Thursday, December 03, 2009

Randy Johnson's 300th Win Part IV: The Rainout

Welcome to Part IV of the six-part series looking back at Randy Johnson's 300th win. This part will detail the events of June 3, 2009, the scheduled date of Randy Johnson's first attempt at 300 wins, and what happened that eventually pushed the date of the milestone back to June 4. After writing 16,000 words in three days, I will try to make this entry more lightweight, but I can't make any guarantees.


Or the Complete Story of How I Got to See One of the Greatest Milestones in the History of the Game

Part I: The Introduction
Part II: The Player
Part III: The Set-Up
Part IV: The Rainout
Part V: The Game (Coming December 4)
Part VI: The Aftermath (Coming sometime in December)


Or The Events of the Day of the Rainout, and Meditations While Waiting Out a Rain Delay.



The forecast on June 3, 2009 called for rain, but the day actually started out bright and sunny. I thought, "If it could be like this throughout the day, then we can definitely get the game in." Alas, that was the calm before the storm. Anyways, I had a couple of "errands" to run before the game. They included getting a copy of the Washington Post so that I would have the newspaper from the day Randy Johnson got his 300th win, and buy The Sims 3 using the rest of the Best Buy gift card that I had gotten as a gift.

I decided to drive to the Best Buy at the Reston Town Center, since it has a Barnes and Nobles right next to it, which would have the newspaper. I went into Barnes and Nobles first, which was harder to find than I expected. I had to ask an employee for it. I paid for my wares, sat in the Starbucks and had a rather expensive breakfast while reading the coverage in the Post for Randy Johnson's 300th win. There was only one article by Post baseball writer Thomas Boswell, and it talked about how dominant the Big Unit has been. It also brought up an interesting historical sidenote that I was well aware about but neglected to mention in Part III: that Randy Johnson was going for his 300th win against the organization that traded him to the Mariners 20 years prior.

Boswell also added that since the Nationals were not only the worst team in baseball but on pace to be historically bad, and since Randy Johnson already beat them for win number 298, he shouldn't have any problem getting the win tonight. But I thought nothing is ever a guarantee, and that win in May was not a cakewalk. Randy's ERA was at 5.68 going into that game and it actually went up, as he allowed four runs in five innings. He won only because Nationals starter Daniel Cabrera allowed eight. The Nationals actually had a better offense than the Giants, and the Nationals' starter Jordan Zimmermann was a good young pitcher that I had on some of my fantasy teams. Plus, I heard a saying - I think it was by Billy Martin - that while everybody would root for somebody to get an important milestone like 300 wins, nobody actually wants to be the one to get them there. (Which meant Cesar Geronimo got a raw deal. He was the 3,000th strikeout victim of both Gaylord Perry and Nolan Ryan.)

Anyways, I went next door to Best Buy and picked up The Sims 3, which came out earlier that week. I had to pay $23 out of my own pocket, since I used the gift card on the memory cards I'd be taking to the game, but I figured it would be well worth it, as I loved playing The Sims and would probably love the sequel as well. I wouldn't be able to play it that day, but I have all day to play it on June 4. I went home and started trying to pass the time while waiting for Matt and Michael. We said we would meet at around 2, drive to the Vienna metro station, and ride in together and get there around the time gates open at 5. Well, it was before noon when I got back home, so I had about two hours to burn. I put the finishing touches on my signs. I made sure I brought everything I needed (the signs, baseball cards for players to autograph since I'm an autograph hound but only on cards, the digital cameras with memory cards, and extra batteries.) I talked a little bit to Sari, who was staying over. I installed The Sims 3 so it will be up and ready to go for the next day, and in the end I surfed the Internet.

Michael got to my place first, and we waited around for Matt. He got there a little bit after two, but we could still get there by the time the gates open, and it was still sunny out. We drove to the Vienna metro station and miraculously managed to find parking. Along the way, we talked about our excitement at potentially seeing history and about our fantasy baseball league. I was next to last in the league thanks to a weak offense. My team actually managed 17 RBIs the night before, but my opponent Michael actually got 15 RBIs from his players. The only thing this offensive explosion did was decrease my RBI deficit to 6. Eh...such is fantasy sports. I also noticed that the cloud cover increased the closer we got to DC, which was not a good sign.

