Monday, May 27, 2019

Farewell, Bill Buckner, who made my day in 1986.

In October of 1986 I was at home watching my Mets play the Red Sox in game six of the World Series. The Sox led the series 3-2, and this game had gone into the tenth inning, with the Sox holding a 5-3 lead and three outs left to secure their first Series victory since 1918. Ignoring Yogi Berra's advice - "It ain't over till it's over" - I left my apartment and headed for a bar where I knew my friend Bill, a Springfield, Massachusetts native and thus a cradle Red Sox fan, would be, so as to congratulate him. On my way to the bar, I heard a loud crowd noise coming from an open window, which I now know signalled the Mets' having scored two runs to tie the game. When I got to the bar, I looked in through its large front window and saw everyone jumping up and down and cheering, except for Bill, who stood stock still with his face ashen. When I got in, I went to Bill and said, "What happened?" He gestured at the TV just as it showed a replay of a ground ball skittering between the legs of a Sox player.

That player was Bill Buckner, the Sox first baseman. His error allowed the Mets to score the go-ahead run, and to tie the Series. They then won game seven, gaining their second Series title following their victory over the Orioles in 1969.

Bill Buckner died today at 69, a victim of Lewy Body Dementia. Although Buckner had a solid career that touched parts of four decades, included a National League batting title, and an All Star appearance, his fate was to be remembered for his one error watched by millions.

The grounder he misplayed was hit by Mookie Wilson, who became a close friend of Buckner's after they retired. It's unfair, as Mookie and so many others have said, for Buckner to be remembered for one error during a long and praiseworthy career. Still, it's ironic that, were it not for that error, he wold now be remembered only by older and obsessive fans of the Red Sox, Cubs, and other teams for whom he played during his long time in the Majors.

Bill Buckner photo: Craig Johnson from San Diego, CA, USA [CC BY-SA 2.0 (]

Monday, May 13, 2019

Farewell, first crush!

Well, first celebrity crush. Sometime in my earlier, polymorphously perverse years, there was a redhead named Irene from whom I, in my first of many displays of male emotional fuckwittage (to borrow a term from Bridget Jones), surreptitiously pocketed and took home a toy airplane, on the belief that a girl had no business owning such a thing. After my father spotted it and couldn't recall buying it, I surreptitiously returned it.

When I was seven, my father took me to the local cinema (we were living in England at the time) to see Calamity Jane, starring Doris Day in the title role (photo) and Howard Keel as her love interest, Wild Bill Hickok. From the opening scene, I knew I was in love:

To me, at age seven, there seemed something compellingly attractive about a woman who could do guy things but still be very much a womanl.

Later in life, when my love interests became more complicated, there were times when I couldn't listen to "Secret Love," also from Calamity Jane, without my eyes misting over:

So, rest in peace, Doris Mary Anne Kappelhoff from Cincinnati. You meant a lot to me, and to millions of others, both men and women. You also meant a lot to animals, whose welfare you championed. An admirable person in all respects.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Mets win opener. Is this a bad sign?

It's not an entirely facetious question. My wife, a Red Sox fan, is convinced that the better her team does early, the worse their season is likely to be. Lately, the Mets seem to have followed a similar pattern. This happens to be the 50th anniversary of the Mets' triumphal 1969 season, in which they lost their season opener to the Montreal Expos 11-10. Today they beat the Washington Nationals, formerly the Montreal Expos, 2-0.  The game pitted two of MLB's best pitchers -- Jacob deGrom of the Mets and Max Scherzer of the Nats, against each other. The Mets managed to tag Scherzer for a run in the first, and deGrom was untouched until turning it over to the bullpen, which held fast while the Mets got a second run off Scherzer.

It's a most satisfying result. As a Mets fan, though, I know not to get my hopes too high too soon.

Monday, January 21, 2019

"The Drum Major Instinct"

Two months before he was murdered, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached a sermon on "The Drum Major Instinct." He began with the text in Mark 10:35-41, in which James and John asked Jesus if they will be given the right to sit at his right and left hands in glory. Instead of rebuking them, Jesus said this honor was not his to give, and concluded
[W]hosoever will be great among you, shall be your servant: and whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.
Dr. King then observed,
[W]e must understand that we have some of the same James and John qualities. And there is deep down within all of us an instinct. It's a kind of drum major instinct—a desire to be out front, a desire to lead the parade, a desire to be first. And it is something that runs the whole gamut of life.
He then illustrated ways that instinct affects us badly: through competitive consumerism that leads us to live beyond our means; by bragging, name-dropping, and spreading pernicious gossip; by anti-social behavior meant to attract attention; and by a "snobbish exclusivism," including racial prejudice, which, he ruefully observed, is found in some churches.

Like Jesus, Dr. King did not condemn this "drum major instinct." Instead, he said, it should be re-directed in a positive way:
And so Jesus gave us a new norm of greatness. If you want to be important—wonderful. If you want to be recognized—wonderful. If you want to be great—wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That's a new definition of greatness.
At the conclusion of the sermon, he said:
Yes, Jesus, I want to be on your right or your left side, not for any selfish reason. I want to be on your right or your left side, not in terms of some political kingdom or ambition. But I just want to be there in love and in justice and in truth and in commitment to others, so that we can make of this old world a new world.
Just before these final words, he quoted from the lyrics of "Then My Living Will Not Be In Vain," sung here by Patti LaBelle: Ms. LaBelle sang this as a tribute to Oseola McCarty, a washerwoman who, following a life of hard work and thrift, was able to leave a bequest of $150,000 to the University of Southern Mississippi.

You can read the full text of Dr. King's sermon here and hear a recording here.

Dr. King photo: File photo-Public Domain.