The roar will live forever.
It hit like a thunderclap. Sudden. Raw. Unrestrained. It washed over the ballpark like a sweet tsunami of sheer, unrestrained joy.
It was one of those moments that the living rarely get to live. That dreamers dare not to dream. How could you? Why would you? Who’d believe you?
But there it was. At that exact instant. At that single, sensational moment in time, thousands of human beings packed shoulder to shoulder into a confined area on a cool November evening were hoping, pleading, praying for one specific thing, one unthinkable, unlikely, impossible thing to happen ... and then it happened.
“DRIVE TO LEFT! AT THE WALL! IT’S GONE! . . . TIE GAME! . . . RAJAI DAVIS! . . . SIX-SIX!”
I’ve been covering ballgames at Progressive Field since the joint opened in 1994. I have never heard such a sustained explosion of emotion and delirium as I heard when Davis answered thousands of prayers. The ballpark shook. It was 6-4. Bottom of the eighth. Game 7 of the 2016 World Series. The Indians were losing by two runs after Superman closer Aroldis Chapman threw his sixth pitch to Davis.
After Chapman’s seventh pitch, the game was tied. The Indians were still batting. It was the bottom of the eighth inning of Game 7 of the World Series, and it was like the whole world suddenly realized that the Indians might actually win the World Series.
Instead, they lost.
The next day, Davis became a free agent. Two months after that, he signed with Oakland. Seven months after that, Oakland traded him to Boston. Three months after that, on Nov. 2, 2017 — one year to the day that he hit the most dramatic home run in Cleveland Indians history — he became a free agent. Three months after that, he signed with the Indians.
On Oct. 29 of this year, Davis became a free agent. On Monday he signed with the Mets.
Rajai Davis, the unlikeliest Cleveland sports cult hero ever, is gone again.
But the roar will live forever.
I’ll never forget looking down into the stands and seeing grown adults jumping up and down over and over and over again. Looking for someone to hug. Hugging someone they didn’t know. Spontaneous, uninhibited joy.
Produced by a journeyman player, for a team that never wins it all, on the biggest stage of all, where, despite one of the most flabbergasting home runs of all, the Indians STILL didn’t win it all. Again.
It may not be up there with Bobby Thomson’s “The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!” thunderclap-for-the-ages. But Cleveland will always have, “It’s gone! . . . Tie game! . . . Rajai Davis!” The madness that greeted that epic swat was blunted two innings later when the Indians lost the game and the World Series.
It’s the closest they’ve ever come to winning the World Series in our lifetime. Ok, maybe the second closest, after Jose Mesa, and Craig Freaking Counsell.
But for sheer dramatic effect, a singular mic-drop moment that nobody saw coming and nobody will ever forget, “Tie game! . . . Rajai Davis!” would still be my leader in the clubhouse. A common man, an ordinary ballplayer, doing something so extraordinary that he will forever have a home in the hearts and minds of Cleveland sports fans.
Thrills like that don’t grow on trees. Even though the Indians couldn’t ride it to a World Series victory, it will forever stand as one of the greatest moments in Cleveland sports history. To the point where I would argue that the placing of either a plaque or small statuette, cast with Rajai rounding the bases with his right arm and index finger pointing to the sky, on the spot where Davis’ home run landed, would not be inappropriate at all.
It’s a home run that will be remembered forever, but let’s not take any chances.
Normally statues go to all-time great players who had all-time great careers, not to a journeyman who had one great moment. But why not, if it’s a common man who produced one of the most uncommon moments in sports history, one that thrilled millions upon millions of fans?
Rajai Davis is a baseball Everyman. His ilk, which is our ilk, don’t normally produce moments that cause millions of adults to jump up and down and hug people they don’t know.
It’s why we care about sports. It’s why they play the games. It’s why fans pay money to watch the games. This wasn’t Hall of Famer Jim Thome hitting a home run for the ages. This was Rajai Davis. One of us! The outcome of the game is almost immaterial.
With everything on the line, Rajai hit one on a line, over the wall.
Tie game! Six-six!
The roar will live forever.