Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Journey - Chapter 15

The last month of the season can be the cruelest for those teams no longer in the playoff hunt. With the September call ups, the expanded rosters, there are players sprinkled all over the diamond who are tomorrow's possible stars, but today often seem overwhelmed and overmatched. In year's past, it had been the Yankees and their "regulars" who had taken on and beaten up these newcomers to the stage. This year, the names on the field for the Bronx Bombers were virtually unknown to all but the most fanatical fan.

Sitting on the bench was an array of high priced talent, reduced to the role of bored cheerleaders. They gave the obligatory smiles, backslaps and high fives to those who performed in their stead. But it all seemed and looked so strange. Coming on the heels of two decades of greatness, or at least near greatness, it was an uncomfortable and unnatural fit for those of us who remained in the stands at the Stadium.

On the road, it became almost a surreal, out of body experience. I watched those in the seats around me, still caring deeply about what was transpiring on the field, for both Tampa and Toronto remained in the chase for post season glory. I was able to step back from all that emotion, virtually immune to the pull and push associated with rallies or misdeeds.  One other stop along the way produced the 2015 version of misery loves company as Yankee and Met fans sat side by side at Citi Field licking their respective wounds, almost afraid to consider what the past few months had wrought.

Yet, somehow through it all, the product improved. The team's record in September was 19 wins and 9 losses. There was even a brief flirtation with the .500 mark. There was hope for a better tomorrow, a sense that the frustrations of 2015 would give way to a rebirth and revitalization the following year. It must be how fans of so many other franchises have been feeling since the days of Ty Cobb. Just ask those who have placed their baseball hearts in the hands of the Chicago Cubs and who have spent countless days watching nothing but enduring futility.

As September tumbled into October, there were but four games remaining to be played. On October 1, 2015 the final home game of the season would take place against, well you can already guess the opponent. Then off to Baltimore for the finale.

There was one more person to whom I owed an invitation. On Wednesday morning, September 30, I wrote an email to my wife. I thanked her for her patience with me, not only during this season but for the past 38 seasons of our lives. I told her that it had been an arduous trip, not for me, but for her, and that she was made of something remarkable to find that the rhythm of my life could be intertwined with hers for so long. I told her that there was one thing missing, one hole in our resume.

So, at 5 PM on Thursday, October 1, 2015, my wife and I got in our car (no public transportation this time) and took the five mile trip to Yankee Stadium. I had spoken with my brother-in-law's friend who was the owner of four box seats next to the visitor's dugout. As the game was without meaning, these tickets were going to be unused. I could have taken all four, and invited my children along , but I declined. Two tickets would be just right.

I talked to my wife of the monuments in the outfield, testament to glories past. I pointed to the flags high above the stadium, tributes to championship teams. In our high priced seats, we were entitled to all the finest food the Stadium had to offer, free of charge. I opted for pepperoni pizza, a waffle ice cream cone and a big bag of Crackerjacks.

Did my wife become a baseball convert that day? Hardly. Did she tolerate my eccentricities and put up a good front, as though she was enjoying an encounter that was meaningless on every level? Absolutely. It was all that I could ask and more than I had a right to expect.

The Yankees thrashed the Red Sox 14 to 2. We stayed until the very last out of the game. I had a stomach ache from my gastronomic indulgences.

The team headed to Baltimore late on the night of October 1, 2015 for one last series at Camden Yards. They would win two games, lose one and conclude with a record of 79 wins and 83 losses. I would stay at home that weekend, never even watching one out, one pitch.

My season had ended three days earlier when I walked out of Yankee Stadium hand in hand with my wife. My journey was over at that moment.



Anonymous said...

I loved every chapter of The Journey. Your talent and gift amazes me. Over the years I must admit that I've lost interest in following baseball.
The Journey brought me back to a time when things were simpler and the few times I was able to bond with my dad and enjoy each other's company. I remember sitting at the Polo Grounds 62 or 63 watching Hank Aaron destroy the Mets with a monstrous grand slam that still resonates in my mind. He loved Hank Aaron and I was a Mets fan. I remember being so upset that I cried. He gave me a big hug and kiss. I remember his rough whiskers and the warm feeling that came over me.
I guess it's "The Journey" not the destination that's so important in life. Thanks for the enjoyable read.


Anonymous said...

Absolutely the most moving and enjoyable story I've read in a long time,
kudos to you for getting up early every morning to write this.
congratulations and let's hope other people can respond in kind.


Anonymous said...

Wow, thank goodness I'm retired and had the time to read it all! FANTASTIC!

Other comments:
Loved your being more of a hindrance around the house...
You missed an opportunity to sharing a story of being a Yankee fan at Fenway and being abused by red neck fans...
Nice piece on winning the 86 Super Bowl lottery, and missing Richie's birthday, any truth to either one?
Whew, thank goodness that you attended your niece's wedding. ..
You could have chosen a better player than Bruce Harper to remind you about the joy of what you were doing...
Tanaka, 9-11, ouch!
79 -83, they should only be that good next year...
No way Joanne attends final game with you!
As always, a great read!


Anonymous said...

Loved, loved, loved it. What a gift you have of making everything in life so meaningful.

We need to find a publisher!!!!


Anonymous said...

Just finished. What a beautiful story. I learned a few things about you, I learned a lot about joy (I already know about suffering), and I learned that I’m not the only one who watches reruns of Project Runway.


Anonymous said...

This is great. It's a very fun journey to take with you!