We made the switch to green line at L'enfant Plaza, and then to the stadium at Navy Yards. By then it had started to rain, and it wasn't a light rain either. By then the gates had opened, and we entered the stadium. To our disappointment the large white tarp covered the field. There was nothing much to see, so we went to the Nationals Team Store so Matt can buy a Nationals cap to prove he was at the park. Then we wandered over to the PlayStation Pavilion to see what was available. They had Gran Turismo 5 Prologue, Karaoke Revolution, and MLB '09: The Bigs, but the game that really interested me was Buzz! Quiz TV. The announcer is a very annoying Muppet wannabe, but I like trivia even if I'm terrible. I had been in It's Academic in high school and tried out for quiz bowl at UVA. I started playing solo, but then Michael and Matt came around so we played a three player game. That turned out to be tons of fun. We played two games (I won both of them) when the rain started to die down. We went out and saw that they were removing the tarp, and a couple of Giants were on the field doing their warm-up tosses.

We hung out in the left field area, hoping that players were coming out for batting practice. I saw a lady wearing a Randy Johnson jersey holding a sign that said, "I came 800 miles to see Randy's 300th." We talked to her and found out that she was from Chicago, and was in town for a business meeting or something. She also happens to be a very big Randy Johnson fan, so she brought tickets just to witness a historical event for her favorite player. I didn't take any pictures of this die-hard Randy Johnson fan because I wanted to conserve the batteries for the actual game. I apparently also saw Zach Hample, baseball snagging extraordinaire and author of the book Watching Baseball Smarter, but I didn't realize it until I looked at his blog and saw that he was taking pictures from the area where I was standing. A few people took interest in my sign with all of the 300-game winners. They tried naming them all, but struggled with the older players. A few older fans were able to recognize Walter Johnson and Christy Mathewson, but they had no idea about the 19th century players. I have an interest in a very odd aspect of baseball history.

Nationals Park is interesting in that for the first hour after gates open, fans were only allowed to mingle in the outfield. It's only after an hour passed that they let fans go towards seats in foul territory. I wandered down to see where our seats may be. That was when I made the realization that if we're sitting along the third base side, we'll be close to the Giants dugout, but we can only see Randy's back when he pitches. I've always gotten seats along the third base side when I go to games to watch a pitcher so that I can see their pitching motion, but everybody that I've gone specifically to see in the past (Clemens, Maddux, 王建民) were right-handers. However, Randy Johnson was a southpaw. While the vantage point wasn't ideal, there was nothing I could do about it.

I saw that Barry Zito was signing autographs. Since I had his Topps 2003 card (with stats from his 2002 Cy Young year), I went over and got it autographed. Shortly afterward it started to rain again, so once again we retreated to somewhere dry. By then Ryan had arrived, so we went to play a four-player match of Buzz. A Sony rep noticed that we had played earlier, and he said that whoever would win the round we were playing can get a free flash drive. I don't remember what round we were playing, but Michael ended up winning the flash drive. I won the game in the end. When we got tired of video games, we went next door to the Exxon Strike Zone, with batting cages and pitching cages. We sat around for another hour or so while Michael and Matt waited in line to try their hands at pitching.

By then, the scheduled start-time of 7:05 had come and gone. The screen said, "The start of the game has been delayed due to rain. We will keep you updated as soon as information becomes available." At around 8, the rain died down enough that there was some hope of getting the game in. The tarp was coming off, and so we went down to our seats. But only minutes passed before the rain came again. We retreated to the concessions area, and decided to spend money on overpriced hot dogs and nachos. We stood around eating while watching the scores from other games. It was here that we found out that the Braves released Tom Glavine, only a few days after a successful rehab start. (I still think it's because of money.) We decided waiting around was boring, so we went back to the Exxon Strike Zone. Once we were sick of that, we went next door to the PlayStation Pavilion. I played some more Buzz while Ryan seemed to like Karaoke Revolution.

