“Truly, though our element is time” wrote the poet, Philip Larkin(no relation to Barry), “we are not suited to the long perspectives.” That comes from a heartbreaking poem, “Reference Back,” about a young man’s return home who has to come to terms with how life has changed in the house where he grew up. Part of this poem is classically Romantic, in the way it shows how going back to some familiar place is comforting yet might lead us to confront what has been lost over the same period of time. It’s been nearly twenty years since Tim Wakefield pitched his first game for the Pirates.
A lot has happened since then. Wake most likely did not know then he would return to Pittsburgh in 2011, wearing a Red Sox uniform. More significantly, he probably didn’t know he would still be putting on a baseball uniform at all. Most likely, he is happy about what has occurred since then. Professor Abraham at the Globe has been writing about this moment for Pittsburgh and Wake a great deal over the past few days because it is one of the more important stories this weekend. It’s about history and time. It’s also about winning and losing. Is it really possible that the Pirates haven’t had a winning season since 1992. How would we survive the same fate, as Sox fans? We can’t know. We can’t know what the future brings, even as we are pretty convinced that with such a long tradition of winning, having just one losing season is barely imaginable.
The research I’ve been following on the subject of Happiness (and now unabashedly tossing around this blog) tells us that we can’t really know what will make us happy in the future. As Red Sox fans, we know that another World Series will make us happy each and every year. But, since that destiny is not guaranteed maybe there is something about day to day life that brings real joy? Maybe that’s the key. The long season provides us a new game almost every single day. So there is nothing to carp about, to steal Peter Abraham’s phrase, even if there is a sweep in Pittsburgh, whom as a whole city are grateful for the increase in revenue all around town this weekend. In losing, perhaps, we give a little joy to others. At least that is how I am taking my coffee this morning.
Right of the Pesky Pole Notes:
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First, it’s the eyes that go. Our 5th decade welcomes us this way. (ESPN The Magazine is forcing me, by the way, to finally go for an eye exam. Their preview pages make me read like Gov. Paterson with his pen, vetoing legislation and his nose an inch from the page.)
Then later it’s the ears, but with much more irreparable damage. When Drew Brees held his son while confetti fell after the Super Bowl, we took note of the headphones. Important protection in a large stadium. A smart move, too, when you are at Fenway 70 to 80 games a year. It’s hard not to notice the fan with headphones behind homeplate. Last night, with two outs in the 9th, there were more fans who might have needed them. On their feet, they cheered for the efficient, diverse save by Sir Papelbon and I was happy to see and hear some noise at Fenway.
Earlier in the week, the empty seats were pissing me off. How many fans regret leaving in the 6th inning of Game 6 against the Rays in 2008, where optimism was rewarded with one of the greatest comebacks by the Sox.Game winning hit? Brother Drew. As was the case last night. I know, Daniel-not-so-hot-as-lava -lately-Nava hit that blooper for the game winner. But Drew’s beautiful swing sent shots monster-wise.Something, though, for Navav that ought to help him spew some heat again.
But back to fandom and its requirements. Why can’t people stay until the end of the game? I know I know. Plenty of real reasons. But lately it’s more noticeable. Last night was different. And Sir Pap was the pitcher Professor Benjiman wrote about on May 14, using an 82 mph slider contrasted with 96 on the fastball. Really quite perfect.
Perfect and quick, Wakefully. For the shortest game time since 2002, Tim Wakefield knuckled more strikes than he has all season and won at Fenway since the start before I saw him on July 3, 2009, exactly one year ago. Must I remind us again of how Pap threw a great 9th to hold the tie and then Ramon gave up two runs in the 10th? I shouldn’t mention it again. It was just that Ramon ruined the real positive mood from the day before(see yesterday’s entry). Hey, it’s a team effort Sorry Ramon.
Cheers to Wake and the grip that makes age meaningless.
Right of the Pesky Pole: Notes
Lady Gaga & Brother Drew?
Saribel, our Red Sox fan Forever in Florida, told me that Gaga’s “Bad Romance” was playing after the home run? Gaga and JD? . . .nah . . .
99 out of 100 people surveyed say they would never call Pap, “Sir Pap.” Just think of him in goggles doing his drunken Irish dance in bike shorts. “What a wacko,” commented that idiot announcer from Fox(I have erased his name from memory ever since. He is the same dope who openly insulted Stephen King while interviewing King in the stands during the 07 playoffs.) Anyway, you’ve heard all the other insults lobbed at Pap. I remain true to my word. He is our closer. And we should sign that big contract, let’s say 4 years? Look at how few closers actually close and save games on a regular basis. He’s 3rd in the AL.
photograph by Ron Crowley
If only I could have been in the stands for that one, and in the seats I usually purchase, with a perfect view of that grand slam. Instead, I was here in Jersey watching on a small tv. But when Nava came up I went over to our larger screen and changed the channel from the World Cup my girlfriend was watching and said to her, “You have to see this, a historic moment for this player. his first at-bat in the majors.” It was one of those lucky moments of calling history before it happens. For me, the first plate appearance has enough meaning. Then that beautiful swing drove the grand slam into Manny Delcarmen’s leaping grab. My girlfriend thought I was showing her a replay. How could I know that would happen? Just incredible. What followed was an ecstatic electricity that seemed to shake the green monster.
The photographer Ron Crowley commented on this shot, on his Flickr photo stream, that Nava has the best swing since Freddy Lynn. It is beautifully fluid but with more of an uppercut than Lynn. At least with the grand slam. The double to left-center swing followed the ball with an even plane. I know all the game and post-game hype doesn’t match the Strasburgain sort, but when a player comes to the pros after doing the laundry for a college team, the reward is oh so much brighter. He was even let go by the Indepedent league Chico Outlaws.
As of today, there are two stories coming out of Chico. Nava and also the Knuckle-princess, Eri Yoshida. She made her appearance in late May, as the first woman to start a professional baseball game in 10 years. She says that while playing in Japan, she started throwing a knuckleball by watching Tim Wakefield. Today, I sing praises to Princess Eri, with the hope that Wakefield’s knuckleball will dance. I celebrate the unexpected, the surprises baseball provides, but also the unforgettable moments that can never be lived again and change the story forever.
photograph by Anne Chadwick Williams
The numbers are in for the young phenom. 14 strikeouts, and everything else, against the lowly Pirates.If you have seen MLB.com today, you might think he threw a perfect game last night. But even Roy Halladay didn’t receive such royal treatment as the page reporting on the debut. Did the Beatles just arrive in America?
Rather than royalty, let’s talk loyalty. Opposite the young prince, is another kind of pitcher, the kind with longevity and 2777 innings pitched for one team. Through persistence, talent, ingenuity and, in addition, poise and grace, Tim Wakefield is our innings King. Is there a better time to mention Tim Wakefield in the same sentence as Roger Clemens? In post-game interviews, all Wakefield did was praise his teammates, completely free of ego.
On my desk is a copy of Baseball America, with Bryce Harper on the cover, the other number 1 phenom now wearing a W hat.”Beyond the Hype” reads the subtitle. This leads me to the list MLB has provided of the most strikeouts in a Major League Debut. Look it over and tell me how many of those pitchers did for one team what Tim Wakefield has done for the Red Sox. (There are two Red Sox pitchers in that line-up) Talk to me about Stephen Strasburg in 2023.I don’t mean to sound cynical here. As Tito said, ‘it’s good for baseball.” and what’s good for baseball is good for me. I just hope we recover from the hangover following the party.