Tag Archives: Lorenzo Cain

WORLD SERIES GAME 5: The Golden Ticket

jerroddysonbyzack

Picture courtesy of Zack Hample

It’s hard to know where to start when it comes to writing about Game 5. It would have been hard to write about if I watched the game on television, but it’s even harder because I was there at Citi Field. Do I start with the moment I got my ticket or the moment I started thinking about getting my ticket? Because that would start with Zack texting me early in the morning to see if I had bought my ticket to the game yet, as if it were a foregone conclusion.

“Well, my friend Garrett bought plane tickets from Kansas City last night after they won last night, so…”

So what was my excuse? “Well, isn’t it really expensive?”

“Prices have dropped because the Mets fans don’t want to see them lose.”

Game 6 and 7 are in Kansas City, but if people there are coming here to see Game 5,  that could only mean that the Royals were going to win it now and that I had to be there. I thought about my dream, the one I had way back during the ALDS. There was the stadium full of people in orange. They were cheering. There was a man on first. Someone named Flowers, whom can only be the Mets’ Flores, is at bat. The question is, did he strike out or did he hit a home run? After the at-bat I was sad. Was I sad because I was with the people in orange? Was I sad because this was not me at all in the dream? Was I somewhere else celebrating a World Series victory?

I went to StubHub. Zack was right, prices dropped. My roommates, who were cheering for the Mets, were complicit in my getting the ticket.

“You’ll be kicking yourself if they win and you’re not there,” they said. Then they lent me a computer and a printer for the ticket, which I still have. For the rest of day I walked around with the World Series ticket in my purse, thundering like a telltale heart every time I passed a Mets fan.

But I won’t start there either, or the ride on the train packed with  Mets fans, or the wait in line to get into Citi Field hoping to spot some Royals fans. There were many people like me who were flying solo. I scanned the concourse thinking, but not knowing, that some of these faces were ones I knew. Was that my sister’s friend’s mom? The waiter that works at Bella Napoli’s? As customer from the Dime Store, where I used to work? A guy I bumped into in the mosh pit at El Torreon? Someone I was in a high school play with? Probably not, but there was a sense that I was wading through my past, if not mostly because the last time I was surrounded by this many Royals fans was a long, long, time ago.

Before the game even started I recognized someone I really did know—someone from grade school. I’ll call her Sarah. She was a grade above me but we had recess and lunch together. She was there with her older brother, who I’ll call Matt. They adopted me for the game. But I can’t start this story there, or even a few innings from there, when we were adopted by a Mets employee that Matt’s friend’s friend knew, and we got to sit in the Caesar’s Club in the second level with the season ticket holders, where an attendant named Sal, who fought in the Battle of the Bulge with Tony Bennett, gave us cream puffs from a bakery in Astoria.

It’d be nice to start at the sixth inning, when Edinson Volquez made the best of a bases loaded situation and an error by Eric Hosmer (Is it now part of Royals dogma that when bad things happen to Eric Hosmer good things happen to the Royals? Or is it just the Universe balancing itself?) and got out of the game with just one run scored by the Mets. His performance did not earn as much hype as Harvey’s, but he got his job done—which was to keep the game close. Harvey, with all his brilliance, did not.

This story starts in the ninth inning, when Cain was walked. That was the end product of a chain of events that had been set off earlier, when Cain struck out twice. The Internet has all types of ways you can re-watch games. There’s versions where someone has filmed the game as it streamed from their television screen, there’s versions with Japanese subtitles, versions of the whole damn game that you can watch, there’s the highlight reels and then there’s the condensed versions which are like the highlight reel, but more extensive and without any commentary. Included are key moments and slow motion replays of the key moments. I don’t know who does these things, but it’s surely someone with a keen sense of narrative arc and plot twist. In the condensed version of Game 5 they found it prudent to show, in slow motion, each third strike in Cain’s at-bats. These were pitches below the knees that would have been balls had Cain not been fooled and swung at them. This time Cain put the brakes on his swing and earned himself a stroll to first after being 0 – 2.

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Church of Harvey/I did not take this picture!

Ecstatic Royals fans who knew the script by now waited for Cain, grand larcenist extraordinaire, to steal second. Mets fans knew the script by now, too. Up until now it had been the Church of Harvey, and the congregants had been standing and chanting his name for hours. But the walk drew swears from the crowd and put bottoms on their seats. There had been no doubt in Mets fans minds whom they wanted to see pitch in the ninth. Harvey’s performance had been dominant all night, so much so that fans started uttering another name alongside his: Madison Bumgarner. Would he be this year’s Madison Bumgarneresque foe? But towards the eighth inning the whisper of Bumgarner soon faded and only one name could be heard from the fans, not one of who was sitting.

“HAHVEY! HAHVEY! HAHVEY!”

Not Harvey, but Hahvey, in case you forgot this was New York City. Pretty soon their battle cry was the only thing I could hear, over my own thoughts and beating heart. He was not the Dark Knight anymore, he was their gladiator and this was their coliseum.

“They can’t put him in, it would be crazy to put him in,” we told each other.  He still had to deal with the top of the order—it would have been their fourth time seeing him.

