I really, really hope everyone out there saw at least part of all the important games played Wednesday night, because chances are we may never see their like again. The 28th of September, 2011 should -- and very possibly will -- go down in history as the single greatest night in the history of baseball.
Before anyone accuses me of being a homer, let me say right up front the Cardinals game was, in fact, the least interesting game played last night. And that should tell you all you need to know about why it may have been the best night in the history of the game. An historic franchise, playing the last game of the season, and a former Cy YoungAward winner pitches them into the playoffs by throwing a two-hit shutout. And that was the worst game of the night.
First off, I don't know if we've ever seen a final day of the season more fraught with playoff race drama. Four games on the schedule, all of which have not just playoff implications but directly decided who got in. Of those four games, two went thirteen innings, one ended on a walkoff in the bottom of the ninth, and the other featured the aforementioned Cy Young award winner tossing an historically great game to push his team into the postseason.
We saw something last night which had only been done once before. Evan Longoria of the Tampa Bay Rays hit a walkoff home run on the final day of the regular season to put his team in the playoffs. In all of baseball history, the only other time that had happened was in 1951, when Bobby Thompson's 'Shot Heard Round the World' put the Giants into the World Series.
In the history of baseball, only one team had ever come back from an 8.5 game deficit in September to make the playoffs: the 1964 Cardinals. Two teams did it this year. You can call them the greatest comebacks or the greatest collapses, whichever you prefer, but the fact remains twice in 2011 we saw something that had happened only once before in over 100 years of baseball.
Add it all up. Add up the brilliance of Chris Carpenter, completely overlooked in the wash of dramatics, to go along with the other games which decided home field advantage (Brewers, Rangers), still up in the air when yesterday began. Given that none of the teams jockeying for home field were playing each other, you had eight total games which directly affected the playoff picture on the final day of the season. Add in both wild cards being decided in extra inning games. Add in two walkoff wins, one to put a team in, one to knock a team out. Add in the Yankees, the Red Sox, and the Cardinals, three of the most storied franchises in baseball history, to go along with the upstart Rays and the Braves with their own long history.
Add that all together and you get a single night of baseball unmatched in the annals of the game. Never before have so many circumstances so conspired to make one night so special. Of the four big games, the Cards-Astros would be the only one not considered a classic, simply because of the score, and even in that one we saw one of the all-time great pitching performances with a playoff spot on the line.
So more than anything, I hope everyone out there was able to see their fill, to watch whatever and however much baseball they wanted on the night the game gave us its very best. There's never been a better night in the long, long history of the game, and while never is a word only fools use lightly, there may never be another night like it. It was...