KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Tuesday's night's Game 1 of the World Series was one of the best World Series games we have seen in years. It had just about everything you could want.
It featured an inside-the-park home run on the first pitch a Royals hitter saw. It had constant clutch hitting and clutch pitching from both teams. It provided a never-ending series of defensive gems on both sides. It showcased a vibrating, obscenely loud Royals crowd that lost none of its vim and vigor from last year's World Series. It was the second-longest game in World Series history. The TV feed went out.
And, most of all, it gave us all those moments, from Eric Hosmer's Buckner moment to Alex Gordon's ninth-inning game-tying blast to dead center to BARTOLO COLON to the crushing David Wright error in the 14th inning that led to the Royals' 5-4 victory.
This series is already blowing everybody's mind, and it has only just begun. No one's going to forget this game for a long time, and there is so much to read about this game that you better get started right now if you're going to finish it all by the time Game 2 starts on Wednesday night.
So I hope you will forgive me for being unable to concentrate on any of that. Because I cannot stop thinking about Edinson Volquez.
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Until FOX Sports lost its broadcast feed in the fourth inning, leading to an endless succession of variations on this joke, the excruciating question dominating discussion of this game was: Does Edinson know? Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes broke the news that Volquez's father had passed away earlier in the day of heart failure at the age of 63 and, crucially, that Volquez had been informed of it on the way to the ballpark.
It is difficult to fathom how a person, whatever his or her profession, could perform any of their job's most basic functions at that point, let alone pitch Game 1 of the World Series. So it was particularly astounding that Volquez seemed not to be affected at all. He looked terrific for the first two innings, setting down six Mets in a row, and he betrayed no emotion other than the excitement of the moment.
Players always talk about being able to compartmentalize their off-field lives and their on-field pursuits; in many ways, the playing field is the one refuge of order from the regular disorder of everyday life. When you talk to people who work in the public eye and are at the absolute pinnacle of their fields, the one thing they always tell you is that the only place they can get away from all the chaos is at work. It's why Barry Bonds could still hit 50 homers while being booed in every stadium and facing down a federal investigation, why the first thing actors involved in some sort of tabloid scandal want to do is get back on set.
Still, this felt different. Volquez appeared to have put it out of his mind entirely. It was grueling, and grimly fascinating, to watch, to behold the wonders of the human mind's capacity for self-preservation.
But it soon became clear there was something else going on. Reports trickled in contradicting Rojas' initial story, indicating that, in fact, Volquez might not actually know that his father had died at all during the game.
Just to be clear: The Royals are saying Volquez doesn't know about his father's reported death. @Enrique_Rojas1 is reporting otherwise.- Barry Svrluga (@barrysvrluga) October 28, 2015
Just checked with Royals, I'm told Volquez has no knowledge of what is being reported about father passing. No confirmation that happened.- Heidi Watney (@HeidiWatney) October 28, 2015
After Volquez left after six effective innings, FOX's Ken Rosenthal came on the air, after tweeting about Volquez's father during the game, and said it was unclear whether Volquez knew while he was pitching, but Joe Buck followed up with the Royals' statement that Volquez indeed did not know, had never known at any point during the game. Volquez was informed of his father's death once he came out of the game. These were the explicit wishes of Volquez's wife.*
Per Fox broadcast, Royals PR director said Volquez's wife didn't want him to know about his father before the game. He's with family now.- Big League Stew (@bigleaguestew) October 28, 2015
Bizarrely, this is not the first time this has happened in the finals of a North American sporting event. Back in 1990, the father of Pistons guard Joe Dumars passed away before Game 3 of the NBA Finals, and he had no idea. In fact, his teammate Isiah Thomas and his coach Chuck Daly knew, but he did not, which seems particularly difficult in a sport like basketball, where teammates work that much more closely with each other. (In baseball, particularly on the mound, you are more isolated from those teammates.) Every time Thomas passed Dumars the ball, or high fived him after a free throw, he possessed a fundamental, profoundly personal bit of highly important information about Dumars that Dumars did not have. This is his dad. Both Thomas and Daly understood the basic awkwardness of the situation. "You were looking at a guy who was real happy," Thomas said. "But you knew all of the sudden in the next hour his world was going to be shattered." Assistant coach Brendan Malone said, "I would just look at him and feel sad. I would say to myself, 'Here's a guy having his best playoff game of the year. At the end, that euphoria is going to be -- what's the word? -- blown out the door.'"
Daly said he wanted to tell Dumars, but he didn't, and he had a good excuse: Dumars had specifically requested, earlier in the week, not to be told. His father had been ill for a long time, and the family knew the end was near. He was therefore able to make his own decision on the matter, and he let everyone else know. It didn't help Thomas, Daly or Malone, though. They knew they possessed information they should not have, information they had to keep secret from the man who needed it the most. At least they were the only ones.
Tuesday night, we were all in that position. I have not met Volquez, and you likely haven't either. And for two hours, on one of the biggest nights of his life, we knew his life was about to dramatically change forever … and he had no idea what had happened yet. It's not known how many teammates knew, but the Royals surely did. They honored his wife's wishes by not informing him until he left the game. But how strange it must have felt for them. How strange it felt for all of us.
FOX made sure not to mention the death on the broadcast until after Volquez was removed from the game so that the information could be relayed to him in an appropriate manner, a request that came from the team. From The New York Times: "The team then asked the broadcasters on FOX not to announce the news because Volquez routinely goes into the clubhouse between innings, and the broadcasts of the game are usually on." That unofficial embargo didn't stop Rosenthal and thousands of other people tweeting about it. Or Kansas City officials tiptoeing around him and hoping he doesn't happen to look at his phone. Or, say, fans in the stands who might have been checking Twitter during the game. It was a secret we all decided to keep.
This made us all complicit. Imagine Volquez leaving this game and learning about his father. He might not realize it yet, but he will learn eventually that the public knew before he did. Imagine what comprehending that must feel like. It was, intentionally or not, a psychological invasion. He must feel, in an emotional way, violated. How could he not?
I don't think we did anything wrong, exactly. But I'm not sure I could look Volquez in the eye either.
This was a staggering, epic baseball game in which just about everything happened at least once. But nothing was more existentially bizarre and extremely disturbing than watching the home team's starting pitcher, at the precise moment he has devoted his entire professional career to reaching, be unaware that his father -- his dad -- had died. I understand why it happened. I understand this is the way the world works now. But I feel disgusting. I feel like I know something about Volquez I have zero right to know. This was one of the most unforgettable baseball games I have ever attended. But not in the way it was intended to be.
*(A previous version of this story stated that Ken Rosenthal said on the FOX broadcast that Volquez did not know about his father; Rosenthal did not say this, Buck did.)