“Nah, they won’t do that,” Matt’s friend’s friend agreed.

But he did come out—no he charged out, sprinting towards the mound as if it were a clutch of barbarian warriors from Gaul. The crowd went wild.

Wow, they just jinxed themselves, was all I could think. We exchanged looks of incredulity. It was the best thing that could have happened. Harvey’s mind and body were out of sync with the game.  He acted like he had already won. It’s as if he forgot he had gone to the mound to make three more outs. When Harvey realized he had work to do it would be too late; his mind and body had already moved on. 

But back to Cain and the silence at Citi Field. This was the rally we were waiting for, but we allowed room for failure, not doing so would be tantamount to jinxing the whole thing. Cain did his dance at first and gave himself a big lead—not sure quite how big without Joe Buck to say, but it was a lead big enough to be a parking spot in New York City. All 44,000 of us of us in the stadium waited with bated breath. Mets fans and Royals fans alike were no longer looking at Harvey, they were looking at the dance at first. Cain did not dance for long before tearing towards second—there was no stopping him. It was already written.

Now it was Royals fans’ turn to erupt in cheers. Our scattered but substantial numbers could be heard throughout the stadium and we directed our attention to Hosmer. It was his turn to make something happen. I don’t know what I would have been thinking in his place. Did he utter words to a benevolent God? Was he praying a prayer of the penitent? Dear God, forgive me of my blunder, deliver me from erring?

I don’t know. When I saw a ball fly into the gap in left field I knew this was it. This was the rally, and if this was the rally, this was also the game. Cain raced home and Hosmer put on the brakes at second.

Terry Collins took Harvey out. The Mets gave him an ovation. His stunning performance was only marred by his stunning arrogance. He believed in himself, but not so much in his team. He still managed to author eight great chapters for Mets fans.

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The view in SRO! Can you see Tony Bennett singing the national anthem? Neither can I!

Those same fans kept standing in anticipation of Familia, and our view of most of right field and most of the infield was blocked by backs and heads. Moose’s job was to move Hosmer to third, which is exactly what he did with a grounder to first.

Next came Perez, who I saw through a gap between one man’s hear and another man’s chin. I saw that he hit the ball and started cheering. I had no idea where the ball went. I was cheering in blind faith. If the ball is put in play the Royals will score, that’s how the script went. From the reaction of Mets fans I could tell my cheers were not unfounded. The scoreboard told me so as well. It had changed from 2 – 2 as quickly had it had changed to 2 – 1 from 2 – 0. The despairing Mets fans sat down and I saw that the Royals had been erased from the bases. Where was Salvy? I looked and saw the Royals had two outs, but how did Hosmer score if Salvy hadn’t singled? Did he hit a sacrifice fly?

Sarah, Matt and I were confused. What happened? We ran from our posts and joined another group of standing-room-only Royals fans that had crowded under the television to see a replay.

What I thought was a long-hit single to left field was only a little blooper quickly fielded by David Wright. So the inning must be over and Alex Gordon singled Hosmer home? Did we somehow miss two at-bats? Did someone mess up the scoreboard? We were still scratching our heads when we saw Hosmer pelting helter skelter towards home from third like there was a pack of hellhounds nipping at his heels. It was now unclear who he had been praying to during his at-bat because this was the kind of desperate act that only a man who had sold his soul to the devil would ever consider doing. We saw Duda catching Wright’s throw, getting Salvy out. All commonplace, all according to procedure. We waited for Duda to drop the ball, or pass out, or spontaneously combust, anything that would explain the tie, because unless you’re Jerrod Dyson you just don’t score from third on ball that doesn’t even make it past the infield.

Then Duda threw home. Great, I thought. These Mets fans should start getting happy real quick. But the throw was wide and high, like the 18-wheeler that Mets fans felt like they had been collectively struck by. The Mets catcher nicked the ball with his glove but was nowhere near catching it. Hosmer slid home.

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Hosmer slides home/I sure did not take this picture!

Matt doubled over in joy,  I grabbed my face, Sarah shook her head, we all hugged. When I tried to talk I sound like a broken record. I just cant. Holy shit. Wow. I just cant. Holy shit. Wow.

In retrospect, Hosmer’s explanation for running when he did makes total sense. We were up two games, Familia is hard to hit, and the scouts said Wright has a slow throw and Duda is not clutch in clutch situations. Plus there’s always that memory of Alex Gordon being stuck at third. No one wants to get stuck there anymore (Which begs the question, just what would have happened if Gordon ran?). But it would have been awful leaving that stadium that night if Hosmer had gotten out.

The Mets fans were reeling. Some of them started leaving so we grab seats and sit for the first time—as if the game were just starting and we were strolling in during the first inning. Sitting was nice. But sometimes we stood, just to shake away the jitters. We hated that the Mets were last to bat because if they scored a run that would be it.

The Mets fans stayed seated and would not stand again until the twelfth inning, when they started leaving. Herrera made a heroic effort, pitching three clean innings of relief, and Hochevar followed with two. November 1st turned into November 2nd and three outs in the ninth turned into twelve outs and extra innings and lemons turned into lemonade.

