Unscripted, unforgettable: the beauty and fun of sports

The Baltimore Sun

We were reminded about the beauty of sports the other day in Baltimore.

The reason I love sports and you buy overpriced tickets and endure pampered superstars is because you never know when you're going to witness history.

You don't know if this is the day Kobe Bryant scores 81 points, or the day Jamal Lewis rushes for 295 yards.

Or, in this case, the day the Texas Rangers set a modern-day record with 30 runs against the Orioles. No team had scored that many runs in a game since the Chicago Colts did it in 1897.

Not even Nostradamus could've predicted Texas would score 39 runs - also a major league record - in a doubleheader sweep Wednesday that left club and league officials scouring record books to put the performance into perspective.

Not with this team of unproven youngsters Ron Washington puts on the field every day.

Michael Young is the only upper-echelon player. Soon he will be joined by Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who's destined to be a star if you believe the people paid to know these things.

But none of that really matters right now.

We all know for the Rangers to hit like the 1927 New York Yankees for one night, the perfect confluence of circumstances had to occur.

There's no other rational way to explain how Saltalamacchia and Ramon Vazquez became the first teammates since the Yankees' Mickey Mantle and Elston Howard to each have seven RBIs in a game.

Or how about Travis Metcalf, hitting .148 in Triple-A when the Rangers called him up Wednesday, going 3-for-4 with a grand slam and eight RBIs in the doubleheader?

And don't forget David Murphy's five hits. Don't tell me you know about Murphy, a throw-in from the Boston Red Sox in the Eric Gagne trade.

Murphy hustled to beat out an infield single in the ninth, setting up Vazquez's history-making homer that gave Texas the modern-day major league record for runs scored. The 1950 Red Sox and 1955 Chicago White Sox had held the mark, 29 runs.

"We have a lot of young guys playing and we're playing for jobs," Murphy said. "Every single at-bat matters."

See, when we're not bogged down with stories about Michael Vick's dogfighting, steroids and baseball, and game-fixing referees, we get a chance to focus on the best part of sports.

There's nothing more meaningless than an August baseball game between two teams under .500, but those fans in attendance experienced a night they'll never forget.

Just as I can remember what I was doing the night North Carolina State beat Houston to win the 1983 NCAA basketball tournament, and the evening Buster Douglas knocked out Mike Tyson. And my dad has no problem remembering the New York Jets' Super Bowl win over the Baltimore Colts in or Muhammad Ali knocking out George Foreman.

Again, that's why sports is so much fun. All you had to do was walk around the Rangers' clubhouse the next day and see all of the smiles in the midst of this raggedy season.

For at least one day there were plenty of feel-good stories. There was Wes Littleton getting grief, as he should have, for pitching three innings and getting a save in the 27-run victory.

There was Kevin Millwood, who took an early flight home with Kameron Loe, bemoaning the fact that he was in an airplane instead of the dugout while his teammates pounded out 29 hits. Jerry Hairston, the former Oriole, didn't make the trip because he's on the disabled list, but he seemed pleased with the outcome.

"It couldn't have happened to a better team," he shouted to no one in particular.

Rumor has it that Saltalamacchia arrives at the ballpark with a big smile every day, so we shouldn't have been surprised that he couldn't wipe the grin off his face after being informed that the Hall of Fame wanted his black Louisville Slugger model C-271 for a display.

"My bat is going to the Hall of Fame," he said. "Can you believe that?"

The Hall of Fame also wanted the lineup card and the ball from the final out for a display.

Rangers public relations director Gregg Elkin carried the ball around in a white sanitary sock to protect it. It had been authenticated earlier in the day by a baseball official and affixed with sticker 636229 BB, making it all legal.

"One of the best things about sports is that when you go to the game, something special could happen," said Rangers first base coach Gary Pettis, who played 14 seasons in the big leagues. "You never know when history is going to be made, but the possibility is exciting.

"When you go to a baseball game, you might see a no-hitter. Or you might see a guy hit three home runs. But I don't think anyone at our game thought they were going to see us score 30 runs."

Neither will the fans who show up a hundred years from now when it happens again.

Jean-Jacques Taylor writes for The Dallas Morning News.

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