If you don’t like baseball, skip this…because it’s long and I just had to write it. If you do, I hope you find a few common themes in your life to compare, and decide to share it–Joyanna.
“I quit!” I told my mother. I don’t WANT to learn how to cook!” I couldn’t think of anything more boring than pouring batter in a pan and then putting icing on a cake.
It was the first time I had stood up to my mother. She had enrolled me in the “Brownies” and to become a full-fledged Girl Scout, you had to get the “badge” of cooking. I wanted to rip that little badge off of every Girl Scout that went around proudly displaying it on their ne Girl Scout uniform. It was a shock to my poor mother, but to me, life was unfair. My father had started a little league baseball team in our small home town of Naples, Florida, and he had made my brother the star pitcher.
I resented him so much for being chosen for this incredible position in my parent’s eyes, that I would sit high up in a tree behind first base, and pout every game. And then it occurred to me, one night while I was sitting in that tree watching my brother perform brilliantly, making my father and mother so proud, that my older brother could get hit in the head with a pitch, and they would have to call an ambulance and all of us would wonder if my brother would live or die. I didn’t want him to DIE! A knock-down and a few coughs would have made me feel a lot better.
The fact is, I just wanted more of my parent’s attention. It didn’t matter how many straight A report cards I brought home, I could never be the star my brother was.
Did I resent him? YES! Was I a sinner for even having the thought? Was there something inside of me that wanted him..less popular?
Come on…be honest. Even dogs get jealous of each other.
Later on in college I was the same rebel: “I will NOT declare a major! Why do I have to? I want to take EVERYTHING! It’s MY money! I quit.”
As much as I wanted to perform some magic thing to make my position as the measly girl in the family who was only suppose to grow up and cook, life was almost becoming unbearable. And I was only six.
I was learning that life was not fair. There was so such thing as “Girl’s little league teams” in the fifties. My father, who quietly sympathized with my plight, felt my anguish and let me warm up the catcher, Rocky. Yes, I would pitch endlessly to the ten- year-old Rocky before the games, who was even at ten, perfect for the position. I LOVED pitching balls to Rocky. My dad would always pat me on the back and say “Good job.” I lived for that moment.
Rocky later on, grew up to take me to my first dance…and he had to fight the school board for the privilege because he was in Junior High and I was still in Sixth Grade.
Which brings me to my point: Girls…in their minds, from the earliest age know they cannot compete with the boys, and some of us want to. Before those hormones of puberty push you into reading Vogue magazine, and trying on lipstick, many girls WANT to run, catch, throw, tackle…and hit the home run. To the Tomboys, like me, it was the first hard lesson in life: You grow up. Face the facts. But that doesn’t mean after puberty, that we don’t compete.
Oh yes we do.
Last night, I attended a book signing held at the Public Country Library here in St. Louis, where Tony La Russa talked for quite awhile about his life as a World Series winning coach for the Cardinals.
After he talked they took questions from the audience. One young blond jumped up, and with tears in her voice, expressed her undying devotion to the coach who had ruled her whole life. In fact, she had bought him a letter that she wrote when she was ten. TEN! Wow.
I thought the courage of that young woman remarkable. To stand up in front of 800 people and declare how this one man had influenced her whole life—may not seem a hard thing to many, but that takes some guts.
His influence went way beyond baseball.
And then, another woman stood up, and expressed the thankfulness she had of all the family memories—and how she had stood up for the coach, in all the tough times. She was a fierce and loyal fan. I could just picture her verbally assaulting anyone who had dared attack Tony’s coaching moves.
Whoa. Do NOT give that woman a bat.
The emotion from both these women were written all over faces of the other Cardinal fans in the audience.
And that’s the beauty of baseball. It’s an amazing thing this game…how it units whole towns. Whole cities…and when the World Series comes about…a whole nation.
I was asking myself, while I was sitting there…seeing people being turned into emotional little kids—Were they remembering the days of Dad throwing them the ball, the trips to the ballpark with their parents? (The endearing father and son sitting next to me were.) What is it about the game that units people into actually becoming winners and losers right along with their home teams?
As people, we go around in tribes, that’s true…but in baseball, it’s more than that.
It gives everyone watching, that all important need to all humans: physiologically hope.
Back in the eighties I was coming out of an extremely painful divorce. I went on a “blind” date who took me to a Cardinal baseball game. It was that night, that I saw my first home run.
Most people see it when they are kids. I was fortunate enough to see my first major league home run when I was well into my twenties. Like a lot of things, you have to see a home run when your older to fuller appreciate the miracle of it. It’s like—if you took your one-year old to Disneyworld…he’s not going to get it. (Trust me, I did that.)
