Former Arizona Diamondback Craig Counsell is now the manager of the Milwaukee Brewers. Even though his ties to the D-Backs ended way back in 2006, he was and continues to be viewed as “one of our own” regardless of the uniform he dons.
When Counsell was introduced to the media on Monday as the new Brewers’ manager, he was asked about his readiness to manage. With his well-known boyish grin, he responded “I feel like this is what I was meant to do. I think I’ll be better at this than playing.” This may be true; perhaps Counsel is more equipped to lead off the field than he was at contributing on the field. But before we turn to this next chapter, I want to refer back to a moment in which Craig Counsell singlehandedly changed the baseball world in Arizona.
Saturday, October 27, 2001 at approximately 5 pm. Bank One Ballpark (now Chase Field). As the setting sun glared into the right field bleachers, the Diamondbacks took the field for game one of the legendary 2001 World Series. Frankly, from my vista in the stands, the D-Backs looked completely outmatched against the mighty Yankees. On top of that, for the first and perhaps last time in recorded history the country was backing the Yankees to win it all as the nation started to consider its own healing from the devastation of September 11th.
Curt Schilling took the mound for the D-Backs. In the top of the first, he hit Derek Jeter with a pitch. Jeter went on the score following a Bernie Williams double. The score felt like it came immediately after we settled into our seats following the National Anthem. If ever there was the air taken out of the building, it was at that moment. In my mind, I imagined congratulating the D-Backs for being “in it” right up to the beginning. I was not alone in thinking that destiny had already written the script and the D-Backs would be swept.
But then baseball’s newest manager came to the plate, batting second in the D-Back line-up. With one out in the bottom of the first inning of game one, Counsell faced one of the Yankee aces, Mike Mussina. And the man who just this week said he is perhaps more equipped to manage than play delivered what I believe was the true turning point of the 2001 World Series. Counsel lined a Mussina pitch into those sun lit bleachers in right field, and the score was tied at the end of the first inning. Suddenly, we had a ballgame. At the crack of a bat, we had some real chance to hang in with the Bronx Bombers. In that flash, we were all allowed to still dream of what could be. And the rest, as they say, is history, in what many consider to be the most exciting World Series ever.
Game one was not even close, with Schilling holding the Yankees and the D-Backs rocking Mussina. The D-Backs won 9-1, after scoring four in the third and four more in the fourth inning. But what if Counsell had not hit that home run in the first? What if the D-Backs went scoreless in the first inning? Might the team quickly believe that they were in way over their heads and be thankful for making it to the series rather than thinking they could win it all? Of course, we will never know. But we do know that for a guy who had a total of 42 career homeruns in 16 major league seasons, Craig Counsell was the man who said to the Yankees, “we will not go gently into that good night.”
And now, he is starting the next chapter in his career. I, for one, will now be pulling for the Brew Crew and our boy, Craig Counsell.