You Gotta Believe: Game 1 of the ALDS


If it were a day, it’d be your birthday and Christmas rolled into one. If it were a song, it’d be that one that you didn’t even know you remembered—until you hear it one random Tuesday and it all comes rushing back.

I’m talking, of course, about baseball in October. A sequence of events so wonderful and magical and unexpected that they’re practically indescribable. Ranking among chocolate-chip cookies and Internet videos of unlikely animal pals, it’s one of my absolute favorite things on Earth.

If you haven’t had the good fortune to attend an Indians playoff game, my only wish for you is that you get to sooner rather than later. Is it on your Bucket List? It should be. Now.

The morning ALDS tickets went on sale, I found myself panicking in the waiting room of my primary care physician. I had scheduled routine blood work weeks prior, not realizing at the time how important that morning would eventually be. What should have been a six-minute experience was slowly, painfully crawling toward forty. The office was running behind, and my window of opportunity to get pricked, drawn, back on the road and back to my desk in time to buy ALDS tickets at 10 a.m. was getting slimmer and slimmer.

By the time all was said and done, I was sitting down at my MacBook Air at approximately 10:29 a.m. ALDS tickets had been available to frenzied Cleveland fans for 29 whole minutes. I assumed my playoff hopes—much like those of the Detroit Tigers—were doomed.

I tried anyway, though, clicking to browse for ALDS Game 3 tickets purely on a whim. To my surprise and delight, Standing Room Only tickets were still available. Drunk on instant excitement, I blacked out and bought two immediately—without really considering anything. I texted a friend to let him know I had scored.

“Hey,” he replied. “Do you realize if we don’t have home-field advantage AND the series doesn’t go five games, there won’t be a Game 3 at home?”

WHOMP. No, sweet friend, I had not realized. I was too excited to get my hands on any tickets at all to consider any kind of logical thinking. No sooner had I picked up my prized tickets off the office printer than I was refreshing the page, going back on the hunt for more.

By this time it was 10:36 and I honestly thought there was no way in hell. Again, I tried anyway, because I’m a Clevelander and we don’t give up hope. This time, I selected ALDS Game 1 and chose a random section toward the bottom of the price range. Again, the baseball gods smiled down and I found two tickets in the upper deck, right behind home plate. They were decently priced and would appear to offer a great view of The Jake. They were still warm when I snatched them off the printer.

The 10 days that followed were a unique mix of agonizing and exhilarating; watching the rest of the MLB playoffs take shape, rejoicing when we clinched, even more so when we secured home-field advantage.

That day, I felt anxious from the moment I woke up. It was an interesting combination of nerves and excitement—like standing on the edge of something huge or the last second on a roller coaster before it crests a giant hill. I wore my “Party at Napoli’s” to work and counted every second until 5:00 p.m. I raced back to my downtown apartment and hurried over to East 4th’s Corner Alley for pregame beers with friends.

As luck would have it, a good chunk of Waiting for Next Year writers were planning on being at the game, as well. It was only a brief few minutes, but Craig, Andrew, Josh, Jacob, Scott and I all met up at The Corner for hugs, high-fives and a quick cheers before scurrying off to our seats. If I said it wasn’t one of my favorite moments of the whole evening, I’d be lying.

As the game got underway, the crowd was extraordinary. Chanting “José! José! José! Joséééé!” Clapping along with John Adams’ beat. Screaming. At. Everything. Something as seemingly menial as a strike brought us all to our feet—over and over and over again. The energy, electric in the air, was contagious, and we hung on every pitch like it was the bottom of the ninth. I was so engrossed by the crowd and the game that I barely minded when the slightly (very) intoxicated fan behind me whipped me, repeatedly, in the back of the head with his red rally towel.

That three-home run third inning was something I’ll never forget. While a big part of the baseball world was already shining Rick Porcello’s Cy Young Award, Roberto Perez, Jason Kipnis and Frankie Lindor were busy taking him deep.

Frankie’s homer, in particular, as well as Andrew Miller’s strikeout of David Ortiz in the top of the fifth, sent the crowd into a frenzy unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. You would have thought that maybe we won the World Series on both of those plays—and that’s why I love Cleveland. “Act like you’ve been here before” is not something we practice or preach. The rest of the sports world can deal with it; we celebrate everything.

At some point during Miller’s hostile takeover of the fifth, sixth and part of the seventh, drunk guy behind me dropped his rally towel (#blessed) and shifted his focus to patronizing the two cargo-shorts-wearing Red Sox fans sitting three rows in front of us.

“HEY BOSTON!” he’d scream repeatedly. “It’s time to WALK TO YA CAH!”

The fan to our immediate left was the exact opposite. He was a “Dad” in every sense of the word, right down to the pencil tucked behind his ear that he used for keeping score. “Dad” was wonderful, spouting off stats, confirming calls, sharing his peanuts and happily passed IDs and cash to the beer vendor waiting at the end of the aisle.

We needed those beers when Bryan Shaw took the mound in the top of the seventh. Nothing against you, B-Shaw; you just make me nervous as hell. You held on though, and so did closer Cody Allen in the eighth and ninth. We clung to a one-run lead, and ended up victorious over the Boston Red Sox, 5-4, to take Game 1.

While the national media would say we “stole” the game from the favored Sox, the Boston media would say we “stole signs” from Porcello and catcher Sandy León. Maybe we did the former, but I refuse to acknowledge the latter. Walking out of The Jake that night, amidst a crowd buzzing with excitement and anticipation for a Game 2 scheduled to begin less than 17 hours after the final strike of Game 1, I knew in my heart that this would be a night—and an October—to remember.

This is Cleveland. We celebrate every play. We hang on every pitch. We share peanuts and we whip towels and we #RallyTogether. This October, we roll.

One down, ten to go. Go Tribe.