An Oral History of the 2012 NL Wild Card Game, Part Three of Three (by W.C.G.)

This is Part Three of the oral history of the 2012 NL Wild Card Game. Here are the links to the introductory Part One and the epic Part Two.

The game resumed after a 20-minute delay. It was played under protest both officially and from the crowd, which amused itself by chanting “IN-FIELD-FLY!” on any batted ball in the air post-delay.

McCann worked a walk to start the action back up, but with two out and two on instead of bases loaded and one out, it didn’t move the scoreboard. Bourn then struck out and that was the end of that.

Kimbrel worked the top of the ninth in a classic too little, too late use of one’s best relief pitcher. He got Robinson and Descalso to infield-fly out to Bourn. Then Kimbrel gassed Kozma, adding his fastball to the list of things Pete Kozma had no chance of catching up to.

In the bottom of the ninth, Prado and Heyward made quick outs, bringing Chipper up to the plate for what would, barring extra innings, be the final time in his career.

Trash in left fieldSMITTY: I thought he was out, but if the umps had made that call to end the game, a riot may have started.

SPIRAL STAIRS: When Chipper came up in the ninth I definitely understood that this would in all likelihood be the last time we’d ever see him hit. I told my kids to pay special attention and explained to them the significance. I wanted them to remember this. Of course they’ll never forget this game, but for an entirely different reason. They will probably talk for years about the time a riot nearly broke out at Turner Field. Anyway, I took a picture of Chipper at the plate to capture this bittersweet moment.

Chipper seemed out, even from my seats in the upper deck, and it was pretty clear we were getting a make-up call. Would a riot have broken out if he had been called out? I honestly doubt it. By this time the wind had been taken out of the crowd’s sails. The fact that we were going to lose this game had settled in completely. It was much different from the 8th when everyone was at the edge of their seats and full of optimism. Calling Chipper out would have seemed like adding insult to injury, but I doubt people had it in them to riot at this point.

SIMPLE JACK: I was already halfway out of the stadium at that point, but we hung around near the foul pole just long enough to watch Chipper hit that crappy ground ball out to end a terrible last game of his great career. I don’t think professional umpires actually do this kind of stuff, but it really looked like the first base ump wanted to give Chipper and the Braves a break.

Maybe the ump just wanted Chipper to go out with something other than a season ending ground out, and maybe he felt bad about that horrible call in the outfield. I think at that point the crowd was resigned to the fact that this was going to be one of those games where we got totally screwed, and most of the energy was gone at that point.

Trash in left fieldChipper’s “hit” was followed by a ground-rule double by Freeman, which led to the same sort of close-but-far-away rally we’d seen all day: the tying run at the plate, two out, an anticlimactic groundout by Uggla all but inevitable.

And then it was over, and everyone ran into their respective clubhouses as quickly as they could. My friends and I walked down by the visitors’ dugout looking to catch a glimpse of Chipper saluting Atlanta one last time, but it wasn’t really a day for postgame salutes.

My group stuck around for a while longer, long past angry, just hoping to say goodbye. When it was apparent that wouldn’t happen, we all went home.

SPIRAL STAIRS: At the end of the game I really thought Chipper would come out of the dugout one last time to acknowledge his fans. A weak chant of “Chipper, Chipper, Chipper” started and our eyes were on the dugout, hoping for a final glimpse of our hero. He never came out. I thought back to Bobby’s last game, and how the opposing dugout took a moment to acknowledge him and he tipped his hat to the crowd. Chipper deserved a moment like this and I can’t help think we would have seen one hadn’t the events of the 8th inning taken place.

Did we get screwed? If so, by whom?

SMITTY: Were we screwed? Yes and no. The Braves made a ton of errors and had a few chances and didn’t cash in. I feel the umpire’s call did screw us and I felt like we were building so momentum and I felt like we were going to come back.

So in the end we were screwed. We had to play a crappy team in a one game playoff when we had a much better record. The umpire made a call that killed a late inning rally. He wasn’t in position to make that call.

SPIRAL STAIRS: I have a friend who’s a pretty knowledgeable baseball coach, but also a Cards fan, who immediately went on Facebook that night and argued that Holbrook made the right call. Of course I hit the ceiling when I read this but since that game I have, like all of us, read all the articles making the exact same point about “ordinary effort,” how the ball doesn’t necessarily have to be in the infield for the infield fly to be called, etc. Maybe I’m being stubborn, but I still think we got screwed. If they’re correct, which I’m not willing to concede, then I think this was a case of the letter of the rule being followed to the detriment of the spirit of the rule. The infield fly rule is supposed to protect the runners, and there was no way a double play could have been made on this play. And there’s no excuse for Holbrook making such a late call.

