By a large margin, my favorite month of the calendar year is October. There are a variety of reasons why. For firsts, it is when humidity disappears and the air turns cooler. It gives you an instant natural high just to step outside & take a breath of air. Also, in October, it is my birthday -- which is always fun. And, as well, October is one of the greatest months of college football. You have border-war matchups like Oklahoma-Texas, Florida-Georgia, and Alabama-Tennessee. The season is in full swing, teams are playing at their best, and it is this month that separates the contenders from the pretenders.
And as singularly great as each one of those elements are, my favorite thing about this month is October baseball. There is almost nothing more edge-of-your-seat, pump-your-fist, yell-out-loud exciting than a playoff baseball game. There are are rivals, to be sure: back-nine of the Masters, college football rivalry games, March Madness. If it's a good year for the U.S. in the Ryder Cup, that might top playoff baseball. But usually, for my money, the most exciting sports events happen in October with playoff baseball.
Some may say that better athletes play football & basketball.
I say that there is no more difficult task in all of sports than hitting a baseball off of a major league pitcher.
Some may say that the games are slow.
I say that the drama is just building.
And some may say that other sports are just more exciting.
I say that no other sport produces the kind of "magic" that baseball produces.
I wanna see Big Papi go deep this month
It's in October that old pitchers can sometimes dig way down deep & recapture that old greatness, like Jack Morris in his 10 shutout innings in Game 7 of the '91 Series. It's also in October that young flamethrowers emerge, like when Josh Beckett silenced Yankee bats in Yankee Stadium in the 2003 World Series.
October is when Kirk Gibson limped into history. It's when Curt Schilling pulled off a real-life Roy Hobbs-like performance -- blood seaping through the uniform and all. Only Schilling's performance lasted batter after batter after excruciating batter. And not just once, but TWICE: against the Yankees AND against the Cardinals.
You can't write these scripts. The Red Sox coming back from an 0-3 deficit in a seven game Series ... after losing game three 19-8 ... forcing not just one, but TWO Mariano Rivera blown saves. Give me a break! Right? The freakin' Tampa Bay (don't call 'em Devil) Rays, having never won more than 70 games in a season, stand up to win the AL East. Could THEY make a run this October? You just can't make this stuff up.
It's a month that makes life-long memories with unfamiliar names. Names like Bill Mazeroski, Francisco Cabrera, Luis Gonzalez, and Aaron-Bleeping-Boone. It's a month that makes goats out of Mitch Williams & Bill Buckner. The Fall Classic has intimately intersected with some of our nation's tragedies. The Giants and Athletics played in the midst of a devastating Bay Area earthquake in '89. The Yankees brought life to a city that was lifeless after the 9/11 attacks in 2001.
Just as a general baseball fan, one of my favorite moments in the last few years was seeing Magglio Ordonez live the dream of every young baseball player. "Two outs. Bottom of the 9th inning. He connects! Long fly ball, deep left field ... and ... it's ... OUTTA HERE! Three run homerun, and the Tigers are going to the World Series!" Magglio literally hit the homerun that sent his team to the World Series with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th! Ordonez is so happy when he sees his first-base coach it's almost as if he momentarily forgot that he had to round the bases. The guy on second, Placido Polanco, doesn't just trot home -- he SKIPS home. Skipping like an exuberant little kid.
And that's really the point. October baseball can make you feel like a little kid again. As James Earl Jones said in Field of Dreams, "it's as if you've dipped yourself in magic waters," and you believe that the impossible CAN really, actually happen. When the world beats you down, the humidity wears you out, and you feel like you're just about to turn completely cynical, October baseball arrives and lets you believe in magic again.
It's like an old friend returning to bring you cheer. I can't wait to see what magic the 2008 playoffs have in store. Thirty-one days of glory. Welcome back, October!