Last Wednesday evening, many sports fans in the U.K. were excited about the prospect of watching a Champions League semi-final between Bayern Munich and Real Madrid.
There was no doubting it was an important game, one made all the more interesting by Chelsea’s surprising win over Barcelona the night before in the first semi-final, but my attention was directed towards a ballgame in Oakland instead.
An early season encounter between the Oakland A’s and the Chicago White Sox wouldn’t even grab the attention of many baseball fans, never mind general sports fans, but it was a notable event for me as Jarrod Parker was scheduled to make his A’s debut.
Parker made his Major League debut for Arizona at the end of last season (27 September) and he pitched well over 5.2 innings against the Dodgers. Arizona’s TV commentators were gushing during the game about Parker’s bright future in a D-Backs uniform, but that turned out to be his only appearance for them as he became the headline-grabbing part of the package that Oakland received from Arizona for Trevor Cahill over the offseason.
The White Sox had an exciting young pitcher of their own on the mound in Chris Sale, so it seemed like another good opportunity to get out a blank scorecard and my coloured pens to keep score of the action.
Parker had a very respectable debut, as shown by the White Sox’s side to the scorecard. He found some ‘blue’ danger in the second inning; however he was able to escape without any damage done to the scoreboard and despite allowing the odd base-runner, he kept Chicago at bay until the top of the seventh inning.
That proved to be a tricky passage of play for me, as hinted at by the scribbled-out marking where the inning begins. I had quickly checked on the Bayern-Real game and found that it was heading towards a penalty shoot-out, so I had one eye on the muted footy game while listening out for any developments in the baseball.
Commentator Ken ‘Hawk’ Harrelson was talking about the A’s pitcher Ryan Cook so I assumed he had been brought into the game for the seventh inning, leading me to make a mark to show the pitching change and to fill out Parker’s pitching totals. It was only then that I looked up at my monitor and realised Parker was still in the game.
Things got even more confusing as the inning progressed. While I was listening to and noting down Kosuke Fukudome being caught in a run-down between third and home, Kaka was busy missing a penalty for Real. Thankfully it wasn’t long before Bayern buried their final spot-kick to book their place in a home final and I could get back to giving the baseball my full attention.
After the first pitch of the top of the ninth, I would have been glad of any distraction. Aussie Grant Balfour had come into the game to try and close out a 2-1 lead and promptly gave up a game-tying homer to Paul Konerko on his very first pitch. That was Konerko’s 400th career longball and that milestone, along with the game situation, left Harrelson bellowing out his trademark “you can put it on the board … yes!” home run call with even more gusto than usual.
So much for a quick and relatively easy A’s victory.
Soon I was reaching towards my folder and grabbing another blank scorecard as the game hurtled through my two additional inning columns and on to an extra sheet.
The A’s flirted with danger in each inning and kept dodging bullets until the top of the fourteenth when Alexei Ramirez doubled home two runs to give the White Sox a 4-2 lead. The A’s third baseman Eric Sogard inadvertently started the White Sox’s rally with an error to lead off the inning and as he trudged back to the A’s dugout having struck-out to start the bottom of the frame, it looked like my efforts in sticking with the game would go unrewarded.
But then, all of a sudden, the A’s sprang into life against Hector Santiago.
Josh Reddick reached base with a single and up stepped Yoenis Cespedes, who promptly smacked a two-run bomb to tie the game at 4-4. In a scene most baseball fans in Britain will relate to, it was only near the end of my celebrations – consisting mainly of me jumping up and down repeating Harrelson’s “you can put it on the board ….. yes!” line whilst narrowly avoiding smashing my head against a light shade – that I remembered it was coming up to half-past midnight and that, perhaps, my neighbours might not greatly appreciate the commotion.
I quietly got back to the task of filling in the details on my scorecard and watched with joy as Santiago fell to pieces and Kila Ka’aihue blooped home the game-winning run.
I left the totting up of totals, made that little bit trickier by them being spread out over two scorecards, for the next day and turned off the light thinking that while it may have cost me a good hour and a half of sleep, all in all I didn’t mind that Balfour had blown his lines in the ninth.
If you’re going to spend four hours keeping score of fourteen innings of baseball over two scorecards, you might as well do it in a walk-off win for your chosen team.