Jack Clark hit that home run out into center field…and that ball sailed into the air, beyond eyesight, for the longest time. Easily…almost in slow motion. Who could DO such a thing? That came out of THAT man? Isn’t that impossible?
As I walked out of that stadium I was so ecstatic that my “blind date” knew he had made a mistake bringing me there in the first place. He never asked me out again, and I got hooked on baseball.
Five years later had to unhook myself. The passion it takes to watch every single game, takes a lot out of your psych if you’re an emotional person. I remember one season, where the Cardinals had just missed going to the World Serious, and after my father had died a long a painful death from brain cancer, I was more than ready when spring came. Baseball gave me hope…to start living again. Brushing off the cobwebs of winter, the constant struggle of making a living, paying bills, putting up with emotional pain sometimes unavoidable—Baseball would come and wipe the plate clean.
After all those guys on the field start with a clean plates too, and then…grinding out..day by day..most of the time, striking out…but in the game of baseball…there were moments and IF you witnessed those moments then you felt that YES…in your life, you could have those moments too.
If you just keep plugging along, you too could win the World Series..just like the team…just like those guys…they never give up. YOU must not give up.
Baseball is almost a microcosm of the American Dream: Work hard, be honest. Play fair…you will be rewarded. Baseball could not have been invented in any other country. It is a moral game…and has the “rule of law” that everyone must play by…at least that’s how it was meant to be in its purest form.
I remember one particular moment in the Cardinal playoffs in, I think , 1985. (Some baseball historian might remember the game) It was an extremely cold night. I was in a short outfit, with no coat, had managed to get down on the lower deck…I was standing very close to the field, on the third base line, and some guy was standing next to me. We were watching a small man, pitch a no-hitter.
His name was John Tutor.
That whole stadium of 50,000 people were quiet. Mesmerized. As I watch pitch after pitch..those balls just floated to the plate.
Floated. Not fast…just floated. As if in slow motion or some kind of time warp. My eyes were surely deceiving me. Nobody could hit him. Nobody.
I was witnessing one of those rare moments that happen……….
Okay…You can see that that memory took me BACK to that moment—sorry. What I was trying to say is that after that long illness where I had to take care of my dying father, I needed a lift in life. And baseball gave it to me in spades.
Now, to Tony LaRussa:
Tony LaRussa, was amazing last night. I myself have gone cold turkey on baseball, because I know how easily I can use it as an addiction for ignoring responsibilities that I need to attend to— so I didn’t watch many games in 2011. But one thing I did realized as I was sitting there: There are genius’ in every field, and the moment Tony talked, it was clear to my mind that this man was clearly a one-of-a-kind baseball mind that was —genuis.
HIs memory alone…….good god…This man remembers every pitch, the day it was tossed, the scores…I can’t even remember what day it is sometime.
My husband calls me from work and I say “Uh..what day is this?”
But memory alone doesn’t put you at the top.
There are just a few men in history that stand out. As a musician I can only explain it thus: Take the hundreds of musicians that have played Moonlight Sonata.
I’ve heard most of the greats, but no one could even compare to Arthur Rubenstein’s rendition. And he explained it this way: When he played anything, he put all his experiences into it: everything he had every felt, every thought he had ever had–into that moment when he played
And that’s what I believe made Tony La Russa’s coaching life above most others in history.
I think, he put everything he felt— every emotion, every thought about life—into those moments where he had to control the game.
I could be wrong, I haven’t read the book yet.
It’s just My Nobody Opinion, and from a “girl” no doubt. By the end of the night, Tony looked tired. He had done a book signing early in the day…signing over thousands of books could not be easy. All I could tell him when I finally got to my turn was, “You don’t have too much longer to go.”
I was trying to tell him in my own way, that I admired his stamina. But, I’m sure coming from a older women who still wore lipstick, it sounded stupid.
“Really?” he said. I don’t think he believed me.
I am sorry I missed my hometown Cardinal 2011 Championship season– but I could tell by the faces on the people in the audience last night, that the Cardinals had lifted many a heart from the insanity going on in the country at this moment.
If we had Tony La Russa’s as Presidents, our country would come back from this seemingly hopeless state that we are in. Yes, Tony’s impeccable leadership shows us one thing: If you can come back in baseball…you can come back in anything.
And guess what? –Since I have learned that lesson well…I have decided to learn how to cook….after all these years.
In baseball, and life, anything is possible.
My father…would be proud.
I can almost hear him saying as I write these words, “Good job, honey, good job. Keep at it—someday you just might hit your first home run.”