All Things Bubba

Because how can you not love a baseball player named "Bubba"?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Flashback: "The Bubba Crosby Game"

September 19, 2005: N.Y. Yankees 3, Baltimore 2

One year ago today was the game Michael Kay said "would forever be remembered as 'The Bubba Crosby Game.'" The game where Bubba hit the first walkoff homer of his life. And what a time to hit it - when the Yanks were locked in a tight division race, when every game counted.

Here's the NY Times write-up:

Crosby Show and Yanks Win Emmy For Drama

The possibility was too rich for Bubba Crosby to consider. For two seasons, the Yankees had pounded a harsh reality into his psyche. Crosby was fast enough to pinch-run, and dependable enough to play outfield in the late innings. But Crosby was not a hitter.

They gave him an occasional spot on the major league roster, with more round-trip plane tickets to Columbus, Ohio, than he could ever want. The possibility of starring with his bat at Yankee Stadium was so distant, he never dreamed of it.

"I didn't wonder," Crosby said. "I didn't think it was ever going to happen."

Crosby went three months without a hit last season. He was so expendable this summer that he briefly lost his roster spot to Melky Cabrera. When he came off the field after the top of the ninth inning last night, Crosby had not hit a homer in 17 months.

The Yankees were tied with the Baltimore Orioles in a tense, pennant-race, must-win kind of game. Crosby would lead off the inning. He crouched as he watched Eric DuBose warm up, saying a prayer to himself, as he always does, asking for confidence and peace.

What he also wanted -- from DuBose, at least -- was the breaking ball his teammate Jorge Posada had told him to look for. When DuBose threw it to him on a 1-0 pitch, Crosby unloaded, sending the ball hurtling toward the right-field bleachers. Crosby shot a fist in the air, and there was never any doubt: the Yankees had won, 3-2, because of him.

"I've never hit a walk-off homer, ever, in my whole life, not even in Little League," Crosby said. "To do it at Yankee Stadium, this time of year, when it counts, it just doesn't get any better than this."

The victory brought the Yankees within a half-game of the Boston Red Sox for first place in the American League East. The Red Sox lost at Tampa Bay, and several Yankees watched the last few outs on a TV in the players' lounge.

Crosby did not expect to start last night. Manager Joe Torre had given him 15 starts this season, none against a left-handed pitcher. But Gary Sheffield is still unable to play the outfield because of a thigh injury, and Ruben Sierra hurt the Yankees on defense in right field on Sunday.

So Torre used Crosby there against the left-hander Erik Bedard, figuring the Yankees would sacrifice offense for a better defender in right. "That shows how smart we are," Torre said.

Crosby had an infield single and a bunt single in his first two at-bats off Bedard, who frustrated the Yankees along with two relievers. In the first seven innings, the Yankees struck out five times with at least two runners on base.

They could never get a lead for starter Chien-Ming Wang, who seemed to spend eight innings fielding soft choppers. Wang made nine assists, two shy of the record for a pitcher, and limited the Orioles to seven singles and a walk. Baltimore had only one fly out against Wang, who was making his third start after missing two months with shoulder trouble.

"He showed us what he showed us in the first half," Torre said. "You're not really sure, when someone's coming off rehab, if you're going to see that again. Tonight, with all the ground balls, that was nice for us."

But it was hard for the crowd to appreciate Wang, considering how futile the Yankees' hitters were. DuBose struck out Hideki Matsui with two outs and two on to end the seventh, and after he worked a 1-2-3 eighth inning, the ballpark went silent.

It stirred a little for Mariano Rivera (7-4), who came on for the top of the ninth and worked a 1-2-3 inning. And it exploded after the blast by Crosby, who had thought about bunting before he thought better of it.

Crosby has been coming alive at the plate. He started six games in late July after the Yankees shipped Cabrera back to Class AAA Columbus, but he did not start at all in August. During that time, Crosby worked intensely with the hitting coach, Don Mattingly, trying to shorten his swing and use the whole field.

Mattingly would position a batting tee deeper than Crosby was used to. It taught Crosby to let the pitch travel a bit farther, to give himself a split-second longer to react and to trust the quickness in his hands. He had 9 hits in his last 23 at-bats before coming to the plate in the ninth.

Facing DuBose, a left-hander, Crosby remembered Posada's advice. DuBose, Posada had told him, loves to throw breaking balls to left-handed hitters. Crosby resolved to look for one.

On the bench, the Yankees just wanted him to ignite a rally. Derek Jeter would be up next, then Alex Rodriguez and Jason Giambi. Crosby's job was to get on base.

"The last thing you think is home run," Rodriguez said. "Nothing against Bubba, but you're hoping for a walk, a hit-by-pitch, a broken bat, a bunt single. And then he hits the ball like Darryl Strawberry."

Crosby, who said he was simply trying to hit through the middle, pulled a rocket deep into the stands, his third career homer. He said he had tried to take his home run trot slowly, to soak in the moment, which is just what Aaron Boone said the last time a Yankee homered so improbably to end a game.

