Remember a “Doctober Classic” While Missing the Uniting Power of Sports

While cleaning and organizing the basement the other night, I came across a box that contained old Sports Illustrated issues and various newspapers that I had saved over the years. Right on top was a classic headline that I forgot I even had. I read the headlines:

“No Hit Halladay” and “Doctober Classic.”

As I smiled at these magical words, I was instantly catapulted back in time to October, 2010. 

We had just started our family. Ryan had just turned 1, and we had just bought the house in which we would raise our family. I was over at our new house, which had no furniture or electronics yet, so there I was scrubbing the bathrooms down while listening to the sweet sounds of Phillies playoff baseball on the radio. 

For the fourth straight year, my Phils had won the NL East, and we were embarking once again on what I hoped would be another magical October run. On the mound versus the Cincinnati Reds for game one of the opening round playoff series was our ace: Roy “Doc” Halladay. 

As I slowly eradicated the grime from the upstairs sinks and showers, Hallday was cleaning house as he mowed down the Reds for three innings without giving up a hit.  

As I moved to scrubbing toilets, Halladay flushed the Reds in the fourth and fifth one again without allowing a hit. 

Finally, as I moved to wiping floors, “Doc” was mopping the Reds bats with masterful precision. Six innings, 18 batters, no hits. 

As the seventh inning began, it dawned on me that something special, some October magic, was happening. I realized that I wanted to watch this moment, but I had no television, so I zipped over to the closest place possible with televisions: my gym at Hempfield Rec. I jumped on the treadmill to put on some miles as Halladay drove the Reds bats into the dirt in the seventh and eighth innings. 

My heart rate escalated as the ninth inning began, and our ace had now registered 26 outs without surrendering a hit. I knew it was now possible. A playoff no hitter, a feat accomplished only one other time in Major League history. 

By this time all the weights were dropped and everyone in the gym was either huddled around a television or on a cardio machine watching this historic moment. 

A sea of Phillie red euphoria was erupting at Citizen’s Bank Park as Halladay unleashed his 104th pitch of the night, forcing a slow dribbler right in front of home plate. As Carlos Ruiz scooped up the ball and flung it to Ryan Howard for out number 27, the fans at Citizens Bank went nuts, and so did all of us at Hempfield Rec. High fives, hugs, screams of jubilation were shared. We had shared this historic moment together

Together. 

That’s what sports is all about. We share these moments together. So many of the great sports moments in my life are as much about who I was with and the joy we shared together. 

And more than anything else, it is that unity, that shared collective experience that we are all missing now amidst the Covid-19 epidemic and the social isolation that accompanies it. 

March Madness brackets.

The universal optimism of opening day. 

The dramatic grind of the NHL and NBA playoffs.

But more than simply watching these events would be the texts and conversations with my dad, brother, cousins, and friends, as we experience these dramatic events together.

Yet, while we miss the unity that sports brings, perhaps our society has never been so unified in a common goal. We are all sharing this isolation and a lack of shared experiences so that we can come out on the other side stronger, wiser, and perhaps, even more united than ever.