LOS ANGELES — Baseball wins. It is 1975 all over again.
The Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers, tied 1-1, will resume the 113th World Series at Minute Maid Park Friday night. But before we go there, we must pay homage to what happened at Chavez Ravine Wednesday night.
It was without doubt one of the greatest World Series games ever played. It shook the foundation of the beautiful ballpark built by the O’Malleys in 1962.
The Astros beat the Dodgers, 7-6, in Game 2, but no simple sentence does justice to the event that unfolded in this epic ballgame.
For those of us old enough to remember Bernie Carbo and Carlton Fisk and Pete Rose and Johnny Bench at Fenway Park in 1975, this was time travel back to the days of innocence when two ancient ball clubs breathed life into a sport that seemed to be dying.
For a new generation of reluctant hardball fans (we all know the game takes too long and doesn’t have enough action or fantasy prospects for iPhone-addicted millennials), Game 2 of the 2017 World Series was an invitation to pay attention and maybe embrace the game that your dad loved when he was a kid. It even had the same final score: 7-6.
It’s hard to know where to start. The Astros, born as the Houston Colt .45s in 1962, had never won a World Series game. Down, 3-1, in the eighth inning of Game 2, and facing indomitable Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen, the ’Stros were about to fall into an 0-2 hole and invite speculation of a rollover sweep at the hands of the 104-win Dodgers. Los Angeles was 98-0 this season in games it led after the eighth inning.
But then things started to happen. Baseballs started flying over the walls at Dodger Stadium. An event that had seen only 17 extra-inning home runs in more than a century suddenly produced five extra-inning homers in less than an hour. And when the last bat was flipped in celebration, the Astros were 7-6 winners, flying home with hopes of a first world championship.
For old timers, it was hard not to think of 1975 when the newfangled “Monday Night Football” was gaining momentum and a nation stunned by Nixon, Vietnam, and recession was fully embracing the military industrial complex of the NFL and saying goodbye to its stodgy national pastime.
And then the Red Sox and Reds brought baseball back with a game for the ages. When Fisk’s homer clanged off Fenway’s left-field foul pole at 12:36 a.m., the Red Sox were 7-6 winners and baseball was back on the map. The Series was tied, 3-3, and estimable Boston TV reporter Clark Booth suggested that the noble rivals simply call it a draw, put picnic tables on the Fenway lawn, and toast one another on a series well-played.
What happened Wednesday in LA was just as good. Just as good as Carbo’s homer and Dwight Evans’s catch. Just as good as Rose stepping to the plate after midnight, turning to Fisk, and saying, “This is some game, isn’t it?’’
This is not to suggest that one game can solve all the things that are wrong with a staid sport. But before we get into Yu Darvish vs. Lance McCullers Jr. in Game 3 Friday, allow us to linger a bit and celebrate what happened in Game 2.
The night started perfectly with Vin Scully — narrator of LA’s soundtrack of summer for 60 years — walking to the mound and delivering play-by-play of the ceremonial first pitch. Scully hammed it up beautifully, brought Fernando Valenzuela out of the pen, and watched the revered southpaw throw the first pitch of the night.
Four hours and 19 minutes later, and eight homers later, the Astros were winners, and 53,000 floored fans were wondering what just hit them.
We saw the Astros score one in the eighth, then another in the ninth to send the game into extra innings. After Houston stars Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa hit back-to-back homers in the top of the 10th, the Dodgers answered with two runs in the bottom of the inning — one on a homer by the Wilt Chamberlainesque Yasiel Puig, and another on a breathtaking home plate slide by Logan Forsythe, narrowly beating a laser throw from Astros right fielder Josh Reddick.
The Dodgers’ efforts to finish the job with another run in the 10th were thwarted when an errant pickoff throw to second by the pitcher was inadvertently blocked by umpire Laz Diaz. You can’t make this stuff up.
We saw veteran ace Justin Verlander rallying his teammates in the visitors dugout, much like David Ortiz did for the Red Sox in St. Louis in 2013. Then we saw George Springer (a UConn Husky, no less) thrust the ’Stros back into the lead with a two-run homer in the 11th.
Still, it was far from over. Dodger batters hit a succession of shots off Houston reliever Chris Devenski (he of the Calvin Schiraldi eyes) in the bottom of the 11th, including yet another homer, this one a solo shot by Charlie Culberson.
It didn’t end until Puig fanned on a 3-and-2 pitch at 12:33 a.m. (EST).
Astros third baseman Alex Bregman said, “It’s got to be the greatest game I’ve ever played in, and probably everybody here.’’
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