Blocked
by Ken Arneson
2004-06-10 3:58

I write about writer’s block one day, and the next day, two stories appear about that very thing.

The New Yorker has a new article that details the history of writer’s block. It’s quite interesting, but I didn’t really need to hear that some writers never get over it.

UIWeb.com has some handy advice about how to get past the burnout. I’ll keep it in mind, but I usually find the best solution for me is not to try harder, but to wait. You never know where that inspirational spark will come from.

Wednesday night, I did my waiting at the Coliseum. I went to see the matchup between Oakland and Cincinnati. Somehow I was misinformed about the event, as I thought I was going to see the A’s and the Reds, but a football game broke out instead. The Raiders defeated the Bengals, 17-8.

Rob Neyer thinks the Oakland victory might be momentous, because it puts the A’s alone into first place. Neyer suggests it may be for good. I wish he hadn’t said that; it’s classic jinx material.

When I watched the Reds shrink the A’s 11-0 lead down to 11-8, another momentous day came to mind. In 2002, the A’s blew an 11-0 lead against the Royals in the final game of their 20-game streak, only to win the game 12-11 on a ninth-inning Scott Hatteberg home run. But this time, the A’s thwarted the comeback, and added six more runs in the seventh to avert the need for such late heroics.

Honestly, I don’t know what’s gotten into the A’s lately. 8, 13, 10, and 17 runs in their last four games? The A’s don’t win like that; their M.O. is to win 4-2 and 2-1. Really, it must be some other team I’ve been watching. I don’t really recognize them when they hit like this.

The most memorable thing about the game, though, was not that the A’s scored 17 runs, or that they took sole possession of first place. It was a battle between Rich Harden and Ken Griffey, Jr. in the sixth inning. Griffey came to Oakland with 498 career home runs. The A’s had pitched him carefully all series, and in the sixth inning, Griffey was still stuck on 498. But with the A’s ahead, 11-0, it was time for Harden to challenge Griffey.

It was a classic power-on-power battle. Harden’s best stuff against Griffey’s.

First pitch: fastball, 97 mph on the stadium gun, Griffey swung and missed. Next pitch, fastball, 98 mph, Griffey fouled it off.

Then on 0-2, Harden threw another fastball, this time at 100 mph. And Griffey fouled that one off, too! When the “100 MPH” flashed up on the scoreboard, the crowd really started buzzing.

Griffey fouled off two more pitches, a fastball at 98 and an offspeed pitch, then took a 98mph fastball off the plate inside for a ball. Then another fastball (97), and Griffey fouled it off again! Griffey fouled off five of Harden’s nastiest pitches to keep the at-bat alive. Amazing.

Harden threw a slider in the dirt for ball two. Finally, on 2-2, Harden unleashed a 98 mph fastball that got Griffey to hit a high, high popup to center field for an out.

Harden won the battle, but he emptied his tank in the process. The following five batters all reached base. Five runs scored, and Harden was done for the night.

Griffey didn’t homer, so the at-bat will likely go down in history as just a minor obstacle blocking his path to 500 homers. But to me, it was a special moment: a truly great battle I feel privileged to have witnessed.

Who’d have thought you could see a memorable popup in an 11-0 game in the middle of June? If that doesn’t inspire my creative juices to flow, I don’t know what will.

This is Ken Arneson's blog about baseball, brains, art, science, technology, philosophy, poetry, politics and whatever else Ken Arneson feels like writing about
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