This is part two of the oral history of the 2012 NL Wild Card Game. If you missed part one, you can view it here.
Medlen recovered in the fifth, but gave up a solo home run in the sixth. After Dan Uggla’s error put the Cardinals’ leadoff hitter on second base to start the seventh, Medlen was pulled. He had looked alternatingly transcendent and ordinary, sometimes during the same inning; the line as he exited was 6.1 IP, four runs, and a man on base.
Chad Durbin came in to get a ground ball and got one, but Andrelton Simmons — normally a defensive sure thing, but playing for high stakes in just his 50th major league game — threw it over Freddie Freeman’s head. By the end of the inning, the Cardinals were up 6-2 and the Braves were wearing their tension on their sleeves.
Atlanta got one back in the bottom of the seventh, but it felt like it could have been more. Prado and Heyward both reached base with two out, but the rally ended with a Chipper Jones groundout.
The Braves got another rally going in the bottom of the eighth. Freeman walked, Uggla grounded into a fielder’s choice, and Ross singled Uggla to second. After working a full count, Simmons hit a perfect bloop single into the no-man’s land between Matt Holliday and Pete Kozma in short left field, loading the bases with one out for McCann to pinch-hit in the 9 hole.
Or at least that’s what we all thought it was at the time.
MAVERICK: It took me quite a while to realize what had happened. Andrelton never moved off first for probably 10 minutes, so we had no idea what was going on. My initial thought was there was some fan interaction that caused something to happen. When the Cards’ shortstop pulled off I couldn’t tell if he did because he was getting called off or some fan threw something at him.
SIMPLE JACK: We were going crazy. We had finally gotten a break after being on the other end of them in so many big games over the past couple of years. And then all of a sudden, while we were celebrating, Fredi came running out of the dugout, and I knew something was wrong. But I had absolutely no clue what it was. We started speculating that one of the baserunners had missed a base. I even thought maybe a fan had been reflecting light in the outfielder’s eye.
SMITTY: I was in the 755 Club and we had no idea what was going on. We were still cheering when Fredi came on the field. Zee, our waitress, came out from the bar area and said the infield fly rule had been called. At this point I thought, “What? Terrible call!” Well, so did everyone else.
JONATHAN: My 4-year-old son told me that he had to go use the bathroom in the eighth inning. At that age, we’ve learned the hard way that you don’t wait too long when a request like that comes up.
So, of course, he decides it’s time to drop a deuce. He was taking forever! So I pulled out my smart phone, and fired up the MLB At Bat app. I saw that the Braves got a couple guys on base — you could hear cheers from the crowd, kind of almost feel the ebb and flow – and then the feed just seemed to go dead.
Then I heard boos — lots of boos, voluminous boos, loud, long, clear, all through the stadium. The whole time, I was asking the 4-year-old “What are you doing? Why are you taking so long? Come ON!!!” He was singing, and I could hear him getting up and down off the seat…
SPIRAL STAIRS: I remember my wife and I looking at each other with “What the hell is going on?” expressions and I think I heard someone say “Infield fly” and the realization of what had happened set in. The call seemed so egregious that I still held out hope that it would be overturned. Only after Fredi headed back to the dugout did it truly set in that we had been screwed in such a royal way.
MAVERICK: Once everyone figured out what had happened the place went crazy. My friend that was a Cardinals fan just kind of slouched down in his seat and took his hat off. There were two obnoxious Cardinals fans that had been standing up the whole game. They sat down in their seats and shut up. Even they knew they had gotten away with something bad.
JONATHAN: The bathroom had been completely empty, except for us, for probably about 10 minutes. Finally, a couple guys came in, and I asked them what’s going on. In descriptive language, one of them told me that they just had an infield fly call, “worst call he has ever seen”, etc. So that was the point at which I actually found out about the “infield fly”. We made it back to our seats in time to see most of the on-field debris and hear some of the worst of the complaints from the stands.
SMITTY: Even though it was a playoff game, Fredi should have gone nuts. You have to get ejected in that situation. All I could think about was how Bobby Cox would have died on the field from the massive stroke he would have had.
Then, for the first time in about a decade, Braves fans showed some team spirit and things began flying on the field. Usually, I’m anti-throwing things on the field. That’s how innocent bystanders get hurt. In this situation, I understood it.
Being unsure that I could hit the field from where I was, and not wanting to waste my $12 gin and tonic, I didn’t throw anything. However, when I looked over, one of my buddies launched a mustard bottle that exploded in left field.
SIMPLE JACK: Somehow everyone in the stands became aware that the call was an infield fly, we all started booing, and then all of a sudden bottles were flying. It all seemed perfectly natural at the time, like a logical response to a horrendous call.
