When Russell Martin drove in Gaby Sanchez with a single to give the Pirates a 2-1 victory over Milwaukee Sunday evening, it was a special moment. Pittsburgh had just won its ninth game in a row, and the wild celebration that followed was something to behold.
I've always been fascinated by spontaneous baseball celebratory scrums, and how they've evolved over the years. For example, back in the 70s and 80s, it wasn't uncommon for players from the road team to spill out of the dugout and greet their teammate at home plate after he hit a dramatic postseason home run.
Here's Jack Clark's three run round-tripper in the top of the ninth inning in Game 6 of the 1985 NLCS that sent the Cardinals to the World Series. And here's Rick Monday's solo blast in the top of the ninth inning of the deciding Game 5 of the 1981 NLCS that sent the Dodgers to the Fall Classic--if you can get past the foreboding features added by some disappointed Expos' fan, you'll see Monday's teammates mob him at home plate, despite only being up by a run and despite still needing three outs to secure the victory.
You don't see those kinds of wild celebrations by the road team these days.
Of course, the home team has always had the final say in walk-off celebrations of any kind. And these days, even in plain old regular season victories, the celebrations have evolved from hugs, pats on the head and high fives, to wild, celebratory scrums, the kind of scrums that used to be reserved for, you know, clinching a spot in the postseason, and not a win in August......by a team that's 32 games below .500.
Here's Greg Brown and Steve Blass' call of Pedro Alvarez's dramatic, three-run home-run to give the Pirates an 8-7 victory over Colorado on August, 7th, 2010. It was certainly an awesome moment--my favorite of the pre-2011 Pirates--but settle down, Steve, the victory "pushed" Pittsburgh's record to 39-71.
With Brown's call and the wild home plate celebration that ensued, you would have thought Steve Garvey just hit a home run to win Game 4 of the 1984 NLCS.
Don't get me wrong. I enjoy a spontaneous regular season celebration, but it's much better if the scrum means something, like it did on Memorial Day, 1990, when Pittsburgh rallied from four runs down in the bottom of the ninth inning to defeat the Dodgers, 6-5. The players went nuts, and it was one of the signature moments in the team's early 90's resurgence.
I don't know when these types of regular season walk-off scrums started to evolve to where they are now, and I don't know where they're headed, but man, act like you've been there before, and if you're a bad team, act like you're still 32 games below .500.
Fortunately, the only baseball scrums that matter are the ones that involve the postseason--division title/wild card berth, wild card victory, LDS, LCS and World Series.
The Pirates currently have an opportunity to enjoy at least some of those celebrations this year, and while my eyes won't be able to tell the difference between that celebration and the one that just occurred on Sunday, my heart will know the real deal.