It may be predictable, but getting my dad a Father's Day gift every year is pretty simple: White Sox tickets. I almost always get him a ticket and arrange for the whole family to go to the game together.
With the busy summer my wife and I had this year, we knew when planning the Father's Day Sox Game that it had to be 1) On a Sunday and 2) After August. Looking at the schedule, I found a good day (for the family, for dad and for me)--September 16: Jim Thome Bobblehead Day. It was a Sunday, we'd be less busy, it should be cool weather, and best of all, I would get a new Bobblehead out of it. Score.
We scheduled the big game with family early this summer: My wife's dad and sister, my parents, brother, sister-in-law and Little Sis. Yay. I was excited (have I mentioned the bobblehead?). However, by early June, we realized the game would mean nothing. My dad even mentioned how we'd be watching the Sox Triple-A team. Bummer. But at least we'd get to tailgate, play bags and, of course, get our Bobbleheads.
And then, a new hope arose. Two or three weeks ago I was home and told my Dad, "You know, we could get very close to seeing Jim Thome hit his 500th Career Homerun." It was a long shot but when he hit 4 homers in six days, he made it more probable. And then, he got to 499.
All week, I've been nervous he'd hit it. I really had no doubt that if he didn't hit it before Sunday, we would see it. The trick was getting to Sunday with no homer. Jim's been smoking hot. Friday night, Jill called me while I was camping to notify me it didn't happen while she and the Gate 5 Gang were there. On Saturday, Pure Heart the Wife texted me at the campsite to say Jim struck out in his last at bat. It was on.
We all got to the ballpark early yesterday and got a great tailgating spot. We ate a lot and enjoyed the cool, sunny weather. It was really the perfect day to be at a ballgame. About 30 minutes before game time, I went in to make sure I got my Bobblehead (sadly my collection is packed in boxes somewhere so Jim is on his own here in my office right now.)
All 9 of us were pretty stoked. Thome was still on 499 and we really just had a feeling. My Sister-in-Laws both said they thought Thome would win the game with a homer. I felt like he'd hit a foul ball (that I would catch) and the the bomb.
The game didn't start off so well. We were down 7-1. Jim was like 0-4. I told my brother, "If he does get up again and get the 500th, that will at least make up for it." About that's when the magic happened. The Angels put in some poor reliever named Bootcheck (really) and we hammered him. Before long, a Danny Richar homerun put the icing on the cake. It was 7-7. And even better--the Sox rallies moved through the lineup enough that Big Jim would get one more at bat--in the 9th.
As the 8th inning ended, I felt like I needed to get my Bobblehead out of the box to have it out for Jim. I'm very baseball-superstitious. (In fact, I am pretty sure the Sox came back because our party all rearranged in our seat for better feng shui, a tactic I learned from The Gate 5 Gang. Thanks, peeps.) Anyway, I had this feeling that bobbling Jim during his at bat was maybe what it would take. But, I also thought maybe it was too dorky. I resisted the urge.
During the break between innings, Pure Heart began to unpackage her Bobblehead. Hmmm, I thought. Maybe there's something to this. She feels it, too! So, we got out our Bobbleheads. As Jim came to bat with no outs and a man on, we held our Jims high and bobbled their little heads.
The count went to 3 balls. My dad and I thought they'd walk him. My brother said, "Nope. He's got to give him a cookie." And then, Jim hit a foul ball. I didn't catch it but my bro said, "There's the foul ball you predicted."
Sure enough, the next pitch came in and Jim CRUSHED it. There was really no doubt. Everything after that is a blur of yelling, hugging and crying. Jim's 500th won the game. (It's the first time that a member of the 500 club hit his 500th as a walk-off.) I remember yelling, "It actually happened! Is this real? I can't believe this is real." I was shocked and in utter jubilation.
Thome's 500th homerun in the bottom of the ninth to win the game on Jim Thome Bobblehead Day? Please. That can't happen.
As Jim pumped his fists, got carried around by Jermaine and Jenks, and the Jumbotron played a montage tribute, my dad and I both teared up. After the game ended, none of us really wanted to leave. We hung around for a long time (In fact, we eventually got yelled at by a cranky security guy). The energy, the excitement and the fact that this happened with the family all together was just too perfect.
It was the best Father's Day in September Ever.