It was the great baseball psychiatrist Elmer Kubek-Rose who traced the stages of a baseball fan's grief—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. Most die-hard baseball fans can navigate the first four stages without incident. But the final October out is always a fastball to the face. We know it will come. But why not put off the inevitable?
Excepting the rare, rare occasions when my team is among the final two, I cheer not for one World Series team or the other but for a seventh game. There will be one this year, for the first time since 2002, thanks to last night's electrifying contest.
The most terrifying moment for die-hards is the two-outs, two-strikes, last-inning, last-batter, possibly last-game moment. It happened twice in yesterday's Cardinals-Rangers game. Bottom of the ninth: Cardinals, down three games to two and 7-5. Two on, but two outs, two strikes on David Freese. Death is pounding at the door. Freese drives the ball to the warning track in right. Nelson Cruz might catch it—but he doesn't; tie game. Bottom of the tenth: Cards down 9-8. Two on, but two outs, two strikes on Lance Berkman. He muscles a single to center; 9-9. When Freese homered to win it in the 11th, I waited for the credits to roll, with the "Based on a true story" hedge.
I know, I know—the season will end tonight anyway. It has to sooner or later. Death will not be denied. I almost accept it. But better on October 28 than on October 27. It's one less off-season day, one day closer to pitchers and catchers reporting.