Vin Scully

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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