After the Houston Astros dis–hey…stop laughing…it really happened–dismantled the Texas Rangers last night at Minute Maid Park, we had our first full day of baseball today.
Naturally, ESPN kicked it off with proof that they are extremely stubborn as a network, pitting C.C. Sabathia and the hobbled Yankees versus Jon Lester and the completely average Red Sox.
There were so many amazing moments in a long day of ball that it was hard to narrow down to just five. But here is our best shot at it. This is what we do at Three Up, Three Down. We write stuff on baseball-related activities for your enjoyment. So, enjoy!
5. Justin Jacks One
Welcome to Atlanta, where the playa’s play and Upton hits bombs like every day. No disrespect to Freddie Freeman, who also went mammo today, but this Justin Upton blast was put in orbit. And it’s not just a top moment because of the distance–the Braves outfield is the most freakish in baseball, and this is just the first sampling. The Braves faithful have been waiting for this moment since the original trade was made, and the little bro definitely didn’t disappoint.
4. Brewers Bailed Out
One of KP’s least favorite memories of the 2012 season was any blown save by John Axford and Co. If you see our tallest group member, give him a hug. Because Axford was at it again on Opening Day, giving up a no-doubter with two outs in the ninth to the Rockies’ Dexter Fowler, which tied the game. Fortunately for Milwaukee and the home fans, the Rockies pitching staff is deplorable and Jonathan Lucroy was able to score a walk-off sac fly and bail the bullpen out.
3. Bryce Decides Twice is Nice
If there was any debate that last year’s NL Rookie of the Year would suffer from a sophomore slump, he killed it quick. In his first two at-bats of the 2013 season, Bryce Harper absolutely crushed two Ricky Nolasco pitches and put them in the right field bleachers. I’m not buying that his second one has landed yet. In fact, it might currently be traveling over the Atlantic Ocean. Keep an eye out for it. The 20-year-old phenom is on pace for 324 jacks this year.
The late Cardinals legend and Hall of Famer Stan Musial is being honored by the team with a cool, classy patch (pictured to the right) on their left sleeves in 2013. But the Arizona Diamondbacks, who hosted the Cards on Opening Day, pulled off a fantastic move by paying homage with a video tribute to Musial between innings. Unfortunately, I don’t have video for you, but the gesture itself was a true act of sportsmanship and remembrance of one of the greatest hitters and humans the world has ever seen.
1. Kershaw Goes Krazy
Let me set the stage: The defending champions travel to their heated rival’s new stadium and face their fancy new team in a battle between two of the best pitchers in the league. A pitcher’s duel turns into a one-man show as Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw not only throws a complete game, four-hit shutout, but hits a go-ahead home run that breaks a scoreless tie in the eighth inning. Unbelievable. And in a game that began with a well-choreographed first pitch skit from Dodgers heroes Sandy Koufax and Orel Hershiser. I have to take a second to brag, as humbly as possible. I tweeted THIS about five minutes before magic occurred. Of course it was a coincidence but it makes me believe in fairy tale endings, and reinforces our love of this magical sport.
Buckle up, baseball fans. This was just day one. Only 161 more regular season games to go! Vote below on which one of these moments should have been in the top five, or comment about any moments we missed!
– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)
This next week or so on Three Up, Three Down, we’re each grabbing a wrench and tweaking our respective team’s time machine. Inspired by Jim Caple’s recent ESPN column, we are allowing ourselves to go back in time to any game in our team’s history that we wish we could view in person.
Bryan Mapes got us started yesterday with his awesome top 5 list of Braves games he wishes he could go back and attend. Now it’s my turn.
Hanleywood Hollywood, anything is possible. So I’m jumping in and taking you with me to April 15, 1947 at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, NY:
You guessed it – Jackie Robinson’s historic Major League debut. In my humble opinion, this was the most important moment in American sports history.
In a time when racial segregation was the norm, Brooklyn Dodgers’ GM Branch Rickey took a chance. He recognized that talent trumped “the norm” and found a way to make his baseball team better. That meant signing Jackie Robinson to a contract, making the speedy infielder the first African-American man to ever play Major League Baseball.
Baseball is America’s pastime, and was especially so in the first half of the 20th century. That being said, it was a white man’s game in a white man’s world. But on April 15, 1947, Robinson busted right through that color barrier on his way to changing sports, and the country, forever.
