In 2013, Miguel Cabrera and the Detroit Tigers ended their season in Kansas City. Kansas City was one year away from making the playoffs. That last Sunday of the season usually is not well attended and the home team packs up their bats and gloves and heads for home after the game.
However, on this last day of the 2013 season, Kauffman Stadium was mostly full as they watched to see if Cabrera could do something no one had accomplished in 45 years. The last person to do this was Carl Yastrzemski, the long retired outfielder from the Boston Red Sox. Mickey Mantle did it in 1956. It was first accomplished in 1887 by Tip O’Neil, who was a baseball player not the Representative from Massachusetts, who served in the House for 34 years. Only 15 times in all those years did someone win the Triple Crown.
To win the offensive Triple Crown, a player must hit more home runs than anyone in his league. He must have the highest batting average and drive in more runs than anyone during that particular year. Kansas City is full of knowledgeable sports fans. They knew Cabrera had a chance to make history. They came to see if he could pull it off. He had it clinched by the third inning.
His manager pulled him from the game with two out in the fourth. The Kansas City crowd gave him a standing ovation. Cabrera was overwhelmed with this gesture. Kansas City and Miguel Cabrera will forever be linked to this stadium full of knowledgeable fans.
The Steinmeyer’s are on vacation this week. As usual, it’s a baseball trip dictated by my baseball-crazy son, Sam. He is a huge Tampa Bay Rays fan. It just happens they played a four-game series in Houston this week. Tuesday, Sam and I got the chance to see something we had never seen. It was something almost as rare as a no-hitter.
Evan Longoria, the Rays All Star third baseman, hit for the cycle. When a player hits for the cycle, it means the hit a single, double, triple and home run in the same game. Knowledgeable fans were not in great abundance at Minutemaid Stadium Tuesday night.
In the first inning, Longoria hit a monster home run on the engineer of the train that runs along the top of the Minute Maid Park. It must have traveled 500 feet. In his next at bat, Longoria hit a line drive down the right field line for a triple.
Longoria made an out in the fifth inning but hit a single in the seventh. Now, only a double stood between Longoria and a cycle. Sam knew it. I knew it. I’m sure the Rays dugout knew it, but I doubt many other people even thought about it.
In the ninth, Longoria was the third batter. He lined a base hit down the left field line. In most cases, it would have been a single. A cycle was a stake, so Longoria hustled past first and dove head first into second base. He was called out. So close to a cycle, but wait; The Rays asked for a review and it showed Longoria’s hand getting to the bag just ahead of the tag. Longoria had his cycle.
Sam and I went nuts. We were in the upper deck and not many people were sitting near us. Those few in attendance in the far reaches of the stadium had no idea why we were acting so excited about a simple double. Longoria is only the second Rays player to EVER to hit for the cycle. Hardly anyone was aware of that fact.
The Astros media staff did put it on the video board, but made no announcement. Sam and I tried to explain to the people around us how significant this feat was but no one seemed to care. Maybe it wasn’t as significant as Cabrera’s Triple Crown, but it deserved an “atta boy” from the Astros crowd.
Since 1969, the first year of existence for the Kansas City Royals, only four players have hit for the cycle. George Brett and Frank White did it twice. Freddie Patek and John Mayberry did it once. No one has done it since 1990. That’s 27 years since the last cycle. No Royal has pitched a no-hitter in that time either.
I guess I shouldn’t be too tough on poorly informed baseball fans. Baseball can be confusing at times, I guess. There are some head-scratching rules if you are just a casual fan. Try describing the infield fly rule where it only is significant if an infield fly is dropped in fair territory. That has to be all explained while the ball is in the air.
The dropped third strike rule can confuse some baseball fans that think they know what’s going on. If you drop a third strike sometimes you have to throw to first, sometimes the batter is out right away or even sometimes it can be a force out at home. This is too much for some fans.
They said there were 22,000 people at the game Tuesday, but I suspect 5,000 paid but never showed. Those that did show obviously had no clue as to the rarity of the cycle. At least two visitors from Missouri sitting in the upper deck knew what we had seen was very special. We should have kept it a secret.