You can live many a season, see many a game come to an end, but not like the Braves-Marlins game ended Wednesday night—and at the same time, the end of the Braves’ last shot at the playoff. And why, oh, why, is it that nearly always, the victim is the nicest, hardest playing guy on the team? In this case: Matt Diaz, Braves’ leading hitter, hustler and prince of good fellows.
Bases loaded, Diaz on third, two men out, Braves needing a run to tie the game, Brendan Donnelly making his first pitch in relief. It was in the dirt and Paulino, the Marlins’ catcher, scrambled for the ball. Diaz broke for home, saw Paulino retrieve the ball, then paused halfway down the line and tried to get back to the base.
Paulino’s throw to Wes Helms was on the mark. Diaz was out, and lay grieving in the dirt. Game over. Season over, for the most part. Diaz’s run would have preserved the Braves’ playoff chances. And the farce of it all is that Donnelly’s one wild pitch netted him a save! Life ain’t fair.
The Braves fans were back into it, too. They were piling into Turner Field in droves, 31,000 Wednesday night—and that was not one of those bogus figures that includes season tickets sold but unused—and at times, “the wave” broke out. And the “kissing cam” was kept busy. Only hope left was that the Braves might sweep the Nationals series and Colorado got wiped out by the Dodgers.
I don’t know that there’s anything that irks me more than these in-game television interviews with managers while the game is in play. Some managers won’t do it, Bobby Cox for one. And these football coaches, trying to get off the field after losing a game, and some reporter chasing behind him with a microphone in hand. I liked it the night Joe Paterno said at halftime, “I’ve got to get to the dressing room and talk to my team,” and kept running.
A fellow named Charlie Waller died the other day, but his passing went without a headline. Charlie coached from coast to coast, but he had been out of circulation for quite awhile. Coached at Decatur High School years back, then later coached with Frank Howard, Sid Gillman, George Allen, and as an assistant at Auburn, Texas and the Washington Redskins the year they lost the 1973 Super Bowl to Miami. Was, for a time, stand-in head coach with San Diego, if I’m not mistaken. Tell you this, Charlie was a football man.