I played Buzz until 10:00, when the PlayStation Pavilion closed. We had to pack up and move back to the Exxon Strike Zone, where Matt took his swings in the batting cage. And then that closed as well. All of the video screens still posted the message, "Please take cover under the concourse. Severe storms are approaching. We are monitoring the situation & will keep you updated as information becomes available," a message they had been displaying since 8:00. Most people seemed agitated they haven't called the game, but I actually liked the situation. They obviously haven't called the game because first of all, they would have to make it up in a doubleheader the next day. Yet with more rain in the forecast for June 4, it didn't seem likely to get both games in, but they must since this is the Giants' only visit to DC this season. I'm sure the chance for Randy to get 300 was another reason they haven't called the game. And by then, there were only a thousand or so fans left, which meant it would be a foul ball paradise. Just imagine...getting a foul ball from Randy Johnson's 300th win!

There isn't really much to do or much to say when one is sitting around for 45 minutes waiting for the game to either be played or be called. At least we had video games or batting cages to entertain us before 10. We were told that we had missed a streaker sometime when were at the play area. We saw Stan Kastan and the umpires walk onto the field with umbrellas twice, but they left both times and the fans got no new information. By that time the outfield was covered with enormous puddles. While waiting, I noticed that rain looks beautiful and serene as you watch it come down. The concession stands were all closed by that time, so if they do play, the fans would have to watch on empty stomachs. Finally, at 10:45 or so the team put us fans out of our miseries and announced that the game was being canceled, with a traditional double-header being played the following day: June 4, 2009. This was great because a traditional double-header means two games for the price of one. The announcer also added that fans with tickets to tonight's game can use a rain check and get another ticket for the same price at another home game except for the series against the Red Sox on June 23-25. Well, June 4 is not June 23-25, so that means we could still see Randy Johnson go for 300! I mentioned this to the others, and we agreed to talk it over on the Metro ride back. The rain ended on our way back to the Metro.

I had no problems with going back the next day, as the only thing I had on my itinerary was playing The Sims 3. Matt was willing to stay around another day. Michael had a lunch meeting in Manassas, and Ryan had work, but they were all willing to go to the game. After all, there's nothing like two games for the price of one, with one of them potentially being Randy Johnson's 300th win. The next part was logistics. How would we meet up the most efficiently? We still had to arrive early and exchange tickets for the rainout for tickets to the June 4 contest. After much discussion, we decided that Matt and I would leave at noon to get the exchanges. Michael would drive up to the Vienna metro station after his lunch meeting and get to the park, while Ryan would do what he did on the 3rd. He may miss Randy Johnson, since the game is scheduled to start at 4:35, but he'll take it for a game and a half for the price of one. So while people moaned and groaned about the experience online, I went to bed giddy that I still may have a chance to see history.

There are some days where you just can't ever forget. Sure, there may be some details that have fallen off to the wayside, but on the whole you remember most of the day's events from morning to night. June 4, 2009 was one of those days for me.*

*June 4, 1999 was another one of those days, as were June 3, 1999 and June 3, 2009 as well. There's just something special about June 3-4 on the last years of a decadeThe day began on the Metro. We were heading home on the way back from the rainout when the clock went from 11:59PM to 12:00 AM. Once we got home, I showed Michael and Matt to where they were sleeping, and where they can use computers to update their fantasy teams. I went upstairs, told my sister about going to see the game tomorrow, surfed the internet for a few more hours before going to bed. I had to go to bed early, because I had made an appointment with my primary care physician in the morning. I needed to have a physical exam for entrance into TCOM. I had though I didn't have anything to do except The Sims 3, which is why I made a 9:00 appointment. I woke up at 8 or so for the appointment, which was was rather mundane, although I had an EKG done on me for the first time. On my way home I stopped by CVS to buy a copy of the Washington Post, just in case Randy got the win.

