Picture the setting. It’s the bottom of the ninth. The New York Knights are trailing the Pittsburgh Pirates 2-0. They’re one out away from losing the pennant. The rest is the perfect ending to a fairy tale with a two out rally allowing a injured Roy Hobbs facing his younger self.
A tall lefty with a blazing fastball, Youngberry enters to face the flawed aging rookie superstar. Hobbs nearly takes him deep just missing down the right field line only to see his symbolic bat he made as a kid, Wonderboy break. A emotional moment takes place between him and the bat boy Bobby.
“Pick me out a winner, Bobby,” Hobbs tells him.
Then Bobby unveils his own homemade bat called Savor Special. Made similarly to how a younger Hobbs made his following a storm where a lightning bolt cut a tree in half. The moment where Bobby presents the bat to Hobbs is one of my favorite scenes from The Natural. The look from both. There is a happiness and excitement over a kid’s game even with the stakes so high.
Either Hobbs delivers the knockout blow and wins the pennant for Pop or the sinister Judge buys Pop out and celebrates with crooked gambler Gus and Harriet Bird clone Memo.
Down to his final strike, the plate umpire notices blood coming through Hobbs’ jersey. He asks, “Roy, are you okay?” To which Hobbs replies, “Let’s play some ball.” The Pirates catcher picks up on it and puts down the number 1 sign for Youngberry.
In the novel, Hobbs strikes out and the game ends. But in the movie, that can’t happen. It’s not storybook. A flawed Hobbs, who has the silver bullet removed at the hospital for pregnant woman after Memo put something in his drink, knows he is risking his life. The doctor warns him that it wouldn’t be wise to play. But Hobbs needs to. He knows it’s his final game. A last chance to be a heroic figure and win one for Pop after they lost three in a row without him. The Judge notes that as he tries to pay off Hobbs with another “key person” part of his contingency plan. He leaves an envelope with $20,000.
Of course, Hobbs pays a visit to The Judge and returns the envelope which causes a stir. Gus calls him a loser. As they argue, Memo pulls a gun and fires a shot after Gus says, “I like the action.” Hobbs then replies, “Then let it ride.” Then comes the gun shot. She then cries and says she hates him. That’s how much not playing and having Gus stake them to a lot of money and buying into a company meant to her. This is Pop’s niece. Someone he refers to as “a jinx.”
Hobbs struggles throughout the game to get his timing back striking out badly twice. When his former girlfriend Iris pens a letter with her son at the game having an usher get it to Hobbs in the dugout, it reveals the truth. That it’s his son watching from the stands. An emotional Hobbs looks around at the crowd in the dugout. As that happens, a Knight tries to stretch a single into a double but gets pegged at second to end the seventh.
They have one last chance. Following a Knight just beating a long throw from third by jarring the ball loose, the Pirates’ ace gives up another hit putting runners on the corners. It sets the stage for Hobbs’ final at bat. One last chance to be the hero or goat according to the annoying Max Mercy. Poetically, Hobbs fouls off a pitch through the press box shattering the glass where Mercy is perched. This movie is all about symbolism. The acting is top notch and the characters are excellent. It is my favorite baseball movie and ranks second all-time in sports behind Hoosiers.
Down to the final strike, Hobbs steps back in bloody uniform and all. Youngberry delivers a heater that Hobbs crushes. You can hear the radio announcer saying, “It’s still going…He did it! He did it! Hobbs did it! The Knights have won the pennant!”
The best part is when he came up, a lightning bolt struck. As the ball carries, it hits the lights turning an epic scene into fireworks as a stunned Judge and his cronies watch helplessly. Hobbs touches all the bases and is mobbed by teammates. The scene then darkens and shifts to a father having a catch with his boy on a farm with his wife. Just the way it once was for him with his Dad.
So, what does all this have to do with Mark Teixeira hitting a dramatic walkoff grand slam with two outs in the bottom of the ninth off the beleaguered Boston bullpen to give the Yankees an exciting 5-3 win at Yankee Stadium? Just this. It’s Teixeira’s final season. It’s been a tough year for the once great first base slugger who has been tremendous throughout his career which has included the final eight years spent in the Bronx, including a World Series title in ’09.
There haven’t been many magical moments for Teixeira in his last year. When he decided this would be it at a press conference, injuries were a factor. Still an above average defensive first baseman, he just can’t stay healthy. The thing is he hit over 30 home runs last year before an injury ended his season. So, he didn’t look done. But injuries have a way of changing things for older players. Case in point, a now retired A-Rod.
Not everyone has a happy ending. But on Wednesday night in the Bronx, Teixeira gave Yankee fans something to remember. Most notably, he gave himself one final big moment he will never forget. The Red Sox were ready to celebrate clinching the AL East on the field. Toronto had already lost to Baltimore. But if Boston held the 3-0 lead in the ninth, they would’ve gotten to celebrate some on the field before popping the cork in the locker room, which they still did.
It was bad enough that Boston basically ended the Yankees’ season with that four-game sweep at Fenway Park. A Yankee loss combined with an Oriole win would’ve officially eliminated the Yankees. However, they showed tremendous character rallying off Jekyll & Hyde closer Craig Kimbrel. He didn’t have it giving up a base hit and walking three including a bases loaded RBI walk to Brian McCann that made it 3-1.
That was enough for manager John Farrell, who pulled Kimbrel for Joe Kelly. A flame thrower who can hit 100 on the radar gun and has a good breaking ball. The last time Farrell replaced Kimbrel with Kelly, it worked. It almost did again with Kelly striking out Starlin Castro on three pitches and then getting Didi Gregorius to pop out to third for the infield fly rule. He had one man left to get. Up stood Teixeira.
Watching the final half inning on TV, I was hoping for Teixeira as well as wanting to see the Yankees finally pull one out and not strand runners. They’ve left a village on the base paths all season. The Red Sox were one out away from getting out of it. But then Teixeira took a hard swing and connected for a deep drive to right center. The ball kept carrying and carrying until Jackie Bradley, Jr. ran out of room. It was gone. Teixeira did it! He did it!
You may as well have cued Randy Newman’s theme from The Natural. Something WFAN’s Steve Somers made sure to do. When it comes to production, nobody is as good as The Schmoozer. Always dripping with sarcasm but also using the well produced clips to provide even more entertainment to the listener.
Seeing an emotional Teixeira mobbed by excited teammates and get a Gatorade bath was awesome. You felt good for the guy. He is up to 15 homers with dingers in consecutive games. Something that hasn’t been a frequent occurrence. He believed it was his last home run. If it was, what a way to go out.
Here’s hoping he’s got at least one more Tex Message against the Orioles this final weekend. Teixeira channeling Roy Hobbs. That’s what makes baseball great.