The twelfth inning brought a new pitcher, Addison Reed. Salvy singled and we knew this could be the last inning. Our hunch was validated when Yost unleashed Jerrod Dyson to blaze a path to victory. Dyson danced a little at first with Alex Gordon batting before dashing off to the races and sliding into second. Mets fans shook their heads, some started heading up the stairs and out of the stadium. Harvey and his exploits seemed like such a long time ago. Gordon got out but advanced Dyson to third. Everything in its right place, but wait, who’s batting next? Who could it be? What is going on? Who is this guy? We did not know. It was not a body or number or face we had seen the entire postseason.

It was Christian Colón, who had not had an at-bat since the end of the regular season. Having him bat would be either a stroke of brilliance or a monumental blunder on Yost’s part, but really, what were the options? It was Colón’s only at-bat so he had to make it count. And make it count he did. He ripped a single to center field and Dyson charged home. And then it rained Royals. It rained so hard the Royals scored five runs in one inning. The game only needed Wade Davis to punctuate it.

He struck out the first two batters, but Conforto got a hit. There was a man on, and who but Wilmer Flores came up to bat. At this point I didn’t care about my dream. We were going to win whether Flores struck out or hit a grand slam. But he struck out and we won the World Series and I was there to see it.

wade davis

Last inning…

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Didn’t take this picture either, but it’s a good one!

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WORLD SERIES GAME 4: Put Some Chapstick On It

daniel murphy chapstick incident

It’s past 8:30 and I haven’t even started watching the game yet. But I have a good reason. I’m at my friend Anesa’s good-bye gathering in Astoria before she heads out of the country tomorrow on a South American adventure and I don’t know when I’m going to see her next. Don’t even mention the fact that it’s Halloween because I don’t care. I have zero interest in getting corralled in a subway with a bunch of drunken sexy nurses, zombified hockey goalies or anything else.

Last year I was a booger for Halloween. Not a sexy booger, just a booger. I was too busy watching the World Series and then mourning the World Series to put much thought into my costume. A few years ago a friend and I made anglerfish costumes out of recycled material. We scavenged for boxes at bodegas and grocery stores and plundered neighbors’ recycling bins for cans and bottles and then spent a whole weekend engineering the costumes. We were a hit. Last year I took a five-second inventory of everything in my closet and realized that I had a lot of green stuff. I piled it on me, and taped some Saran wrap over my layers of green, and boom, I was a slimy booger.

 

Before last year’s World Series I could have been a zombified baseball fan because that is something I’ve never been in real life. Now being a rabid baseball fan is my reality. Because of this new reality I’m not even going to carve pumpkins with Anesa and company. We say our goodbyes at the grocery store, where they have a small clutch of pumpkins left. It’s a testament to Anesa’s character that she’s not even mad at me for ditching her to watch baseball, she says she’ll even cheer for the Royals.

baseball furies 2

Would have been an apropos costume…

I scurry past an Irish sports bar and try really hard not to find out what’s going on in the game. I don’t want to know anything until I get to my friend Noemi’s apartment in Long Island City so I can watch the game in neutral territory. But an eruption of cheers forces me to catch the score through the window: 2 – 0, Mets at the bottom of the third inning.

I am now very aware of the chips and guacamole that I had at Anesa’s place. Usually innocuous, the crunchy blue corn chips I love now seem to be shredding the lining of my stomach. I need to get to Long Island City fast. I start running frantically towards Broadway and hop in the nearest taxi. The driver, from Ghana, doesn’t know much about the World Series and has no sense of urgency.

“It’s like the World Cup, and my team is in it,” I explain, hoping this will get him to drive a little faster, but all it does is inspire a conversation about how confusing baseball is and why they even call it the World Series if it’s two American teams playing each other. The conversation goes nowhere fast—or at least quicker than it took for me to get to Long Island City.

I try not to trip over myself as I lunge out of the car and dash to Noemi’s building. When she opens the door I try to read her face for any signs of doom. She knows me well enough to deliver the good news first.

“The Royals scored a run!”

“Okay, cool, okay. Awesome, great. And the Mets? What about them? Have they scored?”

“It looks like they just got a homerun,” says Noemi’s husband, Daniel, from the couch.

I try not to react too histrionically. Noemi knows I am susceptible to dramatic outbursts and I want to prove to her that I can be a sane person under this kind of duress.

“That’s cool. It’s okay. I mean, it looks like we’re waking up offensively, you know?”

“What are the chances of them coming back?” Daniel asks.

I certainly can’t tell him that there is a good chance, a really good chance, that the Royals will rally because saying it out loud would only jinx it.

“Well, I can’t really say.”

“But you’ve been watching the team—you have a pretty good idea, right?”

“I do. But I don’t want to jinx anything.”

Daniel is an avid fan of the French national soccer team who suffered through the improbable Zinedine Zidane headbutt of the 2006 World Cup, so he has a healthy respect for jinxes. “Okay, but as a general observer of the game, and not as a Royals fan, what would you say the chances are?”

“As a general observer, I would say there’s a pretty good chance.”

“Okay.”

