By The Spotter
Ordinary heroes and one-game wonders. We love them. In some cases in greater amounts than the stars who can turn games regularly almost on their own. Why? Perhaps because they are like a first summer love- never to be re-lived or re-captured and always one of the best memories. Another is because these individuals usually aren’t the stars of the team; therefore we may feel a closer affinity to them and even subconsciously see our own broken dreams manifesting themselves in their heroics.
Be it by a single act or more than that, these are the unfashionable Joes whose deeds for their team decisively tipped the victory scales over to their desperate side. We should really be calling them extraordinary heroes instead maybe.
In a local context it was people like Stephen Donald in Rugby Union in the World Cup of 2011 (albeit mainly by dint of a single act), Nick Wright, a fullback for the Kiwis on Lang Park, Brisbane in 1983 who had the game of his lifetime; most memorably appearing out of nowhere like a locomotive from out of a tunnel to crash tackle big Mal Meninga a metre out from the right hand corner in the second half and prevent a runaway try. The Kiwis went on to a famous 19-12 victory over a previously invincible Kangaroos team with Big Darrell Eastlake in commentary getting all excited more than once over the size of Joe Ropati’s quads just to add some colour.
Examples abound of other non-stars shining. Try Keith McKay for the All Whites on the unforgettable Road to Spain in 1982 or Lyn Parker as our national netball captain under the brilliant Lois Muir in the late 1970s-early 1980s.
In the post-season playoffs of the 2011 season in American baseball in Game Six of the World Series featuring the St. Louis Cardinals and the Texas Rangers, there emerged such a player. His name was David Freese; the 28 year-old third baseman for the Cardinals.
If you don’t follow baseball to some degree chances are you would not have heard of him because Freese is certainly no superstar, even though over his career he has attained some mightily impressive statistics in post-season play- mostly due to his amazing 2011 run of form.
Freese began his streak in the 2011 playoffs against the Philadelphia Phillies when he batted in four runners to force a fifth game in the series. Then, in the National League pennant final (League Championship Series) versus the Milwaukee Brewers he achieved a ridiculous .545 batting average, including 3 home runs, 9 RBIs (Runners batted in) and 7 runs scored himself- a quite incredible overall performance.
Carrying on this red hot run Freese went up to Game 4 of the World Series sitting on a 13-game post-season hitting streak- just two short of the all-time National League record. For a change he was kept fairly quiet as his hitting streak hit a blip.
It was however in the aforementioned Game Six of 2011 and the bottom of the ninth and last inning in regulation play and with Freese at the plate with two out and two strikes-it doen’t only happen in the movies folks- he achieved baseball immortality, when with the Cardinals needing a miracle with the game score at 5-7 and Texas needing just one more out to win everything, Freese drove in two runners to tie the scores and send the match to extra innings.
Then with things still tied up at 7-7 and into the bottom of the 11th, Freece is up at bat and once again two strikes down when he produces a monstrous 420 feet drive to deep centre-field for an automatic game-winning home run.
But Freese wasn’t finished yet. In the seventh and deciding game he belted a two run double in the bottom of the 1st to set up a fairytale Game seven victory after the Cards were as close to defeat as any professional sports team or player has ever come in documented sports history.
Those last two runners helped in in Game 7 took Freece’s 2011 post-season RBI total up to 21; an all-time major league baseball record-ever. For his stupendous efforts across that post-season he was awarded the League Championship Series MVP, the World Series MVP and the Babe Ruth award for post-season MVP. For good measure, Freece became only the sixth player in history to win both the League Championship MVP and World Series MVP in the same year.
Watch the World Series of Baseball between the Kansas City Royals (bidding for their first title since 1985) and perennial contenders the San Francisco Giants, beginning in this country on Wednesday at 1pm on ESPN. There may just be another David Freese waiting somewhere in the wings…