The fourth of July and baseball share at least one thing in common, in that they are inherently traditions of American origin. As the roots of the holiday become more scrutinized, it still takes place in a time of year that yields good weather, and brings cause to see friends and family. A baseball season provides many of those same benefits.
This was no different when the Yankees and Blue Jays met for a July 4th matchup in the Bronx in 2010. The game was exciting, but like most regular season contests, it was ultimately insignificant. This game, however, has some significance to me personally, and maybe others out there as well. It really doesn’t have much to do with the on-field play, which speaks to the power baseball and sports can have.
The 1:00 pm matchup pitted Phil Hughes and Brandon Morrow against each other, in a very 2010 duel. New York’s lineup featured many of the expected regulars from that time, along with Derek Jeter at designated hitter, and Ramiro Peña playing short. Notably, for reasons we’ll get into, the lineup did not feature Marcus Thames. Toronto’s lineup featured the likes of Adam Lind, Dewayne Wise, and Lyle Overbay. If nothing else, looking back at old games is an excellent exercise in remembering some guys.
Through the first seven innings of play, the Yankees were outpacing the Jays 6-5. Morrow and Hughes both went six innings surrendering five earned runs a piece. Toronto tagged Hughes with three homers during his outing, and Brett Gardner notched a two-run shot of his own in the sixth. New York carried that lead into the ninth thanks to scoreless relief appearances from Joba Chamberlain and Dámaso Marté. But in the ninth, the Blue Jays knotted it up at six, after a rare blown save from Mariano Rivera.
Before I get into the more exciting details about the game’s finish, allow me to set the scene of my own personal experience with it. It was July 4th, of course, and I was at a family friend’s cottage on a small lake, a tradition for the holiday that held for most of my childhood. It is a group of people, family and friends, which I am particularly fond of, much of the reason why I always considered this my favorite holiday. That is, as corny as it may sound, why holidays are fun. This might not be true for everyone, but it has been for me in my own personal experience.
In the bottom of the ninth, with two outs and runners on first and second, Marcus Thames was sent to pinch-hit for the light-hitting Peña. Inside the cottage, while a fairly heavy rain beat on the metal roof, myself and the rest of the party-goers watched. Some very intently, others more casually. With a full count, Thames looped a broken-bat single into shallow left-center. Robinson Canó rounded third and scored easily, and the Yankees won:
The other present Yankee fans and I cheered, in the reserved way that one might around a small TV in someone else’s house. It was a nice and fun moment, one that I was able to share with a group of people I truly enjoyed being around. Probably within moments of Canó crossing the plate, we all went back to just enjoying the company of each other.
As far as Yankee history goes, Marcus Thames is not toward the top in terms of significance. But, he helped create a vivid memory that day, and that is a deeply cool and powerful thing these guys can do.
This game and the moments throughout it may not be all that significant in the bigger picture. But in spite of this, the memories even ultimately unimportant games can create can linger and satisfy over a decade later. Because of that, this game was truly significant to me, as it is of the utmost importance that we try to form as many of those memories as possible.