Even though we got screwed on that play, the Braves clearly have nobody but themselves to blame for losing that game. There were too many defensive missteps and missed opportunities at the plate to place the blame on one call.

SIMPLE JACK: It’s funny, because as pissed off as I am/was at Holbrook, I’ve really been mad at Bud Selig since the drive home that night. The more removed I got from that play, the more pissed off I was at Selig and MLB for instituting a ridiculous 1 game playoff. We were better than the Cardinals in the regular season by a fair margin, and we beat them 5/6 times we played them up until that game, it really wasn’t fair to make us play them in a do or die one game playoff. But when you set up a one-game playoff, you potentially put the game in the hands of one bad call, and that’s what happened here.

Would you come back to Turner Field if the one-game playoff was held there again this season?

SMITTY: I hope I don’t have to go to another play in game. Would I make the effort to be there again? I’m not sure. Probably. I hope the team is as pissed off as I am and goes wire to wire and wins the division on the way to sweeping the World Series.

SPIRAL STAIRS: If the Braves find themselves in the same position next fall, I will probably be in attendance once more, hoping to see the right team celebrate on our field for once.

SIMPLE JACK: If we’re there again, I’ll be there. The atmosphere was awesome and the game was a lot of fun — other than the outcome.

92 thoughts on “An Oral History of the 2012 NL Wild Card Game, Part Three of Three (by W.C.G.)”

  1. Thanks for these W.C.G. Like Titanic, you know the story is going to end badly, but that doesn’t mean the story can’t be well told.

  2. Apologies for not posting on yesterday’s truly awesome thread, but I’ve just sobered up enough from the result to use a computer. Yale-UND today for the right to go the Frozen Four! Game is at 4 on ESPNU.

    UND (which due to innumerable court cases currently has no nickname) and Yale are very closely matched in the current power rankings, unlike yesterday’s upset win. This means little. The former Sioux will be gunning for redemption after Yale ousted them in 2010 from the playoffs. Yale will be trying to stay calm and hope that SAT scores are more important than NHL draft picks. (UND has 12, Minnesota had 15, Yale has 3.)

    More Pantera! Go Blue!

  3. How could Chipper come out after that game? He knew the loss was on him. Once he made that error the rest of the team caved in.

  4. Yeah. The poignant thing about the game was Chipper’s role in it. He tried to script the perfect season-long farewell — and by providing so much in the way of season-long heroics, it sometimes seemed like he might actually pull it off. But instead the final game was just a Chipper-era Braves run in microcosm.

    Or what Sam said to start this memorable post.

  5. Thanks everyone for the kind words about this series. I intended it as a last bit of remembering just how weird the end to last year was before we start a new season. Hopefully it works like that.

    The thing that surprised me most as I got people’s responses was the willingness to come back to the stadium if/when this happens again next year. I guess I think the only way to deal with this is to vote with your feet/wallet, because if MLB gets positive feedback in the only category that matters ($$$), this will be entrenched and made permanent and maybe even expanded upon. If it’s seen as gimmicky and a net drag on interest in the sport, it’ll be shelved.

    I appreciate the passion of fans like Smitty, Spiral Stairs, and Simple Jack, who I imagine would show up for any Braves playoff game regardless. I think there’s great honor in that type of loyalty. But I think there comes a point where your own fandom and loyalty gets sort of cynically turned on you as a means to a quick extra buck, and I think that’s where this game comes from. So if it’s back here in 2013, I personally will not be attending again.

  6. Some douchebag Nationals fan on Twitter just asked DOB if Scott Thorman has any options left. Why he asked DOB of all people (and why he even remembers Thorman) is bewildering, but I digress.

    DOB’s classic response:

    Who? RT @kevsaidboogaloo: @ajcbraves Thorman have any options left?— David O’Brien (@ajcbraves) March 30, 2013

  7. @7: Jason Heyward didn’t get that much more expensive. He’s not nearly as accomplished at Buster Posey.

  8. FROZEN FOUR! Yale beats North Dakota, 4-1, with 4 3rd period goals. I’m afraid you guys are going to have to start the baseball season without me. April 11 in Pittsburgh. (OK… I’ll watch the Braves while my head will be elsewhere.)

