son was wearing a Josh Hamilton jersey.  Hamilton saw the fall, the crowd gasped, much like they did the previous year, Ranger catcher Mike Napoli, motioned towards the bleachers, Holland, looked out there for a second, then returned to business.  No one knew how serious it was till much later.  In fact, the A's teevee announcers joked about the fall on air, Fosse, saying something like, "All that for a baseball."  (I have no beef with the A's commentators.  They had no idea how bad it was for Mr Stone.)

It was bad.  The Son, naturally, saw the whole thing happen and as Stone fell near the A's bullpen, the A's pitchers saw Stone being put on a stretcher and heard Stone say, "Find my son.  Find my son.  He is all alone up there."  They loaded Stone in to an ambulance, with his Son in the front seat, and Shannon Stone died before they reached the hospital.

This post is not a lecture about increased safety at the ballpark.  Fans are going to do the craziest things to try and retrieve balls, no matter what you do.  I hope the Rangers do make sure that Stone's son and wife do not ever have to want for anything again in their lives, though.  It is a terrible tragedy.

The Rangers and A's finished the weekend under a cloud.  There was a moment of silence the next day, both clubs wore black ribbons on their jerseys, and flags were flown at half-mast.  Hamilton was told that he could have the weekend off but he played anyway, hitting a majestic two-run, upper deck, walk-off blast off A's closer, Andrew Bailey, two days later.

Hamilton seems to be handling things well, so far.  But, you do worry.  Does he wonder, "If I had just thrown that ball a little further, a little harder,"? And what will race through his mind next time he has an opportunity to throw a ball in to the crowd again?

It is still too early to see what type of impact this incident will have on the Rangers or Hamilton. The Rangers swept the A's over the weekend (and Gio Gonzalez gave up another Grand Slam, one that counted this time.)

We will see as the weeks roll on through the Summer.


Love you all, ...

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