Thursday, September 2, 2010

I See Dead Peepholes

I am not claiming any psychic or metaphysical powers here, and I know it might seem a little spooky to be going where I'm going here.  But here I go.

This has happened far too often to be anything less than weird.  It just seems that many times when I think of someone I haven't thought of for a while, they wind up on the no-longer-in-existence list.  The most recent example is baseball player Bobby
"The Giants Win The Pennant!"
Thomson.  His career, though long and fairly productive, is chiefly recalled for one single swing of the Louisville lumber - a three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning that gave the 1951 New York Giants the pennant over the Brooklyn Dodgers.  The Dodgers had been 13 games ahead in the pennant race and then the Giants overtook them at the end with Thomson's epic homer.  It had all the elements of baseball that appeal to me - a grey October day in an old long-gone ballpark, a homer hit by a man in baggy flannels and no batting helmet.  And the Brooklyn pitcher threw the pitch that Thomson hit was Ralph Branca, who is now remembered for lugubriously chanting, "Why me?  Why me? Why did it have to be me?" after the game.  

The Scottish-born Thomson played 15 years in the major leagues, ending his career going hitless in six at bats for the Orioles in 1960.  But, like being Britney Spears's first husband, nothing he ever did after that brought on quite so much adulation.  He retired and, in the manner of athletes of the days before they earned 274 million dollars the day they signed their first contract, thereby obviating any contact with the work world forever, went to work as a paper salesman, and was also available to hire out as an autograph show tandem attraction along with Branca, who, one imagines, was somehow able to pick up the shattered pieces of his career and write his name on baseballs along Thomson's.  

So avid was my interest in Thomson's moment in the sun and the cast of characters in the game that day that I have made it a point to read as many books, articles and bubble gum cards on the topic as I could find.  A fine author named Joshua Prager wrote a book about it called "The Echoing Green," which details allegations of cheating and sign-stealing by the Giants (Thomson denied repeatedly having any idea what kind of pitch Branca was about to throw on 0-1). That's something I love about sports - one pitch, one swing, one play, can reverberate for decades.  I was 4 months and 4 days old when this happened, so of course I knew nothing of it at the time.  But with this interest, I found it curious that on vacation a couple of weeks ago, I saw a book about the argument some people are having over who has the actual baseball that Bobby sent on a line over the disappointed head of Dodger left fielder Andy Pafko.  I thumbed through the book, but decided not to buy it for now.  And I stood in the bookstore and wondered how Bobby Thomson was doing - hadn't heard his name mentioned lately.

So the next morning, I picked up the papers, and there was the headline in the New York TIMES, announcing that Thomson was now on the big baseball team up in the sky.  

I feel sometimes like I have one of those goggle-eyed peepholes that lets me look out and see things...but I don't know what I'm seeing at the time. I know this happens too much, and it does dawn on me that many people scamper across my consciousness and live for decades thereafter, but it feels so eerie to be Mr Predicto.   

Hey! I wonder how Osama Bin Laden is doing these days!

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