And not because of any particular game. (Sorry, Stevie; yes, this blog will be about baseball.)
I don’t know what it is that gets me so emotional, but I cry at baseball. I cried when McGwire broke Maris’s record (and this was when juice was only a liquid squeezed from fruit). I cried when Ripken broke Gehrig’s record. I cried when the Yankees paraded up Broadway in ’96. (It was a few weeks after delivering my 2nd child; I wasn’t just emotional, I was hormonal.) And all the ones that came after. I cried like a baby when the Phillies won last year. Heck, just thinking about it, I still tear up.
While enjoying a lazy Saturday morning, John found a documentary about Ted Williams on HBO, so we watched. You guessed it: I cried. I’m not even a Red Sox fan. (I’m REALLY not a Red Sox fan. I respect their immense talent, but I prefer it when they don’t win.) I knew a little about the Splendid Splinter, but not that much. Today I learned about the person he was, and I empathized. More than anything, I could see why Boston and all of baseball fell in love with the man. He put everything he had into the game; maybe even some things he shouldn’t have. (That line about, “I smell sh*t. There must be a writer around” had me rolling.) He gave everything, and he held nothing back. I could aspire to be like that, but I’m too much of a marshmallow.
Watching the story of his later years, and his last appearance in Fenway at the ’99 All Star Game, and the way the players walked up to him “wide-eyed, like kids walking up to Santa Claus”, I cried all over again. He was larger than life. He was almost larger than baseball itself.
We keep our signed Harry Kalas baseball on the TV. It’ll be there all season. Once in a while the Superpretzel commercial comes on, the one that ends with a black-and-white photo and the words, “We miss you, Harry”, and I choke up all over again. The games go on, but I miss Harry Kalas like I miss my own grandfather. After all the Phillies games we watch, I may have listened to Harry more than I did Grandpa. I love ’em both. (Note the use of present tense, not past tense.)
I went to the Tim McGraw concert in Allentown a few years back, and when he sang “Live Like You Were Dying” and he held up Tug’s World Series ring for the camera (and I wore a Phillies jersey!), I will bet you anything there wasn’t a dry eye in the county. Certainly not mine.
When the Phillies had their ring ceremony this past April and Pat Burrell came back to stand in line with his former teammates and get his ring, and Pat Gillick sobbed, I was right there with him. At home, of course, but I don’t know which of us cried more. (It was a class-act move on the Rays’ part to let him come back, and I salute them for that.)
I was in the ballpark on a sunny summer Sunday when Doug Glanville shattered teammate Eric Milton’s bid for a no-hitter. In the 4th inning I turned to John and said, “Don’t look now, but there’s something on the scoreboard you need to notice.” (It’s tradition to never use the words “no hitter” when a pitcher is working on one. Unless, of course, you’re a position player, who will try to bust the pitcher’s balls by saying, “Hey Joe, is that a no-hitter you got going?”) In the 6th we held our breath. The guy behind us got on his cell phone and called home. “Honey, turn on the game. I can’t tell you what, but just trust me. You want to see this.” In the later innings, if the no-no is still on the board, in a show of respect, the other players will move down and let the pitcher sit alone on the bench. To this day, I have a hard time forgiving Glanville for screwing up that simple pop fly in the 8th, and then killing Milton’s try for a shutout in the next play. Maybe on my deathbed I’ll say, “It’s okay, Doug.” Then again, maybe not.
When MLB Network got started, they showed segments of Ken Burns’ “Baseball”, and I cried then too. Laughed a lot also, but some things about baseball never fail to make me cry. It’s the vintage clips of historic games, amazing plays, classic players exhibiting almost superhuman feats of strength. There’s something about baseball that’s infinitely rich in tradition and hope. Baseball endures like the human spirit. It takes a hit, slips a little, sometimes it falls, but it always gets back up and keeps going because tomorrow is another game. It leaves us bored and restless in one minute, and breathless with anticipation the next. With baseball we feel extreme highs and lows, just minutes apart, and we keep coming back for more because we want to know what happens next. It’s the story that never, ever ends.
I love the Walt Whitman quote at the end of Bull Durham: “I see great things in baseball. It’s our game, the American game. It will repair our losses and be a blessing to us.” Why yes, I do have a copy of the script. Surprised?
And yet I don’t cry at football. I scream and I curse, but I don’t cry. Why is that?
Yes, I guess you could say baseball makes me cry. I have no problem with that. I wouldn’t want it any other way.