Though Robinson didn’t record a hit in his first career game, he put his legs to work. After reaching on an error in the 7th inning, Robinson scored what turned out to be the winning run for the Dodgers.
It was this kind of fearless style Jackie had both on and off the field that eventually turned the tides of two battles. The teammates, opponents and fans who believed black players shouldn’t be in the Major Leagues learned to respect the future Hall of Famer’s talents on the field and his spirit off of it.
And, though many likely wouldn’t point to Jackie’s debut as THE turning point in the Civil Rights Movement, it certainly played a role. Because of him, African-Americans everywhere were inspired to fight back. To take back the rights that were bestowed upon them by virtue of being human.
Jackie’s bravery still resonates today, as his number 42 is retired in all 30 ball parks around Major League Baseball, and has become arguably the most revered and sacred jersey number in sports history.
If not for Robinson, it’s possible that Matt Kemp might not have pursued a baseball career. Maybe he wouldn’t even be allowed to play. C.C. Sabathia might never have won a Cy Young. Giancarlo Stanton might not be crushing mammoth home runs for your viewing pleasure.
Sure, I could have picked any number of games in which epic moments appeared on field: any of the half-dozen Dodger World Series titles, or Kirk Gibson’s Game 1 walk-off in the 1988 World Series, or Sandy Koufax’s perfect game, or Steve Finley’s walk-off, division-winning grand slam in 2004.
But if I really had the chance to go back in time, there is no other athlete I would want to witness on the diamond than Jackie Robinson. And no other game I’d rather see him play in than April 15, 1947; one of the most historic dates in not only baseball, but United States history.
Do you agree? Would you go back and watch that game with me, or do you have a different Dodger game in mind? Tell us below in the comments!
– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)
Did you watch the ESPY’s yesterday? Yeah, me neither. Sorry, I have better things to do than watch a bunch of athletes dress nice and split hairs determining which player, coach, moment and team is just a tad bit more popular than the rest.
And thank god I didn’t have to see Brian Wilson and his more-attractive “date.”
Anyway, here at Three Up, Three Down, we watch a lot of sports. I mean…a LOT. But for all the football, basketball, hockey and soccer games we’ve taken in over the years, our baby is baseball.
So here’s my try at re-awarding every ESPY award that had baseball involved in it:
1. Best Male Athlete
MLB contender: Justin Verlander
ESPY winner: LeBron James
I love JV, but the voters got it right on this one. The other nominees for this award were Novak Djokovic and Aaron Rodgers. All four are incredible athletes and dominated their respective sports. But there is no human specimen on this planet more physically capable and immensely talented than LeBron. I truly believe LeBron could have been a power-hitting outfielder, Serena Williams clone (both in looks and tennis court presence…sorry, had to do it) or star tight end. I can’t say that any of the other three could make it in the other sports.
Jeremy’s winner: LeBron James
2. Best Championship Performance
MLB contender: David Freese
ESPY winner: LeBron James
It’s hard to argue against the voters again. But this category is definitely much more difficult. The other nominees were Eli Manning, Tony Stewart and Jonathan Quick. Because Manning had so many teammates making clutch plays around him, I’m going to back off on giving it to him. Stewart is a NASCAR driver; ’nuff said. Quick was absolutely incredible tending net for the Los Angeles Kings, but again it’s a sport where individual dominance seems more aided by your teammates than most. James and Freese both came through in hugely pressurized situation, but James did it against worse competition (by that I mean, he is so head and shoulders above other players that he SHOULD win, whereas Freese is a huge underdog). With that said, the St. Louis boy and his huge World Series performance get my vote. Perhaps the fact that the World Series occurred over 8 months ago played a role here?
Jeremy’s winner: David Freese
3. Best Record-Breaking Performance
MLB contender: Mariano Rivera
ESPY winner: Drew Brees
Okay, I get it. Brees threw for a billion yards. Very impressive, considering he had one of the most prolific offenses in recent memory around him. *Rolls eyes* Just kidding – I love Brees. But, there is no way he should have beaten out Rivera for this award. That being said, Coach K’s wins milestone is a very tough nomination (Lexi Thompson was the fourth and final nominee) to beat. Coaching is an underrated challenge, but nothing tops coming into a game in the ninth inning to secure a win in front of 40,000 people. Rivera should have gotten more respect here, and in turn, the ESPY.
