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The Beauty & The Art of the Walk-off: Twins vs. Yankees, 07/05/14

July 6, 2014

Wins are always great. And wins against the Yankees, even in a year when the Yankees suck, are among the sweetest.

While any win is a good one, walk-off wins are the most exciting finish to a baseball game.

The walk-off. Bottom of the ninth. Down a run or two, or tied. Batters scraping to get on base, or runners already on base and struggling to control a magnetic pull toward the next base and home. The defense positioned to prevent a run. The crowd, 30,000 plus breathing as one. A pitch and there it is: a seeing-eye single that inches between two drawn in infielders; an outfielder, pulled in to a shallow position to prevent a runner from possibly taking an extra base, raising his head and helplessly watching a routine fly ball, a ball that would have been an out at any other minute of the game, drift majestically over his head;Baseball hit a hit that splits the outfielders and rolls to the fence;  a line-hugging single that just squeaks past a diving third or first baseman. Or the grandaddy of them all and the exclamation point on walk-off wins: a heroic solo homerun. Regardless of the scenario the outcome is the same. The home team wins by a run and the visiting players, unable to prevent that winning run from scoring hang their heads and walk off the field. The walk-off. The drama of any of those scenarios gets even the most disinterested fan out of her seat or off his couch and the joy shown by the players at that time transcends a cavernous ballpark or a television and a fan can’t help but feel a part of his team’s on-field celebration.

But when the baseball gods aren’t watching your team’s home game, or they’re watching and because maybe the peanuts were stale that particular day they decide they’d rather not smile down on you, and your walk-off is not the result of a spectacularly dramatic hit but the result of a fielder’s error, I think any sort of on-field celebration that goes beyond the traditional congratulatory hand-shaking looks kind of silly.

Yes, I was happy when the Twins beat the Yankees yesterday afternoon in the bottom of the ninth with a walk-off. But watching the on-field celebration by the players felt a little odd and somewhat undeserved. However, wins are always great. And wins against the Yankees, even in a year when the Yankees suck, are among the sweetest.

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