I never saw hopes quite so high, nor faces quite so bright,
As when Tito led the Tribe to war that fine October night.
Six years had come and gone since they’d played on at season’s end,
And six decades since a title; yet they’d neither shrink nor bend;
For they’d won ten contests straight, and earned their humble town the right
To host the mighty boys of Tampa on this fine October night.
The Rays were fresh from Texas, where they’d stared death in the face,
And beaten it — but paid the Price, and played their finest ace.
So tonight they called on sturdy Cobb, late-risen from the dead
After anxious weeks left reeling from a screamer to the head.
Astride the mound for Cleveland stood the youngster Salazar,
With just two wins to his credit, but the mettle of a star.
He came out blazing, smiting down the Tampas one by one
As he lit up triple digits on the straining radar gun.
For two sweet innings he held sway with heaters overwhelmin’;
Six up, six down; yet then strode up the legendary Delmon.
A laughingstock in summer, but a titan come the fall,
He had won a reputation for the timely home run ball.
As he settled in his husky bulk and dusted off a cleat,
He eyed the youthful hurler like a tiger keen to eat.
Salazar cocked back and sent another fastball humming,
But the batter was no rookie; he knew just what pitch was coming;
He turned on it, and sent it soaring o’er the left field fence;
While over Cleveland fell a quiet like none before or since.
“No matter,” said stout Tito to his band of stalwart men.
“We’ll answer back — we’ll give ‘em hell — we’ll seize the lead again!”
And so the Tribe retook the field, fresh pride upon their faces.
A rally in the fourth saw Indians swarming on the bases,
But Cabrera hit a grounder that the quick Rays turned for two;
With this and every squandered chance, the fans’ frustration grew.
In the fifth they sent their men to first and third with no one out,
But a whiff by Bourn and two ground balls restored the creeping doubt.
Meanwhile, Cleveland’s harried hurlers couldn’t hold the score:
The rookie yielded two more runs, departing after four,
And a dropped ground ball by Chisenhall allowed an extra run.
So read the scoreboard’s rueful tale: their four to our boys’ none.
But still one chance remained for the doughty lads in white.
They gathered in the trenches, suiting up for one last fight;
They sent out fierce Cabrera, who uncorked a vicious hack
But struck nothing but the autumn air, and plodded glumly back;
They next sent out the Yanimal, who smote a mighty hit
That made its way directly to the lucky shortstop’s mitt.
All around the diamond, forty thousand faces fell
As they heard the peals beginning from Death’s melancholy bell.
But then — what’s this? — a murmur rose and darted through the crowd –
Swelling to a clamor — growing thunderously loud –
For Cleveland’s favorite son was just now stepping to the plate:
In Lonnie Baseball’s hands would rest the city’s doubtful fate.
With three hits to his name tonight, he’d done his job and more,
Yet he longed to make up for his muff that’d set them down by four.
Now a fastball sizzled toward him; he took it for a strike;
He settled calmly in to wait for something that he’d like.
Another heater passed him by, flying straight and true;
The stadium sat silent as the count sat oh-and-two.
Now, yet another fastball; he squared and fouled it off;
A gasp, and then, more silence; not a solitary cough.
As the pitcher wound his windup for the fourth and final toss,
Still the crowd betrayed no signal that their Tribe was facing loss.
Lonnie had come through before; now once more he’d come through –
To this belief all true fans clung; they knew it — they just knew.
But even as he took his cut, the fans felt something strange:
He’d been ready for the fastball; but Fernando’d thrown the change.
In Tampa they drank champagne, and sprayed Silly String about,
But there was no joy in Cleveland; the Chiz Kid had struck out.
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