It goes without saying that I still have to knock on wood. Stephen Matz, the Mets’ rookie lefty pitcher, has been on point so far, but the sixth inning will be the real test of how well he can keep the Royals at bay. He’s not as hyped as Harvey, DeGrom and Syndergaard and fans have not yet christened him with a quirky moniker, but he’s allowed less runs in five innings than his cohort did in each of their starts.

The first batter up is Zobrist who takes a leaf from Escobar’s book and swings at the first pitch. The ball flies into deep left field and Zobrist reaches second.

“YES!” I know it’s not a run yet, but it looks like a classic Royals rally in the making. Cain follows with a single and Zobrist scores.

“YES! YES!” I slam my fist into the couch. Daniel implores me to keep it down, because what will the neighbors think?

With their lead dangerously slim, Terry Collins pulls Matz from the game. The camera follows the young rookie do the dugout, where he slams his glove to the ground. If there were a couch, I’m sure he’d slam that too.

The sixth inning ends with no further damage and the Royals trailing 3 – 2. After a soundless seventh inning we enter the eighth, with Clippard of the aviator goggles pitching. In the first at-bat he gets Escobar to ground out, but then lets Zobrist take a stroll—and Cain too, after he had Cain 0 – 2 two pitches into the at-bat.

I am excited, but try to keep my tone conversational. “Okay! Keep the line moving!”

scary la familia

Scary Familia

Terry Collins and the Mets would prefer to bring the line to a grinding halt, so he swaps Clippard for Familia. Clippard can be seen mouthing a four letter curse. The levee hasn’t broken yet, so this is Familia’s chance to patch things up with Hos coming up to bat. Hos makes contact on the second pitch. It’s a soft grounder  that seems to be making its merry way to Daniel Murphy’s glove. But the ball is only flirting with the glove. It coyly stays low—millimeters away!—and scampers out of reach. Zobrist scores to tie the game. Daniel Murphy copes by applying Chapstick. Whatever helps.

Familia really has the worst luck—cursed since Game 1 by Alex Gordon’s home run. He can’t seem to pull himself together and gives away consecutive singles to Moustakas and Salvy, bringing the Royals on top 5 – 3. Yost wastes no time unleashing Wade Davis and the game is in the bag past midnight. It is a spooky Halloween indeed for Gotham City.

The Royals are one win away from winning the World Series. This year’s one-win-away sensation is much different than last year’s, because it was also a one-loss-away situation. This year there are lots of different ways we could win the World Series! We could lose two games and win one, lose one game and win one, or just win one without any of the losing! It is strange and novel to be from Kansas City and for the second year in a row and have one’s team be a game away from winning the World Series.

Stranger yet is that this all happening less than ten miles from where I am sitting on a couch. The television fills up with blue—not blue and orange, but just blue. There is a whole legion of Royals fans at Citifield. It looks like half of Kansas City is hanging out in Queens.

“Wow, look at all the Royals fans,” says Noemi.

“I know! I should be there.”

But really, who are those people? If they are they made it to Citi Field there must be a way I can, too. This is what I think about as I pace the platform waiting for the G train. I forgot it is Halloween until I see a slutty librarian and Darth Vader.  The thunder of the train’s arrival brings me out of my reverie. The train is packed. It is not your Halloween type of packed, where you won’t escape without getting glitter bombed or elbowed by a dominatrix using the holiday as an excuse to wear her work uniforms in public. Nor is this the typical Saturday night type of packed, with red matte lipstick, high heels and gelled man-buns.

No, none of that. I see flashes of blue, flashes of orange and realize this is the crowd from Citi Field coming from the 7 train at Court Square, the same people whose misery I just saw on live television. They are in old Mets scarves, old Mets hats, Piazza jerseys worn over blue sweatshirts worn under jean jackets; they are wearing stuff they dug out of storage or an outerborough garage, stuff that was garnished with cobwebs until this postseason.

mets sad fan

I really do understand the pain

Other than a sporadic vampire, these are the only other people on the train. The only ones. The train comes to a stop and the doors yawn open. No one gets off. I make a big decision in this moment. Do I unbutton my jean jacket and ostentatiously broadcast who I’m cheering for, and by default, how happy I am? Or do I keep my jacket respectfully buttoned? If I stay buttoned I could be one of them, except for the fact that my visage is far too sanguine for me to pass as a Mets fan at this moment.

I usually avoid ostentatiousness but not provocation, so this is a dilemma for me. I go for a compromise, unbuttoning my jacket but not exuberantly letting it flap open like the shutters of a window on a spring day. I see this as a humble display of pride that won’t merit any kind of knuckle sandwich.

At first there is only room to stand. What my shirt says is of no consequence because no one can see it anyway. There is not much talking on the train as it worms its way through Brooklyn. Conversations are muffled by sweaters, scarves, hats and bodies. I find somewhere to sit once the train spits out a few bodies at Bergen Street.

There is now enough space in the train to hear all the conversations about What Went Wrong. Most people talk about Daniel Murphy. He is a hard one for them to talk about, because he was a big part of What Went Right earlier in the postseason.  I catch the serious conversation of a clutch of red-faced men who are having a nightcap of bagged beer.

“It’s not just on Murphy, though.”

