Saturday, December 15, 2007
When things get spinning too far out there, it's important to remind ourselves that there is a way to reel them in. I offer up the myth of the eternal return. Sure it goes by other names, but just when we think that all is hopeless, a way out appears. It's like the musicians who keep coming back to the blues for grounding. Baseball will certainly survive it's current malaise because the game has always been bigger than the individuals or the accomplishments of a few individuals.
Willie Mays' famous catch from the 1954 World Series works as an appropriate metaphor here. Aside from immortalizing both Mays and Vic Wertz, the Cleveland Indian who hit the drive, this perfect moment in time reminds us that the ball doesn't always drop. In this case, it ended up in the basket; then Willie turned and threw back to the infield in one fluid motion.
We'll get the the ball back in time.
Some years ago I had a perfect moment with Willie Mays myself. I was passing through Sacramento and the California State Fair was going on. I stopped by the racetrack to visit some friends in the press box. Being a correspondent for the Blood-Horse magazine at the time, my credentials allowed me access to the entire facility. As luck would have it, both Willie Mays and football great Johnny Unitas were appearing between races signing autographs. This fan promotion ended shortly before I made my trek to the press box. Climbing up a private staircase underneath the grandstand I noticed that Mays and Unitas were walking a few steps in front of me. I've always wanted to meet Willie Mays; he was my first idol. I wanted to tell him how my dad and I had searched all over L.A. to find a Willie Mays glove and were finally successful the summer of my tenth year. I'm convinced it helped me make many nice catches, including one home run theft in a championship Little League game. Yet, I hesitated. I knew that star athletes grew weary of autograph seekers. I knew that Willie might turn me down and even gripe at me. It was too much to risk. I decided to settle for just being in his presence. Fate handed me this moment and I made the most of it. No regrets. My relationship with Willie Mays remains intact.