The baseball world rubbed its eyes Wednesday morning, shook its head and thought: "Did that really happen?"
Restaurants in the nation’s capital started renaming menu items after a certain young pitcher, including one place that is now serving a “Strasburger” with 14 pickles — one for each strikeout.
In Cleveland, where the sequel plays on Sunday, the box office had a run on tickets — 3,000 sold in less than 24 hours.
And, yes, the topic was even raised in Congress – on the floor of the U.S. Senate.
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Baseball has an overnight sensation. His name is Stephen Strasburg.
“We can only hope and pray that his arm holds up,” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said during an exchange with Democrat Harry Reid of Nevada, “and that he has the kind of career that everyone is anticipating. There was literally electricity in the air. It was an exciting event, and it was great to be there.”
“Really, for Washington, which has been so starved for a good athletic team of some kind — it was nice,” Reid responded.
Bipartisanship! Strasburg’s not only good for the Washington Nationals, he’s apparently a boon to the whole country.
A day earlier, last year’s overall No. 1 draft pick, pitching before a stading-room-only crowd and seemingly oblivious to the incredible hype, had one of the best pitching debuts in major league history. He struck out 14, walked none, hit 100 mph on the stadium radar gun and thoroughly embarrassed the Pittsburgh Pirates over seven innings Tuesday night in a 5-2 victory.
“I think everybody in baseball watched him yesterday,” Milwaukee Brewers slugger Corey Hart said before his team’s game against the Chicago Cubs. “I think it’s impressive just because you obviously watch him pitch, and he’s really good, but to be able to overcome everything that was on his shoulders. … That’s a lot of pressure, and he was able to overcome it.”
The 21-year-old’s next start will be Sunday in Cleveland. The Indians, last in the AL Central and ranked last overall in attendance, are averaging just 15,527 fans at home games.
Strasburg’s stop in Cleveland is expected to draw the Indians’ second-largest crowd this season. The crowd will include 91-year-old Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller, whose entrance into the majors as a 17-year-old in 1936 created a similar national stir.
Feller didn’t seem overly excited to see Strasburg.
“Is he excited to see me? No,” Feller said. “I’ll be here. If he can throw 105 mph, I’ll tell him to throw his change-up at 102.”
The 34-inch, 32-ounce, black Mizuno bat that Pete Rose used for his final hit — No. 4,256 — is being auctioned by Lelands.com, which expects it to become one of the most expensive bats ever sold. Lelands.com president Mike Heffner said the highest auction price for a bat was $1.3 million, paid for the one that Babe Ruth used to hit his first homer at Yankee Stadium. … Brewers catcher Gregg Zaun will have season-ending shoulder surgery, which will likely finish the veteran’s short stint in Milwaukee and maybe his career. … Chicago Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez, who has a sore thumb, was placed on the 15-day disabled list. Infielder Chad Tracy was recalled from Triple-A Iowa.