Saturday, October 10, 2009

The ghost of Armen Terzian

I didn't see the Twins game tonight. Perhaps I should have guessed the outcome on the subway ride home, when two youths in Yankees gear boarded, grinning. No one looks that happy getting on a subway. Instead of asking them for the score, I assumed the Yankees won easily, maybe 5-1, or 10-4.

Oh if it only that was so. Turning on ESPN News, it took about 10 seconds for the score to appear: Yankees 4, Twins 3 (11). Damn it. Maybe the Twins were down 3-0 in the ninth, rallied for three off of Rivera and then lost it on a double and a single in extra innings. Yeah, they'd still be down 2-0, but at least it wouldn't have been a crushing defeat.

What's this, Joe Girardi and his horrible haircut are first to talk at the press conference? Ok.

Questioner: Did you see a replay of the Mauer hit?
Girardi: No, I didn't.

I think his eyes darted to the left when he answered. Isn't that a sign someone's lying?

Goes on to say they got a break, it's one of those things that happens. Okay, what's that mean?

Finally place the call to Minnesota, get dad on the line.

"I don't want to talk about it," he said.

He had to because I hadn't seen the game, but by the end I wished he hadn't. I could have gone on with my own story of the ending in my head and not have to deal with the reality, which I then saw in the highlights. Gomez falling down. Nathan. A-Rod. A-Rod. A-Rod. Mauer's double. Uh, Mauer's single. So that's the replay Girardi didn't see (of course he didn't). Bases loaded with nobody out. Seventeen runners left on base. Texeira. 2-0.

The Twins havent' won a playoff game since Game 1 of the 2004 ALDS, when they beat the Yankees in Yankee Stadium. In Game 2 that year, they were set to take control of the series when Nathan allowed a double by...A-Rod in the bottom of the 12th to tie a game the Yankees won a few batters lately. Twins haven't won a playoff game since.

Before I moved to New York, I never cheered for the Yankees. I do now, provided they're not playing the Twins. The city really is alive, though, when the Yankees are playing well. At least that's what I've read. Since I arrived in New York in 2004, the Yankees have won a single playoff series - the one against the Twins. They followed that up by taking a 3-0 lead against the Red Sox, and then...I'm not sure what happened after that. The Bloomberg administration - with an assist from the Steinbrenners and Winston Smith - systematically erased the memories of that series from every New Yorker's head. In 2005 the Angels hammered the Yankees, as did the Tigers in 2006 and the Indians in 2007. Now this year, and they're again facing the Twins. This time it seems the Yankees are again the favorites to win it all, and maybe I'll actually get to experience what life is like in the city during a Yankee title run.

It's surely one of the most crushing losses in Twins history. It's not like they have a lot of postseason disappointment to choose from, aside from the World Series in 1965. That Game 2 in 2004 was probably a more upsetting loss than this one even, since a 2-0 lead was just an inning away. Other losses that come to mind immediately are the 10-0 blown lead in 1984 in the final week against Cleveland - a feat they somehow managed to replicate against Oakland this year - and the game in 1992 when Eric Fox - Eric Fox! - hit a game-winning three-run blast in a crucial July series against the A's. The win put Oakland in a tie with the Twins, who faded the rest of the season.

How crushing was that defeat? It basically ended the 1990s for Minnesota, just three seasons into the decade. The team didn't contend again until 2001 as the Beckers, Cordovas and Stahoviaks of the world took the Twins to the bottom of Major League Baseball, while glaucoma finished off Kirby's career.

When's the last time a referee or umpire's decision had this kind of impact on a loss for a Minnesota sports team? Someone with a better memory than me might have a more recent candidate, but you might have to go back to the 1975 NFL playoffs, when Drew Pearson allegedly pushed off against Nate Wright, leading to the completion of the Hail Mary pass as Dallas upset the Vikings.

As upset as Twins fans surely are with Phil Cuzzi - the umpire who blew the call on Mauer's double, er single - they won't have the chance to enact revenge, like a hooligan did in that 1975 playoff game against Armen Terzian. Moments after the noncall on Pearson, a fan hit Terzian in the head with a whiskey bottle, a horrendous act certainly, but also a throw that's more impressive than anything Tarvaris Jackson's done the last three years. It knocked Terzian unconscious for a brief time.

If this game had been in the Dome, maybe some drunk and disappointed fan would have fired something onto the field. In Yankee Stadium, I'm just surprised the fans didn't carry Cuzzi triumphantly off the field, like the French hauling Lindy around after his famous flight.

The series isn't over, of course, and the Twins have made a habit of improbable comebacks this season so they've still got a chance of taking two in the Dome and returning to the Bronx for a Game 5 victory.



Brock said...

I do know that games are not decided by Umps, or refs, or zebras, what ever someone may call them, but I do love the fact that they never seem the help themselves out by making a great call... I think Ron Wendorf is liked(as a ref. not alumnus) in Fulda as much as Cuzzi is in Minnesota as a whole...

Jerry said...

I don't think there is any "allegedly" about Pearson's push-off of Nate Wright. But the worst call of that game ws when Pearson caught the ball 10 feet out of bounds at midfield when the official said he was "pushed". I thought maybe Jeffery Mayer was umping on the left field line last night. AARRGGHH!

Shawn Fury said...

Until I see a better camera angle, I think the allegedly has to stay on the description of the Pearson play.