Oakland Athletics’ pitcher, Dallas Braden, officially retired from baseball last week at only 30 years of age. Braden told the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser,
“There is nothing left in there, it’s just a shredded mess, “I left my arm on the mound at the Coliseum, and I’m OK with that. …
Upon the announcement of his retirement last week Oakland Athletics’ pitcher, Dallas Braden, I was reminded of one of the best days of my life (and most certainly the best of his). While Braden had good numbers and was a solid part of the A’s starting rotation in 2010 no one expected what happened on that May afternoon in Oakland.
It was Mother’s Day. The weather screamed baseball, it was not too hot, not too cool, a couple of clouds floated in the sky and a light breeze wafted through the Oakland Coliseum keeping those of us in the sun pleasantly comfortable. Compared to those hot days in July one might say the weather was perfect. The stadium wasn’t full, it hardly ever is in Oakland, but there was a good crowd, a lot of kids there to celebrate with their moms.
The first few innings, Braden’s pitching was basically unnoticed as the A’s scored four runs through the second, third and fourth innings. A few of us were beginning to notice that the Rays hadn’t yet gotten a hit which of course you do not mention to your season ticket holder neighbors. It’s just bad luck. And come on, how often do you get to see a no-hitter let alone a perfect game? Certainly not every day at the yard! Many of us didn’t even have the thought of walks in our minds … yet.
As the sixth inning rolled around my fellow season ticket holder and friend, who was probably 15 at the time, made a statement, “18 up, 18 down.” That’s when it hit those around him that there had not been a single base runner! We had been focused on hits alone. I promptly turned around and said “sssshhhhhh!” but he didn’t seem to understand what I meant so I ran up the stairs for some reason and thankfully ran into the teenager’s father. All I said to him was “He’s talking…talking about ….” His father took off running yelling back at me “I’ll take care of it.”
After that moment everyone became nervous. I was shaking. Only nine more outs to go to see true perfection in the game of baseball that we all loved so much. The thought of it was so overwhelming I can remember it clearly to this day almost four years later.
So the innings rolled on, perfect seventh, perfect eighth …. taking us to being three outs away in the top of the ninth inning. Gabe Kapler came up to bat, the one keeping Braden and us fans just minutes away from a major failure or the most perfect day at the ballpark for everyone in attendance.
Kapler’s at bat had me actually not watching. I know, what was I thinking? What was I doing? I was literally rocking back and forth in my seat covering my eyes and praying to the baseball gods, no joke. It was a very drawn out 12 pitch at bat and the count had gotten full. If the next pitch was a ball it was all out the window. But the pitch caused Kapler to pop out to third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff who made a spectacular play and the game, the suspense and in my case the horror was over and it was time to celebrate.
The times I have been in crowds as raucous and crazy as we were at that moment I can count on one hand. Only three examples come to mind along with that Sunday in May, the 2002 Amazing A’s winning their 20th consecutive game, the 2006-2007 eighth-seeded Golden State Warriors when they knocked out the first seed Dallas Mavericks in the first round, and the 2012 Athletics after being shutout by Detroit Tiger’s Justin Verlander in game 5 of the 2012 American League Division Series still had the crowd on their feet chanting “Let’s Go Oakland” for over five minutes.
The excitement of seeing a perfect game live is incomparable to any feeling I have ever had previously or since. There were a lot of other things that just made that day perfect: a perfect game, perfect weather and the perfect person in the crowd to see this game, Braden’s grandmother, Peggy Lindsey, was able to run down and hug Dallas who is essentially her son, the boy from Stockton who she raised. For her to be there, on Mother’s Day, and see him accomplish such as feat is unbelievably perfect. Ms. Lindsey later became quite famous for sending Alex Rodriguez a special message. Only a week earlier when the A’s had played the New York Yankees, A-Rod had stormed towards the mound while Braden was pitching and words were exchanged. Well Braden’s grandmother told the media, the world and A-Rod himself, “Stick it A-Rod.” Just another memorable perfect moment on such a perfect day.
Unfortunately my own mother was out of town and being as big of a fan as I am, I really feel sorry that that was something she had to miss especially being that she hadn’t missed a Mother’s Day home game in over a decade. But that day at the Coliseum was not just perfection but destiny – Mother’s Day, the grandmother who raised him in attendance, perfect baseball weather and Major League Baseball’s 19th perfect game in over a century of its history. And I was there. I was part of that joy. It was truly one of the best days of my life and all I had to do was enjoy the show.
I know to many A’s fans Braden’s retirement was an unpleasant shock as there had been rumors of him making a comeback. He had always pitched well for Oakland. In 2010 Braden started 25 games with five of those games being complete games and two of them shutouts. He finished the season with 11-14 with a 3.50 ERA and a MLB’s 19th perfect game on his resume.
Unfortunately, Braden threw his last Major League pitch in 2011. But his quote on his retirement will always stay with those of us who were at the game on May 9, 2010,
“There is nothing left in there, it’s just a shredded mess, I left my arm on the mound at the Coliseum, and I’m OK with that. …”
As Athletics’ fans we are more than okay with that being the ending to the story. Tragic as it is that he had to leave the sport to injury but perfect that he left his arm and his heart in Oakland.