Sunday, October 2, 2011

Through Tommy Davis Eyes: Part I

"...You’re not going to believe this, Houston, but up close here at Tranquility, the moon appears to have, and I'm really not kidding, red-stitched seams on it. It looks…well, it looks exactly like a ... baseball...a big, beautiful celestial baseball..."
  - Neil Armstrong, from The Secret Tapes, July 20, 1969

Okay, so I made-up that quote. But, man's first moonwalk served as an acceptable explanation for an otherwise inexplicable event that occurred later that same year...the New York Mets victory in the World Series.

Who could blame them? There was simply no rational explanation for baseball's sorriest franchise winning a Series in only its eighth year of existence, previously notable for far less than stellar accomplishments. The Mets left the Cubs, who had blown the division lead in a swoon; the Braves, whom they whipped 3-0 in the playoff; and the Orioles, whom they defeated in that Series calling the whole thing totally…loony.

And then, there is always divine intervention, which does happen with some frequency in baseball, particularly, one way or the other,  with the Boston Red Sox. Think 2004, or Buckner’s legs about this year?

On Wednesday September 28, the Yankees, leading Tampa Bay 7-6, had two outs and two strikes on a .108 pinch-hitter, Dan Johnson. While, in Baltimore, around the same time, ace-reliever Jonathan Papelbon and the Red Sox led the Orioles 3-2 with two out and two-strikes in the bottom of the ninth. Back in Tampa (actually St. Pete), Johnson hit a curve ball that had hung above the plate like a moon-size Shiny Bright ornament for an “improbable” homer. The Orioles got two straight doubles and a single and won. Rays in playoffs, Sox into history books. Fans on their knees...again.

And consider the same exact date in 1941. On the last day of the season, Ted Williams heroically chose to hit in a double-header and went 6 for 8 to finish with a .406 batting average, the last time any player batted .400 or better. Did he win the MVP Award that decisive year in history? He did not. Joe Dimaggio of the Yankees hit in 56 straight games that same year. Was it a coincidence that a few months before Pearl Harbor, baseball provided fans with the sustenance of two miracles? Unlikely.

A baseball, of course, is not really a heavenly sphere. On the other hand, perhaps only a supreme being could have created the game itself.  Note that we refer to baseball almost exclusively as a game, unlike, football, which we always refer to as a sport.  Clearly the creator wanted us to play games and enjoy ourselves in a leisurely fashion; rather than try to crash into each other with the intent to do grievous harm to another person's body parts, or jump up and down as if some kind of nasty ants were biting us after something as simple as a tackle.

October is upon us, bringing with it the mighty confluence of two currents running through the American culture: baseball and football. And yes, we might go so far as to say that one is born into this world seeing through baseball eyes or football eyes.

Are the two so very different? Glad you asked. For an answer, please see Part II, below.

Ed Notes: *the author wishes to point out that the Mets traded Tommy Davis to the white Sox in 1967, bringing Al Weiss and another Tommy, Agee, to the Mets, both of whom played important roles in that 1969 victory. Agee made one of the Series’ most famous catches of all time. Without Tommy Davis, no Agee: no Agee, maybe no miracle. 

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