Monday, April 13, 2009

4/13/09 - COL 0, @ CHI 4 - "Nick, Harry, and The Bird"

The Rockies stunk today, so there’s not a whole lot about the game I really care to talk about. It’s embarrassing to get one-hit, and the Rox were extremely lucky that wasn’t a 10-0 loss with all the runners the Cubs left stranded. But again, as with the Phillies series this past weekend, the Rox are playing against a better team and have to play really good baseball to win. Throwing away an inning-ending double play ball, walking nine hitters, and only getting one goddamned hit (with a tip of the cap to Harry Doyle)? Not good baseball.

Tomorrow’s an off day, and already it seems the Rox could use it – a mental health day of sorts, to get their bats back on the right track. After what happened today – and what’s happened this past week – it seems all of baseball could use a mental health day. Regardless of what your team’s done on the field, this baseball season has been blackened by off-field tragedy.


I didn’t know what to say about the tragic death of Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart when it happened. I’m always affected far more than I feel like I should be when a professional athlete dies in the midst of their career. The fact that Adenhart was coming off the best outing of his young career made it all the sadder – it only highlighted just how special a talent he was. When talent like that is struck down, it’s all of baseball’s loss.

But then I noticed his birthdate on his Baseball-Reference player page: August 24, 1986. I was born just under one month later.

Nick Adenhart and I, I’d imagine, didn’t have a great deal in common – not a hometown, certainly not a fastball. But it’s not hard to look at Adenhart – and other players of his age and mine coming through the big leagues – and see a part of myself, growing up at the same time and dreaming the same dreams, wanting nothing more than to play baseball my whole life.

Nothing confronts me with mortality more aggressively than the death of a young athlete – the ones who carry the torch for me and a thousand other dreamers, the ones who seem untouchable. If they – the chosen few, the luckiest – can see their life ended far before their times, then…


In college I would amuse my friends in the sports department at the radio station with the only two broadcaster impressions I could do. One was Howard Cosell. The other was Harry Kalas.

I mean… how could you not love Kalas, the voice of the Phillies, NFL Films, the Puppy Bowl, Chunky Soup, and many other things that were enriched by his one-of-a-kind voice? Voices like his are the ones that constantly fill me with both the self-doubt that I’ll ever be even a fraction as good and the inspiration to strive for those heights in the business.

Harry Kalas died in the broadcast booth before a game today. Shane Victorino pointed to the booth in his honor after hitting a home run in the fourth inning. Maybe it’s insensitive to say it, but that’s certainly a way I’d want to leave this Earth, and a more humbling tribute from your beloved team I could not imagine. Every broadcaster should be so lucky.


I wasn’t alive in 1976, but had I been, I have to think I would have LOVED Mark Fidrych. I certainly loved to read about him, and hear stories about how he was so beloved at Tiger Stadium that he couldn’t leave the ballpark without doing laps around the field to acknowledge the screaming masses. Every Fidrych start was a Jonas Brothers concert on a diamond, transforming Detroit baseball fans to giddy pre-teens.

There was a certain tragedy about Fidrych’s career, of course – after that supernova of a season in 1976, he battled injuries and was never the same, leaving the bigs for good after 1980. But by all accounts, ‘The Bird’ was the least affected by the premature end to his career. He took the ride as long as he could and got every last drop of joy that he could from the game. When it was over, it was over.

By all accounts, Nick Adenhart, Harry Kalas and Mark Fidrych were great men, period, not just great baseball men. Baseball needs all the people like them that they can get, and in a five day span baseball lost all three. It’s the sort of cruel injustice that trivializes things like the size of the strike zone in this afternoon’s Rockies game.

I hope by Wednesday I’m ready to get back to caring how the Rockies do. Today, I can’t say I did.

No comments:

Post a Comment