“Yeah, but you really just have to catch the grounder. You can’t just let that grounder go.”

“Yeah, but that was one run. What about the other ones? What about Familia?”

“Nah, nah, nah. It was Clippard, when he walked those two guys.”

A third man agreed.

“And besides, we would not be here without Murphy.”

A big sigh is heaved.

“Yeah. But maaaaan. Murphy.”

“Those Royals are feisty, though.”

“They’re soooo fuckin’ feisty.”

The talk stops. The tallest guy in the group looks at me. I quickly avert my eyes. Only a sliver of the Royals Y peeks though my jacket and my bag, which is on my lap, covers most of it. Does he know?

He knows. He lowers his voice, looks at his friends, and gestures towards me with his chin. I hear him mutter as the group gets off at Smith and 9th.

“I bet she’s happy.”

F_royals

Happy

 

 

 

 

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ALCS Game 3: More About a Cat, Less About Baseball

I am a Royals fan living in New York City. If anyone wonders why I didn’t post anything in October, there’s your answer. The following entries detail the experience of watching the postseason far away from my hometown, in a much different place where fans from all over this huge country converge. Immigrants proudly display flags of their home countries in their windows and dwellings, but during the postseason, signs of national migrants’ provenance appear on heads and hearts in the form of caps and shirts. Giants fans scowl at Dodgers fans as Yankee stadium looms in the distance–it’s always looming, literally and figuratively. You can see it from the plane as you leave the city for wherever you’re from, and again when you come back. Meanwhile, in stretches of Brooklyn and Queens, and especially on the 7 train to Jackson Heights when you need to eat momos, you’re reminded that, hello, the Mets are here, too! I see lots of Orioles fans, Phillies fans, and yes, even Red Sox fans. There are not many Royals fans here, but the postseason as an expat is never a lonely experience, just a different one.* 

*Disclaimer: These posts might contain cliche images of athletes. Writing about sports means I have to deal with levels of kitsch I am not used to accommodating. I’m sorry. Also, I’ll get back to my Craigslist stories after this. 

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QiQi /by Anne Ducey

I will remember this game as the one I watched on my first business trip, on the day my cat died.

I was in Binghamton, New York for the New York State Highway symposium. Most of the presenters and attendees were in law enforcement and I got to learn about all the newfangled ways kids are getting messed up these days. One guy shows a video of a man in a parking lot using a can of Reddi Whip to get high on nitrous oxide. Another guy showed us THC-infused gummies. A highway patrolman from Long Island showed us water bottles that had been refurbished with hidden compartments that were used to store packets of heroin. The packets themselves were on display for everyone to see.

After all this I had dinner on the town with a colleague. From what I could see there was a seventy percent vacancy rate in Binghamton’s downtown area. IBM used to have a headquarters there, but they pulled out in 2008 and now the only thing keeping the town alive was Binghamton University.

But there were good places to eat manned exclusively, it seemed, by college students. Despite the hard times, the downtown was not devoid of beauty. Binghamton is surrounded by hills, which were covered in autumn trees that held the sunset in their leaves. The downtown appeared as if it were held in a bowl of fire under a sky of cornflower blue.

I did not see a place to watch the game in town where I would not be the only female amidst a crowd of inebriated middle-aged men, so I decided to watch the game in my hotel room. I can’t say enough about my hotel room. It faced the Chenango River and the sunrises to the east. There were two whole queen beds, a television, a closet the size of a Manhattan kitchen, a bathroom the size of a Manhattan bedroom, and a coffee maker that I didn’t have to share with anyone.

On my first night in Binghamton my had dinner with my colleagues at an Italian place called Little Venice. There was no game that night so I curled up in the bed closest to the window and finished Middlesex in the blessed solitude of my room.

So I was happy to return to my room the following night to watch the game in complete social isolation. I took my coat off and checked my phone, which I had been ignoring. I had been filled with anticipation for this game the entire day, through lectures on pedestrian fatalities in traffic crashes in Queens County, on-the-job law enforcement deaths caused by driver distraction, what a slizzard is, and the true meaning of Like a G6. But a text from my mom, sent to my sisters and me, changed all that.

QiQi has died. I can’t talk about it.

QiQi was one of two cats my mom adopted after Gracie died. Gracie was the cat we got from Santa Claus when I was in second grade. She was the unwavering, undisputed protector of the realm: a cunning and generous hunter who laid gifts of mouse carcasses at our feet, a tireless brawler against felines who sat on the wrong side of the fence. She was street smart, aloof and independent, but always found a way to show her love to us, in her own time.

Gracie was irreplaceable but the house, and my mom, needed a cat.

