Ending with a Bang: The Long Weary Road to the Last Out

One hundred years ago, on July 17, 1914, a weary baseball crowd at Pittsburg’s Forbes Field awaited the end of a very long game. For 21 innings the Pirates and the New York Giants battled it out. At last, Larry Doyle of the Giants sent a two-run shot over the wall bringing the game to a score of 3-1, devastating the remaining Pittsburg faithful. It had been a dreadfully long game. Pittsburg’s manager had long since been ejected for arguing a call. The mood was surely solemn. And to top it off, a storm was brewing above the city.

There would be no celebratory fireworks for the Pirates, but there would be an impressive light show when in what has to be the most spectacular baseball play of all time in the bottom of the 21st inning, New York outfielder John Joseph “Red” Murray caught a long fly ball for the third out and was simultaneously knocked unconscious by a lightning strike.

Evidently even God grows weary of baseball after a while.  photo credit: Michael Fienen via photopin cc
Evidently even God grows weary of baseball after a while. photo credit: Michael Fienen via photopin cc

I love baseball, though I’m not a great sports fanatic in general. I only know who won the world cup because my Facebook feed briefly became the hooligan section (Germany, right?). As much as I have tried for my husband’s sake, American football is just beyond me. And all I know about hockey and professional basketball is that they have ridiculously drawn-out playoff schedules that seem to stretch into the next regular season of play.

But baseball captures my attention. So I was thrilled when both of my sons, ages 6 and 9 decided they wanted to play this summer. My 9-year-old had some previous experience. Last summer he played in a non-competitive coach-pitch league where he made some friends, developed some skills, and had a pretty good time. And as a little kiddo he played on a tee ball team where the two biggest highlights of his season were losing a tooth in the infield and handing it to the nearest parent volunteer (who took it quite graciously I thought), and dumping a glove-full of grass on the head of a little girl who had just run to third.

Consider carefully before volunteering to help out with tee ball.  photo credit: courosa via photopin cc
Consider carefully before volunteering to help out with tee ball. photo credit: courosa via photopin cc

Unfortunately this summer hasn’t gone as well. This season we tried a different, competitive league. I’m certainly not opposed to competition. It’s important to learn how to both win and lose well. And the kids have done well will that. But what has broken my heart has been seeing the way that my son and his teammates have been crushed by frustrated and inconsistent coaching and by bad sportsmanship from both parents and coaches (on all the teams).

With only one game to go, we’re nearing the end of the season, and my son doesn’t want to go to practice and doesn’t want to go to the game. I’m going to make him, because it’s a good lesson in honoring commitments, even when it’s tough, but I get it. I don’t really want to go to the game either.

It hasn’t been all bad, of course. He has made some friends, gotten much better at spitting sunflower seeds, and has learned that even in the midst of endless innings stuck in the outfield and pointless arguments between hothead coaches and umpires who aren’t bold enough to toss said coaches from the field, there are bright moments.

His team isn’t going to win first place, but they are well over .500 and my son’s still thrilled when he manages to field the ball well or when he has a good at bat. But I’m also afraid that this kid, who loves to watch this sport as much as I do, may never want to try to play baseball again. Frankly, he’s weary. It’s been a dreadfully long season and going into the last game, against the best team in the league, the mood is solemn and a storm is brewing.

I sincerely hope the game doesn't get called for bad weather because then we'd have to play a make-up.
I also sincerely hope the game doesn’t get called for bad weather because then we’d have to play a make-up.

So although I sincerely hope that none of the players get struck by lightning (and I suppose no coaches or parents either because I am trying to model good sportsmanship), I do hope that there’s something in this last game that sparks his excitement for the sport again and provides him with a good memory to carry into next time.

Nothing will stop this man from catching a fly ball. By Bain News Service, publisher. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
NOTHING will stop Red Murray from ending a 21 inning game. By Bain News Service, publisher. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
I’m not sure that Red Murray remembered the game winning catch he made that day in Pittsburg, but his legend certainly lived on. And so did he. Rumor has it he even played in the very next Giants game. In my book that either makes him the most dedicated baseball player ever, or perhaps this the biggest tall tale in the sport. Either way it’s a good story with a great ending.

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8 thoughts on “Ending with a Bang: The Long Weary Road to the Last Out

  1. È sempre mais importante salientar o valor de cumprir os compromissos assumidos. O “competir” virá com a maturidade e a maturidade encarregar-se-á de dar um chute na timidez.Abraço brasileiro.

  2. A fun posting, Sarah. You had my attention with this sage observation: “Evidently even God grows weary of baseball after a while.”
    You don’t know about your boys. Kids can be amazingly resilient in dealing with adversity. What they need is a caring, knowledgeable, but tough coach.
    Sorry it hasn’t been a banner year for the Redbirds. My Braves can’t seem to find any kind of consistency.

    1. Thanks, Sam. He definitely hasn’t gotten as much from this season as any of us had hoped, but perhaps he’ll give it another go. As for my Cardinals, they’ve hit a few rough patches this season (most recently the loss of Molina, which hurts), but they are only a game out of first behind a Milwaukee team that appears to be in quite a slump. It’s probably a little soon to give up, especially given that in the past they have proven they handle adversity amazingly well.

  3. Ah, the American way to pass time. I admit that I don’t get it – to me the game is dreadfully slow and repetitive, with a lot of spitting and nodding boredom in the bullpen. I’ve spent years learning football and quite enjoy it, and the action of hockey keeps me engaged. I can watch tennis if the running commentary is interesting. But baseball … it provides monotonous static for napping through.
    However I’m confident your boys will have learned valuable lessons from this year’s experiences. If they enjoy going to games then their interest should keep growing. At least time in the outfield is good for deep pondering of life’s mysteries, if just thinking up novel ways to relate to the opposite sex using material at hand (grass, worms …).

    1. It’s not for everyone, I know. Just like my husband has come to accept that if I watch football with him, I will take a third quarter nap (and yes, this has happened in actual football stadiums as well as on the couch at home), but if the last two minutes matter, I will gladly smile and nod if he cares to explain to me why.

I love comments! Please keep them PG, though. I blush easily.

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