Monday, September 30, 2013
The Yankees 2013
Mariano Rivera, arguably, the best reliever ever, went through a season performing at his high level while going through a last visit ceremony at every place he played. But his crowning moment came on the last time he took the mound at Yankee Stadium and pitcher two outs in the top of the eight and two outs in the top of the ninth. Geradi sent Andy Petite, and Derick Jeter out to take him off the mound before the third out because he wanted the fans, and then the teams to honor Rivera with thunderous ovations, which they did. But the most human and perhaps most glorious moment came when Rivera, who is all man, broke down in the hug of Petite and sobbed like a baby realizing that nothing in his life would ever be the same and he was embarking on a new journey. So revealing that this man who came from poverty where he had to use an old milk carton for a baseball glove while he played ball on the beaches of Panama, this man who now was at the peak of his career still retained the humility to realize his life was full of friends and events he would cherish for the rest of his life while he will relish being close with his family. He was not ashamed to show emotions of love and caring and loving. AND the fans and his fellow ballplayers reciprocated.
Andy Petite announced his retirement and was allowed to pitch the next to the last game of the season against Houston Astros, in Houston, his hometown. Petite announced his retirement very late so there was no retirement procession like Rivera's, but pitching in front of his family, friends, and in his hometown was a fitting way to end his career. He isn't a sure hall of famer but a boarder line candidate particularly because of his record in post season play. He was the oldest starting pitcher in baseball when he took the mound and hadn't pitched a complete game since 2006, I think. Yet Joe Geradi let him pitch well over one hundred pitches and make the choice as to how far he would go in the game. He pitched a complete game and ended his career with a win and the crowd went wild, the players on both side gave him a rousing ovations, as he waved to the crowd and directed his wave and glance towards his wife and family there was a look of love, gratitude, happiness and perhaps a tear or two in his eyes. More emotions. More truth. More reasons to rejoice than just the fleeting moment of a win rather because of a life well lived.
All the Yankee happenings brought to mind of life and Baseball in an earlier day. The fans cheered only when the ball players played well and booed when they became old with reflexes declining causing them not to play up to their younger days when they hit all the home runs or pitched perfect games. The greatest player of all time Babe Ruth went out looking clumsy and inept and was booed. Of course he was cheered after he was out of the game at occasions like the iconic Lou Gehrig day as well as his last time at Yankee Stadium when his booming voice was being silent by cancer and his big body only a shell of itself. His funeral was at St. Patrick's and the lines of mourners long. But he did not hear these cheers when his playing days were coming to a close and he could have used those cheers. Instead he heard boos and jeers.
Jo DiMaggio during his retirement year, 1951, hit only .261 and was referred to as the new toaster. The new toasters at the time featured the bread popping up from the toaster slots when done, new in 1951. DiMag
popped up a lot in that year. He heard boos and jeers. Of course after his retirement at "Old Timers" games where he was referred to as "The worlds greatest living player" he was always cheered. I am sure he could have used those cheers in his last playing year but we were a tougher people then.
Back in the day there was no crying in baseball. One team hated the other and while silent respect for each other might have existed if anyone on the opposing team was going to beat you then they better watch out because they could get "beaned" or spiked or anything to make sure they would be less than efficient. Early Wynn a Cleveland Indian pitcher, a hall of famer with 300 wins, said many times and meant it, "I'd hit my mother in the head if she crowded the plate. That part belongs to me.". Ballplayers came from the roughest backgrounds were paid very little and had to fight for survival. Today with much more money the players can be much more human and I guess so can the fans. Somehow I like it better this way!