When You’ve Already Lost (or Won), the Fun Begins

On the most unexpected baseball game I ever saw.

Juliette Alvey / 5.20.22

The game on May 15th in St. Louis between the Cardinals and the Giants had an ending that fans would never want to miss. No, I don’t mean a walk-off homer, a steal home, or even a close score (final score was 15-6). This particular game ended in pure fun.

Unlike some baseball fans who arrive in the 3rd inning and leave after the 7th inning stretch, I always argue that you should never leave a baseball game early because you never know what can happen. The tables can turn even at the last out. This game was no exception, but this time it didn’t have to do with winning or losing.

The Cardinals were up 15-2 and the Giants were out of pitchers, or at least ones that they wanted to use in this kind of blowout. So they had their rookie outfielder, Luis Gonzalez, pitch. What did they have to lose? They had basically already lost. Seeing Gonzalez pitch was entertaining in itself — his pitching looked like a slow motion replay with his change ups and curveballs. His slow-pitch style made me think that slow-pitch softball may be harder than it looks. His strategy was good (he was not going to risk throwing a not-very-fast fastball right down the pipe), and amazingly he didn’t give up one run.

In response to this unique fielding choice, the Cardinals raised them one by bringing one of their most beloved players of all time to the mound: Albert Pujols.

Cardinals fans seriously love this guy. To give you an idea of how much they love him, they would give him standing ovations when he entered Busch Stadium, even when he wore a different uniform (Angels and then Dodgers). Some players would be seen as traitors, but not Pujols. It turns out their unconditional love for him was rewarded by him returning to the Red Birds in 2022. I personally will miss seeing him give great big bear hugs to Dodgers teammates when they get home runs this year, but it is fitting and feels right to see him back in red.

So the 42-year-old Albert Pujols walked up to the mound to make his pitching debut in the major leagues — the oldest player to do so since 1929. The fans were on their feet as if this was the last out of a World Series game. His technique was similar to the other “pitcher,” with maybe a tad bit more speed, and every strike he threw won him a roaring applause. He did give up two home runs (one of them a 3-run homer by Luis Gonzalez!), but the Cardinals were so far ahead, what did they have to lose? They had basically already won.

This was one of the most enjoyable innings of baseball I’ve ever watched in my life. What struck me most was the amount of smiling out on the field, in the dugouts, and in the stands. It was pure joy.

Maria Guardado on mlb.com quoted Giants manager Gabe Kapler as saying, “I think it was just what was needed, at least for our side. Obviously, their fans loved it, and I’m sure their dugout was hanging on every pitch … It was the right time to kind of let go of the negative outcomes of the game and get involved in the fun of it.” For his part, Pujols called it, “A dream come true.”

This event was a break in the seriousness of this sport that has become so professionalized, so monetized, and so performance-oriented. And it demonstrated what can happen when winning and losing is no longer a concern. Because whether you have already lost or already won, when the game is “over,” the pressure is gone. You are left with what baseball was originally: a game.

I wish I could live my life in this same way. It’s not that I don’t want to take anything seriously or want to make life a game. I have real problems and real responsibilities. But I wish I could live in the kind of freedom and joy that both teams showed that day. It feels impossible, but who knows? Maybe it is more of a possibility than we realize.

We tend to think of life as a game to be won rather than a game to be enjoyed. We feel the pressure to determine the outcome. But what if we already know the outcome? We no longer need to worry about whether we will win or lose because those of us who are in Christ have both lost and won. Because he died and now lives, we have also died with him, and we will live with him (2 Tim 2:11). So if that’s the case, what do we have to lose?

subscribe to the Mockingbird newsletter


7 responses to “When You’ve Already Lost (or Won), the Fun Begins”

  1. David Clay says:

    So, as a Cardinals fan, this is basically one of the best things I’ve read in a long time. Thank you for writing. Also, the Giants would have won if they had started Gonzalez. The Cards cannot hit a pitcher they’ve never seen before and that’s a fact

  2. Cheryl and Gary Pickrell says:

    As faithful Giants fans ( Our first Labrador was Willie and present one is Buster) and residents of Tucson where Luis Gonzales is from, we thoroughly enjoyed the end of the game even though our team lost. What a beautiful truth is stated about how we can live our lives. We will pass this on to our baseball playing grandsons and friends.

  3. CJ says:

    What a piece of writing! Loved this, Juliette. The joy is infectious. Oh, and it was great to meet you & Ryan at the conference. And thanks for helping me when I lost my phone.

  4. Hahaha, that’s hilarious David! Could be a new strategy teams consider when playing the Cardinals?

  5. Thanks CJ! So great meeting you too!

  6. Thanks Cheryl and Gary! You gotta love a game that is fun to watch even when your team loses. 🙂

  7. […] This was cool about a unique Cardinals-Giants baseball game played last week. “We tend to think of […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *