Saturday, May 28, 2005

Happy Birthday Garrett

Today is the day, so HAPPY 1st BIRTHDAY, GARRETT MACKOWIAK!!! I know, I know, Leeeny beat me to it, but I've been planning this post for a while.

May 28, 2004 represented one of the high water marks of the last 12+ years for the Pirates, which have been few are far between. Besides most of the mutant summer of '97 when we hung around first until late September (especially Cordova and Rincon's no-no and Shawon Dunston's first game as a Bucco) there hasn't been much to cheer about since October '92. May 28th last year was a day to cheer.

My dad and I slipped out the door, hiding from my mom who wanted us to go to my cousin's high school commencement. Since it was a double header we figured we'd get down to the ballpark by the 4th or 5th inning or so, take in most of the first game, and all of the second. We had the radio on in the car so we could catch the first part of the first game as we drove. During the pre-game show Greg Brown relayed the news that Rob's wife had given birth to their first child earlier in the morning, a boy named Garrett, he was healthy, and Mack-o-whack was planning on playing tonight. My dad looked at me and said (no joke, I am 100% serious about this), "Well, you know that means he's going to get a big hit tonight." I told him that he says crap like that all the time and that he was full of it. We got the park just in time for the Bucs to take a lead, only to watch Barrett's grand slam erase it, then the Bucs fight back to tie it up and set the stage. Earlier in the 9th of Game 1 my dad looked at me and said "Look at how the lineup falls, Mackowiak's going to get a chance to be the hero." I again rolled my eyes. Soon enough Mack stepped into the box in a tie game with the bases loaded. My dad told me to watch (like I was a six year old or something). Mackowiak launched the Joe Borowski pitch into orbit, the crowd went nuts, and my dad jumped up and down screaming "I told you so! I told you so!" After the homer, the crowd was frozen. We watched the Pirates celebrate on the field, and it seemed like it took five minutes for the fans (and there were a lot of us, in the neighborhood of 30,000 if I remember correctly) to get up out of our seats and wander around the ballpark in shock. The atmosphere was electric. Everyone walking around was talking Pirates, about what an incredible feat we'd just witnessed, about how with a win in Game 2 we'd be .500 and it was almost June. It was pretty clear we all thought we'd seen the most amazing thing any of us would ever see at a ballpark. And we were only halfway there. I think my euphoria from game one blocked out most of game two, but in the 9th inning when Mackowiak stepped up to the plate as the tying run, this time with LaTroy Hawkins on the mound. This was too good to be true. My dad and I looked at each other in disbelief, "You don't think..." we both said. Rob Mackowiak proved us wrong, and launched another pitch into almost the exact same spot. Pandemonium. When Craig Wilson stepped up and crushed a Francis Beltran pitch to center and win the game, the park erupted in disbelief. As we drove home, the guys on the radio were shocked. They didn't know what to say. At home, Mackowiak had displaced and epic (or as epic as the NBA gets these days I guess) Pistons-Pacers Eastern Conference Championship Series game as the lead highlight on Sportscenter. It was May 28th. The Pirates were 22-22. The Cardinals hadn't started their run yet. Hope abounded everywhere, and lasted until Monday, when our 21 losses in 25 games began, and we were the same old Pirates again. But for two days (because remember, the next day Mackowiak homered again and we beat the Cubs to get to 23-22), we were something different, something special.

Thanks Garrett, and happy birthday.

Video clips here, AP write up of the game the next day here, and a more current piece here (thanks to Leeeny for the first link and the last link).