18 Innings?  Dodgers Win Instant Classic In A World Series Seminar On Perseverance

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Max Muncy Celebrates His 18th Inning Walk Off Homer in Game 3 of the 2018 World Series

Some wins don’t come easy. And some loses come after you’ve given it all you’ve got. So is the story of Game 3 of the 2018 World Series played at storied Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles between the Boston Red Sox and the LA Dodgers. It has become an instant classic for its longevity and its lesson on durability.

Late into the Pacific time zone night and early into the East Coast morning, neither team was willing to yield an inch in this pivotal, potentially Series deciding game between these two baseball superpowers. It was a vintage Ali-Frazier, 15 Round heavyweight fight which left both boxers bloody and bludgeoned. After 18 innings of jitters and nerves, the Dodgers emerged, or rather survived, this bought with the hope and confidence that they can yet pull another rabbit of their hat and actually win this Series. Lose the game and they would be down 0-3; win and they cut the deficit to 2-1; it’s a difference and differential that’s as wide and wanton as you can get. No team has ever come back from a 0-3 deficit in the World Series.

This game had enough ups and downs and gripping drama and nail-bighting tension to fill half a season, all wrapped up in a 7 hour and 20 minute baseball battle. Ironically enough, I wrote about the last longest game in postseason history too. That one was “only” six and one half hours long. See https://godandsports.net/2014/10/05/unforgettable-wins-and-unspeakable-loses/

We all like quick and easy. We all like instant and immediate. We all like it and want it now, and when we’re in a hurry, “right now.” But life is not always so obliging. Life does not always cooperate with our desires and demands. The hard but necessary lesson is this: Heaven uses the vicissitudes of life to teach us that what we want does not always come when we want it. Sometimes we are required to wait it out and tough it out. Sometimes we have to persist and preserve through an 18 inning type of trial and suck it up and stick it out until victory is won.

It’s a part of our spiritual training and is a page out of God’s playbook. To endure and to stand and to stomach and hold on and hold out will teach us how much God loves us and how much He has already endured for us, especially on the Cross. Ours is to trust that He still knows what’s best for us.

I don’t know where you are, but that’s where I’m at, because “life can be queer with its twists and turns, as everyone of us sometimes learns . . . but just don’t quit.”

Here’s how ESPN Staff Writer Bradford Doolittle put it:

“With a Cody Bellinger throw and a Max Muncy blow, the Los Angeles Dodgers have crawled back into the World Series. It only took the longest game in the history of the Fall Classic to do it.

Muncy’s dramatic opposite-field home run in the 18th inning off Boston’s Nathan Eovaldi lifted the Dodgers to a will-testing 3-2 win in Game 3 of the World Series, which started late Friday afternoon but ended early Saturday morning, cutting the Red Sox’s lead in the World Series to 2-1.

It was L.A.’s first walk-off Series win since Kirk Gibson’s Game 1 homer off Dennis Eckersley in 1988, which sparked the Dodgers to their last title. Muncy became the first player to hit a game-ending homer in a World Series game since former Cardinal and current Dodger David Freese in 2011. Not bad for a player who was released by the Oakland A’s before last season.

“It’s been a dream,” Muncy said. “This whole year has been a surreal experience that it’s hard to put into words. Just getting a chance to play in the World Series has kind of capped it off. Getting a chance to hit a walk-off home run, obviously there’s not many words I can use to describe that. The feeling was just pure joy and incredible excitement.”

It also was an act of mercy for everyone on hand at Dodger Stadium and watching on TV. The homer ended a game that lasted 7 hours, 20 minutes and ended at 3:30 a.m. Boston time. The time of game would have been long for a doubleheader. It also was the longest World Series contest by innings.” http://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/25094012/mlb-max-muncy-gives-los-angeles-dodgers-epic-world-series-win

Who’s Rooting For the Red Sox?

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The Boston Red Sox won 108 games this year, the most in franchise history and just the fourth time a Red Sox team won 100 or more games in their 117-year history.  The New York Yankees won 100 games. They are playing each other in the playoffs, specifically the American League Divisional Series, for what seems like the umpteenth time.  And so for the first time in history, both the Red Sox and Yankees have 100 wins in the same season, but it is Boston who came out on top in the American League East. Seemingly never slowing down, the Red Sox never lost more than three games in a row, and only did that twice in the course of a long season. With two MVP candidates in outfielders Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez and a strong starting rotation, the Red Sox are set up to make a long playoff run.

