– By Matt Hurst
Really, in the scope of baseball, it wasn’t a memorable date. In the scope of the Dodgers and Giants rivalry, it barely registers a blip on the radar. Truth be told, I had to look it up online, so the date doesn’t really mean much to me.
Except that it does. It means a ton.
This date and this meaningless game, the last of the 1993 season, is the first Dodgers-Giants memory I have. It’s the best rivalry for us West Coasters and as it resumes this week, it’s always fun to throw out names and events like Juan Marichal, Johnny Roseboro, Bobby Thomson, Steve Finley and Brian Johnson.
The finale of a lost season meant that the Dodgers didn’t have much to play for – at least from their end. That’s how my dad was able to procure fifth-row seats just over the Dodgers’ third base dugout in a game that suddenly meant everything.
Everything enough that all but 1,600 seats were filled in 56,000-seat Dodger Stadium on that wonderful Sunday afternoon.
A win meant the Dodgers finished at .500. But more than that, a win meant that the 103-win Giants would miss the playoffs. It was payback in the best form. It was rivals battling on the last day of the season. We win, you’re out. You win, you rub it in our face and get to the postseason.
All the chips were pushed to the middle of the table.
If the Dodgers were playing, say, the Houston Astros on that day and the Astros were battling the Braves for the division title and a berth in the playoffs, who knows if Mike Piazza plays. Who knows if the team cares that much? Who knows if Kevin Gross can somehow pitch a complete game, six-hitter? Who knows if the Dodgers care at all?
But, against the Giants? Damn right Piazza is playing. Damn right Eric Karros is ready for his four at-bats. Damn right they care.
So it is that game 162 means a lot for an 80-81 team. And I’m in the building. Not only that, but I’m close enough that my chants and cheers can actually be heard by the team. This is a big deal for a pre-high school kid who doesn’t know any better.
The place was buzzing with electricity. I remember that. I remember hearing that some rookie named Salomon Torres is starting for the Giants and all the talk and the radio chatter is about “Why is Dusty Baker throwing this schmuck who is clearly not ready for this situation?” The fans and pundits knew better than Dusty. Which is funny to think about, especially how Game 6 of the 2002 World Series panned out.
|Ladies and gentlemen: your 1993 Dodgers!|
Well, Piazza homers twice. Cory Snyder goes yard. As does Mondesi. Torres is out of the game in the fourth inning and everyone hits. And scores. And the place is going nuts.
It’s 3-0. Then 6-1. Then 7-1. Then the coup de grace. The Dodgers score five runs in their final at-bat of the 1993 season. Final: 12-1. And it’s not even that close.
The 54,340 are going berzerk. Pandemonium. Everyone in blue is elated. We are celebrating like it’s 1988 all over again. Those in orange and black are hiding their faces. They are whimpering.
The Dodgers took the Giants behind the woodshed that day and beat the bloody hell out of them. You aren’t celebrating a National League West title on our field.
(This is before the Raiders crowd overtook Dodger Stadium and turned the bleachers into gangland. It’s safe. But there is a lot of taunting. No fights. But you don’t want to be a Giants fan there.)
My dad’s friend nudges me and points to a guy in a “Bonds 25″ jersey replica T-shirt. “Too cheap to buy the real thing,” he gloats.
Everytime an Atlanta Braves score is flashed on DiamondVision, the place goes mad. The Braves are winning. The Giants are losing and we are making them lose! The Dodgers are knocking the Giants out of the playoffs.
This is not what a .500 ballclub does. Sure, in the final homegame of the season teams usually make a point of recognizing the fans, but not like this. This is Game 7, championship recognition. This is “we love you” recognition. The players enjoy this as much as the fans. Maybe more.
Our team finishes 81-81. It’s a hopeless season.
But, it’s a helluva lot better than finishing 103-59 and being left out of the playoffs.
Matt Hurst, of "We Are Out of Ink" is the editor and founder of Throwback Attack. Read more memories from the past at throwbackattack.net.