A Legend To Remember

Occasionally, I go through statistics of the great players in MLB history. Pedro Martinez. Ty Cobb. Jackie Robinson. Babe Ruth. Greg Maddux. I’ve heard of the legends, and while I don’t get the pleasure of watching videos of past games to see these masters of the game in their prime, the stats at least give me an idea of how good these guys were. It will pain the Jack Morris-type, “You had to be there” crowd, but it’s the best I can do.

Now that I’m the baseball fan that I am, I have some regrets. Regrets that my younger self didn’t realize just how good some of these players were. I have vague memories of Maddux* and Martinez, of Wade Boggs, of Kirby Puckett, but that’s all that I have. Vague memories. Almost like I’m looking through a fog, and all I see is the silhouettes of these players.

* Maddux in particular is especially disappointing because he was still pitching as recently as 2008, but I just never saw him pitch. Martinez is similar, but I seemed to see him pitch at the end of his career far more often than Maddux.Watching these guys in their primes must have been a real treat.

Now that I’m older, I can appreciate the greats of today much more than when I was a kid (having cable, which means ESPN and MLB Network now certainly helps as well). Roy Halladay must be the present’s Greg Maddux. Justin Verlander isn’t on the same level as Pedro, but it sure isn’t a picnic when you see Verlander’s name penciled into the lineup as the starting pitcher. And Albert Pujols, oh Albert Pujols, I like to imagine him as Babe Ruth. The Machine is 55 home runs away from 500, and he’ll be only 32 years old on Opening Day 2012. Barring a Ken Griffey, Jr. collapse, Pujols will break Barry Bonds’ home run record, if Alex Rodriguez doesn’t do it first.

Saturday, Game 3 was a night to remember, even if you were rooting for the Rangers, as Pujols joined the names of Ruth and Reggie Jackson in becoming only the 3rd player in major league history to hit 3 home runs in a World Series game. Two nights after jilting the media by refusing to speak with them over a muffed catch on a relay throw, he let his play do the talking. Epitomizing Teddy Roosevelt’s “Speak softly and carry a big stick” slogan a little more literally than it was intended, he released all his pent-up frustration in three swings.

My 10th grade baseball coach always said that in an at-bat, we had to make three good swings at three good pitches. Well, they weren’t in one at-bat, and they weren’t necessarily on three good pitches (especially in that first AB), but Albert Pujols most certainly made three good swings. In this case, Hit Tracker Online isn’t needed to understand how hard Pujols hit his three home runs; it’s needed to reinforce how hard he hit them. 431 feet. 424 feet. 420 feet. Nearly a full quarter-mile worth of home runs, in less than half of a baseball game, from one man alone.

I hadn’t been watching much of the MLB playoffs this fall, but I did watch Saturday’s game, and I am rather fortunate that I did. The game itself was exciting until St. Louis pulled away, but Pujols himself kept the game entertaining until the very end. Saturday night featured more than just a night to remember. It featured a legend to remember.


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