Ode to the Wildcard

It has been a full year since what many have deemed the most incredible night of regular season baseball.

The night that we all remember, September 28, 2011 – when the St. Louis Cardinals and Tampa Bay Rays completed two historic comebacks to win the NL and AL Wild Card; when the Atlanta Braves and Boston Red Sox completed two unprecedented collapses to give away their Wild Card spot; when playoff baseball was right around the corner, but everyone knew it was already there.

Four games. Eight teams. One magical night of baseball.

I completed this poem just two days after that historic night, and I'm sharing it today on the one year anniversary. What better way to look forward to another postseason, where even the impossible can happen.


‘Twas the night before playoffs, and all through the land,
Not a Cubs fan was stirring, for their season was canned.

Two cities were abuzz with the hope of their teams.
The Cardinals and Rays were living out dreams.

About one month back, near September’s start,
St. Louis was done for, Rays’ fans had lost heart.

The Cards were behind by ten games and more
Just a month left to play, an impossible chore!

For no team had ever clawed back from so much
In so short a time. They would need to be clutch.

The Rays were also in quite a big hole.
Nine back from their prey, their chances were null.

Something would change in the next thirty days.
Both ball clubs returned to their old winning ways.

Every game was a thrill as those teams closed the gap
With some help from Atlanta’s and Boston’s collapse.

Now the season came down to the very last game
In both of the Leagues, it was exactly the same.

The Cardinals were tied with the Atlanta Braves
For the lone wild card spot in the National League race.

The Rays had fought back and had managed a tie
With the Boston Red Sox. One game left, do or die.

The night would begin with the Phillies and Braves.
The Yankees were guests of the Tampa Bay Rays.

Red Sox and Orioles played at Camden Yards,
The Astros would battle the St. Louis Cards.

Things started off well for the Red Sox and crew,
They scored the first run, but then gave away two.

That glimmer of hope for the Rays’ fans was slim,
But their dreams of the playoffs soon were made dim.

The flood of despair burst forth from the dam
When the Rays gave up a Teixeira grand slam.

Soon they were losing by seven to none.
The fans started leaving, saying, "Season is done."

Meanwhile, the Braves were constructing a lead.
Up three to one, they longed to succeed.

A hit by the Braves, "One more run!" they would hope,
But Pence threw a strike from right field, a frozen rope.

The play at the plate, the ump said, "You’re out!"
Fans still hoped for the playoffs, but some had their doubts.

For the Cardinals were piling on run after run,
In the first inning alone, they were up five to none.

Ten batters had come to the plate in that frame.
Pujols and team knew that this was their game.

Cardinals’ fans from all over were cheering their team,
They wanted to complete this comeback of dreams.

Back with the team whose stockings are red,
Pedroia had homered, now they were ahead.

But soon after that, the rain started to fall.
Play was suspended, they would wait to play ball.

In Atlanta, the Braves were still leading the score.
Three to two in the ninth, Kimbrel tried to close the door.

But he loaded the bases, and Chase Utley sac-flied.
In came the third run, now the Phillies were tied.

Over in Houston, the Cardinals had won.
They had steamrolled the Astros eight runs to none.

Carpenter pitched the whole game, what a sight,
He racked up the strike outs, eleven that night.

The Cardinals were sure of a one game playoff,
Or a trip to postseason, if the Braves got knocked off.

All eyes turned to Tampa, when out of the blue,
The Rays started scoring. Could it be true?

Tampa had put up a three run mark
In the eighth. Then Longoria hit one out of the park!

A seven run lead had been cut down to one,
There was hope for the Rays, their season, not done!

To the bottom of the ninth the game would go.
In the hearts of the fans, a spark continued to glow.

But with two outs, two strikes, the outlook was grim.
Johnson was up, batting .108, why him?

He stepped to the plate, took a swing, hit a drive.
The ball just sailed out, playoff hopes still alive!

The Rays with that home run had tied up the score.
Into extras they went, the fans shouting for more.

Meanwhile, in Baltimore, the rain was now gone.
The tarp was rolled back, the game was back on.

A long double by Boston, they would score at this rate,
The man on first ran home, but was thrown out at the plate!

The score did not change at the end of that frame,
Three to two Boston, one inning remained.

For thirteen innings in Atlanta they played.
In the top half, the Phillies would threaten the Braves.

Two men on, first and third, with two outs and two strikes,
Pence was the batter, whom the Braves now disliked.

He swung and made contact, it appeared he had failed,
But the ball dropped to earth like a dying quail.

The runner on third ran straight home to score,
But the Braves stopped the bleeding, they allowed no more.

Down four to three, the Braves had to dig deep
Or else the Phillies would take home the sweep.

With one out and one on, Freeman at the plate,
He hit a grounder to first that sealed the Braves’ fate.

The Phillies turned two, three-six-three double play.
It ended the game and the season for the Braves.

The Cardinals in Houston, gathered ‘round the TV,
Erupted in shouts, a jubilant frenzy!

They knew that their spot in the playoffs was clenched.
With champagne and beer, their team mates they drenched.

An unprecedented comeback now was complete,
One for the ages. Could the Rays match their feat?

In order for Tampa to win like the Cards,
The Red Sox had to lose over at Camden Yards.

Bottom of the ninth, Boston still had the lead,
Three to two was the score, three outs, all they need.

One out with a whiff, another the same,
Down to the last out of their season’s last game.

Papelbon, the pitcher, was dealing the heat,
But he surrendered a double, the fans now on their feet.

The next batter doubled to tie up the score,
Now three to three, the O’s needed one more.

Andino, the batter, hit to the left side.
The left fielder gave chase, but missed the catch with his slide.

He quickly recovered, launched the ball towards home plate,
The runner slid in, "Safe!" – the throw was too late.

The Orioles had just beaten the Boston Red Sox,
With a walk off single. Boston was shocked.

Over in Tampa, the Yanks and the Rays
Continued to battle into the next day.

In the twelfth inning, the bottom of the frame,
The scoreboard displayed Boston just lost their game.

A cheer went up from the crowd, and it grew
So loud that the entire stadium knew.

The fans, all standing, they yearned for the win.
With two strikes and one out, Longoria stepped in.

Gripping his bat and adjusting his stance,
He sized up the pitcher with a determined glance.

He swung at the pitch, towards left field it soared.
"Stay fair! Get up! Home run!" the crowd roared!

He rounded the bases, hands raised in delight
As the stadium erupted with cheers, what a night!

His team mates poured onto the field. They had won!
They mobbed him at home as he scored the winning run.

The walk off win had secured Tampa Bay’s place
In the postseason by winning the Wild Card race.

On the season’s last night, eight teams had converged
For two historic collapses and two miracle surges.

Against impossible odds for these two comeback teams,
The Cardinals and Rays had lived out their dreams.

We shall always remember that historic baseball night,
Merry Playoffs to all, and to all, Happy Flight!