  9. @11, he’s also 2+ years younger, a year away from arb, and hasn’t had major reconstructive surgery, as well as far more likely to be productive at the end of a long deal. I don’t see Buster maintaining a .368 BaBip either. I just think that sets the bar pretty high for signing elite pre-FA talent.

  10. Congrats, Jon.

    At this point, I’m just hoping my Newark-based hockey club hangs onto 7th place & slinks into the post-season.

  11. For any of you Eames aficionados, imagine my shock when I walked into the antique mall down the block and found this:

    It’s a PKW which is the rarest piece I’ve ever encountered and one I had been hunting for online and had given up on ever been able to find, much less afford. I feel very lucky to have this fella in my place now.

  12. Wow, excellent find Bethany. Looks like one hell of an antique mall! I love those DCM chairs in the background.

    I recently found a PSC Secretarial Chair at an antique store for $40. Not an outrageous find, but a pretty excellent price, considering selling antiques is these people’s job.

    When I took it to the counter to pay for it, the man said “Ah, you found the old Howard Miller chair, huh?” And then all was clear.

  13. @20 Very nice, JJ! That’s a great price and I laughed at “Howard Miller.” The DCM chairs I found at an antique mall in Auburn. The guy knew what he had but I guess he had given up on ever getting their full value and I haggled him down quite a bit.

  14. Oddly enough, I just bought several Wakefield pieces online this weekend and will be heading to Birmingham to pick them up.

  15. @18: We snuck into the playoffs, ububba, and now we’re two games away from a championship. Keep Hope Alive!

  16. I will – nothing too spectacular though – an Encore bedroom suite and the M328 desk bookcase combo (well this one is a pretty rare piece).

  17. I got lady spike the Rio vanity. I might replace it with an Encore one now – LMK if you ever need one. Nice job by the way, if that’s the one you did. I like the aged patina.

  18. Yeah that’s the very one. I don’t actually like the bright yellow “restored to original finish” look. I like the champagne color with 50 years of aging. Just didn’t like the scratches and gouges. So took it all the way down, and redid it the very same color it already was.

  19. The talk about antiques is appropriate given that we’ll be playing the Phillies. Although they haven’t been as well maintained.

  20. Umpires have already blown a tag at second and a trapped fly ball and we’re only three innings into the season. It’s Sam holbrooke’s crew by the way.

  21. I think MLB needs to put a stop to these long “rebuilding” projects (Houston, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Miami) and force their owners to spend money or sell.

  22. Miami did spend money last year, with a payroll over $100 million- they just did so poorly. And Pittsburgh spent a ton of money on drafts and overseas scouting until the new CBA discouraged spending more than the crowd for these purposes. As for Houston, their current problems are because they tried to hang on to their 2005 core for too long- and Jim Crane just bought the team two years ago from Drayton McLane.

    (OK, I can’t think of any excuse for the Royals.)

  23. Yeah, the Marlins at least tried for a season last year,but they’re now back to normal.

    Pirates and Royals are ridiculous. No teams should be that bad for that long. It’s unacceptable.

  24. I always thought there should be relegation. One or two teams drop to AAA and a Minor League World Series to bring one or two teams in. The problem is that it won’t work with baseball as currently structured where the minor leagues aren’t independent. And restructuring baseball to make the minors independent would be a BIG move. But it would be interesting to see a major league season played in some 6,000 seat park. (Another problem: I’m not sure Atlanta would be back in the majors yet from the 80’s.)

  25. Seems pretty obvious that the Royals are going for it this year. That’s the primary reason they traded for Shields.

  26. @40 – Relegation could work if you initially relegated, say 6 teams, and added 2 expansion teams, and create an independent, 8 team 4A league. Then the remaining 24 teams could be split into 4 6 team divisions like we had in the ’70’s, or however you wanted to do it.

    From that point you could relegate and promote into the Majors and out of the 4A league 1 or 2 teams a year, or however you wanted.

  27. DLowe pitching to RAnkiel!!! The Season Has Begun!

    And DLowe gives up a 3-run yicketty to the first batter faced.

  28. Boy, am I glad that DLowe is an XBrave. (And it was a three-run yuckety. And that’s the word for an 80-mph nudist ball.)

  29. I have a sweet end table that I got from a garage sale when I was in college. Best $5 I’ve ever spent.

    No pictures.

