This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and this is The Score.
Every October I go back home, to New York, and carve out some time to enjoy the fall foliage a couple of hours north of Manhattan. My dear friend Candace has a cabin up there and we ride bikes along the country roads and through the idyllic little hamlets by day. At night we build a fire, cozy up next to the radio and listen to baseball games. Candace doesn't follow Major League Baseball. She played a lot of softball at one time and knows the basics--the count on balls and strikes, that sort of thing. But she has no clue as to which teams are doing what, season by season.
I arrived for this year's trip last Sunday morning. Chopping wood and gathering twigs on a chilly afternoon, with blazing orange maples filling our view in every direction, we got into it. We were going to be listening to the fourth game of the American League Championship Series. The winner would go on to the World Series. The rich Yankees were up three games to none over the long-suffering Boston Red Sox and four games win the series. The BoSox hadn't won the World Series since way back in 1918 and it looked like they would continue that drought this year. No team in the history of the game had ever come back from down zero to three. Candace was already rooting for the Red Sox. Everybody loves an underdog.
I enjoy a huge flat screen as much as the next sports fan but I have to say that wrapping that radio antenna with tin foil and working it to get just enough reception to hear the bare bones of the call puts a certain mystique into the experience. Settled in two big arm chairs in front of the fire, we listened for the first pitch. I filled Candace in on a few story lines. The Yankees have this Japanese superstar named Hideki Matsui who has bigger than rock star/movie star fame combined in Japan and has been knocking the lights out of the ball against Boston. They also have the highest paid player in the Major Leagues, Alex Rodriguez, and it's kind of nice to finally see him play for a team where he can show his stuff. Their star relief pitcher, Mariano Rivera, just lost two of his family members in a drowning accident in Panama. He came back the day of the funeral and pitched to a tearful standing ovation in Yankee Stadium. We went through a lot of the stories on both teams and got into the game.
It goes back and forth. It's tied at the end of the ninth. Extra innings take us to 1:20 in the morning. We're up out of our chairs, cheering double plays, catches at the outfield wall, Fenway Park's famous Green Monster. And, like a fairy tale, in the 12th inning. David Ortiz of the Red Sox belts a home run and the Boston crowd goes bananas.
The next night we're really primed. Now Candace gets the whole scene and we're in place, hot choclolate mugs in hand, sky high in anticipation of the first pitch. It's a wild game. Lots of action. And, again, even later into the night, the Red Sox pull out a 14th inning miracle and force Game 6.
The next night they're back at Yankee Stadium. It will either wind up a tie at three games each or the Yankees will take it four games to two. The Red Sox pitcher, Curt Shilling, has a shredded ankle tendon that's all the way out over the bone. He's in pain but he's a warrior and grits his way through the unlikely scenario of this team pulling up to three each and now the seventh, deciding game will be Wednesday night. Another late afternoon of chopping wood, getting the tin foil just so, and Candace and I are on the edge of our seats. I'm a New Yorker. I've been happy with this adrenaline surge of a series but now it's time for the Yankees to come back to form. Candace just likes a great story and the Red Sox doing what has never been done, coming back from three down, is a great story. And, in the end, the great story is complete. The Boston Red Sox won the series 4 to 3 and have moved on to the World Series.
It just goes to show you don't have to be a year-long, knowledgeable fan to feel the spirit of sport. It's the stories of sport, not the stats, that move us.
This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and that's The Score.