The Bob Watson game, 30 years ago tonight
I was not among the 48,556 fans at Fulco on August 13, 1983, but I should’ve been. While my parents and a cousin enjoyed the best game of that season from field level seats behind first, I was participating in pious sing-a-longs. “God said, to No-ah, there’s gonna be a flood-y, flood-y …”
I had no idea what happened in Atlanta until returning home the next day. I was pissed I missed it but ecstatic with the win.
The Dodgers beat Pascual Perez to open the series, closing to within 5-1/2 games of the first-place Braves. Saturday night’s match-up favored the Bums, with a young Alejandro Pena facing journeyman Pete Falcone.
You forget how good a starter Pena was. In his first two complete MLB seasons, Big Al posted ERAs of 2.75 and 2.48, with 24 wins and seven shutouts.
On this night he coasted through the first five, allowing only one hit and one unearned run. Falcone struggled, failing to make it out of the fourth.
The Braves came to bat in the sixth trailing 6-1. Singles by Brett Butler and Rafael Ramirez stirred hope. Next up: In Claudell We Trust. Boom! Braves within two.
Enter Dave “Lucille” Stewart. After retiring Horner and Murphy, rookie Gerald Perry drilled a single to left. Glenn Hubbard followed with his 7th home run. 6-6. It stayed that way until the 9th.
Steve Bedrosian had struck out six of 10 hitters faced, allowing only a single and intentional walk. Up stepped rookie Greg Brock and his .220 BA. Bedrock grooved one, and Brock numbed the Fulco faithful.
The Dodgers took a 7-6 lead into the bottom of the 9th, with southpaw *Steve Howe on for the save. Following a duck snort by Raffy, #8 strode to the plate.
There wasn’t a better pinch hitter that year. Watson, acquired from the Yankees in 1982 for pitcher-turned-actor Scott Patterson (see, John Mullen wasn’t all bad), hit .407 off the bench, with two homers and 13 RBI.
One of those homers came 30 years ago tonight. Braves 8, Dodgers 7. The lead was 6.5 games.
Watson’s blast proved to be the highlight of the ’83 season. The local nine fell to Fernando Valenzuela in the rubber game of the Dodgers series, en route to a devastating 5-14 stretch. They’d end up losing the division (#*@! R.J. Reynolds!), though for one night they looked to be the best team in baseball.
Or so I was told.
*Howe’s career ended in 1996 when he was released by Yankees GM Bob Watson.