So for Christmas a few years ago my mom got two of them from an animal shelter. The plan had been to get only one, but thing did not work out that way. Mom immediately warmed up to a black cat called Kenji and five minutes later a silky smooth tabby, whom we later christened Honey, forced herself on us with her unflappable friendliness and endless loving face-plants to our ankles and hands. According to the shelter Kenji had lived with dogs before, so he could co-habit the house with Tuck. Tuck spent most of his childhood bowing down to Gracie. He never forget how she greeted his first enthusiastic, tail-wagging salutation with a claws-out smack on his soft puppy snout.*

When Honey and Kenji first walked through our door Tuck didn’t know what to make of the duo, so similar to Gracie in appearance but altogether different. He offered his snout to Kenji to smell. Honey hissed meekly, but Kenji gingerly sniffed Tuck’s nose and licked is wiry dog whiskers with his bristled cat tongue. After over a decade of abuse from Gracie, Tuck snorted in surprise at Kenji’s amicable, pacifistic greeting. Kenji, for his part, allowed Tuck to get an obligatory whiff his behind, and they became fast friends. Honey lurked at a distance, always in someone’s lap.

Mom loved everything about Kenji but his name. She thought Kiki was a better fit.

“But Kiki is a girl’s name,” said one of her daughters.

But Kiki is the name my mom liked best. The spelling was altered because it was determined that Qiqi was somehow more masculine. Then it was altered again when it was decided that QiQi was more aesthetically pleasing than Qiqi. Don’t ask me to rationalize any of this because I wasn’t the daughter behind it.

For the next few years QiQi would build a reputation for himself as the peacemaker between Tuck and Honey’s conflicts and misunderstandings. Every time Honey cursed and swatted at Tuck, QiQi would hurry over and fuss over him, nuzzling his sloppy dog snout with his sleek cat snout, all the while staring fixedly at his co-cat.

See, dogs are people too,” he seemed to be saying.

But QiQi only spent some of his time on the domestic front. He liked to go outside and range for hours, lurking in the yard and the back lot. If QiQi happened to be outside when Tuck and I went for jogs, he would sometimes try to follow. I would have to gather him, with his ears dangerously flat against his skull, and toss him inside where he would land with a ba-doomp on the hardwood floor. When the weather was nice and my sisters, Tuck and I would go to the park across the street to sunbathe. QiQi always put his ranging on hold to come to join us. It was a strange sight indeed to see young women in bathing suits and an old dog and a black cat all sharing the same blanket in the grass on a hot summer day.

Whenever one needed something from a dresser, cabinet, box, or anything else that opened or closed, QiQi would be there to help, hopping into the opened receptacle and walking on all your clothes, pots, Christmas ornaments to make sure what you were looking for was never found because you probably didn’t need it anyway.

Now when I go home I know I’ll be able to find my underwear in peace and the thought brings me to tears.

These thought of QiQi skittered across my mind like fragments of a broken vase. But mom’s memories of QiQi were much larger, and her grief could not be broken into more digestible chunks.

Watching the baseball game was unthinkable, disrespectful, even. I wasn’t sure what time it was, but it was well past start time. I tried calling Mom, but she did not answer. Having lost a pet was bad enough, and the grief is compounded when you have to deliver the news to each of your daughters, and then you have to try not to cry when you hear them sobbing on the other line.

This is what my Mom had to go through when Tuck died a couple years ago. She called us one by one, each of us in disparate parts of the country, and heard each of us keen and wail in our respective metropolises. Losing Tuck was like losing a strange, wonderful little brother and we mourned him as such. I don’t think mom wanted to go through that again with QiQi.

It was not even ten o’clock. It would have been extremely melodramatic of me to try to sleep, tucking myself in with a blanket of pity. Middlesex was done. Though it didn’t seem appropriate to watch the game, no appropriate course of action presented itself so I turned it on, but not before peeling off some layers and realizing that I wasn’t even wearing my Royals shirt.

It was the top of the of the fifth inning. The Royals were losing 9 – 2. Cueto had basically handed the game to the Blue Jays, allowing nine runs in the first three innings. Given the circumstances, the score made cosmic sense. I watched the game in resignation, exchanging frustrated texts to my sister Beanie, who works at a sports bar in Los Angeles.

We skirted the subject of QiQi and mostly discussed the game. The nature of our communique was such that almost all of the texts ended in ????, !!!! or ?!?! with Cueto’s name featuring largely.

There was also a flurry of texts in the fifth inning when Hosmer’s face took a beating from a ball that ricocheted off the bat, off the ground and then slammed into his mouth. I was certain a collective swoon could be heard from Booneville to Wichita as he winced his much-admired visage.

hosmer hit in face

Not in the face! 

It was hard to see the score so lopsided, but hey, that’s what happens when you let Johnny Cueto’s imposter come in. I mean, really? Nine runs in three innings?

But the Royals keep chipping away and when the top of the fifth ended the score was 9 – 4. Beanie and I told ourselves there was still a chance for us to win—I mean, there were four whole innings left!

And the then the Blue Jays scored two more runs before the ninth inning, making it 11 – 4, and the hope  snapped out of us. The game was as good as over, but I kept watching because that’s what true fans are supposed to do, and because wouldn’t it be cool if we happened to tie the game? Which was truly never going to happen, but what if? It seems like common practice for the Royals to see how far they can push themselves to the brink of losing before they actually win. How distant is that frontier for the Royals?

When the top of the ninth started with a single by Escobar and a double by Zobrist, I was gripped by an irrational optimism. Seven runs are a lot to catch up to, but John Teakettle Gibbons didn’t think it’s enough of a lead and had the Blue Jays closer warming up in the bullpen, which elicited baffled responses from the commentators.

