I have made some promises in my life, and one of them is to avoid talking about sports too often in this blog. The last thing I want to do is turn this into a forum in which people will feel like engaging me in a discussion of Who Is The Best Outfielder Available In A Trade For The Orioles or Whether The Ravens Can Repeat Their Super Bowl Victory or, worst of all, Here Is Why Nascar Really Is A Sport And All Its Drivers Are Too Athletes!
No time for all that. And any time I talk about sports, I try to avoid deep discussions of what happened in the games anyway. The people who play the games know what they are doing, much better than "Joe from Overlea - first time caller!" who seems to be on every sports talk radio show in town.
It's the people inside the uniforms that are darting about the field that I like to think about. For instance, one outfielder that I wish the Orioles could have added to their roster in the 1970s was the man born John Milton Rivers, but better known as Mickey.
I always wondered whether "Mick The Quick" was, indeed, named for English poet and polemicist John Milton. You have to be careful, though. I once knew a dude whose first and middle names were Chester and Arthur. I asked him if he had been named for the president, and he said, "Which one?"
Mickey Rivers, to get back on topic, was a pretty good leadoff hitter for the Angels, Yankees and Rangers during his 14-year big league stay (1970-1984). He was not the perfect leadoff man, because he didn't get many walks, thereby reducing his on-base percentage, but he could steal bases when he did bat his way onto first, and he could dart across the field and catch long flies with the best of them.
But why is he so fondly remembered? He is remembered for the things he said, and for the jaunty nonchalance he brought to life. Teammate Sandy Alomar called him "The Almighty Tired Man," and can you imagine a cooler nickname than the one Mickey used for everyone whose name he couldn't recall: "Gozzlehead"? A writer once said Mickey looked as if he had been assembled from spare parts; he had a way of walking like a string puppet, and he always seemed to be leaning forward, no matter whether he was running, walking or standing. And, he claimed many times that his plan for how to spend his days once he was through playing ball was that he wanted to be a bus driver. There is no indication that he achieved that goal, but take a moment and revel in the casual wisdom of the man who left us with these quotes:
"Me and George and Billy are two of a kind."
To Reggie Jackson, after Reggie claimed to have an IQ of 160:
"Out of what, a thousand?"
"It was so cold today that I saw a dog chasing a cat, and the dog was walking"
"Pitching is 80% of the game and the other half is hitting and fielding"
On playing in Texas: "I was brought up in Florida, so there isn't much difference between playing there and playing here. The climax are about the same."
And, the greatest of them all, a quote that distills all the wisdom in every self-improvement book that Barnes & Noble ever sold:
"Ain't no sense worrying: If you have no control over something, ain't no sense worrying about it -you have no control over it anyway. If you do have control, why worry? So either way, there ain't no sense worrying."
Learned men and women have spent countless hours trying to get that point across to us, in words far too thick to understand. They would have done better to just listen to Mr Rivers.