Boston’s bitter rival didn’t have too shabby a year either and they too expect to go deep into the playoffs.  Looking at history, when the Yankees had the most wins in a season, they won the World Series. The 1998 Yankees won 114 games in the regular season and then steamrolled to an 11-2 playoff record, including a World Series sweep of the San Diego Padres. With a 125-50 overall record, the best ever, it’s hard to ignore this team when you talk about the all-time greats. That 1998 Yankees teem had the all-star bats of Scott Brosius, Paul O’Neill, Bernie Williams and a young Derek Jeter as well as the arms of Andy Pettitte, Orlando Hernandez, David Cone and David Wells, which enabled the Bronx Bombers to finish the year 22 games ahead of the Red Sox to win the AL East. Jeter led the league in runs and hits while Williams won the batting title. Cone compiled his fist 20-win season in a decade, and Wells pitched a perfect game.

Since 1969, only 12 teams have recorded baseball’s best record and gone on to win the World Series that season. So, once again, we learn that it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. 

When the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, the year of the miracle in October, they finished with a 98–64 record, three games behind the Yankees in the American League East. But they came back from 0 – 3 to defeat their arch rival in a dramatic seven game American League Championship Series, and went on to sweep St. Louis to win their first World Series since trading Babe Ruth.  

Yes it’s time for baseball in October, and so anything is possible. 

Come Back from Way Back: You Gotta Bounce Back, a.k.a., Bouncebackability

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What do track and field and baseball have in common? In fact, what commonality do all of sports share? Comebacks.

If it was a movie, most people would have scoffed and said it was impossible. But it happened. Just ask anyone from Boston, they’ll tell you they were at the games. The hated rival New York Yankees were embarrassing the Boston Red Sox on their way to a 3-0 lead in the 2004 best-of-seven ALCS, including a 19-8 shellacking in Game 3.

Most Red Sox fans now will say they always believed it could happen. They would be lying.

Game 4 went into extra innings but ended with David “Big Papi” Ortiz hitting walk-off home run in the 12th inning to avoid the sweep. Papi then hit a game-winning single in the 14th to win Game 5. From there came Curt Schilling’s bloody sock game and lots of home runs in Game 7… Leading to the Red Sox’ first World Series win in 86 years and the greatest comeback in team sports.  It was so good that ESPN did a 30 for 30 documentary on it, “Four Days in October.” And my story is almost as dramatic.

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I ran track in high school.

Because I was the only high hurdler on the team, I ran the 110-meter hurdles out of necessity. The last track meet of senior year was the Penn Jersey Conference Championships. My father, who had never witnessed any of my meets, was able to attend this one. The race was called the start was clean. But at the eighth or ninth hurdle, I banged elbows with the runner next to me. The collision set off a chain reaction. I crashed into the next hurdle and down I went, taking a few other runners with me.

Looking back, an onlooker who wanted to mix sports metaphors could have screamed, “Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier!” (The immortal words of Howard Cosell.) Anyway, the picture was as unsightly as a train wreck. Disappointed, mad and embarrassed, I picked myself up, dusted myself off and went to sulk on the other side of the track. Soon, after a huddling of coaches and officials, the decision was made to run the race over, with no penalties to any runner. I was relieved when my coach came jogging over to relay the news.

The storybook ending is this: I won the race, and was honored to be First Team – All Conference. Finishing first, my last race was my best one, and the only one my father saw me run. I was glad to make my Dad proud.

Looking back, I often use this race as inspiration for life. How many times have I stumbled and inadvertently caused others to fall, but yet I was given a second chance? (Too many to tell here!) After each fall, each miss-step and each mistake, I pick myself up, dust myself off, and start over again. I call it “bounce-back-ability:” It’s the ability to get back up and keep it moving.

We should live with the knowledge that as we pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off, we make “Dad” proud by enduring trials, temptations and utter collapses. Our Heavenly Father is not looking down with anger or disdain; He loves us and wants the best for us. He is there cheering us on and encouraging us to get back up and try again.

So It’s One, Two, Three “Likes” You’re Out (At the ‘Ole Ball Game)

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What have we come to? We certainly shouldn’t text and drive, and “hands free” should be a National Law. But now we have a baseball player “liking” during a major league ball game? “Liking” DURING the game? Really?

Apparently Boston Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval fell victim or fell villain Wednesday during his team’s 5-2 loss to Atlanta. While the game was in progress, Sandoval returned to the team’s clubhouse and “liked” a photograph on Instagram. And the question is “Why, for Pete’s sake?”

What’s so urgent about responding to a Friend Request or a text or a post? But we’ve all done it: in a moment of down time, waiting for the train or between tasks at work, you pull out your cell phone and read e-mail, check Facebook, flip through Instagram, so habitually that it’s almost a reflex. It turns out that major league baseball players do it, too—but then they pay the price.

So what have we come to? Are we so addicted to our cell phones and our smart phones and our electronic devices that we can’t function without them? Not even while we are “working?” Apparently not. Social media has taken society by storm, and some can’t weather the winter winds or survive the summer sun without their handheld device in their hot little hand at almost all times.

Whatever happened to the days when we didn’t text a pic or share a vid or “insta” gram and we just talked to each other in person? How about that? I mean, don’t get me wrong; the advantages of the technological revolution far outweigh the disadvantages (I think), but why are we so wed to the “instancy” and immediacy of FACEBOOK and LinkedIn and YouTube and Instagram and the “Like?”

Anybody?

I get it. I do get it. We crave community and unity and bonding and togetherness. And all of that we can find in Christ. All of the stuff of life we crave can be found in the Lord.  All of our hearts desires and longings for family and fellowship can be found in the safety and solace of  the Spirit of the Living God.

But when it comes to the use of our phones at all times all of the time, that’s a mystery. Oh well. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Just don’t do it during the game you are playing in.

Live or Die With Your Team

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I’m going to Seattle. That’s right; I’m headed right for the great Pacific Northwest and the Emerald City and one of my stops is Safeco Field for a Mariners game.

The Mariners are picked to finish a respectable ninth in Major League Baseball this year.  Ninth. Of course and as you all know, I’m a Philly guy. That’s right, baby — Philly all the way! And that means Phillies all the way. But the Phils’ are picked to finish dead last in the standings this season. DEAD LAST. Not in their Division — in the League. How’s that for a downer before we even get out of the gate good! Ninth sounds a lot  better.

So, here’s what I was thinking. I need another team. I need a stand by, stand-in, back up, spare tire, in reserve, relief pitcher kind of surrogate-substitute team. It’s not like I’m defecting from the Phillies on anything. Au contraire. I’m a baseball fan and I like to watch a winning team. So, while my Phillies are getting themselves together, I’ll watch someone else. It’s not like I’m cheating or anything like that, right? I mean, I’ll keep my eye on the standings and the scoreboard, and if they decide to get on a hot streak, I’ll be right there.

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And I bet you’ve got a fill-in, fallback, temporary team too, right? You might not admit it, but you do. And I think I’ve got one in the wings. The Boston Red Sox. How ‘bout that? Sox Nation Baby! And that’s not because I hate the Yankees; perish the thought. My son went to school in Boston, I mean BAAASTIN, and I was glad for them when they finally won in 2004.

But wait a minute. Wait one cotton-pickin’ minute. Seriously, no tried and true fan has a backup team. I mean, we live or die, rise and fall, like it or lump it with our home town team. We win with ‘em and we lose with ‘em. None of this girlfriend for every day of the week stuff. Right? Right! So, my Phils stink. And I’m just going to have to live with it. Bummer? No. It’s called faithfulness and fidelity; Christian principles, no less, right out of God’s Playbook. And it’s based on love. We love, and therefore live and die with our teams. 

So, back to the Mariners and Safeco Field. I look forward to going to this field as I’ve heard that their ballpark is very nice. In fact, I’d love to take off one summer and visit each and every ballpark in the US. Wouldn’t that be great? If you or someone you know has done that, let me know. I’d love to hear their story.

So, take me out to the ball game. In Seattle.

“Thou Shalt Defeat Thy Rival:” The First Sports Commandment With Promise

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There are commandments for our spirit and commandments for our soul and commandments for our bodies. The commandments for our bodies are the Commandments of Sports. We’ll get to all of the other Sports Commandments later; for now, we want to zoom in and zero on the first Sports Commandment with promise: “Thou Shalt Defeat Thy Rival.”

Defeating your rival, especially and particularly your arch rival, is a command. Your arch rival wants you dead and defeated and destroyed even more than they want to win. Just like Ohio State lives to beat Michigan, and the Boston Red Sox are better when they’ve beaten the New York Yankees, and the L.A. Lakers love to beat the Boston Celtics, the Dallas Cowboys just HAVE to beat the Washington Redskins and the Redskins can’t breathe unless they beat Dallas. In other words, if you can’t make the playoffs, at least beat Dallas.

