We baseball fans may have witnessed the professional highlight of a man’s life tonight. Or at least his professional life. And for that reason, I am very happy for Ryan Dempster.
In many ways it is the thing that makes something like a World Series game such a fascinating experience. For all to see, we witness the instant that someone experiences the apex that will justify a career or a crushing moment that someone can never shake.
Sometimes it an obvious highlight and lowlight. Think of Joe Carter jumping in the air while Mitch Williams walks off the field with his head down.
Other times it is more subtle. Sometimes it is a veteran player getting a moment in the spotlight. In 2008, I wrote about Matt Stairs and his long and steady if not famous career. After playing for countless teams in the minors and bouncing around the majors, Stairs blasted a key homer in the NLCS. And at that moment, a baseball lifer had his great moment that made all the years of staying in the bigs worth it. He would go on to collect his World Series ring.
Tonight we may have seen Ryan Dempster’s moment.
Ryan Dempster has had a long career. After playing for a few organizations in the minor leagues, he made his big league debut with the 1998 Florida Marlins when he was just 21.
Of course that Marlins team were the nominal defending World Champions. But Dempster was one of the many young Marlins rushed from the minors to fill in the roster spots left vacated by the post World Series firesale.
Eventually Dempster would become a reliable starter for the Fish, being named to the 2000 All Star squad as Florida’s representative in 2000.
After a few subpar years, he was sent packing to Cincinnati in 2002 and missed the Marlins second World Series title in 2003.
Dempster caught on with the Cubs where he compiled a lot of saves for the 2007 Division Champs. Then in 2008, he had his best season when he joined the rotation and finished 6th in the Cy Young vote.
He has had a 16 year major league career, been named to two All Star teams and has been a millionaire many times over. And in the 2008 All Star Game, struck out all three batters he faced in the bottom of the 9th to send the game into extra innings.
But two of his most memorable moments were ones he’d probably like to forget. He let up the heart sinking grand slam to James Loney in the 2008 Division Series. That was the moment where Cub fans, who dared dream of a World Series title, realized it wasn’t going to happen.
And this year, he was the one who hit A-Rod and for a while seemed to ignite a dormant Yankees team. He served the suspension for hitting him, but was not off the hook with a lot of Red Sox fans.
I seemed to remember your pal Sully having a few choice things to say about him.
Dempster isn’t going to make a start this post season and chances are he won’t pitch in many pressure packed situations.
But tonight, he finally got to pitch in the World Series. And while he surrendered the only run of the game, he had 8 runs to work with.
He got the last outs of a World Series game… at home… in Fenway Park.
Dempster threw the final pitch and cue Dirty Water.
After his bad timing with the Marlins and pennant dreams with the Cubs and Rangers falling short, he got to pitch on the biggest stage.
If the Red Sox win 3 more games, he will have his ring. But tonight he had his moment.
What do you call a career that spans more than a decade and a half, earned someone millions and a few All Star berths and contributed to a World Series?
I would call that a career worth saluting.