I don't believe what I just saw
By Eddie Matz
Special to Page 2

Moment (mo-ment), n.: 1 a minute amount of time; 2 an instant.

Pete Rose, Hank Aaron, Mark McGwire, Kirk Gibson, Cal Ripken
Pete Rose, Hank Aaron, Mark McGwire and Kirk Gibson had to take a back seat to Cal Ripken, right.
A wounded outfielder lunging out over the plate and miraculously flicking a screaming liner into the right field seats: That's a moment.

Fourteen years ago, I was 3,000 miles away from that moment, yet I'm still mesmerized every time I see the replay of Kirk Gibson hobbling around first. Pump, pump, pump. Chills. That's another moment.

Cal Ripken predictably breaking Lou Gehrig's record? Not a moment.

Only seven years ago, I was zero miles away from that "moment," yet I'm still catatonically unaffected every time I see the replay of 2 - 1 - 3 - 1 hanging from the brick warehouse beyond right field. The 1 unfurls, draping the 0. Nothing. Sure, that's a moment. But the most memorable one in baseball history? Uh-uh.

Fact is, that moment -- the changing of the number after the top of the fifth -- wasn't even one of the most memorable moments of that night.

Now don't get me wrong. Growing up in Baltimore, life was sports, sports was baseball, and baseball was Cal Ripken. That's why Jeff Schechter and his bride Melissa, married seven years ago on Sept. 3, delayed their honeymoon until Sept. 7. Lucky for me, I was their best man, and on that particular weekend, the Best Man Bonus Package included a seat just inside the left field foul pole, about 15 rows back, next to the newlyweds. (You should also know that the best man had bought a mint-condition Cal Ripken rookie card to give to the Schechters as part of their wedding gift.)

So the three of us hopped the light rail down to Camden that Wednesday night in search of memorable moments. We weren't disappointed.

Memorable moment No. 1: The Homer
It's the bottom of the fourth. The game is minutes away from becoming official as Cal strides to the plate amidst a blizzard of flashbulbs. He runs a 3-0 count on Angels pitcher Shawn Boskie, at which point Jeff and I engage in a 1.6-second discussion over whether the green light is in effect. Boskie delivers: Heater. Wheelhouse. Green light.

The ball launches off Cal's bat and rockets straight toward us. Like every other fan within a 300-foot radius of left field, I actually think for a split second that I'm going to be the guy who catches it. No such luck, though we weren't far off. The missile lands 20 feet away and, I kid you not, I fully expected the lucky fan to triumphantly hoist the ball into the air revealing the imprint of a lightning bolt and the words "Wonder Boy." Chills. I don't care if Boskie grooved one. For that matter, I don't care if Ripken's homers the two previous nights came on fatties either. Fact is, he still had to hit it. That's a memorable moment.

Memorable moment No. 2: The Lap
Cal Ripken
Ripken's lap was better than the moment he passed Lou Gehrig.
Just minutes after The Homer, game No. 2,131 becomes official when O's second baseman Manny Alexander squeezes the third out to end the top of the fifth. Nothing. That's the exact moment that Ripken broke Gehrig's record -- allegedly the most memorable moment in baseball history -- and the only reason I know it was Manny Alexander is because I just looked it up on the Internet. Otherwise, I would have had absolutely no clue. And I'm a sports freak.

No, more memorable was when, after several curtain calls, No. 8 spontaneously decides to take a victory lap around the warning track. Chills. Unlike the postgame speeches and presentations on that historic night, The Lap was not orchestrated. It was unplanned and unexpected, and it's the unexpected moments that stay with us. That's why Michael Corleone firing the gun in the restaurant still haunts me, and that's why Ripken embarking on The Lap still thrills me. That's a memorable moment.

Memorable moment No. 3: The Kiss
Kirk Gibson
Replays of gimpy Kirk Gibson's homer will always spark more chills than the unfurling of a banner.
Before The Lap, there are seven thunderous curtain calls. After the second, Cal walks over to the box seats next to the home dugout. He takes off his jersey and gives it to his wife Kelly, as the steady flash blizzard continues to blanket the stadium in silver light. Then the Ironman picks up his 2-year-old son Ryan, stoops down, and plants a tender kiss on his 5-year-old daughter Rachel. Now, today, you can call me a big softie with a first-time expectant wife, but back in '95, I was single and about as sensitive as Howard Stern on Novocain. Still, The Kiss is crystal-clear in my mind. That's a memorable moment.

Put all three of these moments together -- The Homer, The Lap, The Kiss -- and you've got yourself a memorable evening. But an evening is neither a minute amount of time, nor an instant -- unless, of course, your name is Methuselah. But I'm fairly confident that isn't the name of any of the 1.1 million people who voted for baseball's most memorable moment. It sure as hell isn't my name.

Which is why my vote goes to Gibby: Crack, hobble, pump, pump, pump. Chills.

Eddie Matz is a regular contributor to ESPN The Magazine and Page 2. His real most memorable baseball moment was catching Gary Leibowitz's final strike to clinch the pennant for the Pikesville Little League Roy Rogers Pirates.






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