A month of tension, drama, joy and agony at our house came to a somber end last night when Salvy Perez made the last World Series out after swinging at three pitches out of the strike zone.
It was a maddening way to end a tremendous run for the Royals. But, then again, they might not have been playing for the last month had Perez not driven in the winning run — on another pitch out of the strike zone — in that unbelievably wild Wild Card playoff game against the Oakland A’s on Sept. 30.
Perez’ futile, final attempt to tie Game 7 will stay with me a long time, but there are three other images that are also seared into my head.
1) Kansas City’s (well, Prairie Village’s) own Joyce DiDonato singing the National Anthem before Game 7. Joyce, 45, is obviously a tremendous singer, but in addition she has a powerful and stunning presence.
On Wednesday morning, on Steve Kraske’s “Up to Date” show, Joyce had talked about how she would approach the song and the moment.
“It’ something that I want to make sure I stay really present for, so that I enjoy every note, every word — hopefully, the right words — and just the entire atmosphere of this because it’s really a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”
…You did it, Joyce. It was, by far, the most expressive, soul-stirring rendition I’ve ever heard of “The Star Spangled Banner.”
Here it is, readers. I invite you to watch and listen again. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ciDE-3p4hNQ
2) Before Game 4 in San Francisco, the Giants had a very special person deliver the “Play Ball!” cry at home plate. He is Bryan Stow, the former paramedic and Giants fan who was beaten in a Dodger Stadium parking lot after opening day of the 2011 season.
He suffered brain damage and is now in a wheelchair. Giants’ relief pitcher Jeremy Affeldt, who got his start with the Royals, has become a friend and benefactor of the Stow family, and third-base coach Tim Flannery has played concerts to help defray the cost of his extensive care.
Earlier this year, I saw video clips of the sentencing of the assailants, Louie Sanchez and Marvin Norwood. The main attacker, Sanchez, not only showed no remorse but actually smirked during part of the hearing.
Months earlier, in a recorded jailhouse conversation, Sanchez apologized to Norwood for involving him in the attack. Norwood replied:
“That happens, bro. I mean, what kind of man would I have been if I hadn’t jumped in and tried to help you?”
What kind of man? Just as cowardly as he was by jumping in.
Sanchez was sentenced to eight years in prison; Norwood to four.
3) The final image that will haunt me — as well as tens of thousands of other Royals fans — is that of Giants’ rookie second-baseman Joe Panik making his diving stop of Eric Hosmer’s hard-hit ground ball up the middle of the field last night and then his glove flip of the ball to shortstop Brandon Crawford. Crawford stepped on the bag to force Lorenzo Cain going to second and then threw to first to double up Hosmer. The play at first was so close that it had to be settled by video replay.
If the ball had gone through to center field, as appeared almost certain, the Royals would have had runners on first and third with no one out. Instead, it was two out, bases empty. Relatively early in the game though it was, that was the dagger in the gut.
Panik even surprised himself, telling reporters after the game he had never made a glove flip from the prone position.
“Once in a while in practice or B.P., I’ll do a glove flip standing up, but nothing like that on my belly. It was just instinctual. I couldn’t get my bare hand to the glove because it was Lorenzo Cain running and I’m like, ‘He’s fast,’ so I just tried to get it” to Crawford.
It was the Panik play that kept going through my mind between restless bouts of sleep last night.
Today, though, I’m going to try to put it behind me. I’m going to focus, instead, on that beautiful blond opera star from Prairie Village and her soaring voice, which brought tears to my eyes last night.
Thank you, Joyce! And congratulations, KC Royals, on a stupendous season!