But Crosby found himself racing toward the plate, to an ecstatic throng of teammates and, later, to a dugout curtain call from the fans. This was his moment, the moment he will never forget, the moment he had wanted years before he was ever a Yankee.

"Everybody was screaming and hugging, clapping and banging my helmet," Crosby said. "It's just one of those things every kid dreams of."

Though the walkoff homer was certainly the high point of the game, Bubba had a great night all around. While the rest of the team struggled against Bedard, Bubba went 3 for 4. He scored two runs - 2/3 of the Yankees' offense for the night.

His first at-bat resulted in a base hit down the line. It was hit pretty hard, and Orioles first baseman Walter Young managed to knock it down, but had no chance of beating out the speedy Bubba. Bubba was batting ninth, so the top of the order was coming up, with no outs. Alas, he was stranded on 3B. He got to 3B with only one out, but despite his speed, no one could get him home.

His second at-bat was a bunt single. He bunted it down the first base line and beat the throw when Young left 1B to try and field the ball, and second baseman Brian Roberts didn't get over to cover fast enough. Bubba slid in head first to avoid the tag, coming up with dirt all over the front of his uniform. (That's just so...Bubba. :-) This time, he did eventually cross the plate, giving the Yanks their second run of the night. (The first was Robby Cano, who was on 1B when Bubba came to he helped bring that one in, too.)

Bubba's third at-bat was a fly out to left. And his fourth, of course, was the walkoff homer.

One cute moment: Torre, who usually stays in the dugout, went out to join the crowd at the plate. But Bubba was surrounded by his teammates, and so antsy he didn't stay in one spot long enough for Torre to catch up with him. Joe finally cornered his outfielder in the dugout, and gave him a hug.

The next day, Bubba said he didn't even remember a lot of what happened after he hit his homer. He was so pumped on adrenalin it was all a blur:

Good night, our hero: Contrary to what you might think, Bubba Crosby slept just fine after his game-winning home run Monday.

After riding the subway home -- and being congratulated by sharp-eyed Yankees fans -- the 29-year-old said he stayed up late to watch the YES Network's replay of the game, reliving the long ball that launched the Yankees to a 3-2 win, before finally dozing off.

"I was so emotionally and physically drained," Crosby said.

The home run put the Yankees within a half-game of first place when the Red Sox lost later Monday night, which could make it a milestone moment for the Yankees' unsung hero.

"Most of the singers are on the DL," Torre joked. "The ones that are unsung are out there playing."

It'll be a career highlight for the little-used outfielder, his family and friends, several of whom called late Monday and early Tuesday to express their congratulations.

Watching the replay on TV, Crosby said he'd also picked up details that had been lost in the commotion of the moment.

"I didn't realize [there were] quite a few hands I shook," Crosby said. "I didn't see exactly where [the homer] went, for the most part. It's funny to have so much adrenaline and be on a natural high that you don't even understand the things you do."

Crosby was back in right field again Tuesday, filling in defensively for Gary Sheffield, who continues to nurse a strained left thigh. Sheffield tested the injury on Monday and said he felt better, but he continued to serve as the designated hitter.

"You never know," Crosby said. "You just always make sure you're prepared."

(He rode the subway home? Aw, how cute. Reminds me of Bryan Adams, who rode the subway to the concert hall when he was doing a show in New York. Carrying his guitar, no less.)

Bubba may not remember this game very well, but I have very fond memories of it. That whole month was an incredible rush, as the Yanks practically rose from the dead to take the division from the Sox. Every game seemed like it was life or death. This one was probably my favorite. Chien-Ming Wang had a great night, with nine (!) assists. I'd have loved the game just for that. But the We were all going nuts. It was just incredible to see a guy like Bubba get a moment like that. What a night. Even NoMaas had to give him props.

The next day, the tabloids had a field day. The Daily News headline was "Hubba Bubba." Newsday picked "Bubbalicious." And the NY Post went with "Bang Crosby."

posted by BubbaFan, 8:41 PM


I got to see that game was so neat!! I hope Bubba gets another chance to do that again!
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, September 20, 2006 10:57 AM  
haha, The Mets will kick yankees arse in the World Series. That's if they get there. I know the AL division has greater amount of competition like the Twins, Whitesox, Tigers, Oakland, etc, but the reign of the yankees is over. NoW enter MEts!

Beltran for MVP!
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, September 20, 2006 5:54 PM  
Wow, BJ, you were actually at the game? That must have been something. I'm insanely jealous. But maybe it's just as well. I was about ready to die of a heart attack just watching it on TV. ;-)

Wiñai, unlike many Yankees fans, I don't dislike the Mets. But I wouldn't bet on any NL team winning the World Series. There's a big talent gap between the AL and NL these days.
commented by Blogger BubbaFan, September 20, 2006 6:21 PM  
Hi Wiñai. It's actually surprising you left out something else intelligent such as "Dont B frontin thizz" or perhaps a "Hatin upz on mize chit"...

Grow up, little one.
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, September 20, 2006 7:50 PM  

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