Yes, the split-game finish in the 2008 World Series was far from normal, but it was also representative of a memorably awkward year in baseball.
The Yankees did not take part in the playoffs, the Cubs had the best record in the National League and the Tampa Bay Rays won the American League East!
Did you see that coming? Probably not, but you may have imagined a left handed phenom like Cole Hamels would play a presiding role in a best of seven series to finish the year!
Isn't that exactly why we love America's Favorite Pastime?
This was a season that saw boys become men, and the Tampa Bay Rays tell this story better than any. Before the 2008 season Evan Longoria was the stud prospect whose name made you think he belonged on Desperate Housewives. Before October B.J. Upton had only hit 9 home runs in 531 at bats. Before the ALCS the boy in this photo (David Price) did not have even as much as a save opportunity at the Major League level.
April included this historic throw by Bill Buckner symbolically redeeming him from the "Curse of the Bambino" that he had played such a huge part in. Just when we thought the Cubs were the only squad with a curse left to break a faithful fan from Fenway Park did all he could to pass that curse on to the Yankees by burying a Boston Red Sox jersey in the cement at the new Yankee Stadium. Don't worry Yankees fans, they broke up the cement and took the David Ortiz jersey from the ground so you won't have any excuses for your prolonged departure from the playoff picture in 2009.
On this day in baseball Jason Varitek became the first catcher ever to call 4 no-hitters from behind the plate for 4 different pitchers and Jon Lester showed his lymphoma was long gone as he blew away the Kansas City Royals.
This was just the beginning for the Red Sox in the month of May. The no-hitter by Lester was followed by "Manny being Manny" as he high fived a fan after a catch in left field and later in the month hit his milestone 500th home run!
With the first selection in the first round of the 2008 First Year Player Draft the Tampa Bay Rays select.... Timothy Beckham! It was picks like this in years past that vaulted the Rays into first place in the AL East in the month of June posting a 16-10 record. This was also the month the Cubs made their initial push moving into the best record in the National League.
There were plenty of new beginnings for managers as well. Three managers around the league were fired in the month of June.
Lastly, J.D. Drew turned over a new leaf with Boston fans as he hit 12 HR's in June and started playing like the superstar they had hoped for in 2007.
Josh Hamilton blasted his way into stardom as he hit 28 homers in the first round of the 2008 All Star Game Home Run Derby. The former drug addict turned to Jesus Christ, and found the abundant life offerred in John 10:10. He truly is "blessed to be a blessing" as he had driven in nearly 100 runs by the midseason break in his first season with the Rangers.
The home run derby wasn't the only "long ball" on All Star weekend as the main event went 15 innings and finished with a Michael Young sacrifice fly. They were getting so deep into the bullpens that All Star Game MVP J.D. Drew was said to be one of the next pitching options for the AL squad.
July saw Rich Harden make his first pitch for the Cubs, CC Sabathia get off to a great start with the Brewers, the Yankees picked up Pudge and Co., the White Sox dealt for Griffey, and the Red Sox had just too much "Manny being Manny as they parted with the future Hall of Fame slugger to bring in Jason Bay.
Add Manny Ramirez to the lineup and see if that helps. This is exactly what the Dodgers did with a last minute deal at the trade deadline and it paid off! In Just 53 games Manny drove in 53 runs with 17 HR's and came up just 3 blasts short of leading the Dodgers in longballs for 2008.
Add C.C. Sabathia to the rotation as the Brewers did and the playoffs come back into focus. In the month of August alone C.C threw 3 complete games, 2 shutouts, and a 1-hitter against the Pirates!
Franciso Rodriguez finished 62 games for the Halos and broke an 18 year old single season saves record.
Mike Mussina won 20 games for the first time in his career at the age of 39 and finished his career with the Yankees in a season that finished short of the playoffs.
Diamondbacks third baseman Mark Reynolds finished the season with 204 strikeouts and was the first player to whiff on more than 200 occasions in a season.
Both the Yankees and the Mets finished their longstanding tenures at their beloved stadiums.
The Milwaukee Brewers finished off the New York Mets in their battle for the wild card on the last day of the regular season.
Need I say more?
With Manny Ramirez in Dodger blue the Cubs took a back seat in the divisional series. This James Loney grand slam off of Ryan Dempster extended the "curse of the goat" by at least one more year.
The "South Siders" faired no better as the young Rays quickly powered them out of the playoffs as well. Although it took 4 games, it seemed like brooms should've been involved.
Maybe some thought the Red Sox had another crazy comeback in them every time the announcers on Fox flashed the stat about the number of elimination games the Red Sox have won in the last few years, but after their comeback from being down 7-0 with only seven outs left in Game 6 they made believers of many. In the end though it was the Rays deep balls, many hit by B.J. Upton who only had 9 in the regular season, that put the Red Sox away. How fitting it was for the Tampa Bay organization that their number one pick just a year prior finished the Sox off with his first big league save!
An All Star infield the likes of Chase, Jimmy and Ryan were too much for the one man wrecking crew that was Manny Ramirez. Five games were all the Phillies needed to advance to the World Series.
Ok, so no season is perfect, but Brad Lidge did go a perfect 41 for 41 in save opportunities during the regular season and 7 for 7 in the postseason. It seems fitting that he was the man on the mound to close the door on Cole Hamel's second great start of the World Series. Congratulations Philadelphia Phillies!