Jeremy’s winner: Mariano Rivera
4. Best Game
MLB contender: Rangers vs. Cardinals, Game 6
ESPY winner: 49ers vs. Saints, NFC Divisional playoffs
I’m going to catch some heat for this. I will never forget game six. It was one of the most epic moments of my entire life as a sports fan, and I was just watching with a beer in hand and dogs at feet. I ran around the house yelling and cheering, because (as Jack Buck so aptly announced) I couldn’t believe what I just saw. BUT, I’m a 49ers fan, and our fan base was hurting for some success after finally returning to the playoffs. And with all the doubt placed on Alex Smith over the years, his throw at the end of that game made him a local hero – I’m sticking with the Red and Gold here. Please direct all hate mail to email@example.com.
Jeremy’s winner: 49ers vs. Saints, NFC Divisional playoffs
5. Best Moment
MLB contenders: Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit OR MLB season ends with dramatic final night
ESPY winner: Tebow to Thomas, sudden death TD
This is a freakin’ travesty. There’s no other way to put it. And it just makes me hate Tim Tebow. I know it’s not Tebow’s fault that football is now more popular than baseball in our country, but you’ve got to be kidding me. Derek Jeter is one of the all-time legendary athletes, not just baseball players, in American sports history. Achieving his 3,000th hit solidified his already-being-cleared-and-buffed spot in Cooperstown. Not okay, voters. Not okay. Oh, and Bubba Watson was another nominee or whatever.
Jeremy’s winner: Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit
6. Best Comeback Athlete
MLB contender: Johan Santana
ESPY winner: Matthew Stafford
What? Seriously? Football rules again. The other two nominees didn’t stand a chance (Maria Sharapova and Sidney Crosby – wow, there really was a shortage of good comeback stories, huh?), but Santana got snubbed. Both players came back from injury to have big seasons, but Stafford had the difficult role of dropping back and throwing a football in the general vicinity of Calvin Johnson. Santana had his arm ripped apart, repaired and stitched up. Upon returning, he no-hit one of the best offenses in baseball. Is there really an argument here?
Jeremy’s winner: Johan Santana
7. Best MLB Player
ESPY winner: Josh Hamilton
This is the Big Kahuna. I’m sure it was difficult enough to narrow this category down to five guys, but the committee went with Hamilton, Matt Kemp, Clayton Kershaw, Ryan Braun and Justin Verlander. I’m hard pressed to say they were wrong, as much as my Dodger blue-bleedin’ heart wants to. Hamilton has been the best player in baseball at various points of the last few seasons. The only argument I feel could be legitimately made if we narrow it all the way down, is for Verlander. All of the other guys have great cases, but JV won the Cy Young AND MVP. It’s hard to top that. I’m okay with the selection of Hamilton though. Kid deserves all the respect in the world.
Jeremy’s winner: Josh Hamilton
8. Best Male College Athlete
NCAAB contender: Mike Zunino, Florida
ESPY winner: Robert Griffin III
It’s laughable that they even included Zunino and fellow nominee Jack Connolly (Minnesota-Duluth hockey player) in this category. Nobody watches college baseball OR hockey, so it was just to look like they cared. Well played, ESPN. The real competition was between Griffin III, Andrew Luck and Anthony Davis. Though I could have seen the unibrow or first overall NFL draft selection take it home, I’m not the least bit surprised it was Griffin III. He won the Heisman Trophy, the most prolific of college athletic awards, and led a team far less talented than Stanford football or Kentucky basketball to a huge season.
Jeremy’s winner: Robert Griffin III
9. Best Team of the Year
MLB contender: St. Louis Cardinals
ESPY winner: Miami Heat
The Cardinals were an awesome, incredible, inspiring team in 2011. Unfortunately, the voters got it right again. If this was Best Comeback or Best Cinderella Story or Most Likeable Team to Win a 2011 Championship, the Cards would likely win. But they had no chance in a category including the following nominees: Alabama football, Baylor women’s basketball, Kentucky men’s basketball, Los Angeles Kings, Miami Heat, and New York Giants. The real contenders here were Kentucky, the Heat and the Giants. But I think voters recognized that Kentucky can’t compete with the other two at the college level, and that if you take into account the consistency of dominance over the course of a season – it was always going to be the Heat. As it should have been.
Jeremy’s winner: Miami Heat
Don’t forget to comment below if you disagree! Give me your winners and what you think of the ESPY’s. Follow Three Up, Three Down @3u3d and LIKE us on Facebook.
– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)