November 2005 Archives for Agony & Ivy
To think – I almost didn’t go.
Well, it’s 10:13pm as I begin this, and I will not write past 11:00, I’ve decided. Plus, I’m expecting a return phone call, and I’m not sure how long it will take; maybe a while, maybe no time at all. What my point is: however far I get, that’s how far I’ll get. I’ve been drinking Jameson and soda – soda because I didn’t want to drink too much, or too fast; Jameson because I’m recovering from a cold, and whiskey is better than beer to avoid a relapse, I find. All of this is only context.
So in a few days it will be December, and this is the time of year when baseball is farthest from my mind. After the World Series, it takes a few weeks for me to adjust to the off-season, but humans are habit-forming creatures and we soon settle into a routine absent baseball. I don’t scour the rumor mills all that closely anymore, and there are things like Thanksgiving and Christmas to soak up time and thoughts. For about 6 weeks, starting about now, I miss it the least.
I was thinking the other day about Sammy Sosa, and about his legacy. Which is, I guess you’d say, pretty well screwed. Just a few years ago, such a fall as drastic as Sosa’s has been would have been unthinkable -- at least to me. Now, like many of the fans whose eyes were under the wool, I want to push him into the corner of my memory reserved for things I’d like to forget. There are a few moments I’ll always treasure, but not as much as I would have.
It’s bigger than what I think of Sosa, though. In many ways, that entire Cubs era -- from the strike until 2003 -- is now also full of caveats, and tarnished.
Like a lot of Cubs fans, and especially like those who have had extra time to kill, I’ve spent a fair amount of time poring over the hot stove rumors and so on. Inevitably, many of the discussion threads turn to one topic: how close are the Cubs to making the playoffs, and will such-and-such get them closer, or make them good enough? I’ve been thinking: How close are they?
--Garrison Keillor in “Post to the Host,” March, 2005.
Keillor’s not wrong about the pre-life nostalgia, which is a 2.5 word description that captures better what I’ve spent thousands of words trying to describe in essays and observations over the years. It’s this feeling that my generation has, which amounts to feeling that certain kinds of wonder are no longer possible. I read Jack Kerouac’s On the Road for the first time several years ago, and it’s no exaggeration to say it changed my life because it changed how I thought about what is possible in life, but now I see that some of what I felt was nostalgia for a time that I would never experience. It showed up again last week when I thought about Bill Veeck sending up Eddie Gaedel, number 1/8, to bat.
(Bear with me a while, because I do have some more things to say here about baseball.)
There are a lot of people upset that the Cubs resigned Neifi Perez, and I am one of them. I'm not saying that Neifi is not a decent shortstop, and defensively he occasionally sparkles. It's just that what the Cubs desperately need are players that will produce more runs, and a shortstop with such a low on-base percentage and who hit into so many double plays without much pop in his bat leads to leaky lineups. I'm all for giving Hendry more time to see of what the bigger picture consists, but on the other hand, if the season started tomorrow, who would be the odds on favorite for starting at shortstop?
Rather than spend any more time rehashing a situation that is already getting an abundance of chatter, however, I'm going to offer several possible real explanations for the signing. I can't promise that they're all funny, but we'll do our best. (Thanks to some friends for chipping in a few of these, and I'd love to hear more, so if you've got one, drop it in the comments.)
McGraw had been a great friend of my father’s in the days when McGraw was managing the New York Giants and my daddy was president of the Chicago Cubs. Once or twice every season he would come to the house, and one of my greatest thrills would be to sit quietly at the table after dinner and listen to them tell their lies. McGraw had a little hunchback he kept around the club as a sort of good-luck charm. His name, if I remember, was Eddie Morrow. Morrow wasn’t a midget, you understand, he was a sort of gnome. By the time McGraw got to the stub of his last cigar, he would always swear to my father that one day before he retired he was going to send his gnome up to bat.
Well, I’m definitely all the way into the off-season doldrums. I don’t know if it’s like this for any of you, but days just don’t seem anchored correctly to me when there isn’t baseball. After a couple of weeks, I find myself wondering why I feel like I’m sort of drifting sometimes, and then I remember why I’m a bit off kilter.
It occurs to me (and to many of you who commented and e-mailed me) that I did not make my argument about the Tribune Company and the Cubs as clearly as I might have. In an effort to keep the brain from rusting up in the off-season, I’m going to take another stab.