Hotcorner Posted September 24, 2003 Share Posted September 24, 2003 heck, i'm too happy to complain about bandwagon stuff anymore. enjoy! Picture of Tuesday's game: priceless Dan Le Batard One snapshot? For the center of the scrapbook? Here it is, eighth inning of what would become an enormous 5-4 victory, but now the Marlins are clinging to the side of the cliff. They have the thinnest margin in this sport, up a run with a man on third, a tie score less than 90 feet away once Jimmy Rollins, Philadelphia's fastest player, bobs with his substantive lead. Marlins reliever Chad Fox has been summoned to clean up the mess a scattered Braden Looper left behind. Last we saw Fox against these Phillies, he was turning around to watch Jim Thome's blast rise into the seats, then answering the hard questions in the losing locker room. But now, with a big crowd abuzz -- ''25,000 sounding like 50,000,'' as Jeff Conine would say -- Philadelphia's Marlon Byrd watched his team's last chance whistle by without a wave of protest. ''Best pitch I've ever thrown,'' Fox said afterward. nwo here's the stuff i love right here.... The umpire uncoiled, and the crowd rose with him, and the weight of all the noise landed upon Byrd's helmet in a way that made his head drop. Fox hadn't heard much of anything until then -- ''dead silence,'' in his own words -- because he had gone to that quiet place athletes go before their biggest moments, but now a world of noise suddenly came crashing in, which is why he couldn't hear his own scream. Completely out of character, moved by a feeling he had never known, Fox jumped off the mound with one fist pump, an uppercut to Philadelphia's stomach. Then he pirouetted, literally dancing at the center of all this good noise, and pumped his fist again. ''The most amazing rush I've ever had in my life,'' he said. 'Words can't describe what I felt. `Awesome' isn't even close. That's the most fun I've ever had playing this game. I've never felt like that before in my life.'' And isn't that what the underdog Marlins, giving you all they have, are doing to South Florida at the moment? Moving us in ways we had not known, making a slumbering sports town behave in ways it usually doesn't? Take Conine, for example. He is the consummate professional, playing this game well but robotically. He doesn't show you much in the way of joy, ever. But when he hit the three-run homer that tied this game, lifting the mood of a dugout that even he admitted felt like there would be no comeback on this night, he couldn't help but pump his fist just before he arrived at home plate. He said he had only done that once before in the major leagues. Back in 1995, when he hit the home run in the All-Star game that made him the game's MVP. That's what these Marlins do, though, making even a hardened veteran find his inner child. Conine's fist pump came as he saw the happiness of his teammates pouring out of the dugout to embrace him. You couldn't see it in the subsequent engulfing, he explained, but he was actually smiling somewhere in there. ''Felt 200 hands on my helmet, slapping me on the back,'' he said in the noisy clubhouse. Then he added, ``I'm tingling still from all the hands on me.'' Sounds almost religious, huh? Baseball is our most quantifiable game, with numbers and formulas to measure every conceivable value, with boxscores and radar guns and detailed histories that reveal, for example, that Juan Encarnaci?n entered Tuesday's game against Philadelphia with 19 career at-bats against Kevin Millwood and no hits. But how do you measure weightless abstractions like attitude? The Marlins, by all accounts, are a relaxed team of innocents -- ''the most fun I've ever seen in one clubhouse,'' according to infielder Andy Fox. In a culture where silly fights sometimes start over the clubhouse music choices or clubhouse thermostat, the Marlins haven't had one incident of friction all season, which is rare in any work environment where people are around each other this much. The Phillies, by contrast, are perceived as a tightly wound bunch united only in their desire to strangle combustible Manager Admin Bowa, who leads the league in facial spasms. It makes for an easy story line, loose vs. noose, and the Phillies certainly looked like a bunch of chokers in Tuesday's decisive seventh inning, when they coughed up a 3-0 lead by walking four and allowing the Marlins to kick down the door to an impotent bullpen. But what if Millwood had not left that pitch up to Conine? What if reliever Dan Plesac had gloved a Luis Castillo liner near his ear? What if, with that 3-0 lead, Thome's line drive with the bases loaded hadn't screamed into the perfectly positioned glove of first baseman Derrek Lee? The Marlins need not answer any of these questions today. Because what they have in their hands at the moment is not something that knows quantification. It is called magic. And, hard as it is to describe, you know it when you see it, like on Tuesday night, when it washed over the reliever who stood at the center of the noise and moved him in a way that hit the Phillies with two uppercuts that came from a place he had never known Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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