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Just a Bit Outside
Political and news journalists weigh in on the national pastime.


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During the final weekend and Monday morning of the regular season, I had an e-mail exchange with several journalists who don’t cover baseball, but deep down maybe wish they did. Although all were neck deep in work, we managed to discuss numerous topics, from memorable moments during the regular season to the amazing Bryce Harper and Mike Trout to — no joke — the infield-fly rule.

Here are the personalities who participated:

Steve Futterman, an Angels fan, is a CBS News West Coast correspondent. He has been with CBS since 1998.

Mollie Hemingway, a Cardinals fan, is an editor at GetReligion.org and Ricochet.com.

Adam Housley, a Giants fan, joined Fox News Channel in 2001 as a Los Angeles–based correspondent. Prior to his career in television, Housley played professional baseball and was drafted by the Montreal Expos and played for both the Milwaukee Brewers and the Detroit Tigers organizations. He was a Junior Olympic baseball All-American in 1988.

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Rick Klein, a Yankees fan, is ABC News’ senior Washington editor, serving as senior Washington producer for the nightly broadcast, and frequent Fox News on-air guest.

Charles Krauthammer, a Nationals fan, is a nationally syndicated columnist and also a weekly panelist on the PBS news program Inside Washington and a nightly panelist on Fox News’ Special Report with Bret Baier.

Chuck Todd, a Dodgers fan, is the chief White House correspondent for NBC News, as well as the co-host of The Daily Rundown on MSNBC. He became NBC News’ political director in March 2007. He also serves as NBC News’ on-air political analyst for NBC Nightly News with Brian WilliamsToday, Meet the Press, and MSNBC.

Karen Travers, a Phillies fan, joined ABC News in 2000 and is currently a Washington-based correspondent for ABC NewsOne, the network’s affiliate news service.


Epstein
: Thank you for agreeing to take part in this virtual roundtable interview. As you know, the purpose of this conversation is to step away from the day job in order to unleash your baseball fandom.

What has been the most memorable play or game that you witnessed, at the ballpark or on TV, this season? 

Futterman: To me it was the day after the 100th anniversary game at Fenway Park, which saw the Yankees come back from a 9–0 deficit to beat the Red Sox 15–9.

It was a comeback that I don’t think anyone saw coming. The Red Sox led 9–0 after five innings. Then the Yankees scored once in the sixth and then had back to back seven-run innings in the seventh and eighth.

That game seemed to symbolize a lot of the past, present, and future of the Red Sox team.

Klein: Bryce Harper’s stealing home was the moment that Natitude became for real. Or, at least, scored a run.

Cole Hamels, the Phillies’ onetime World Series hero, did the classless but predictable thing to welcome young Mr. Harper to the bigs back in early May. He plunked him, for some perceived arrogance in Harper’s having the temerity to be good and brash while not old enough to have a drink in the United States of America.

Harper promptly went from first to third on a single. Then he did the thing that books will record, for it had not been done by a 19-year-old since Davey Johnson was in the minors — he stole home.

Hamels threw over to first. Harper broke for home. A cloud of dust later at Nationals Park, and Harper had arrived. Safe.

Welcome to the bigs, indeed.

Epstein: Forgive the interruption, but Homer Bailey of the Reds is two outs away from throwing the seventh no-hitter of the season. As a fan of the Giants, Adam, does Matt Cain’s perfect game on June 13 top your list of season highlights?

Housley: I love the little moments usually. The game where, down by one, the five-hole hitter hits the ball to the right side to move the runner over with less than two outs, and then a sac fly drives him home. Or the player who waited years for that one chance and then came through to get a hitter out in the clutch. The Oakland A’s have a ton of guys like that this year and as a Bay Area boy, I always have a soft spot for teams like the A’s.

Having said that . . . watching those final outs by Matt Cain and knowing the history of that moment was truly thrilling. The energy came through the TV.

Krauthammer: Best moment/play of the year? A single to center where nothing happened. I was there. The crowd went crazy.

It was the Milwaukee series last weekend. Tight game. Ryan Braun hits a double. Next guy up hits a single up the middle, not very hard. Harper charges like crazy, making up a ton of ground to get to the ball. Braun rounds third. I’ve got both in my field of vision and, I actually say to myself, “No chance,” of Harper getting him. Harper comes up with a perfect scoop on the dead run and fires the ball home. It’s not just a perfect strike on the fly to Suzuki, but it’s about two feet just to the third-base side of the plate, so Suzuki doesn’t have to sweep. Suzuki just drops the tag instantly. Braun out. Replay shows Braun’s foot about nine inches short of the plate when tagged.

Place goes crazy. But that’s not even the best part. The batter got to second on the play at the plate. Next guy hits a near-identical single up the middle. Harper charges. Perfect scoop and ready to throw home. Except the runner had stopped dead at third base.

It’s the Aretha Franklin Award: Respect. The only thing missing was the tip of the from the entire Milwaukee dugout.

Place goes nuts. Never seen anything like it.

Epstein: Indeed! I suspect too that Brewers third-base coach Ed Sedar fully grasps the notion of job security.

Hemingway: One thing I love about Bryce Harper’s steal of home being “the moment” is that most Nats fans agree on it, even though the Nats totally lost that game.

Anyway, other than tuning in to hear or watch some of those perfect games midway through, I haven’t really witnessed that many great games this year. But I did catch an interesting Tigers vs. Orioles game at Camden this July. I’m a Cardinals fan and couldn’t care about the American League. I’d gone to the game with a bunch of Michiganders and was rooting for the Orioles out of ancient loyalty to the St. Louis Browns.

So Detroit comes in on a five- or six-game winning streak. Orioles were playing great and dominated early. After giving up a run in the first, a dozen or more Tigers batters were shut down. Orioles were up 4–1 going into the 9th. My husband was getting ready to head home after the next three outs. But Detroit tied it. Free baseball!

Both teams scored a run in the 11th and Detroit got another run in the 13th. But the Orioles tied it in the bottom and then scored another two on a home run. Game over, 8–6.

It was just a fantastic five-hour game. And it showed so much about both teams.

Detroit is a far better club than it sometimes manages to show with its actual record. They should have run away with the division, but each game has been like passing a kidney stone. And yet, no matter whether they have no expectations — like last year, when they made the playoffs — or this year, where it should have been easy — they fight for every game. Good ball club.

And the Orioles. My favorite thing about them this year is that while I think they have a positive run differential now, even a few days ago it was negative. You have to love that. A team that ekes out victories like the game I saw but when they lose, lose big. There’s something to a team that knows that if a game hasn’t completely gotten away from them, they can win if they just keep fighting for runs here and there. It should serve them well in the postseason.

The final thing about that game is that my children learned a valuable lesson about never leaving a baseball game early. I learned that when I was six or so in a 16-inning Cardinals–Dodgers game. It’s a lesson learned better via experience.


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