Wednesday, May 5, 2010

No Fitting Tribute

Sigh. I am more than a little upset that the Tigers got swept by the Minnesota Twins. Not because we now sit 3.5 games back, not because the memory of Game 163 still stings (well, it does, but that's not why I'm peeved), not because getting swept is, none of these things.

I actually buy into that whole corny "win one for the Gipper" thing. I thought the best way for the Tigers to honor the great Ernie Harwell's memory would be to do it on the field by beating the Twins. I am happy they are already wearing a memorial patch on their sleeves--a black circle with white letters "EH." That's a wonderful way to keep Ernie at the forefront of our minds throughout this season. However, I just felt like winning yesterday's game and today's would have been the most appropriate way to eulogize a baseball man of Ernie Harwell's stature.

There's nothing I can say here to add any new depth to what's been said and shown already. I'll just bow my head with the rest of you, swallow the lump in my throat, and swipe at a couple salty tears as they escape my lids. Ernie himself says it most eloquently in his "That's Baseball" speech:

Baseball is the President tossing out the first ball of the season and a scrubby schoolboy playing catch with his dad on a Mississippi farm. A tall, thin old man waving a scorecard from the corner of his dugout. That's baseball. And so is the big, fat guy with a bulbous nose running home one of his (Babe Ruth's) 714 home runs.

There's a man in Mobile who remembers that Honus Wagner hit a triple in Pittsburgh forty-six years ago. That's baseball. So is the scout reporting that a sixteen year old pitcher in Cheyenne is a coming Walter Johnson. Baseball is a spirited race of man against man, reflex against reflex. A game of inches. Every skill is measured. Every heroic, every failing is seen and cheered, or booed. And then becomes a statistic.

In baseball democracy shines its clearest. The only race that matters is the race to the bag. The creed is the rulebook. Color merely something to distinguish one team's uniform from another.

Baseball is a rookie. His experience no bigger than the lump in his throat as he begins fulfillment of his dream. It's a veteran too, a tired old man of thirty-five hoping that those aching muscles can pull him through another sweltering August and September. Nicknames are baseball, names like Zeke and Pie and Kiki and Home Run and Cracker and Dizzy and Dazzy.

Baseball is the cool, clear eyes of Rogers Hornsby. The flashing spikes of Ty Cobb, an over aged pixie named Rabbit Maranville.

Baseball just a came as simple as a ball and bat. Yet, as complex as the American spirit it symbolizes. A sport, a business and sometimes almost even a religion.

Why the fairy tale of Willie Mays making a brilliant World's Series catch. And then dashing off to play stick ball in the street with his teenage pals. That's baseball. So is the husky voice of a doomed Lou Gehrig saying., "I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth.”

Baseball is cigar smoke, hot roasted peanuts, The Sporting News, ladies day, "Down in Front", Take Me Out to the Ball Game, and the Star Spangled Banner.

Baseball is a tongue tied kid from Georgia growing up to be an announcer and praising the Lord for showing him the way to Cooperstown. This is a game for America. Still a game for America, this baseball!

Ernie, you are baseball. Thank you so much for being the thread through all of our baseball lives.


Juskimo said...

Thanks for sharing the thought. I kind of thought the same thing, but I think that the rest of the season will really be the tribute to Ernie, not just the series in Minny. They will rebound and give him a proper send off.

Go in peace Ernie.

OldEnglish said...

You know, I think you're right. I'm not saying they have to win it all to properly honor Ernie...but if they want to go ahead and do that, it'll be fine by me.