I hope you didn't miss the historic battle on Tuesday night when the Pirates entertained the visiting Brewers. In dramatic fashion, the teams staged a parade of runs that could have been billed as "The Rise and Fall of the Republican Party". In the space of a couple of hours, the fans in the ballpark saw a succession of events emblematic of the GOP's early successes and more recent disasters.
When I saw the matchup of starting pitchers that afternoon, I knew the folks in Pittsburgh were in for a momentous evening. Yes, it was Lincoln vs. Bush--Lincoln, whose startling victory in the 1860 election put his party on the map, and Bush, whose maniacal campaign to avenge his father plunged his party into disarray. As the game's start drew near and I saw the advance box score posted online, it occurred to me that Lincoln might be in trouble. The home plate umpire was Derryl "Our American" Cousins. That didn't bode well.
True to form, however, Lincoln got off to a fine start, retiring the Brewers in order in the top of the first. Bush took the mound, and his competence lasted exactly one batter, who flied out. Apart from that, Bush's tenure was an unmitigated disaster. Two singles (one by a guy named Walker who, it turned out, really had his number) and a walk loaded the bases. That brought up Pedro Alvarez, a rookie with all of 12 RBI to his name and a Bush admirer (his favorite movie is "Dumb and Dumber"). Alvarez unloaded the bases with a grand slam.
After this quick explosion of runs, things only got worse for Bush, as he was thoroughly betrayed by his defensive alignment. The next batter singled and went to second when Bush uncorked a wild heave. That was followed by back-to-back miscues by the third baseman, allowing two more opponents to reach base, scoring one run and leaving runners on first and second.
Lincoln, of course, sacrificed.
At this point, Bush probably figured that he was going to escape with only a five-run deficit against his record. But no. A double scored two more runs. Boom--another double, another run. Boom-boom--another double, this one by that Walker guy, and yet another run.
When the smoke cleared, it was a nine-run first inning against the hapless Bush. Yet for some reason, his boss saw fit to let him keep trying to do the job. Somehow, he lasted three more innings, giving up one more run, before he was put out of his misery and sent to the sidelines. Ten runs in four innings--not a pretty showing, citizens. And Walker had five hits on the night.
With all this bounty, you'd think it would be smooth sailing for Lincoln. But no. Essentially, the war was over with that first heavy volley. But Lincoln wasn't around to enjoy the triumph or the spoils of victory. He was gone by the third inning, after being ambushed for seven runs. Oh, his team won all right (11-9), but he was long gone by then, just the memory of a man who had stood tall but fallen by the wayside.
I hope the swarm of 13,000+ fans who attended that game in Pittsburgh appreciated it. They saw 150 years of Republican history in a stark microcosm. It's a lesson we shouldn't forget.
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Incidentally, you can put together a damn good starting nine made up of Hall of Famers with the same last name as a president:
C: Gary Carter
1B: Ben Taylor
2B: Frank Grant
SS: Travis Jackson
3B: Judy Johnson
LF: Jud Wilson (mostly a third baseman but not great on grounders, so I'm putting him in left)
CF: Hack Wilson
RF: Reggie Jackson
RHP: Walter Johnson
LHP: Whitey Ford
Honorary captain: (of course) Grover Cleveland Alexander