And then of course there was 2008 — and it’s funny how memories work. Do I remember the pitch, the swing, the miss, the strikeout, the sprint, the pile-on, the celebration, the champagne, the rings, the White House…… all of that??? Man, like it was yesterday. But the moment that I remember the most vividly — it’s the moment before the moment. It’s the top of the ninth, two out, the Rays pinch-hitting Hinske for Bartlett….. and we see Dubee coming out to have his talk with Lidge.
So then obviously the whole infield comes in.
And now we’ve got ourselves a little party of seven: Myself, Chooch, Chase, Jimmy, Pedro, plus Dubee and Brad. At first we’re going through a little rundown, you know, the usual stuff: If he’s going to beat you, make him beat you away. That sort of thing. But then, after a certain point, that’s it for strategy, and you’re really just there to talk about what matters. That gut-level stuff.
Dubee looks at Lidgey, real cool, real calm. “Hey — how you feeling, big boy?” And Lidgey is in his zone, you know, quiet but focused. “Good. I’m good.”
And at this point, I mean, you really have to know Brad. Lidgey has this reputation as a serious guy, this stone-cold killer on the mound, and all that. But he’s also got some of the best, subtlest comedic timing of anyone I’ve been around. It’s that sort of barely-there sarcasm that goes over 95% of guys’ heads….. but when you get it (and sometimes you won’t get that he was joking until much later) — Lidgey’s the kind of guy who’ll have you laughing for days.
So anyway, Dubee, he turns to Brad, and he’s like, “You ever faced this guy before?”
And Brad, real flat, real collected, he’s like, “Yeah.”
Dubee goes, “How’d that work out?”
Then Lidgey looks up, and gives the six of us the quickest look. I’m telling you: the quickest look. The whole six of us. Then puts his head back down. And then in the calmest, most deadpan voice I’ve ever heard in my life, he goes: “He waffled me.”
Waffle was our word, as a team, for when someone totally destroyed you — whether it’s in a game, or in practice, or even at cards, or just, whatever. So when Brad’s saying that Hinske waffled him, he’s saying that the last time he faced Hinske, Hinske got him good. But it was also kind of like … this … joking term. You have to understand that about the moment. Or to put it another way: Waffle wasn’t the kind of word that you were used to hearing in the top of the ninth, with two outs, one batter away from clinching the World Series.
So now we’re all standing there together on the mound, in silence, trying to keep our cool, trying to stay composed or whatever. But then we’re also all clearly thinking to ourselves the exact same thing: Uhh, wait, what?? Did he just say — did Lidgey just say he got waffled?? Did he really just say that…. on the mound …. right now?? On the inside we’re part laughing, part nervous. It’s anyone’s guess what we’re like on the outside. And now we have to go put a bow on this thing.
You already know the rest.
We left the mound … Lidgey got Hinske with the slider … and everything else is history: The sprint, the pile-on, the celebration, the champagne, the rings, the White House…… all of that. History, and the best kind. But still, when I look back on why that team was so special? — and man, I mean really special? My thoughts usually end up at that minute or two on the mound, with one out to go. When we had it all on the line, the most do-or-die moment of any of our careers.
And we may or may not have cracked a smile.