Almost as soon as I entered the gates at Chase Field I began hearing fans talking about the pre-game festivities for tonight’s game. Tonight marked the retirement of number 20 by the Diamondbacks to celebrate the career of Luis Gonzalez.
At some point in these conversations the subject of the Legends Races would come up with fans almost unanimously expecting Luis Gonzalez to win the race to celebrate the evening. If any other Legend won it would be an upset greater than the Diamondbacks beating the New York Yankees in the 2001 World Series.
Before the game the Legends once again walked the field checking on race conditions. All that is except Gonzalez. He was suspiciously absent before the game. Was the Gonzo Legend feeling the pressure of the evening? Was he so nervous that he would not be able to race? Could Grace somehow sneak in and win in the absence of the favorite?
All of these questions remained to be answered when the fifth inning ended. As I looked out into the Padres bullpen I initially saw just three racers, no Gonzalez. When the race started all four Legends emerged and made their way towards home plate.
As they made their way towards the San Diego dugout, Mark Grace, Randy Johnson, and Matt Williams were all bunched up while Gonzalez was a distant fourth. Perhaps all of the attention was just too much for poor Gonzalez.
The front-runners rounded the final corner. It looked as though the finishing order would be Johnson, Williams, Grace and finally Gonzalez. Then just before the finish line the other three racers stopped and made a path for Gonzalez.
They stood in a line clapping and paying tribute to Luis Gonzalez the player and the Legend. Gonzalez came across the finish line in victory. The sellout crowd at Chase Field cheered wildly as the racers left the playing surface.
Just to keep Grace honest, Joe Garagiola Senior held up a sign in the television booth that simply said, “Even I could beat Mark Grace”. We shall see tomorrow whether that dig will motivate Grace or crush what confidence he has left. As for now the streak remains 0-23.