It had all the makings of a big night. Big crowd. Big memories. Big fireworks show.
Big fizzle.Monday at Derks Field the Trappers struggled in the early innings and left 10 men on base to hand over a 4-2 decision to Helena.
It coulda been a great one.
The game began on a festive note. Nearly 6,000 fans came to Derks to watch, and if the game didn't provide all the entertainment in the world, nobody seemed to mind. The taped 50's and 60's music was enough to inspire a number of people to stand at/on their seats and dance along. Nobody was feeling any pain. When the message board read "whistle" they whistled. When it read "bark" the crowd barked along as happily as a golden retriever.
If only the Trappers had responded so well.
There were a host of fond memories lingering from a year ago. On the same night in 1987, the Trappers were the darlings of baseball, winning a record 28th consecutive game. The national press was in attendance. People were catching a glimpse of history.
This time around, things fell as flat as a Nebraska highway. The Traps couldn't mount a rally that counted. The fireworks, however wonderful, were over quickly, and soon everyone went home. The streak of '88 had ended at six games.
"I was aware this was the anniversary of the big win," said Manager Barry Moss with a slightly wistful grin. Moss was the hitting instructor during Salt Lake's year of destiny. "But that was last year. It's something I'll savor all my life. But it has nothing to do with this year and this team."
This year's Trappers have surely been nothing to sneeze at. Until Monday, they had won five straight and 15 of the previous 17 games. With a four-game road swing into Idaho coming up on Wednesday, they were hoping to build on on their 21/2-game lead in the Pioneer League Southern Division.
That idea went out faster than puka shells.
Salt Lake starter Terence Glover, previously undefeated in five games, had trouble from the start. He allowed
three straight singles in the first inning, and before you could say Days of '47, they were down 2-0. In the third inning Troy O'Leary walked, moved to second on a groundout, and went to third on a balk. Then Vilato Morrero grounded out, scoring a third Helena run.
"Every mistake we made, they seemed to score a run against us," said Moss.
The lead moved to 4-0 in the top of the seventh, again thanks to a mistake. Helena catcher Burt Heffernan got an infield single and scored on a throwing error.
The Trappers staged their only serious rally in the seventh. Chris Sloninger singled to lead off, sending Helena starter Heath Lane to the showers. Reliever Steve Kostichka started slowly, allowing a walk and an RBI single by Kelly Zane. Kerry Shaw then grounded out to score another run. But a double play in the eighth and an eventless ninth inning took care of any plans of an uprising.
The win improved Helena's record to 20-12 and dropped the Trappers to 24-11.
Helena Manager Dusty Rhodes seized the moment of victory to applaud the large, vocal crowd. "The fans were really into the game," he said. "They know baseball in Salt Lake, whereas there are a lot of places they don't know baseball."
On this anniversary night, the knowledgeable Salt Lake baseball fans knew one thing for sure: There's no going back. Like the man said, last year was last, and this year is this.