Well that was fun! Take a deep breath, collect your nerves, and get ready for the next round of heart pounding and stomach churning action. Four teams now remain and only the Kansas City Royals return as a participant in one of the League Championship Series. Whichever team wins the World Series will end a drought. Although the Royals (1985), the Mets (1986) and the Blue Jays (1993) all can brag about recent glory compared to the Billy Goat cursed, Bartman blundering Cubs (1908) and their generation and beyond’s worth of futility. Orval Overall’s complete game art Bennett Park in Detroit led the Cubs to their last World Championship. That took place three weeks before Americans voted William Howard Taft as its 27th president. I can’t tell you anything about good old Orval Overall, although I know Taft started the tradition of presidents throwing out ceremonial first pitches in 1910 at opening day for the Washington Senators.
I blogged here recently about my trip to the White House, and while I avoid politics like the plague, I do want to break out this quote I read recently from Vice President Joe Biden, who said, “Failure at some point in your life is inevitable, but giving up is unforgivable.” I believe Biden was referring to the adversity and tragedy he’s dealt with in his life, and by no means can baseball compare to the true heartbreak of losing family members. I do think the quote could apply to the resilient Royals. If they return to the World Series and win it all this year, future generations will look back at game four between the Royals and Astros, particularly the 8th inning. The box score won’t show anything special. Numbers will not explain third baseman Mike Moustakas’ inspiring words in the dugout after his team went down 6-2. Moose implored his teammates to not let the season end. Poised for a series win, the Cinderella Astros needed just six outs to advance. What followed was the heart and resolve of a champion. Who will remember the struggling outfielder Alex Rios leading the inning off with a hit? Four more singles followed and two runs. Then a touch of good luck and an error on a possible double play ball. Game tied. The box score will show a walk by Drew Butera but not explain the significance or reason he entered the game. Manager Ned Yost removed beat up and sick catcher Salvador Perez during the seventh. Perez had 23 homers during the regular season and playoffs, including one earlier in this game. Butera accounted for about 14 percent of all plate appearances by Royals catchers during the season and never batted during the playoffs in his career. But here he stood, digging in with one out and two on in a tie game. Butera would draw a critical walk, leading to Alex Gordon batting with one out instead of two, and grounding out to drive in a run and give the Royals a lead. They never gave up and never looked back. Starting pitcher Johnny Cueto starred in the clincher two days later and history will show a dominant performance from the ace at Kauffman Stadium. What Rios and Butera did in game four may be remembered one day as vividly as good old Orval Overall. The never die Royals remain alive. Enjoy the ALCS!