I still haven’t seen the David Freese home run in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series.
I didn’t have to. I knew that it was coming. I saw it in my mind. It had a be a home run. I had to be then. I haven’t seen the hit and yet, I can safely label it the worst moment of my entire life.
I know what that sounds like. It sounds like an exaggeration or an off the cuff remark you would say at a sports bar to prove your dedication to the drunk next to you, but I promise you that it’s earnest. I don’t call the end of Game 6 the worst moment in my life to garner any sympathy, companionship, or empathy. It’s simply the truth. It was a moment that I’ll be dealing with in some way for a long while. To better help you understand, I’ll paint the picture of my world shattering that night. The beginning is always a good place to start a story, no matter how delayed.
Though I’ve lived in Texas since 1990, I didn’t become an active Texas Rangers fan until high school in 1999. I say active, because this was the first time I actively sought out the sport and the team, rather than just tag along to games for free Pudge tshirts that I would wear into my twenties. The team excited me. Without the burden of friends or girls showing interest in me, I could get lost in a game on a Friday night. Hell, the team was good. At least for me, they were. Though I watched the games, I had a lukewarm understanding of the rules, the other teams, and what good stats looked like. I just enjoyed the crack of the bat and the fluids of fielding. As with all first loves, I strayed a tad during college, but I went right back into hardball’s loving arms during my junior year and rode the exponential rise in my fandom from there on out.
I dove headfirst into the game. I learned the minor league teams, studied stats, learned deeper stats not available on prima facie, and became obsessed with everything Texas Rangers. I scoured for ticket deals and managed to squeeze out 10+ games a year on a non-profit, liberal arts degree career. Where polos once hung now saw Michael Young throwback jerseys, Ian Kinsler shirseys, and minor league shirts for Justin Smoak. And as if the baseball Gods had begun to notice my cannonball into the unknown of this sport, I was rewarded with a team that did better and better every year. And not just better, but more exciting.
Players were joining the 20-20 club left and right. Cycles were being chased and sometimes achieved. My favorite player of all time destroyed records in the Home Run Derby in old Yankee Stadium. It was the beginning of a beautiful wave forming for the Texas Rangers and their fans. The lover who spurned us and others for decades upon decades finally changed into the winner we always hoped. Someone we could take home to Mom and Dad and be proud of.
The rest of the story is written and I do not have to bore you with the long details of 2010 or most of 2011. We were a bankrupt team that achieved the unthinkable. We were a one legged, poor David taking down a Goliath with $200M and Derek Jeter in his back pocket. 2010 was so unexpected that even though the Rangers were absolutely crushed in the World Series, there was a welcome home parade and fan summit. I commemorated the berth with a Rangers tattoo.
2011 was different, though it did not feel that way. The fans that sat to the left and right of me all season didn’t expect another World Series appearance. No one did. We were happy. Most of the band was still together, with a few pieces of E-Street caliber guys. And yet, a part of us didn’t want to imagine the heartbreak of what to do when we truly expected a ring and failed. And like the baseball Gods heard us once again, the wave reached its crest.
2011 Game 6 was our death. Game 7 was the funeral. I felt a loss that I’ve never felt before and wish upon no one. It was like the whole world conspired against the Rangers. My stomach hurt. I couldn’t talk. I walked home in the rain after Cruz missed the catch. I knew what was coming. The cruel history of a cruel world.
It’s not just a game. That’s the one point that I want to drive home to everyone who wants to understand baseball. It can be your entire life. It can be your religion. You become so invested in something, that the ups and downs begin to mirror your life. I went to grief therapy for 6 weeks after the 2011 World Series. I had bleeding stomach ulcers. I had reoccurring nightmares, which I later confirmed that our radio announcer Eric Nadel also experienced. It’s so much more than a game.
And yet, despite all of that, this is what I love so much about baseball. It allows me to feel those feelings in a way I never thought possible. The peaks and valleys of emotion are in itself beautiful. I’ll always have the memories of the meteoric rise of 2010 and 2011 and I’ll always be thankful for those the blessing of those feelings. How lucky are we to have something that can send us down the gamut of human emotion in 9 short innings? The Rangers will no doubt make me happy, sad, and oftentimes frustrated through 162 games in a year, but I’ll always be there for them, and they’ll always be there for me; permanently inked on the back of my right leg.
Lee Knox is a resident of Dallas, Texas, where he lives with his wife Shannon and his Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Dr. Dorian. He was the top editor for #sports on Tumblr for the entirety of 2012. He has never caught a foul ball or a home run. Follow him on Tumblr or Twitter.
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