Two of my favorite TV shows of all time have been produced by the same man- Aaron Sorkin. The first is The West Wing, which I consider to be the best dramatic show ever. The second is a show that many of you will not recognize because it was only on two short years in 1998 and 1999, much to my dismay. This show was a combination comedy/drama but it had some of the best writing, particularly the dialogue, of any show I’ve ever seen. Its cast included Felicity Huffman (Desperate Housewives), Peter Krause (Dirty Sexy Money), Robert Guillaume (Benson), and Josh Charles.
The show was called Sports Night and it was about the production each night of a television sports show much like ESPN’s Sports Center. But it was really more about the characters working there. I have the 10-year Anniversary Edition package of the show and have enjoyed seeing the episodes again.
One of my favorite episodes is entitled The Giants Win the Pennant, The Giants Win the Pennant. One of the on-air personalities wants to do a special on Bobby Thompson’s famous home run (“The Shot Heard Round the World”), immortalized by the words of Russ Hodges famous call, and he finds out that the character played by Guillaume was actually at the game. Dan tries to convince him to appear on air to relive that moment but Isaac adamantly refuses. Dan persistently begs him until Isaac finally admits that while he was at the ballgame, he didn’t actually see the home run because he was in the bathroom.
I watch this and just think, “How tragic!” To be at a sporting event when something great like that happens and not be able to really admit you saw it. I will admit that, due to circumstances that my wife calls childish, and she would be right, I have missed some great events because I had given up and left the game or turned the TV off. For example, I didn’t see the end of the great Georgia comeback against Virginia Tech in a bowl game a few years ago because I gave up and left the game. Didn’t see Sid Bream slide home with the winning run against Pittsburgh cause I went to sleep thinking the Braves had blown their chance to go to the World Series. But there have been a few special moments that I did see and I wanted to share those with you.
The first that comes to mind and probably the most historic was Hank Aaron’s 715th home run breaking the career record of Babe Ruth. Yes, I really was at the game and I have the Super 8 home movies to prove it. Atlanta Stadium only held about 50,000 and I’m sure that there are close to 400,000 people who say they were there, but I really was. April 8, 1974, the Braves were playing the Dodgers and facing a left-handed pitcher by the name of Al Downing. In the first inning, Downing walked Aaron on four straight pitches with the crowd booing each pitch out of the strike zone. But in the fourth, Aaron came up to bat again.
Aaron went into his routine- put batting helmet on at the plate, throw one of his bats aside, and stood in. First pitch, another ball and the crowd booed even louder. But the next pitch, a high fastball, saw Aaron spring at it and drive it over the 385-foot mark in left field. Outfielder Bill Buckner tried to climb the fence to catch it but it landed in the Braves bullpen. Actually, it landed in the glove of relief pitcher Tom House who charged back to the Braves dugout while Aaron ran around the bases being chased by two young men from Decatur. I’ll never forget the excitement of that moment and being there to see it. Thanks Poppy for inviting me.
Then, dear readers, you have to know that there is a Georgia football experience that stands out. This one is probably the most famous play in Georgia history and I was actually there to see it. While many people venture to Jacksonville each year to see the game and partake in the Biggest Cocktail Party in the World, I’ve only seen one Georgia-Florida game in person in my life. But what a doozy to see!
A pilot friend of mine said on Friday before the game that he had come up with four tickets to the game and the use of a plane that he could fly us down in. Needless to say, I jumped at that chance. So, there I was on November 8, 1980, sitting in row 9, dejected as Georgia saw the chance of a perfect season and a possible National Championship slipping away. But then Buck Belue scrambled out of the pocket and threw a pass to Lindsay Scott. Lindsay caught it and, all of a sudden, here he was running straight towards me. I, like many others, climbed over the wall and was on the field pummeling him after he crossed the goal line. I don’t really remember the flight home because I was already on cloud nine.
The final event is another Braves moment. Steve and Kelly Smith, who lived in the same subdivision as us here in Winder at the time, came up with four tickets to a Braves game. We knew it could be a significant game so I even gave up going to a Georgia football game against Clemson to see it on October 5, 1991.
Two things had to happen to make it significant: the Braves had to win and the Dodgers had to lose. If those two things occurred, the Braves would complete the miracle worst to first finish in the National League West division. John Smoltz pitched a great game against the Astros, I think, and I will always remember his catcher, Gregg Olson, jumping into his arms after the last out, a fly ball caught by David Justice. Everyone attending stayed after the game to watch a feed of the game on the West Coast and when the Giants did, in fact, beat the Dodgers, we went crazy. The Braves went on to defeat the Pirates and go to the World Series where they lost to the Twins. Oh, by the way- it was a really memorable day because the Dawgs beat Clemson that night as well.
Randy Blalock is a columnist for the Barrow Journal. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.