Albert Pujols: a Personal Story

As a Cleveland fan I did not get to witness Albert Pujols much. Albert played in the National League, so opportunities were limited. I still recall, vividly, one game where I got to watch Pujols clobber my hometown Indians. This came two years after the 2007 AL Central winning season where the Indians first manhandled the Yankees (which still leaves me teary eyed), but then lost the ALCS in spectacular fashion to the Red Sox. I convinced myself the Indians would find themselves clashing with Boston several times in the future, of course the Indians collapsed instead. 2008 was an injury plagued mess and we traded C.C. Sabathia, who won the Cy Young in 2007. In 2009 Cleveland got worse (no the team didn’t do much to improve the roster), and we would wind up trading Victor Martinez & Cliff Lee, who also won a Cy Young.

So that June, the Indians seven games back and eight games under .500, was a miserable time to be an Indians fan. Our pitching stunk, despite boasting Cliff Lee, and our offense still struggled despite Victor Martinez rattling off one of his best offensive seasons. The game was June 13th and I went with my grandfather who, as it happens, is a huge Cardinals fan. He is from New York and his entire family was filled with Yankees fans growing up. Whether to spite his family, or to be a contrarian, he would not say: but my grandfather hates the Yankees. He still likes to tell stories how he giddily clapped after the Yankees got beat on the radio and his dad kicked him out of the house.

So on June 13th my grandfather and I drove down to the Jake, taking the shoreway along Lake Erie and parking in the Key Tower parking lot where my mother worked. It was a day game but only partly sunny. As an Indians fan I was hoping journeyman Tomo Ohka would help staunch the bleeding a bit* and not particularly interested in the Cardinals. Needless to say: Albert Pujols clobbered the Indians personally.

*In my memory Ohka was a rookie, which I probably thought at the time. But Ohka was a journeyman pitcher who was clearly brought on by the Indians to fill in for the year. At 33: he was not likely to return to being a league average starter and had actually missed a full season.

The game was scoreless heading into the fourth when Pujols faced Ohka for the second time. In the first inning Ohka struck Albert out, which I am sure Ohka remembers today. But in the fourth inning Pujols got a second chance and on a 1-0 count Albert clobbered a pitch over the little Green Monster to make it 1-0 St. Louis. The fans grumbled and a the stadium largely remained silent as Pujols rounded the bases. The Indians never managed to live up to the promise of 2007, and fans were frustrated. Watching the fans grumble my grandfather just smiled. Enjoying Pujols work his craft.

The Indians managed to score a run in the 5th inning to tie the game (Victor Martinez singled in Jamey Carroll). Tomo Ohka was pitching pretty well when he faced Pujols again. We all knew what was going to happen before it happened: Pujols clobbered another pitch, again on a 1-0 count, over the Little Green Monster. This time the home crowd booed, not at Pujols, but at the Indians who had called so far from their 2007 heights.

My grandfather just grinned, chuckled at the Indians fans and clapped his hands giddily.

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