Bill Selby was "two hours into some sleep'' Sunday when the buzzing of his cell phone woke him up. Seven text messages arrived in the span of two minutes, all alerting him to the fact that his image had just appeared on ESPN. He figured that meant one thing: "I just assumed something happened with Mariano.''
When the Twins' Jason Kubel hit a go-ahead grand slam off Mariano Rivera with two outs in the eighth inning Sunday, surely more than a few fans were reminded of Selby's name. Eight years ago, the light-hitting utility infielder hit a two-out grand slam to cap a six-run ninth against Rivera in the Indians' 10-7 win.
As an assistant coach at Northwest Mississippi Community College, Selby, 39, spent Monday performing exit interviews with his players. But in the wake of Kubel's slam, the first one Rivera has given up since Selby's, many of the college players were interviewing Selby about what he remembered from the biggest moment of his career.
"It happened so fast, with so much euphoria and adrenaline and everything you can think of,'' Selby said Monday night from his home in Nesbit, Miss. "What I do remember more vividly than anything is the pitch before that. I hit it down the line foul. I remember making sure I didn't jog back. I slowed down and told myself, 'Look, you squared one off Mo. The odds are you're not going to square another one off him. Most people are going to write you off here.' I remember calming myself down more than anything.''
What followed was the hit of his life, and he described running around the bases "like floating on air.''
Hearing him excitedly tell the story, it's clear he certainly doesn't mind reliving it as often as possible. "Me being from a small town in a small area and having a spotty, sporadic career in the big leagues, people [here] are always talking about it still,'' he said. "We're talking eight or nine years later now, and people are still bringing it up.''
Selby's major-league career consisted of only 198 games spanning five seasons with the Indians, Red Sox and Reds. Even though he hit just .223 with 11 home runs during his career, he's thrilled that one of those blasts is still remembered. "If my name comes up," he said, "usually it's because someone hit a home run off Mariano."
Sellby said he's never met Rivera, which he explained by saying, "Hey, he's Mariano and I'm Bill Selby," without any pretense whatsoever.
But Selby does remember being pointed out to Rivera during the Yankees' first trip back to Cleveland after his walk-off grand slam. While the Indians were taking batting practice, the Yankees were stretching on the field before one of the games. Enrique Wilson, who played briefly with Selby in Cleveland, was with Rivera and got Selby's attention.
"I don't know what he was saying," Selby said, "but he was pointing at me and flexing his muscles."
A light-hitting utility infielder, Selby was listed at 5-9 and 190 pounds during his playing days. His small stature made his walk-off grand slam off the greatest closer of all time that much more impressive.
Said Selby, "That's obviously the defining moment of my career . . . Just about all players dream about stuff like that."