Osuna’s getting loose in the bullpen.

Really?

I mean, look.

I mean, really?

Well, look.

I mean, I really can’t believe they got him up, really.

Could we really score seven runs in the ninth inning? It is only two more runs than five runs, which the Royals really have scored in a single inning…

My optimism was rewarded when Cain scored in Escobar on a sacrifice fly. Only one out, and a man on third. Was QiQi assisting this game from above?

I texted Beanie at 11:14.

Just six more runs!  

And again at 11:15 when Hosmer singled in Zobrist.

Just five more runs!

After two runs there really was a pitching change, really. But then I had to text Beanie again, at 11:19 when Morales, incredibly, hit a homer.

Holy fuck only 3 runs to go!

blue jays fan nervous

getting a little worried

At that point our optimism seemed like a rational thing. Some OMGs were exchanged, and the camera zoomed in to show the facial pores of distraught Blue Jays fans who thought as much as we did that there is a really real chance of the Royals tying it in the ninth.

And then the next two batters were retired.

The ninth inning came and went like a cat. But this is a story not really about the stealth of the cat, but the indiscretion of the mouse. The Royals were as good as dead, hemorrhaging from the fatal mistakes Johnny Cueto made in the early innings. It was said after the game that Cueto was too obviously flashing signs to Salvy. Did he forget he was dealing with Thor and company? Was there lingering cockiness from the shutdown of the Astros that made his nonchalance like that of a mouse who forgets he is a mouse? A mouse that sticks his whiskers a bit too far, tempting a battering ram of unsheathed claws that surge from the shadows?

After having delivered the fatal blows, the cat lurked in the darkness for the rest of the game, biding its time while its prey valiantly struggles back to its hole. The cat would pounce only a few more times—in the fifth and eighth inning, not because it was necessary, only because it was entertaining. In the ninth it looked like the mouse might miraculously succeed it making it home; it could even see a morsel of raw, aged cheddar glowing like a beacon in back reaches of his humble dwelling. That is when, at last, the mouse would feel his body go cold. He did not even see the pair of giant eyes that surveyed his final breath.

In the end the giant cheese was not a vision welcoming the mouse home, but a herald announcing his arrival on the doorstep of the heavens. In the distance among the clouds he sees the strangest sight his eyes would fall upon: a black cat and a rust colored dog cuddling together on a picnic blanket. He rushed to join them.

tuckandqiqi

Stolen kisses /by Anne Ducey

*I did not consult my mom or sisters about the exact chronological order of events or details of our visit to the animal shelter, the adoption of QiQi and Honey, and QiQi’s subsequent name change. Their recollection will likely not be entirely consistent with mine, but that’s what family is for.  

 

 

 

 

 

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ALDS GAME 5: Cueto Wrangles with Self, Wins

I am a Royals fan living in New York City. If anyone wonders why I didn’t post anything in October, there’s your answer. The following entries detail the experience of watching the postseason far away from my hometown, in a much different place where fans from all over this huge country converge. Immigrants proudly display flags of their home countries in their windows and dwellings, but during the postseason, signs of national migrants’ provenance appear on heads and hearts in the form of caps and shirts. Giants fans scowl at Dodgers fans as Yankee stadium looms in the distance–it’s always looming, literally and figuratively. You can see it from the plane as you leave the city for wherever you’re from, and again when you come back. Meanwhile, in stretches of Brooklyn and Queens, and especially on the 7 train to Jackson Heights when you need to eat momos, you’re reminded that, hello, the Mets are here, too! I see lots of Orioles fans, Phillies fans, and yes, even Red Sox fans. There are not many Royals fans here, but the postseason as an expat is never a lonely experience, just a different one.* 

*Disclaimer: These posts might contain cliche images of athletes. Writing about sports means I have to deal with levels of kitsch I am not used to accommodating. I’m sorry. Also, I’ll get back to my Craigslist stories after this. johnny cueto

I hadn’t planned on watching this game at home, but here I am! It’s the first Royals game I watch at home, and only the sixth I’ve seen this entire season. The regular season games are not broadcast here for regular people with no special channels. I have an old computer that it utterly incapable of streaming anything, and no way am I squinting through an entire game on a smartphone. Besides, half the reason for sports is so that it can be a collective experience. But I did religiously check the standings every night and rejoiced in August and cringed in September, just like all the other Royals fans.

I did get to see one game during the regular season with Katie and Colin. It was the game where the Royals lost to the Yankees, 14 – 1. We saw it happen in person, at Yankee Stadium. Jaremy Guthrie gave up 11 runs in the first two innings, before we were able to make it to our seats.

Being Royals fans, we stuck around for the whole thing, and when it ended the sound of Frank Sinatra penetrated every corner of the stadium.

These little town blues

Are melting away

I’ll make a brand new start of it

In old New York

The song is meant to convey that no matter how the Yankees are doing, no matter their standing, they are always on top of the world by virtue of being in New York City.

In our blue shirts we were easy to pick out in the crowd as we made our way down from the nosebleed seats and  converged with some of the bleacher creatures who occupy the right field bleachers. They started singing in our general direction.

