As if it had fallen from the sky, a fruitful theme emerged in the sixth inning: Corey Seager, the Dodgers’ All-Star shortstop — who missed the previous round of the playoffs with a bad back — smashed a go-ahead, two-run home run. (Hitting a baseball is hard enough; imagine bashing it into the stands when it is thrown at 97 miles per hour and you have barely played the past two weeks.)
Even when standout Dodgers relievers Brandon Morrow and Kenley Jansen gave up a run in the eighth inning, the Dodgers still held a 3-2 lead, and I thought the 950 words of a story framed around Seager would still work. I even liked how I had written it.
But in the top of the ninth inning, something unlikely happened: Astros’ left fielder Marwin Gonzalez, who had been struggling in the playoffs, clobbered a game-tying home run off Jansen, who had never blown a save in his playoff career. It was 11:18 p.m. Eastern.
While the most dramatic, mind-bending games are fun to watch on the couch or at the bar or in the stands, trying to capture the many late-game twists and turns as the final print edition deadline nears can be nerve-racking.
So, goodbye Corey Seager story. I copied it all into a separate document and started rewriting.
Then, in the top of the 10th inning, Astros stars Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa gave Houston a 5-3 lead with two solo home runs. As a reporter, I have no rooting interest. But this gave me a little bit of a cushion from deadline pressure: The Dodgers still had to bat in the bottom of the inning.
I reframed the story around Houston’s improbable comeback against a Dodgers bullpen that had not allowed a run in 25 consecutive innings entering the game, focusing on the blasts by Gonzalez, Correa and Altuve.
At 11:50 p.m., the night sports editor, Joel Petterson, emailed to remind me that they would need the story immediately when the game ended to get it into the final edition.
“Don’t worry if it’s sloppy, we’ll clean up whatever,” said Petterson, who has saved me on deadline before.
Within 10 minutes of his email, the Dodgers tied the score, at 5-5, with a home run by Yasiel Puig and a single by Enrique Hernandez. I wrote back to Petterson: “I’ve added like 50 white hairs the past three innings alone.” I had not gotten up from my seat since the fifth inning.
By now, I knew that I needed to come up with a way to capture the mayhem of the game, no matter the outcome. I wrote a broad introduction — or lede, as we call it in journalism — and worked backward through the wildest moments of the game. (The teams set a World Series record with eight home runs in total, including five in extra innings.) I left a few sentences with blanks, knowing I would fill in the final details — the time of the game, the last out, the winning hit.
As soon as the game ended, I sent in my story. After talking to the managers and players, I filed an updated version for the web, since the print deadline had long passed.
Once I was done, I looked over at the secondary document I had open on my computer.
There is probably a funny compilation to be made of all the drafts of historic game stories that never saw the light of day.
If anyone ever gets around to pulling one together, I have 2,360 words to add.
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