Los Angeles Dodgers

Smile On Your Brother

Some may come and some may go
We shall surely pass
When the one that left us here
Returns for us at last
We are but a moment’s sunlight
Fading in the grass

~  The Youngbloods, Get Together

I usually approach the last home game of the regular baseball season with sadness but joy.   But as I related here, this season was very different.  In fact, it was quite possibly one of the saddest and weirdest weeks of baseball if I can ever remember.

I described what went on with my team, and the perspective I had with watching them after they closed their regular home season.

We anticipated some sad news that was about to happen: Vin Scully, voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers, was retiring.  His last home game we knew would be Sunday, September 25.

What we didn’t know was that we would awake that day to some horrific news that crushed Major League Baseball, and that was the death of young phenom, former Rookie of the Year and All-Star pitcher, Jose Fernandez, who died in a tragic boating accident early Sunday morning.  The story could end right there, and it would be tragic.  Yet, it was more so not just because of his age and the potential he had to be one of the all-time greats, but because we also knew his back story. How he attempted to defect from Cuba four times, and the last time when he was successful he dove into the rough waters to save his own mother, who had fallen overboard.  And the news that he had just announced mere days before his death that he and his girlfriend were expecting a baby girl.

I don’t think my generation can even come close to thinking or feeling any loss like this that hit so close to home.  I guess maybe when Clemente died in 1972.  Yet, that was in the offseason.  I’m sure that it didn’t make the fact he was gone any less tragic.  Two others passed during the season, Thurman Munson and Darryl Kile, that all sent shockwaves.

Nick Adenhart was killed in a drunk driving accident after his very first start as an Angel in 2009.  The Adenhart happened early in the season, and yet the pain was still so very raw when I happened to visit Angel Stadium late that same season.

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But also I couldn’t help but be reminded of Bobby Ojeda, who was the lone survivor in a boating accident that took two of his teammates in 1993, Steve Olin and Tim Crews of the Cleveland Indians.  Mets fan favorite Ojeda rarely talks about the incident, has endured flashbacks since and describes the feelings he’s had since as a “black pit.”

Baseball is a family that we can feel as spectators, but the close knit communities really hit close to home.

We saw Keith Hernandez break down on the air, talking about how the time to talk to your loved ones is now, mentioning his good friend Bobby O.  Gary Cohen cracked after the memorial service on Monday at Marlins Park.  Dee Gordon visibly cried as he ran the bases after hitting a home run off of Bartolo Colon on Monday night.  Many teams around baseball had ways of honoring Fernandez, whether it was creating jerseys in his honor, writing his initials on their caps…there was something special about Jose.

And now he’s gone.

I think I only saw him pitch once at CitiField.  He did have one year that he was out due to injury.  We saw him on the parade route for the All-Star Game in 2013, which was held here in New York.  The time was short, sweet and oh so memorable.  There wasn’t a person in baseball he didn’t touch and namely, his Cuban compadres (like Yoenis Cespedes, who apparently didn’t even know him all that well, but had a fellow Cuban bond automatically).

Sadly, I have to say I don’t think I appreciated him enough when he played.  Some of it had to do with the fact that he played for our enemy but also he was out for an entire season of his short career.  I didn’t make it a point to see any games against the Mets when he started.  Sadly, that was all my loss.  I’ve had this sort of regret cast a pall over several instances in my life.  I said earlier this year that I always regretted never seeing the Ramones when I had a chance.  After Glenn Frey died, I lamented the fact that I had never seen the Eagles.  I had plenty of chances to do either.  I just didn’t.

Seems silly to think this way.  It just never occurred to me that they might be gone one day.  I said as much early this year, when Frey passed away.

And especially in the case of Jose Fernandez, it is the idea of wasted talent like Sonny talked about in Bronx Tale that will probably haunt me as I get older.

What added another level of sadness was that we were losing Vin Scully, who we knew was retiring.  When I was in college, someone told me that when her mother was a little girl, she said that she had no idea that anyone else besides Franklin Delano Roosevelt could have been President, since he had been all of her life (till he passed).  It didn’t occur to me that Scully would ever want to retire.  I guess there comes a time for everything though.

Luckily, for me, I’ve had the opportunity to hear Scully.  As a Mets fan, you can’t help but think about the 1986 World Series that he called.  Famously said after the Game Six heroics, after allowing the fans’ reaction do the talking for him, he said…if a picture is worth a thousand words, you have seen about a million! 

If you are reading this because you follow me for the Mets…tell me the thought of that quote in Scully’s voice did not put a big smile on your face.  I know it always does for me.

I had a tough time getting through Sunday.  It was supposed to be a happy time for us fans, celebrating our team and their accomplishments.  Yet, the moment was so much bigger than any shellacking of the Phillies could be for me.

Not one person had a harsh word for Fernandez, and later we celebrated Vin.

I had felt sick to my stomach most of the day.  Then we got home and finished watching the Dodger game, which ended on a walk off.  Because Vin Scully’s last game had to have additional baseball at no extra cost.

Of course it did.

I smiled.  As the Dodgers not only celebrated their walkoff win, but their NL West championship clinching, they took a moment to honor Vin.  As he addressed the crowd, he should have warned me, thatt I was about to cry as audio of him serenading the crowd with the song “Wind Beneath My Wings” played in the background.

I can’t actually believe that after the horrific way Sunday had started for baseball fans everywhere, I finally broke down and cried during Vin Scully’s last stand.

