That was fun to watch, right? But it was even more exciting to be there.
Unfortunately, I was not in left field, but the entire stadium was rocking from the start of that rally with Jim Thome.
Every year, when I was younger, my family would splurge on one game around my birthday and before school started up. I wanted to go see Ken Griffey Jr. in person for the first time and hoped Carlos Quentin, who I sure thought would win the MVP, would return from injury. I got to see both of them, but the fun was far from over.
The game did not start out well, as Lance Broadway, of all pitchers, let up a couple runs in the first. I figured I was in for a long day, even longer when Griffey struck out his first at-bat. But a couple innings later, after Carlos Quentin was hit by a pitch (more on that later), Orlando Cabrera (ick) and Jermaine Dye, helped give the Sox the lead. Most of this game has long since been forgotten, but Dye’s near-homer-turned-double was notable, because Griffey had a single to right before that hit. I really thought my day was complete, having seen the aged superstar hit a single.
And then it was silent, until the sixth.
Jim Thome was the first guy up, and it was a critical point in the game because he had two on and two outs, and the Sox only had a one-run lead for Broadway, Horacio Ramirez, and D.J. Carrasco. Not exactly stellar pitchers.
But when Thome unloaded on a pitch for a home run, the game seemed in hand, at 6-2. Then Paul Konerko hit a home run, and I was ecstatic. It was my first back-to-back home run game (yes, I keep track of milestones I’ve witnessed). But then, grand-slam machine Alexei Ramirez hit a home run on the next at-bat. This time I was at a loss for words; all I could do was sing Goodbye to Joel Peralta.
I remember sitting down and saying how much fun that was, three home runs in a row. It was the coolest thing I had seen in a baseball stadium (not the best game, that was August 8, 2007), the best single moment in a game I had seen. And then, of course, Juan Uribe hit another home run to make it four in a row with two outs in the inning.
Finally, the venerable Toby Hall made the last out in the inning, a swinging strikeout. There was a huge groan among the fanbase as the ball went into the catcher’s glove. After the game, just to speak of how different the game was 10 years ago, I remember reading or watching an interview with Hall, and he said it was the only time he tried to hit a home run in an at-bat in his career. That’s a much different approach from anyone today, backup catcher or not.
At the time, four consecutive plate appearances with homers had only happened five times before. Since then, two more have happened, in 2010 by the Arizona Diamondbacks and 2017 by the Washington Nationals.
What makes this feat even more special is how unlikely it was, from a player standpoint. Thome was the only batter that day the was having a good power year, as he had 24 home runs going into the game. The rest, not so much. Paulie only had 11 homers, with an average near .220. Alexei had only 10 bombs. The least likely clouter, Juan Uribe, had three.
However, the back-to-back-to-back-to-back home runs was not even the most rare occurrence in the game.
The one of lesser historical significance has to do with Konerko, one of the home run hitters. He stole a base! It was his second of the year, the only time in his MLB career that he had two stolen bases.
Meanwhile, Carlos Quentin was hit for the 20th time of the year, but it was the sixth consecutive game in which he was plunked. That was the first time since 1920 a player had been hit by a pitch in six straight games.
Some things are meant to be forgotten, but the 2008 season will not be. Aside from the Blackout Game, there wasn’t a more memorable contest in that magical year, and I’m lucky to have gotten to witness it.