Homer History: Jose Bautista, the bat flip and my race to see it

 

 

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

In our Homer History series, writers re-tell the stories of memorable home runs from their perspective. In this installment, actor James Denton — best known for his work on "Desperate Housewives" and currently starring on Hallmark Channel's "Good Witch" — takes us inside Rogers Centre for Jose Bautista's instant-classic homer in the 2015 ALDS against the Texas RangersDenton is a devout baseball fan, who was once part owner of the Orange County Flyers. Here's the story of how Denton ended up at the game and witnessed Bautista's homer.

It was one of the greatest postseason games in history and I got there by accident. 

I film my TV show in Toronto and our schedule overlaps with baseball season for about two months, so I go to as many games as possible. That was especially true last season, because that Blue Jays team were a fun team to watch.

I had to work the day of Game 5 of the ALDS against the Texas Rangers. We were shooting an hour out of town. I knew game time was 4:05 p.m. When we wrapped, I said, “OK, I’ve got an hour to get home to watch the game.” 

(Yahoo Sports / AP)
(Yahoo Sports / AP)

I’m racing home and I’m about halfway there, looking at the clock, thinking I’m going to make it. But then I thought, hell, why I don’t I just go to the game? So I grabbed my phone, pulled up my Stubhub app, punched in the game, looked for a single — and I found one. It was a pretty great seat, third-base side, middle deck. 

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I hit purchase and I had my seat. I just had to get a ticket in my hand, because in Toronto they won’t just scan your phone. I pulled into a UPS Store in Downtown Toronto. I parked illegally with my hazard lights on, and got the guy in the shop to print out the ticket for me. 

Sorry, but these are the lengths that baseball fans will go to sometimes in the postseason.

I grew up in Nashville, so I never had a favorite team growing up, but I absolutely loved baseball. Mostly, I rooted for players. When I got involved in fantasy baseball — I’ve been playing since 1986, when we kept score on spreadsheets — that just continued.

Being an actor is a somewhat nomadic life, but wherever I am, I do my best to stay connected to the game. When I was on “Desperate Housewives,” we filmed in Southern California, so I went to a lot of Dodgers games and pulled for them, mainly because my mom used to be a fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers. My family lives in Minneapolis now. It’s where my wife is from. I’ve had Twins season tickets every year since they opened Target Field. Wherever the baseball is, I’ll go. 

[Previously in Homer History: The joy, anger of Mark McGwire passing Roger Maris]

It was easy to adopt the Blue Jays the last two seasons while we’ve been shooting “Good Witch” in Toronto. With Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki coming over, they were pretty easy to like. The way the city got behind them made it fun to adopt the Blue Jays.

So there I was at Game 5, do-or-die in the Jays’ first playoff series since 1993. I got to the stadium literally between the two national anthems. They were just about the throw the first pitch when I got to my seat. Just getting there was pretty exciting, but it was nothing compared to the game. Or even the seventh inning on its own. 

(photo courtesy of James Denton)
(photo courtesy of James Denton)

If you’re a baseball fan, you know what happened: The top half was the craziness of Russell Martin throwing the ball back to the pitcher. It hits the Shin-Soo Choo, rolls out toward third base, the go-ahead run scores and the Rogers Centre goes crazy throwing stuff on the field. They thought the umpires got the call wrong and Toronto’s postseason was going to end on such a weird play.

I happened to, for whatever reason, know the rule. And it was a bummer, because I knew the fans were wrong. I knew the ball was in play and the run counted.

The controversy just heightened the energy of the whole place. Everybody was on edge. When the Blue Jays got through that inning, the bottom half got really insane. They essentially had to get six outs. The Rangers were a pretty good defensive team, but it all fell apart — the routine ground ball that Elvis Andrus booted, the ball Mitch Moreland fired into the ground, the throw to Andrus that he just dropped.

So the inning goes on and sure enough, there are two on and here comes Jose Bautista.

I’ve been to a lot of games sporting events. I don’t know how many hundreds of baseball games I’ve attended. But I’ve never heard or felt anything like what happened when he hit that homer. 

The amazing thing about it? It wasn’t one of those homers where it built, where it’s a long deep fly and you’re not positive it’s going to get over the fence. It was a really different eruption. The second he swung, it was upper deck and everybody knew. Instantly, Rogers Centre went to the highest level. It gave me goose bumps.

 [Elsewhere: Check out the Dunk History series on Yahoo Sports]

I’m not a bat flip guy, mostly because I’m old. But that was the most legitimate, called-for, explainable bat flip in the history of the game. He crushed it. When he flipped it, the place just went crazy and I’ve never felt energy like that in any sporting event in my life.

Because I had bought a single ticket, I ended up sitting next to a guy I didn’t know. By the end of the game, we were friends. When Bautista hit that homer, we were high-fiving and hugging. 

We were actually going to go to the ALCS together. I bought the tickets because I thought he was good luck. I ended up having to work, so I gave them to him and he took his daughter. 

I never saw him again, but that was a fun ending to an unforgettable story and an incredible day of baseball.  

PREVIOUSLY IN HOMER HISTORY
The night a hobbled Kirk Gibson broke my heart (by Mike Oz)
Cal Ripken Jr. wowed us yet again on Iron Man night (by Lauren Shehadi)
When Albert Pujols silenced Minute Maid Park (by Jeff Passan)
Bill Mazeroski's great walk-off World Series winner (by Kevin Iole)
The Big Papi grand slam that still haunts Detroit (by Al Toby)
That time Joe Blanton hit a home run in the World Series (by Sam Cooper)
When Jim Leyritz halted hopes of a Braves dynasty (by Jay Busbee)
Bryce Harper and the home run almost no one saw (by Chris Cwik)
Shane Robinson and the home run on one predicted (by Tim Brown)
The shot heard 'round the world (by Larry King)
The night Reggie Jackson became Mr. October (by Scott Pianowski)
Tony Fernandez's extra-innings postseason blast (by Joey Gulino)
Dave Kingman takes one out of Wrigley Field (by Andy Behrens)
Joe Carter's blast wins the 1993 World Series (by Greg Wyshynski)
Todd Helton ignites a historic Rockies run (by Mark Townsend)
David Eckstein once again does the improbable (by Max Thompson)
Bob Brenly makes up for four errors with a blast (by Rob Schneider)
Alex Gordon ties Game 1 of the 2015 World Series (by Nick Bromberg)
Ryne Sandberg takes Bruce Sutter deep twice (by Kyle Ringo)
Hank Aaron passes Babe Ruth with No. 715 (by Steve McAllister)
When Frank Thomas showed his Home Run Derby muscle (by Andreas Hale)
Steve Finley's grand slam that did not suck (by Marcus Vanderberg)
Brian Johnson's unlikely blast in a pennant race (by Jeff Eisenberg)
Wily Mo Pena's blast makes an O's fan hit rock bottom (by Thomas Sadoski)
Chris Chambliss sends the Yankees to the Series (by Gary Mondello)
Josh Hamilton's classic Home Run Derby performance (by Anthony Sulla-Heffinger)
Paul Konerko slams door on Houston in World Series (by Ryan McKinnell)
How the home run I never saw changed my perspective (by Maj. Stephen M. Champlin)
Reconciling McGwire, Sosa and the summer of '98 (by Kevin Kaduk)
The joy, anger of Mark McGwire passing Roger Maris (by Jay Hart)


























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Mike Oz is the editor of Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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