The greatest moment in sports history for me was on Oct. 2, 2004. Dodger stadium was at capacity and I sat within ear-shot of Barry Bonds down the left field line.
What could be better, right?
With two games to go in the regular season, the Dodgers had to win one game in order to clinch the division and make the playoffs. The only thing that stood in their way was a healthy (and evil) Barry Bonds. Thankfully, my Dodger compadres in the surrounding section took care of him. Every inning a new chant stirred in our section and gained momentum as it spread to the upper decks and eventually the bleachers beyond the left field fence. These chants were all directed at the monstrosity that is Bonds.
First, a clever line would get some laughs around us and a chant would quickly follow. It was the essence of being a Dodger fan at the time. At one point, our section chanted, “BALCO–BARRY,” throughout his entire warm-up in between an inning. At another point, a dude yelled at him asking, “Hey Barry, why is that vein popping out of your forehead? Too many shots today?” This spurred a, “POPPED VEIN … POPPED VEIN,” chant to which Bonds did not receive very well. He turned to the entire section, lifted his slightly bent upward left arm, slapped the bent part of the arm with his right hand, curled his left arm over his right and gave the entire crowd an “F-You” that I will never forget.
This has stayed so vivid in my mind because what happened next proved the baseball gods have the fans in mind when deciding the outcomes of games.
Bonds would get a season-ending “F-You” from the likes of a veteran named Steve Finley.
In the last inning of the game, the Dodgers were down by one and got two quick outs on them. With every single person on its feet, we hoped and prayed that the bottom of the order would be able to pull through. After getting two quick outs, the Dodgers were able to get two guys on base safely and put the Korean killer, Hee-seop Choi, in to pinch hit.
The greatest chant I have ever been a part of has to be 65,000 plus fans screaming, “HEE-SOEP-CHOI!” over and over again for a nine pitch at bat. He scared us to death, but I knew he would pull through. He did. After getting it to full count, he was walked.
This brought up veteran Steve Finley — my now forever hero and symbol of hope, Steve Finley.
The bases were now loaded with two outs. All he needed was a pop-fly to anywhere deep. Finley waited for his pitch and unloaded, but in Gibson-esque fashion, lifted an up-and-in fastball over the right field fence for a division clinching grand slam.
There you go, Bonds. There was your “F-You.”
I do not remember the three minutes after the home run because I blacked out in celebration. On the way out of the stadium, my buddy John picked up what could be the greatest souvenir ever to exist. Still encrusted with tiny glowing embers, a Giants hat had been set afire in the stadium.
At that point in the day, there was no denying this was going to be one of the greatest days of my life as a sports fan. And I have the glorious Chavez ravine to thank for it.
But as much as I appreciate my greatest day as a fan in Dodger stadium, it does not even come close to the greatest day I have ever had as a journalist. This day happened, once again, at the illustrious Dodger Stadium.
Flash forward to April 3, 2009. The Swagger and I have just entered an elevator from the media parking lot, heading for field level. Along with around 20 other young journalists, we partook in the incredible College Media Day at Dodger Stadium.
It was absolutely one of, if not the most beautiful moments in my short history in this world. We were led to the Dodger’s dugout and waited for our shot at questioning players and coaches. I have to admit, just being on the dirt behind the batting cage for batting practice was enough, but meeting and hearing players like Clayton Kershaw talk about his 21st birthday and rookie hazing made my year. We crowded around the legend Joe Torre and listened to him bring up memories from the ’60s and compare Yankee fans to Dodger fans.
I was listening to a legend and at no point did I ever think, “This guy is full of himself.” Torre embodies the idea of class.
But as we were listening to Torre explain why he didn’t have Manny cut his dreds, Manny walked right behind us in the dugout. Yes, in the Dodger dugout I made eye contact with Manny.
Now, it may sound ridiculous that I was so excited about a baseball team and some players. But this was my team. This was the team that I grew up with and fell in love with on so many occasions. This was the team that I as a 9-year-old would dream about playing second base for.
I am not yet a part of the professional media world and for that reason, I did not have to put on a front that this was not the best thing that has ever happened to me. I was giddy, people — really giddy. Standing on the grass of a place that to me is more beautiful than the Vatican itself, is something that will rival any other memories for years to come.
Thank you, Dodger Stadium. You just made it clear that I know what I want to do with my life.