“Now batting for the Indians, pinch hitting for Matt Carson, number 25, Jason Giambi”
It was like a scene out of a classic baseball movie. The scenario was remarkable. A forty two year old veteran who had taken on the role of unofficial team leader and mentor was about to pinch hit in the bottom of the ninth inning of a game his team needed to win trailing by one run with a teammate on base and two outs.
Past his prime? You bet. No longer an everyday player? Certainly. But that night, he was the Indians best chance. As his name was announced fans of over 25,000 rose to their feet in unison. They had been through a roller coaster game that night and had just watched their closer give up two solo homers in the top of the ninth, putting a much needed win in major jeopardy! It was the playoff push in the final week of the season after all!
Giambi dug in at home plate. A closer who was among the American league leaders in saves, looked into his catcher for the sign. A fastball whizzed in, and Giambi fouled tipped it.
Giambi stepped out took a breath and stepped back in. As the pitcher began his windup for his next pitch, Giambi’s teammate Michael Brantley took off to steal second base and get into scoring position. Giambi took the pitch, a change up a bit low, and Brantley slid into second without a throw.
The crowd roared for Brantley! Not everyone can steal a base when everyone in the ballpark knows you are trying to do so!
Meanwhile, Giambi dug back in, and quickly the crowds attention turned back to him and his at bat.
The next pitch shot out of the pitchers hand, and the crowd held there breathe as Giambi swung!
The balled sailed up into the early Autumn, cool aired, Cleveland night sky at the pace of a shell shot out of a cannon.
The right fielder of the opposing team took two steps back to the wall, and looked up watching as the baseball floated and lofted long over his head and over the wall, landing in the seats about 20 rows deep!
Euphoria began to run rampant at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario that night. A whole row of friends from church who had decided to come to what was for many their first and only game of the season, stood with their arms raised in jubilant joy!
Exclamation of total amazement and sheer stunned screaming ensued!
“He did it! He did it! Oh my gosh he did it!” emitted out of my mouth over and over again as Giambi rounded the bases and his teammates poured out of the dugout, most of the jumping with arms raised headed to meet him at home plate!
Fireworks went off, but it was impossible to hear them, or the celebratory playing of “Cleveland Rocks” blasting over the sound-system as is tradition after each Indians victory!
To put it simply, Jacob’s Field hadn’t been that loud since the 2007 playoffs.
Nearly five minutes after Giambi had delivered what Tribe announcer Tom Hamilton would moments later call ‘the greatest pinch hit homer in Cleveland Indians history” fans were still on their feet cheering loudly. When they finally did begin to head home the streets were filled with cars honking their horns, that drew more celebratory cheers from those still walking back to their cars.
Cleveland was alive with excitement over their baseball team again!
Once in the car, my parents, best friend and I put on WTAM 1100 to hear Nick Camino who was hosting the post game show. He simply re-ran the Tom Hamilton’s call of the Giambi blast over and over again! Laughing hysterically and remarking in utter joyful bewilderment, “what did we just see?!!!!”
Now almost six weeks after witnessing that amazing moment in person, I still get joy goose bumps thinking about that night. I know it is unlikely I will ever witness anything like that again, and certainly not under all those same circumstances.
I think what made it all the more memorable to me was having so many friends in attendance with me that night. The fact that it was such last minute decision to attend the game made it even more special, as I had invited people on Sunday, bought the tickets on Monday and went to the game on Tuesday.
Though the Indians ultimately saw their October baseball dreams end after just one game (they lost the one game wild card playoff to Tampa Bay just over a week later), Giambi’s homer kept what became a ten game winning streak to end the regular season alive, and brought hope in successful Indians baseball back to Cleveland!
Therefore, I couldn’t have been happier when the Indians front office decided two weeks ago to resign him and invite him back to spring training next year. His leadership and mentoring of the young players will continue on, and who knows he may even hit a more dramatic homer next year!