SPIRAL STAIRS: What was really funny was people throwing cans from the back of the upper deck and hitting people in the first 10 rows of the upper deck. Other times cans would just clear the edge of the upper deck and I’m sure landed on some sap below. We got sprayed by quite a bit of liquid, hopefully none of which was semen or urine.
MAVERICK: One of the things that I love about the Braves is they allow you to bring soft coolers in. I have a soft cooler with a false bottom that I had put my whiskey in. Then I had put a 6-pack of Coke in plastic bottles in the cooler and filled it with ice. So this left us with no beer cans to throw on the field. We did have a couple of empty Coke bottles, so we threw them. Empty plastic bottles don’t fly anywhere, so I’m sure they landed on top of whoever was sitting below us in the lower deck.
We had been tailgating since about 2 o’clock so I was pretty tipsy to say the least. So my drunk mind turned to trying to find something heavier that I could throw all the way to the field from my seat in the upper deck. Then it dawned on me…the cooler!
I took out my flask and the remaining Cokes, dumped out the ice, and started swinging it. It has a pretty long shoulder strap, so I was swinging it over my head almost like a lasso. I saw how fast I could get it swinging, and I launched it out into the night. Damned if I didn’t get it pretty close to the field.
I landed it about 10 rows from the field in the lower deck. It landed against a chair and no one could have gotten hurt from it, but then at that point I was pretty upset I had lost my cooler.
SIMPLE JACK: Bottles from the upper deck definitely reached us. I was hit with a few (thankfully empty) bottles. Nobody in my group was throwing anything, whether missiles that had rained down from above us or their own bottles.
I’d like to think that’s because we are too classy or we don’t understand the logic of throwing bottles on your own field, kind of like in “Goodfellas” when the women spit on their own floor. But I think the bigger reason was that we were right in front of security guards, and the few people in nearby rows who did throw things were immediately escorted out. I don’t remember exactly how many fans. More than two…
SPIRAL STAIRS: The trash continued to go on the field, and the poor grounds crew couldn’t pick it up fast enough. Once they got an area cleaned up it would be filled with more cans and cups. One of the grounds crew guys put a trash bag filled with cans on the back of his golf cart and started to drive along the warning track. The bag tipped over, leaving a trail of cans while he drove off unaware. Everyone cheered at that.
One person threw a half filled bottle of something at the umps and it just barely missed them. The crowd erupted in cheers then too. In the middle of all this there were several chants of “BULLSHIT, BULLSHIT, BULLSHIT,” which got puzzled responses from my kids.
SMITTY: By this time, the whole crowd was chanting “BULLSHIT” over and over. A Cardinal fan sitting below us informed everyone around that he didn’t appreciate this language in front of his wife and kid. I informed him that I didn’t appreciate seeing his kid in a bar and that my grandfathers fought in the Second World War so I could yell at a baseball game in a bar.
This did not please the Cardinal fan. However, the guy next to me started dog cussing him. The Cardinal fan thought it would be appropriate to fight this guy (in front of his wife and kid). This was a huge mistake.
The Cardinal fan was put in a head lock and dropped to the ground in about .08 seconds. He didn’t take in to account that the Braves fan next to me was a 5th degree black belt in judo (or so he later claimed). In the end, the Cardinal fan and his family were removed from the 755 Club and all the Braves fans stayed.
SPIRAL STAIRS: The trash throwing continued for what seemed like a half hour. No matter how much trash they would pick up, more came raining down. They finally made an announcement saying that the game could be forfeited if the fans wouldn’t stop delaying the game, which just made people more angry.
I really thought the only solution would be to have Chipper grab the microphone and plead with the fans to stop. They could have ended it 10 or 15 minutes earlier if he had. My wife suggested that Jimmy Carter intervene, since he was sitting in the second row a few seats from Ted Turner. After the second warning of a forfeit I actually started to get worried about the safety of my kids should they call a forfeit.
SIMPLE JACK: I have this vision of Sam Holbrook standing there right in front of my section during the delay with his hands on his hips staring straight ahead, as though he didn’t even notice. That’s how I remember him. We were all looking up his name from his uniform number so we could start yelling at him directly, and even when we did that, he didn’t move. He just stood there like it was any other day at the office.
We were yelling pretty much anything we could think of at him. Some classic curse words and fuck yous, a lot of taunting him while using his name, and general heckling. To be honest, I can’t remember a whole lot of the specifics of those 20 or so minutes. I was yelling really terrible things at him, and I remember him never moving, just standing there with his arms crossed like a huge dickhead.
Stay tuned for the final installment…