I’m still not okay from this night of baseball. The 2011 Red Sox are really something that I’d like to forget, and Dan Johnson is a big reason for that.
I was there in Baltimore. We flew out in hopes to see the Red Sox salvage their atrocious month of September by squeaking into the playoffs at Camden Yards. Instead, I should’ve been wearing my best suit, because I had just unknowingly attended the 2011 Red Sox funeral. The Red Sox needed the Rays to lose, and they’d be in. If the Red Sox won, and the Rays won, they’d face each other in a one-game playoff in Tampa to see who makes it to October. The Rays entered the bottom of the eighth inning trailing the Yankees 7-0. I felt fine, because the Red Sox had a 3-2 lead, so at the very least, I knew they’d live to fight another day. Yeah, no.
The Rays began their comeback in the eighth inning, as the Red Sox game was in a rain delay. The storm in the area was pretty bad, so the PA system ordered all the fans to head underneath. I found my way into some tightly packed bar within the bowels of Camden Yards with tons of Boston-hating Orioles fans. The Rays’ comeback was well underway by that point.
Then came the Dan Johnson at-bat. I remember being a cocky little fuck, taking out my cell phone to take a video of the final out so that I could record the miserable faces of all the Orioles fans surrounding me after the Red Sox clinched the Wild Card. Bottom of the ninth, two outs, two strikes, nobody on, Yankees lead by one, press record. This thing’s over. The TV was on silent, so you couldn’t hear the announcers screaming that it was a home run. Everyone in the bar was confused to whether or not it was fair or foul. I knew it was a home run. The video stops recording right before you can hear the entire bar go absolutely insane. I’ve been to the old Yankee Stadium during a game that the Yankees walked off against the Red Sox. This night was worse, and this was only the beginning. Tie game. The skies clear, and I headed back up to my seats behind home plate, but all the way back. Jonathan Papelbon comes in the game, and for some reason, I just knew that destiny was going to take over from that point on. The Red Sox just didn’t deserve to make the postseason that year, and the Baseball Gods were going to make sure that they were denied access to October in the most fucked up way possible.
At this point, I feel like I’m going to puke. I flew all the way out here, spent money on a hotel, a flight and tickets to the game just to have my balls punted up to the back of my throat. I was in college at the time, so the cost of this trip was the equivalent to buying a new car to most adults. But, at least it was a quick execution. For the team, at least. As a fan, I still had to suffer long after the season took its final breath.
Fucking Carl Crawford. That was such a catchable ball, you asshole. I just sat there stunned. Absolutely stunned. How the hell did this happen? The Rays were losing 7-0 in the EIGHTH INNING, and the Red Sox had the lead with one of the best closers in the game on the mound. How?
Where we were sitting at Camden Yards, our seats were eye level with the press box behind home plate. So, I’m sitting there with my head in my hands, and then my uncle starts laughing and goes, “Oh Jesus.” I looked up to see what he was looking at. He could see a TV in the press box from where we were sitting. “Evan Longoria just hit a walk-off home run. It’s over. The season’s over. We need to get the fuck out of here before everyone here finds out.” I kind of compare this feeling to being shitfaced at a party when the cops show up. You’re in no way physically able to move that quickly, but survival mode takes over, and you just dig down deep and find a way. I got up, and the second I got to the stairway, they put Longoria’s home run on the fucking big screen.
Orioles fans were going NUTS. Like nothing I’ve ever witnessed before in person. And the worst part is that we walked from the hotel, so from the moment that they showed that home run on the big screen, I had to make the longest walk of shame that any Red Sox fan has ever had to make in their entire lives. And it all started with that son of a bitch, Dan Johnson. He didn’t kill me the first time, and now he’s back to finish me off, rejoining the Tampa Bay Rays as a converted knuckleball pitcher. He’s 36 years old, and it’s a minor league deal, so it’s probably too late to have a stellar career as a knuckleball pitcher, but watch. There will come a time when the Red Sox need to win one game to get into the postseason, and this motherfucker is going to throw a two-hit shutout with 12 strikeouts. It’s coming. I just need to be prepared for it this time.