In "The 209" they call that pitchin'.
The days leading up to Oakland A's pitcher Dallas Braden's perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday—the 19th in MLB history and the first for Oakland since Catfish's 42 years ago—sure had its fair share of talkin'.
The New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez said he didn't want to extend Braden's "15 minutes" after continued questions and jawing about the controversy regarding the two players' baseball etiquette dust-up (mound dirt-up?) last month.
ESPN columnist J.A. Adande essentially called him a nobody on the World Wide Leader's flagship yammering sports columnist show, "Pardon The Interruption."
In his interview with Comcast Sports Bay Area's Mychael Urban four days ago, which re-ignited the A-Rod controversy, Braden said, "We don't do much talking in the 209."
Well, today the 26-year-old Stockton native indeed did some walkin'. The best team in baseball, meanwhile, did no walkin' or hittin' whatsoever.
In a scenario that would be sappier than a Sandra Bullock movie if it were indeed scripted, Braden accomplished that rarest of baseball feats in front of his grandmother and other family and friends, who were, of course, sitting in Section 209.
The same grandmother who raised Braden after Braden's mother died of skin cancer while he was still in high school.
Major League Baseball annually raises awareness and money for breast cancer.
Oh yeah, it was also Mother's Day.
Is it getting dusty yet?
When such moments happen in sports—in real life—they are transcendent. For all those athletes who either disappoint us on the field, or worse, off of it (*cough*Lawrence Taylor*cough*), a story like Braden's come along to redeem your faith in the enterprise of being a fan.
Hell, maybe it even redeems your faith in humanity and its ability to not only endure, but prevail.
You sit through all those days at the ballpark or arena, watching a disheartening product on the field or court (and, trust me, the A's have had many of those days the last few years), waiting for a day just like today, one that so overpowers your heart that the long, numbing days you put in to get to that moment fade away and become a distant, irrelevant memory.
Even putting aside the compelling emotional element of Braden's accomplishment, his perfecto couldn't come at a better time. It might be the most important moment for the Oakland Athletics in the Billy Beane Era, bigger even than the record 20-game winning streak in 2002.
A dramatic, top-of-the fold baseball story is just what the Oakland ballclub needs right now. Attendance has petered out to pathetic lows (12,228 was the announced attendance for what would was a lovely day to take mom to the ballpark and, without knowing it, watch history unfold before your eyes).
The A's are overshadowed by the more successful team across the Bay and winning playoff puck in San Jose. Speaking of San Jose, the Silicon Valley, a Web 2.0 cash-flush suitor, is getting ready to swipe the local professional baseball team away from working-class Oakland, and ownership appears more than happy to give it to them.
In a way, Braden's comments, perhaps provoked by headline-hungry media, have been valuable in bringing back the rivalry the Yankees and Athletics began to enjoy early last decade. As the A's playoff appearances dwindled in the latter part of the decade, it was left to teams like the Minnesota Twins and those very same Rays to be the standard bearers for small-market baseball.
Today, though, Braden won another one for the little guy. Maybe, just maybe, that's enough to develop some momentum that will somehow keep the team in Oakland. Even if that's a Bay Bridge too far, Braden gave the 510 a late, great memory to take away, courtesy of the 209.
The 12,228 fans at the Coliseum and countless more watching and listening to the game at home can tell their children and grandchildren about the one Mother's Day when they saw Dallas Braden shut up, put up and simply be perfect. Stockton's young Dallas showed his arm was equal to the task of his mouth.
27 pinks bats came up. 27 pink bats went down.
Wouldn't mama be proud?