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Soup of This Day #345: Pitch By My Doorstep

October 21, 2013

Hawaiin Airlines Convair 640
A Convair 640 of Hawaiian Airlines – The other flyin’ Hawaiian – Photo: RuthAS, 1971. RuthAS is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

Our house is directly below a flightpath. This means that we routinely get some big passenger jets flying overhead, close enough that you can clearly read logos on the underside of the fuselage. Sometimes we get smaller planes too, down to single engine prop aircraft, but the resultant fleet of big and small isn’t so frequent as to be a nuisance.

Instead it provides a point of interest for The Angus, who as soon as he hears the noise will point up to the sky, often before he’s even located the source of the aerial traveller. Sometimes there is no aircraft – The other day a loud motorbike, presumably with a custom or blown muffler, went past our house.

The Angus pointed to the sky and began to earnestly scan for a plane.

Noise can be confusing like that, especially when there’s no picture to illustrate the context. This can be true even in my sporting world, where you’d think that there would be little in the way of confusion – Simplistically, it can be tempting to break it all down to winning or losing.

They are however just extremes on a continuum – The result of a sporting encounter isn’t always as neatly located at an endpoint of that spectrum.

I used to live across the road from Subiaco Oval and often I could tell how a game was progressing just from the crowd noise alone. 1 time the Australian national Rugby team, the Wallabies, was playing the South African national team, the Springboks, at Subiaco. Not being at the match, I could tell an Australian try score just from the roar, but at the end of the match I’d have guessed that the Boks won from the relative silence that ensued.

And I’d have been wrong.

The Test ended as a 14-14 draw.

Draws do yield a certain type of silence – A sort of universal deflation as fans on both side think about what could have been. This is kind of a glass half empty approach to be sure, but both the Wallabies fans and the Springbok faithful in attendance that August, 2001 evening in Perth will have thought they could, and maybe should, have won.

In hindsight maybe I should have picked that sound – It was far more deadened than even if the home side had lost – You see, it’s not like the Saffer fans would have been vastly out-numbered either – Perth has a significant ex-pat population from South Africa. And on that note…

I’m off sick for the day and have taken the chance to sit out in the yard, soaking up the Perth Spring sunshine. As I write this a 4-engined airliner, most likely an Airbus A340, has just flown overhead. As if to emphasise my previous point about the ex-pat contingent from there, it’s a South African Airways plane. And yes, The Angus pointed at it. He had a clearly understandable noise and some context to work with too.

If you’d have been walking down Yawkey Way in Boston a day or so ago you’d also have heard a clearly understandable noise and you’d have had some decent context to work with too. For there and then, the home-town Boston Red Sox were playing in Game 6 of the 2013 American League Championship Series (ALCS) against the Detroit Tigers.

The best-of-7 series to that point had been tight – 4 of the 5 outings had been decided by a solitary run and each of those encounters could have so easily gone to either team. You could in fact point to a narrative of defining moments, pivot points on which momentum swung – Like Big Papi’s score-levelling grand slam as the Sox rallied late in Game 2 for a walk-off and a 1-1 tie in the series.

And that big slam was emblematic of how the Sox rode those big moments best of all. So well in fact that despite being effectively blunted by the Tigers’ awesome starting rotation, the Boston club had a 3-2 series lead going in to that 6th test.

Which again proved to be close. Walking on by and you’d have heard a roar swell in the 3rd as Sox fans began to celebrate a 3-run Dustin Pedroia blast. Only to have it stilled by a foul call as the ball flew inches the wrong side of the Pesky Pole.

Then in the 5th as the Red Sox plated the opening run the crowd noise would have swelled, grateful for the score but not yet fully released, as befitted the 1 run margin.

And then Detroit surged back in the 6th, scoring 2 runs as Red Sox skipper John Farrell inexplicably flirted with Franklin Morales as a relief pitcher. Not that the Sox were overcome – A bizarre double-play that saw Prince Fielder run down in a belly-flop as he tried to go back to 3rd, raised spirits and limited the damage.

You might have even heard the derision as Fielder’s epically bad base-running and subsequent flop were replayed on the big screen.

But then, from the start of the 7th, you would have heard the noise begin to grow beyond amusement. Jonny Gomes started it – His lead-off double caromed off the Monster a scant foot or so from being called a home run. Stephen Drew then struck out but Sox fans are conditioned to his current slump and so the din remained for young tyro Xander Bogaerts.

Who drew a walk off of a 3-2 ball that might have been called a strike on another day. Crucially, this chased probably Cy Young winner Max Scherzer off of the mound and led to Detroit reliever Drew Smyly facing down Jacoby Ellsbury, 1 of few Sox hitters to be in form across the ALCS.

Ellsbury though could only hit a grounder slightly to the left of former Red Sox short stop José Iglesias. An easy out and maybe an innings-ending double-play beckoned.

And was given the flip-off. Iglesias spent the ball before he earned it and his error saw each runner advance safely. So now bases were loaded and with just the 1 out, Shane Victorino, the gritty outfielder from Hawaii was up to the plate. The noise was loud, even as Victorino took 2 curves for strikes and was down an 0-2 count. The 3rd pitch was also a curve.

Victorino took it deep and high to left, and crucially, around 6 feet higher up the wall than Gomes’ earlier double. So high up the wall in fact that there was no wall, just the outstretched arms of the ecstatic patrons situated in the Monster seats.

That grand slam, off of José Veras, gave the Red Sox a 5-2 lead and Fenway an Earth-shuddering cacophany that never seemed to let up from then on in. The stands continued to shake as, 1st Craig Breslow stymied the Tigers in the 8th and then Koji Uehara came out to shut down the contest in the 9th.

For Uehara the roar took on a different dimension – The surprise closer is no longer a mystery to Sox fans, even as his wicked splitter continues to baffle opposition hitters like crazy. For the faithful, Uehara wears his heart on his sleeve like few others – He rides every pitch and not just his own either. In turn his team-mates and fans ride his pitches, his high 5s and his off-the-wall enthusiasm for the game. Consequently there is a genuine joy in cheering on the man, and you can hear it through the game and afterwards too.

Particularly after he closed it out 5-2, earning his 3rd save in a 4-2 series win and subsequently garnering the ALCS MVP award. The latter surprised nobody but Koji, who in his acceptance confessed to being so nervous out there that he almost threw up.

The fans cheered that admission just as joyously.

And there’ll be some more noise from Fenway this Wednesday as the Boston Red Sox, complete with Shane Victorino and Koji Uehara, line up against the St Louis Cardinals in the 2013 World Series opener. I reckon there’ll be so much din in fact that you’ll not here a jet plane flying low overhead.

If you are a plane-spotter like The Angus though, fear not – If the Sox bats get going again then you just might be looking up into the sky enough to catch some wings anyway.

Let’s go Red Sox!

Pitch By My Doorstep

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