Losing to the Yankees has a familiar twist for the Twins, who've made winning Game 1 and losing the rest a habit.
Challenging might be a more apt adjective, especially with Brown saying, "they must have seen something in my side sessions. It's not like I stunk out there, and they said 'let's go ahead and use him anyway.' " As Stottlemyre saw it, Brown "basically talked his way into" that disastrous return in Boston. But Brown earned his postseason shot last weekend against Toronto for "the way he got them out," meaning the likes of Carlos Delgado and Vernon Wells.
I asked famed back-pain sufferer Don Mattingly if he ever swaps back trauma tales with Brown. The Yankees' hitting coach said he hadn't. Mattingly finally had surgery after he retired and leads a "pretty normal life now, as long as I don't play 36 holes of golf or fish for 12 hours or anything crazy like that."
|Emotional times for Jones|
Jacque Jones went through that this time, returning from the Twins last regular-season road trip in New York to have a cell phone message waiting for him at 4 a.m. to find out his father Hardy had lost his battle with pancreatic and liver cancer. Jones had talked him that night before playing the Yankees and constantly throughout his summerlong illness. Jones said his father never let on how serious it was and was shocked that he died at age 52. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire held him out of the next two games, then Jacque went to his father's home in Sacramento the final Sunday of the season to pay his respects and be with relatives.
Most of you know the story of Jones taking a redeye flight back to be with his teammates Tuesday in New York and belting a homer that night in the Game 1 win. After losing Game 2, he flew back with the team to Minneapolis, then Twins owner Carl Pohlad arranged to have his private plane take Jones to California for the funeral service, and back to Minnesota late Thursday night. Jones didn't speak at his father's service, it was too emotional for him. But he shared stories about Hardy with family and friends, talking to as many of them as possible and of course talking baseball when they asked. Jacque's mom, Linda Faulk, was his backbone in baseball, talking him up to then-Padres star Tony Gwynn during his frequent visits to the Kentucky Fried Chicken she worked at in Poway, Calif. Gwynn took an interest in Jacque, and to this day they maintain a relationship.
Faulk had divorced Hardy Jones when Jacque was very young, and he rarely saw his father. But about 10 years ago when Jones started playing for USC, they reconciled and Hardy would come see his son play Pac-10 games at Stanford and Cal and then later as a big leaguer in Oakland and San Francisco. Jacque is so grateful for the mending of their relationship because, as he put it, "you only ever have one birth father." Jones says he can focus on baseball when he needs to -- he homered twice in the series -- but it's between games and during breaks in the action that his mind will invariably drift to thoughts of his father.
Going to the funeral gave him some sense of finality, but he knows that now with the postseason over he can finally fully grieve his loss. Still, he feels a sense of things being profoundly different than before his dad's death and in many ways thinks he's more of a presence in his games and in his heart than he was when he was living. "He's my protector," Jacque said. He talks to his mom every day. She had re-formed a relationship with her ex-husband. Faulk was at the games in New York and Minneapolis to help support and ground her son.
Unlike most players, Jeter rarely homers during batting practice. Next in the cage, however, was Gary Sheffield, whose thunderous poundings of the cowhide is even more harrowing than his in-game assaults. Sheffield parked the next BP pitch into the black section of the right-field bleachers, leaving Jeter in awe. At least it looked that way. In his first at-bat against Brad Radke, after hitting just two homers in batting practice, Jeter became just the third player to reach the black seats in a postseason game. The first to do it was merely Reggie Jackson in his famous three-homer game of the 1977 World Series.
Gary Miller is a reporter and play-by-play announcer for ESPN's major league baseball coverage.
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