David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.
When the baseball sped past Miguel Cabrera, who, incredibly, took it for strike three, the Giants flooded the field to begin the celebration at Comerica Park.
For a moment, Angel Pagan stood alone in centerfield, tears forming in his eyes.
"Man, I was crying so much, I can't tell you," said Pagan, his championship T-shirt drenched in champagne. "It was so special. You can dream it as a kid. You can dream it as a player. But you have to be in this moment to understand what this feels like."
It looked like it felt great. Chased inside by the shivering cold, the Giants grabbed the World Series trophy and partied like rock stars in the clubhouse. And Pagan was right in the middle, jumping up and down, spraying bubbly, screaming nothing in particular.
Pagan, like every other Giant after Sunday night's sweep-clinching 4-3 victory in 10 innings, wore an expression of pure jubilation. After such a disappointing finish with the Mets a year ago, Pagan needed what he called a "bounce-back season." A World Series ring was beyond even his imagination.
"I could dream," he said. "But a dream is just a dream. This is accomplished right now."
The ghosts of Mets' past haunted the postseason this October, and Marco Scutaro -- a Flushing castoff from 2003 -- delivered the clinching blow of the World Series with his two-out RBI single off Phil Coke in the 10th inning of Game 4.
As easy as it is to criticize the Mets in hindsight for the October hero who got away, the Giants are his fifth team since he was lost on waivers. That was three GMs and three managers ago for the Mets, so they've had bigger problems than figuring out how to keep him on board.
It also was ironic that Scutaro picked up Pagan, his new Giants teammate, who whiffed one spot ahead of him. Scutaro worked Coke to a 3-and-1 count before punching a sinking liner that dropped in front of Austin Jackson, who was strangely cautious in his approach, given that the Tigers' playoff lives depended on where the ball landed.
"He's truly been a leader," Pagan said of Scutaro. "He's brought veteran leadership and passed it around here. Everything -- defense, offense -- he's a complete player. I'm proud to play with him."
Pagan made his signature Game 4 play in the ninth inning when he chased down Jhonny Peralta's long fly ball into the centerfield triangle and made a rally-killing catch at the warning track. It was the last moment the Tigers could get excited about, so Pagan -- though hitless in Game 4 -- had his moment.
Given the circumstances of Pagan's trade to the Giants last December, for which the Mets received the disappointing tandem of centerfielder Andres Torres and reliever Ramon Ramirez, it was hard to picture that he would become a significant piece to the Giants' championship puzzle. The Mets believed they would be better off with Pagan elsewhere, but after watching what transpired this season, that remains open to debate. One thing is certain -- Pagan definitely is better off.
"This is all very emotional," Pagan said. "As a player, it's a long year. It's a very difficult year for everybody -- the ups and downs, the struggles. But we never gave up. We picked each other up as teammates. We were against the wall twice during the postseason and we refused to die. We played against a lot of obstacles and we got it done. That's why this is so special."
There's a lesson in here somewhere. About second chances, about never giving up. Pagan wasn't the reason the Giants are the world champions for the second time in three years, the closest baseball has to a dynasty at the moment. But as their centerfielder and leadoff hitter, he was a big help. And from where Pagan stood, in the middle of Sunday night's champagne party, that felt pretty good.
"On this team, everybody's a hero," Pagan said. "We were never worried. We knew somebody was going to come through."