Happy Thanksgiving to all my U.S. readers. With a little luck and good behavior on all our parts, next year’s Thanksgiving will turn out better than this year!
I don’t feel right unless I have a sport to play.
On November 24, 1953, Dodger owner Walter O’Malley announced that Walter Alston would be the new manager of the Brooklyn team, replacing Chuck Dressen. The announcement came as a shock to reporters, as the leading candidate for the job had been the fan-favorite Pee Wee Reese. Alston would go on to win seven pennants and four World Series during his 23 years with the team.
I really enjoy reading this poem. It talks about two Yankee greats, Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio, but even better than that, it talks about life and love. Baseball frequently serves as a metaphor for both, and Kittell really does hit it out of the park with this one.
On the scorecard you gave me, I find
the difficult scratchings, the notes and stats
you ask me to read looking
for something about success
Twenty-three times, Lou Gehrig
came to bat for the Yankees
with the bases loaded
and hit a grand slam.
Then I see you’ve added: Shouldn’t love
be that way? Shouldn’t love be
a grand slam every time?
Lou Gehrig played baseball
for seventeen years and everyone knows
he played in most every game. Everyone knows
he played only for the Yankees.
But up in the stands, maybe–like you–studying a program,
sat his wife, sat Eleanor
who watched Gehrig carefully enough
to see when his step
began to falter, to notice how
ground balls hit
him in the chest and his long-armed swing
barely dribbled out
a single. Eleanor Gehrig watched
the Iron Horse dwindle
to ninety pounds and never stopped to say:
“You’re not the man
you used to be,” never told him she saw
the end of the game.
I imagine she only held him
closer at night
and went on.
Joe DiMaggio reached the Show
two years before Lou Gehrig
left, two years before the Iron Horse began
to fade. And what you and I remember first
about Joe was his once
ridiculous coffee ad, or maybe his once
failed marriage to Marilyn Monroe. Just like
we never saw Gehrig play, we never saw
DiMaggio, every day of your life
and more, send roses to a grave, or imagined
her fingers dialing his number, her voice calling
Joe, Joe into the dead air. Joe,
she told him once, you’ve never heard
such cheering! Yes, I have, he said to her quietly.
Yes, I have.
My husband Ron was born in 1951 and 1951
was the last year DiMaggio played. By seventeen,
Ron was the best player in Idaho, the fastest
in the outfield, most solid at first base, and sometimes
wild but always hard
when he took the mound. But our life, it seems,
has turned far from glamorous. We take
our turns, Ron and I, in the stands. I watch him
with you, throwing rocks across a brook and know
the next day his arm
will throb from trying. He watches me
try to toss a good metaphor, one that will zing
and flash at your center. I say:
look deeper into the game, friend. I say:
look deeper into a life, a love.
To make anything last, there’s got to be more
than a grand slam.
There has to be a good coach
to draw the line-up and good men
already on base. There have to be players
in the minors and wives
in the stands. There has to be someone
to say that love
ain’t always perfect, that love
doesn’t always win the game, that love
might not be lots of cheering or a neatly blackened square
on a scorecard.
No, Sherman, love
might be quiet–a fire crackling, birds reappearing
on the edge of lawn, the center of you knowing
that once you slip it on and oil it up,
that old worn glove will feel
than when it was new.
While the message of this song is ultimately a sad one, as we head into the cold, dark days of winter, it mostly makes me miss warm weather. It may get too hot for golfing, but one can always take in a ballgame from the climate-controlled comfort of home.
He isn’t much to look at, and he looks like he’s doing everything wrong, but he can hit. He got a couple of hits off us on wild pitches.
~Mel Ott, on underestimating Yogi Berra
On November 17, 1960, ownership of the American League’s new expansion team was awarded to Elvin Quesada, a Washington native and head of the Federal Aviation Administration. The new expansion Senators replaced the old team, which had moved to Minnesota to become the Twins.
I re-watched Bull Durham last night, and while I’ve made reference to the movie a number of times in this blog, I am a bit stunned that I have not yet devoted a post to it. I watched The Shawshank Redemption a few weeks ago, which got me thinking about the younger Tim Robbins’s performance in this classic baseball flick. It had been a while since I last watched Bull Durham, and it’s a bit stunning to see the younger Kevin Costner and Susan Sarandon, as well.
While the semi-pornographic nature of the film is a bit of a turnoff for some folks (pun intended), one can’t deny that this movie is chock full of some pretty fantastic baseball speeches. Some make one nostalgic about the game:
Others amuse the hell out of me:
Grand speeches aside, I also really enjoy the individual dialogues a lot of the characters have with themselves: Crash talking to himself at bat, Nuke talking to himself on the mound, and Annie’s narration over the entire movie. The film romanticizes the experience of minor league baseball a little too much, I think, but really, it’s just a fun film to take in as a baseball fan.
In case you missed the original livestream, the recording of the Negro Leagues Museum’s conversation about Buck O’Neil can still be watched on YouTube. The stories these gentlemen told about Buck were a joy to listen to, and they also had a great conversation about race and baseball in general. If you get the opportunity, it’s definitely worth your time.
Your mind has a way of putting limitations on your goals. When you persevere, you develop character. Nobody knows their ceiling.