  30. Happy Opening Day everyone! Here’s to MVP-like seasons for Heyward and Jupton, a .350 OBP along with ++ defense for Andrelton, 30 yicketies for Freeman and Uggla, and for great, healthy starting pitching.

    Go Braves

  31. It seems Braves interleague schedule is more balanced this year. Too bad we do not play NYY this year or did I misread?

  32. WOO BASEBALL!

    @46 Love the table!!! I’ve made a console tablet with hairpin legs and it was a blast. I have a Knoll sofa knockoff too (I’ve sat in the real thing and it ain’t worth the 10k you’ve got to pay to get one)

  33. Unbelievable. Chase Utley was apparently at the Clermont Lounge last night and ended up rupturing a ligament in his knee after receiving “services” of an undisclosed nature. He’ll be out indefinitely.

    http://tinyurl.com/2g9mqh

  34. I’m thinking about driving up to the game tonight from Macon, should I purchase a ticket beforehand or should I just get one when I get there? I can’t imagine it will be hard to procure one ticket, but I don’t want to drive all the way for nothing. I really don’t want to have to pay Ticketmaster fees either.

  35. This morning on the radio they were saying the game was sold out. I’m sure there will be tickets available but they may cost more than what the ticketmaster fees would.

  36. @61

    If it is just you, you can probably find one on the street.

    But last i tried, it was sold out.

  37. There are a few seats left on ticketmaster, but not very many.
    There is also standing room only tickets available as well.

  38. So back in wintertime, the Rangers refused to trade Elvis Andrus to the DBacks for Justin Upton. Which kind of makes sense, given that you’d be surrendering a cost-controlled young shortstop for a guy who’s already paid.

    But today the Rangers just gave Andrus 8 years/120 million, i.e. > JUpton AAV and contract length. So instead of JUpton/Profar for $14MM/season, it’s David Murphy (or whoever)/Andrus for more $$, forever. Thanks, Rangers!

  39. @66

    Maybe that’s Nolan Ryan’s FU to Rangers management as he’s being shoved out the door?

    Edit: Oh frabjous Opening Day, callooh callay!

    (With apologies to Mr. Carroll.)

  40. I went ahead and got a standing room seat; I’ll probably just stand around the concession stands and watch the game. I’m still mad I didn’t get to go to a game last year, so I wanted to go ahead and see if I could at least see Chipper throw out the first pitch.

  41. @68

    Get there really early and stand in the Chop House. It is a pretty good place to view from.

    Tell Chase Utley Smitty says, “Burn in Hell’

    Thanks

  42. In case anyone is wondering, here are my opening day predictions for who will make the All Star game:

    Justin Upton
    Kimbrel
    Heyward
    Mike Minor (for real)

  43. Learn something new everyday.

    The Padres’ hotshot rookie infielder Jedd Gyorko pronounces his surname “JER-ko.”

    Well…

  44. If Gattis isn’t starting then it will be April 1st and I guess I just started it. Feels good too.

  45. Folk, the starting line-up for your 2013 World Champion Atlanta Braves, Game One:

    1.Simmons SS
    2.Heyward RF
    3.J. Upton LF
    4.Freeman 1B
    5.B.J. Upton CF
    6.Uggla 2B
    7.C. Johnson 3B
    8.Laird C
    9.Hudson P

  46. By any standard, that’s two thirds of a championship-caliber lineup. And maybe Uggla, Johnson, and Laird/ Gattis will have some surprises for us. (After all, the Mets have scored 11 runs today, so anything can happen!)

  47. Just a reminder that BOS/NYY is what’s wrong with baseball today. Today’s Was/Mia game lasted 2:10. Today’s game between teams hoping to fight for the 2nd wildcard spot coming up on 3 hours and they’re in the 7th of a 5-2 game.

  48. I’ll be attending Bos/NYY Wednesday night. As always, I expect to be in for the long-haul.

    However, I don’t expect this NYY lineup to grind the pitchers so much.

  49. Could we please get rid of the “oral history” posts? I know many people worked on them, but that game was devastating and I really don’t want to remember it for any longer than necessary.

    It’s a dawning of a new season, let’s get rid of that memory…what do you think?

  50. Boston scores two runs on an infield single without an error… Sometimes scoring decisions are really bad.

  51. Keep this info on bravesjournal but according to a bar owner where brad clontz visits, chipper has expressed interest to fredi about coming back after ASB if the Braves are in contention. That’d be interesting…

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