These Kansas City blues

Are melting away

We wondered briefly if they would have been easier on us if the Royals had won, and quickly concluded that they would not.

“It’s hard when you’re against the home team,” said Colin.

But anyway, back to Game 5.

I was going to watch it with Katie. She was stuck at work, and we wouldn’t be able to meet  up until a couple innings in. I was famished when I got home from work and despaired upon opening the fridge and discovering the full extent of my culinary negligence during the past week. There was nothing.

I called my favorite Mexican joint to order in, and was told it would be a forty minute wait. That is how I ended up watching the game here, amidst Yankees fans who are actively rooting against my team.

But except for some cheering and clapping in the second inning, when Johnny Cueto gave up a two-run home run, they have been poker-faced.

I did have my fair share of doubts that inning, when it seemed that Johnny Cueto’s alter ego, Johnny Couldn’t, was sticking around this postseason. He had wanted us to lose Game 2, and now he had a second chance to make it happen in Game 5. But after Valbuena hit that homerun, the real Johnny Cueto suddenly came to the mound, where he and his imposter conferred.

Cueto held out his hand to take the ball. Couldn’t shook his head. “I’m not done here. I still have to give Rasmus a three-run homer.”

“You will give me the ball,” said the real Cueto.

“I’m not sure about that.”

“I am.”

Cueto glanced over to the money seats above the Kansas City dugout, where his brothers stared fixedly at the situation. Their thick dreadlocks were unmoving in the breeze, but their muscles rippled under their micro-fiber, sweat-resistant shirts.

“Fine,” said the imposter, handing the ball to Cueto.

No one knows where he spent the rest of the game—no one would see him until showed up in Toronto a few days later. But everyone knew the real Johnny Cueto was back in Game 5 when he survives the inning with no more damage and retires the side in order each subsequent inning.

But Collin McHugh, pitching for the Astros, doesn’t concede much hope until the fourth inning.  He gives up a single to Lorenzo Cain and another Eric Hosmer—and of course Cain scores from first base. Because that’s what he does. McHugh allows himself to be more generous in the fifth inning when he hits Salvador Perez with a pitch and gives up a double to Alex Gordon. A. J. Hinch, the Astros manager, thinks he’s being too kind and puts someone else to pitch instead. The commentators say this is a guy who had a no-hitter in August. But Alex Rios doubles off this guy. After two Alexes and two doubles, and the game is in our favor, 3 – 2. For good measure, Alex Rios comes home after a pretty sacrifice bunt from Escobar–on the first pitch of course, and a sacrifice fly by Zobrist.

My roommates say nothing until the top of the next inning, when Zobrist, Gordon and Escobar all make nifty catches. Gordon and Escobar almost collide when they chase a fly ball with a zeal that makes them seem part golden retriever. It is Gordon who scoops the ball, and sweeps the foul track with his body.

“Wow, they’re sure on fire,” says one before she heads to bed.

They sure are.

But Royals’ pyromaniac streak is just getting started, apparently.  I watch as a new conflagration erupts in the eighth inning, when the Astros bring out Keuchel, who they hope will do Madison Bumgarner type things to our offense. On the second pitch Escobar hits a double, and it becomes clear that Keuchel is unable to channel Bumgarner. He tries to settle down a little bit and manages to strike out Zobrist, but then he walks Cain, the only guy who was able to score off him in Game 3—with a homerun. From there things quickly unravel for Keuchel. He probably planned on spending this inning keeping the score close, hoping his teammates would hit some homeruns. Heck, they had two homeruns in one single inning in Game 4. He was probably counting on Johnny Cueto’s imposter coming back to pitch in the ninth.

Commentators ponder why he walked Cain, and suggest he wants to get Hosmer to hit into a double play. But Hosmer wants not part of this plan and gets out on a pop-up foul ball, giving us one more out to work with. And Morales sure did work it, hitting a three-run homerun. That is two more runs than Keuchel allowed in seven entire innings during Game 3.

morales skips

skips, not bat-flips

sad keuchel

another look /AP Photo

It is the best, and Morales knows it. His is skipping, not bat-flipping, to first base when he sees the rocket he’s launched. My one remaining roommate slumps into the couch, trying to retreat into the cushions. He is silent in his resignation, I am vociferous in my rejoicing. I pump the air, bellow, and pace the length of the living room.

Wade Davis comes in for the ninth and already I know we’re going to the Champion Series. Cueto has given Royals fans something they hardly see: a starting pitcher who goes a whole eight innings. Eight whole innings! My roommate is engrossed in his phone at the game’s conclusion, but he looks up and gives me a high-five from his burrow in the couch.

“Congrats.”

This is the same guy who thought the Astros would sweep the Royals. I would have been more gracious if he hadn’t been so smug when he made his ill-informed prediction, but as it is I’m eager to rub in his face how wrong he was.

“And you thought we’d lose in three games.”

“Heh, heh, yeah.”

When people make predictions based on nothing but hubris, or the way things have always been, they’re likely to be wrong. But hey, my roommate can take comfort in the fact that a slew of commentators and analysts and maybe everyone else in MLB were also wrong about the Royals all season.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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