Juan Uribe couldn’t wait for the moment to come. Brian Wilson couldn’t wait for it to be over. As for Josh Beckett, he didn’t understand the magnitude of what he was about to accomplish.
Of the players on the Dodgers’ $240-million roster, Uribe, Wilson and Beckett are the only ones who know what it’s like to be crowned champions.
The three players share another distinction: Each of them recorded the final out in a World Series.
“That’s pretty cool,” Beckett said.
Sidelined by a torn labrum in his left hip, Beckett will be a spectator in these playoffs. Starting Friday, when the Dodgers host the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 1 of a National League division series, he will watch from the bench as his teammates try to live out their own October dreams.
Beckett recalled how suddenly everything happened for him when he won his first title in 2003.
He was a brash and hard-throwing 23-year-old on a Florida Marlins team that included a 20-year-old Miguel Cabrera and a 21-year-old Dontrelle Willis.
“We were all young,” Beckett said. “We didn’t know what we were doing from day to day.”
With the Marlins ahead of the New York Yankees, three games to two, Beckett returned to pitch in Game 6 of the World Series on three days’ rest.
“I was ready for it to be over,” Beckett said. “I was tired. I think we were all pretty well spent. We went into Game 6 knowing we had to win Game 6 to win that thing.”
Before the game, Beckett was anxious.
“I probably hid it pretty well, but I was nervous as hell,” he said.
Holding the Yankees to five hits over eight scoreless innings, Beckett went into the bottom of the ninth inning with a 2-0 lead.
Beckett recalls making a mistake against Hideki Matsui.
“He lined out,” Beckett said. “I can’t remember if it was to center or to right field.”
“It might have been left field, actually,” he said.
It was, in fact, to left field, where it was caught at the warning track by a backtracking Cabrera.
Beckett’s memory of the final out, against Jorge Posada, is more pristine.
“It was a changeup,” Beckett said. “He rolled over it.”
Beckett said that for the only time in his career, he saw a play unfold in slow motion.
“Oh my God,” Beckett recalled thinking. “I have to get this ball before it goes foul.”
When he did, Posada was right there. Beckett tagged him and the game was over.
“I know people say, ‘You have to cherish those moments because you might never get back to them,’” Beckett said. “I think I respect that a lot more now than I did at the time. I was just being a 23-year-old.”
Beckett went on to win another World Series, with the Boston Red Sox in 2007. While he cherishes that memory, he said his first title will always be the most special.
“A lot of those guys were in the minor leagues when I was in the minor leagues,” Beckett said. “For us to come up and do that there …"
Uribe had his moment two years later, as a 26-year-old shortstop on the Chicago White Sox.
The series was absent of any significant drama, as the White Sox went into Game 4 leading the Houston Astros, three games to zero.
The White Sox went ahead, 1-0, in the eighth inning, when Jermaine Dye drove in Willie Harris with a single to center field.
Closer Bobby Jenks entered the game in the bottom of the ninth inning to preserve the one-run edge.
With one out and a runner on second, Astros pinch-hitter Chris Burke hit a pop fly down the left-field line. Uribe went over the waist-high wall and into the stands to catch the ball for the second out.
The Astros sent up another pinch-hitter, Orlando Palmeiro.
“From the time the kid stepped in the batter’s box, I was asking for the ball to be hit to me,” Uribe said in Spanish.
During Palmeiro’s four-pitch at-bat, Uribe said he kept saying over and over, “Give me a slow roller, give me a slow roller, give me a slow roller.”
When Palmeiro hit a chopper over Jenks’ head, Uribe was ready.
“It’s a play you’re always practicing,” Uribe said. “When it happens, you already know what to do.”
He cut across the diamond, reached down for the ball and made a quick throw into Paul Konerko at first base.
“When the umpire called him out, it was a joy that was impossible to forget,” Uribe said. “Thanks to God, it’s a moment that I’ll have in my career.”
The White Sox were World Series champions for the first time in 88 years.
“For me, it was one of those opportunities that you want as a player, to get the final out in the World Series,” Uribe said. “It could be you or it could be your teammate. What’s important is that it gets done.”
Uribe was the third baseman for the San Francisco Giants when Wilson did the same for them against the Texas Rangers in 2010.
Wilson admitted the experience was stressful.
“You’re all playing for this one common goal,” he said. “And when you get in the playoffs, you just realize how much added pressure and focus there is.”
Wilson led the majors with 48 saves that season. He saved two more games in a division series and three more in the NLCS.
He pitched in Game 1 of the World Series, as well as Game 4.
With the Giants leading the Rangers, 3-1, in Game 5, Wilson was called on to record the final three outs of the season.
He struck out Josh Hamilton looking. He forced Vladimir Guerrero to ground out on a first pitch. If he could retire Nelson Cruz, the Giants would be champions.
With the count full, Wilson took in the moment.
“You’re totally aware,” he said. “You can sit there and you can soak in the moment, going, ‘I can’t believe that I’m about to throw the final pitch of the season in the World Series.’”
He looked over at the Giants bench.
“I thought what kind of reaction they were going to have,” Wilson said.
Wilson was determined to end the game.
“I said to myself, ‘This will be the final pitch,’” he said. “I’m going to give it my best go at it and I’m going to make sure it’s a strike. It’s either going to be a strikeout or an out. The conviction I had behind it was it was 100% going to be the last out because that’s what I worked for and that’s what I dreamed of.”
Wilson threw a cutter. Cruz missed it. Series over.
Wilson turned his back to home plate, crossed his arms and looked to the heavens.
“When you’re a kid, you dream about bases loaded, two-strike count, and getting the final out,” Wilson said. “You dream about it being this great moment that’s so positive. But in reality, it’s more of a relief that the entire process is over. All of that is a weight lifted off your shoulders.”
Kenley Jansen wants to be next.
Told of what his veteran teammates experienced, the Dodgers closer said, “I want to be there. It’s a dream.”
Jansen said he hasn’t imagined what that moment might be like.
“I haven’t pictured it,” Jansen said. “I just want to get to that moment. I’m not trying to look ahead. I want to enjoy every single game. You have to enjoy every single moment of it.”