Michael was already gone when I got back. With another hour and a half to go until we were planning to leave, I decided to make pancakes. A few days prior, I made a couple of pancakes that were utter failures. These pancakes turned out to be a little bit better. At least they were edible. I went and woke Matt around 11, and we ate the edible pancakes. We left at noon and decided to stop by Subway, because while the pancakes were edible, Matt didn't find them filling. I wasn't hungry, but I could save it for later. I got a Meatball Marinara, because that's what I ALWAYS get at Subway's. We drove to the Vienna metro station, but to my dismay it was full, but there was no need to worry. If we couldn't get to Vienna, I could still make it to the next station, Dunn Loring Merrifield, since I had found it during one of my driving expeditions that spring. Thankfully there were parking spots when we got there. You needed a Metro card to exit the parking lot, but we'll take care of that later. We were on our way to Nationals Park, and made it just as the gates were opening.

I had the soggy tickets from the night before to trade in at the ticket counter. I was worried that the game would be sold out due to the historical significance, but to my relief there were PLENTY of seats available, and that we can trade for tickets of equal or lesser value. Since there were seats available, I didn't have to stick with seats along the 3rd base line, where all we'll see is Randy's back. I ended up switching the seats to section 128L, along the first base line, so we could see the front side of Randy Johnson. True, we wouldn't be near the Giants dugout, but it didn't matter to us. Our new seats were in row K, which was even closer than what our old tickets were. We also asked the lady at the ticket counter if it would be possible to give the tickets to Ryan and Michael when they arrived. The lady told us that we can just leave the tickets for them at will call. All they would have to do was show them a photo ID. So we happily gave her their names and entered the stadium.

video
We had two and a half hours before the game would start. We went to the PlayStation Pavilion to watch them set up. When they finally had Buzz up, Matt and I played a game, but it wasn't so much fun with two people, so we went to the Exxon Strike Zone, the Nationals team store (where I saw that 王建民 got rocked on his first start after three relief appearances coming back from the DL), and then to the left field bleachers, where I broke out my digital camera to film Randy throwing the ball around in center field. As soon as the team opened the rest of the stadium, Matt and I went down near the Giants dugout. The lady from Chicago was there again, still with her sign. She had them laminated, which was a good idea because my 300-win club poster ended up being completely soggy, and the glue was coming off. I brought it along anyways, and one of the reporters there interviewed me about it. I bet I bored them to tears by naming all of the members of the 300-win club, and that my segment ended up on the cutting room floor. I also remarked that Randy had won a game on June 4, 1989 (his fifth) and June 4, 1999 (his 150th), so perhaps it's more fitting for him to win on June 4, 2009.

Matt looked bored, so we quickly left to go to our seat along the first base side. On our way there, a photographer approached us and asked if we wanted to have our picture taken. We consented. He snapped a picture, and handed us a card to show us where to find the picture. (I looked for the picture later, and it was actually a fine picture of Matt, so I brought a print.) It began to rain again when we got to our seats, and soon the announcement came that the game was being delayed for 30 minutes. Here we go again. The good thing about the delay was that when Michael came shortly afterward, he didn't miss a pitch. Later he and Matt went off somewhere (it may have been to watch Randy warm up), while I stayed back and held fort. I had my digital camera, and I was ready. The rain stopped relatively quickly, and the groundskeepers took the tarp off the field. They held the normal formalities, such as announcing the starting lineup, throwing the ceremonial first pitch, the singing of the national anthem etc. Afterward the Nationals came on and got ready. Jordan Zimmermann threw his eight warm-up pitches and got ready. "Play ball," announced home plate umpire Tim Timmons. The game was about to begin: one that could end up being Randy Johnson's 300th win.

Sources: Part IV is over. Apologies if it's very dry. That's just the way I write. Once again, it's mostly personal views, but I did use some sources. Baseball References.com is invaluable as always. I also used Thomas Boswell's article "A Giant Among Men" from The Washington Post on June 3, 2009. And the blogs entries of Zach Hample (http://snaggingbaseballs.mlblogs.com) and Todd Cook (http://cookandsonbats.mlblogs.com) about the rainout that were actually posted on time were helpful in remembering the specifics like time and annoyingly useless messages on the video screens. Part V will be exciting...it's the main event! At least if I don't get bogged down by the play by play.

Part V: The Game

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