Earlier in the week I waxed poetic, as I often do, about the nostalgia, and memory-based emotional resonance the game of baseball has with its fans. As Atlanta Braves fans know too well, that does not apply only to positive emotions.
Baseball is a game of heartbreak. Though Braves fans cannot understand the torment that Chicago Cubs fans endure on a yearly basis, we have still have felt our share of heartbreak. I will unveil my most heartbreaking moment as a Braves fan, and ask that you do the same. Once again my moment comes from when I was a kid, this time in the year 2005, at the awkward age of 13.
The Atlanta Braves exiting in the first round had become a yearly expectation for me. I was too young to remember 1995 and 1996, so my only World Series memory was a four game sweep at the hands of the New York Yankees in 1999.
The years that followed saw a first round exit, an NLCS loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks, a first round exit in 2002, 2003, and 2004. 2005 would be the same, but in a much more devastating fashion.
The Braves found themselves down 2-1 in a 5 game series to the Houston Astros. Game 4 was played in Houston, and was going strongly in Atlanta’s favor. Heading into the bottom of the 8th inning the Braves held a five run lead.
I had convinced my Dad to let me take the day off from school so we could drive down to Atlanta to watch game 5 in person. I doubt he would have actually gone through with it had the Braves won, but I had the Ticketmaster page open, ready to make a purchase.
Then disaster happened. The Astros netted four runs in the bottom of the 8th on a Lance Berkman grand slam off of Kyle Farnsworth to bring the Braves lead down to a single run. Now, panic has not set in yet. They still hold a one run lead. Just get three outs
Farnsworth inexplicably returned for the 9th inning, and allowed a solo homerun to Brad Ausmus to suck the air out of the Braves balloon and send the game into extra innings. I’ve since forgiven Bobby Cox, but I’ve had an irrational dislike for Farnsworth since that moment.
After 8 and a half scoreless innings, 3 of which were hurled by Roger Clemens, little used utility man Chris Burke walked to the plate. Oft-injured Joey Devine delivered the pitch and Burke sent it sky-high into the Crawford Boxes in leftfield to give Houston a 7-6 victory, and a 3-2 series win. Now I have to go to school tomorrow, no hooky-trip to Turner Field.
Following that series loss the Braves would miss the postseason for four consecutive seasons. That game still gives me nightmares.
You know the drill. What moment still makes you dry heave/sob when you are jolted awake in the middle of the night during a baseball nightmare?
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