Mark Grace Diamondbacks Championship Theatre


This year is the 10th anniversary of... some World Series or other. I forget the details. ;-) Needless to say, there will be a lot of nostalgia taking place, as we look back at the pinnacle of this franchise's success to date. Fox Sports Arizona are firing their opening salvo with Mark Grace Diamondbacks Championship Theatre, presented by Fry's, a series of five shows, in which Grace and a guest from the 2001 team re-view one of the memorable contests from that season. The first of these premieres on the channel this Sunday, after the game against the Chicago White Sox. And it's a particularly appropriate game...

Father's Day in 2001 saw the Diamondbacks take on the Tigers at Chase,and was most notable for Tony Womack's grand slam off Dave Mlicki. Tony had lost his father less than two months previously, and the loss of the man Womack described as his best friend wasn't something easily overcome. When he stepped to the plate with the bases loaded in the fourth, having just missed a home-run in his first at-bat. there was something karmic in the air. Hollywood would have rejected the idea as implausible, but Womack deposited an 0-1 pitch into the bleachers, for only his second career slam. As he rounded the bases, you can see it hitting him and he keeps his head lowered as he returns to the dugout - there's no crying in baseball, but a tear or two can certainly be forgiven there.

Womack is the guest on the first edition of MGDCT, and it makes for thoroughly entertaining viewing. The format is deliberately very informal: Grace and Womack are lounging in armchairs, a table of Fry's products in front of them for nibbling, and chat as the game plays out on TV. Half the time, they're talking over the commentary of Thom Brennaman and Joe Garagiola, so the overall effect is basically like having the pair in your living-room, adding their own commentary. Grace has become the play-by-play guy, driving the conversation, with Womack filling in his side of the conversation.

It's a lot of fun to listen to the pair, dropping little anecdotes that bring to life the 2001 team, such as Curt Schilling's fondness for mumbling on the mound, or that Womack didn't actually want to play that day. Grace actually didn't, claiming "a hangnail," with first-base being manned that day by Erubiel Durazo. He hit one of three other homers, beyond Womack's, for the Diamondbacks that day, Durazo's being crushed onto the walkway just to the left of the batter's eye.. "If I had that kind of power, I wouldn't have been divorced twice," commented Grace after that blast. Damian Miller and Luis Gonzalez also went deep in the game, Arizona cruising to an 8-3 victory.

Other thoughts. Man, Luis Gonzalez could hit. The game was ten years ago today, and that was already his twenty-eighth home-run of the year. No-one in the NL currently has more than 20. And he wasn't just a slugger: his line for the season after this contest was .356/.446/.751, a 1.197 OPS, again, more than a hundred points better than any current player. And Womack could run, too. A bloop down the right-field line turned into a double, thanks purely to his speed. It's easy to see why he stole 72 bases in the 1999 season, and why, even a decade later, he has more than twice as many SBs as any other Diamondback.

On the other hand, while the roster had some superstars, there were also names mentioned and seen in the dugout that you wouldn't associate with the 2001 team. Robert Ellis, for example, who started 17 games that season. Infielder Danny Klassen, who I think missed the entire season with a stress fracture in his foot. And working mop-up in the ninth inning of this game was Mike Mohler, of whom it was once famously said, "Who?" The team used 21 pitchers that season, so it wasn't all Schilling and Randy Johnson: Grace and Womack note the sterling work done by the likes of Miguel Batista, whose poetry also gets mentioned.

Almost forty thousand present at Chase for that game. Pretty sure there won't be as many there on Sunday, but we should remember this was a team that had averaged 92 wins per year over the previous couple of seasons, rather than the 67 of the current team. For Detroit, interesting to see Brandon Inge when he was a catcher, not a third-baseman, and Randall Simon playing first base - yes, "SausageGate" is mentioned!  For the Tigers, Jarrod Patterson hit his first career home-run off Curt Schilling, and went 3-for-4 in his second major-league game. This was probably the highlight of his career, as he only played 24 more, with just one other homer.

All told, it's an enjoyable blast of nostalgia, and I look forward to the other entries in the series. As noted, the first one is scheduled for 4pm Sunday, or after the White Sox game finishes. It's definitely worth checking out, and I look forward to the rest of the series. Dates and times for screenings of those remaining four installments are still to be finalized, but the games and guests for them are as follows:

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