Baseball has brought generations of fans and families together.  Families we choose.  Families by blood.  Yet, the biggest family in baseball are the actual teams, and how each player feels loss.  We seem to think that these guys are robots.  They are not.  This was evident by how everyone came together and lifted one another up to get through this difficult time.

While our hearts broke for the loss of Jose Fernandez, baseball players lost a friend, a brother, a teammate or fellow countryman.  We said so long to Vin Scully, but his voice will be alive I’m sure in many Dodger classics.

I have to say, it was such an odd day of loss and feelings I won’t forget for quite some time.

What I will most remember is how we all came together as a family to say some sad goodbyes and saw just how healing and good that baseball could do.

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Must Be The Season Of The Pitch(er)

There is a big story in baseball this season, and it’s not the long ball, it’s the pitcher’s duel.

It’s the season of the pitcher, folks, and to me, baseball is only as good as its pitchers are.

Think about it.  On a team, there’s often the old school adage of “pitching wins championships.”  Mostly, of the starting pitching variety. Even the bullpen figures in, occasionally, since a strong bullpen is depended upon during the long postseason if your team should be lucky enough to participate.

Look at my team.  The Mets have been blessed with great starting pitching, from Seaver and Koosman, to Doc, Sid, Bobby O and Ronnie, Al Leiter, even Fresno Bobby Jones.   But for years and years, it was always about the no-hitter.  The goddamn NO no-hitter, I should say.

But forget about Johan Santana’s no-hitter two weeks ago.  Okay.  Remember it.  But that’s not the point.  Clearly, the story this year has been the knuckleball and most importantly, R.A. Dickey’s renaissance surge to not only make his case to start the All-Star Game this year, but quietly mounting a strong campaign for the NL’s best pitcher hardware.  Time will tell, but although Santana’s no-hitter will christen the Mets’ books as the historic one, if you saw R.A. Dickey’s start on June 13th against the Tampa Bay Rays, clearly, that was the more dominant pitching performance…BJ Upton bedamned.

The funniest part of that story is that the Mets actually put in an appeal with MLB to get the first hit (an infield variety by Upton) charged as an error by David Wright.  So let’s see — go 50 years without a no-hitter, than two in two weeks!  Okay, gotcha.  I doubt that MLB will reverse it, but hey.  Goes to show just how dominant pitching has been.

Jered Weaver started the trend in Anaheim with his no-hitter.  I remember my friend Sully, from Sully Baseball, telling everyone to turn the game on, as the 9th inning approached.  He was so excited, Weaver had to pee between innings!

Then came a potentially cruel joke, with former Mets pitching prospect Phil Humber pitching a PERFECT GAME for the Chicago White Sox.  While he’s been lackluster (at best) since, the guy who was traded to get Johan Santana was pitching a perfect game, and the Mets didn’t even have a stinkin’ no-hitter.  Point is he can suck for the rest of his natural born life, and he pitched a perfect game.

Then came Johan.  Then came the Seattle Mariners’ combined no-hitter effort of the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Really?  What is fascinating about those two no-hitters is that they were against strong offensive teams.

Lastly, Matt Cain of the San Francisco pitched a perfect game on June 13.  MATT CAIN who walks, like, everybody.

Some pessimists may say that the achievement isn’t as notable now.  Other say that the change in data sharing in baseball has improved for the defensive side of the game, and not the offense.  Yet at the same time, fans dig the pitchers duel.

It’s true.  A home run derby in the most literal sense is a reason to drink at games because you really don’t need to pay attention.  Great pitching performances leave you on the edge of your seat.

Give me a call when the San Diego Padres break their no-no-hitter drought, but in the meantime, I think the season of the pitcher is about friggin time.  It’s more than just the stats, with Dickey leading the NL in wins.  The pitching landscape is just so interesting right now, and the pitching performance is back.

I love it.

To Hilda: With Love, CC

I liked Chris Capuano.  The Mets offered him a one-year contract last year worth $1.5 million.  Keep in mind that he had not pitched for a year prior due to injury.  Now that he’s proven himself to stay healthy and can be an innings-eater, the Mets no longer want anything to do with him.

I can see that side to the argument.  But clearly, Sandy Alderson did not consult with ME or any of the Lady Mets who like to “look” at their team.  And by “look” I mean “ass.”

Brian Schneider — now of the hated Philadelphia Phillies — had an ass like two scoops of butter pecan ice cream.  Capuano wasn’t that nice…but he had nice calves and a nice smile and was easily the cutest Met on the team this year.  Sigh.

What’s more: I became Twitter buddies with someone I consider my “West Coast Baseball Twin,” Hilda Chester. We have the same type of baseball personality: we live for the sport in the summer time, but can certainly enjoy the fringe benefits that come along with it…meaning: good looking menz in uniform.  She pinged me earlier in the season and said something to the effect of Chris Capuano being a cutie and that he had nice calves.

Needless to say, whenever he pitched, she’d watch the pitches with me, although she herself bleeds Dodger blue.

Some of the pics I am posting here today of Capuano were taken with Hilda in mind.  He was doing some practice pitches at one of the last home games of the season, and my husband was able to get some good shots of him in the bullpen.  (What can I say, he’s an enabler) There’s even a pic of him smiling!

 

Yesterday, Hilda’s team got the best looking pitcher in baseball signed to a two-year deal.  Capuano is going to be gracing his presence in a Dodger uniform next year.  So Hilda, I give you my pitcher and the last great pictures we took of him as a Met at CitiField.  Enjoy looking at him, as many of the female fans did this year.

But I actually will miss his consistency on the mound.