And last night on Monday Night Football, with the entire sports world watching, the Redskins did what they are commanded to do. The only problem for the bookies is that someone somewhere bet on the Redskins winning, and against all odds, the ‘Skins won. It’s just that no one in their right mind or in their wildest whims or in their deepest delusions even dared to dream the ’Skins would win: but win they did! They beat their rival; they beat Dallas.

Defeating your rival is what you should live for. Defeating your rival is what you should be willing to die for. Defeating your rival is in fact Biblical. Yes I know that sounds so Old Covenant, so Old Testament, but even the New Testament attests to the fact that our enemies must be destroyed. “And the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” Until then, loving our enemies is the “Christian” way to defeat a rival.

And last night the lowly Washington Redskins, on their third quarterback this season, gave all of us reason to hope again. Last night, the underdog came through and won a game that they had no chance – at least on paper – to win. And it was against their rival. Last night, the 2 – 5 Washington Redskins defeated the heavily favored 5 -1 Dallas Cowboys IN DALLAS, 20 -17.

The Dallas – Washington rivalry is one of the fiercest and fiestiest in all of sports, and certainly the most ferocious in the NFL. And for the Redskins to beat the Cowboys with a Third String Quarterback in OT no less, was a miracle indeed. Colt McCoy come out of nowhere and led the ‘Skins to victory with a first year coach and a list of veteran players sidelined due to injury. Talk about pulling the rabbit out of the hat.

So let’s learn the lesson of the first Sports Commandment with promise. Let’s defeat every fiend and every foe that comes at us and comes after us. With God’s help, let’s determine to defeat every nemesis and every naysayer, every adversary and every archenemy that we have, in Jesus name. Amen.

OH, and what’s the promise? Tune in next time . . . unless you want to chime in on what the promise is.

Springtime and Baseball

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Baseball brings spring; or is it that spring brings baseball? Or do both come at the same time? Whatever the case, now that the trees are blooming and the grass is greening and the birds are chirping their little hearts out, it’s now springtime; it’s time for spring and it’s time for baseball and it’s time for hope. With childlike faith, it’s time to spring from hope and it’s time to gain hope from spring.

Baseball comes with spring. And, like Baseball or no, it’s coming in April is one sure sign that spring has sprung. So shake off the weariness of winter and put on the spritz of spring. Shake off the winter blues and welcome the spirited good news. The good news is that God will not leave us in the winter of our discontent; God will not leave us to wane with the winds of winter; God’s will is not that we wallow and wander and are left to the whims of wintry weather. This frigid and freezing, frosty and frightening time of our lives is called by the ancients, “the dark night of the soul.”

Baseball and spring come because we all crave a release from being confined by the darkness of winter and being consigned to the weariness of the weather. The despair of our hearts and the darkness of our souls leave us longing for a “spring” to come. Our doubts need to be soothed and our fears need to be calmed. For all of us that long to emerge from the darkness of our winters, here is some pain medicine: let’s spring from hope and gain hope from spring.

Alexander Pope said that “hope springs eternal.” It must. The great God of the Universe that so many people doubt and don’t believe in was wise enough to give us the season of spring. And not just one or two or a scattered few, but many, manifold springs; one every year. And with spring comes hope, and from hope we can spring.

Baseball is like spring and spring is like baseball; baseball and spring bring hope. Every spring, every team (mostly the Yankees and the Red Sox!) begin the season with the hope of winning the World Series. So like baseball or no, hold onto the hope that this sport brings. Hold on to the hope that you too will emerge from the dark night of your soul with joy and say, “the time of the singing of the birds has come.”

Spring brings light and life for all of us who have high hopes and deep fears. Spring is for all of us who have doubts about how “things” are going to turn out. Spring is for all those who stretch for and hold on to future hope, but also have a strong penchant for present help. We believe in pie in the sky by and by, but also hope to eat some of that pie before we die. We struggle with what the theologians call “the already and the not yet.” We believe that things will change for the better but wrestle with if and when that change will come.

So take courage my soul, and let us journey on. “Take me out to the ball game, take me out with the crowd. Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack, for we don’t care if we never get back.” Hope says “root, root, root, for the home team.  If they don’t win it’s a shame, for its one, two, three strikes you’re out,” if you don’t hold on to hope at the old ball game of life. So spring from hope, and gain hope from spring, for it’s time to “Play ball!”

 

Hope springs eternal in the human breast;

Man never is, but always to be blessed:

The soul, uneasy and confined from home,

Rests and expatiates in a life to come.

 

– Alexander Pope, An Essay on Man