Baseball Like Life

Those of you who’ve known me for a while know this story. Even if I’ve never told you directly, you know it because it’s in my skin. I wear it. I live it.

I tell it now because for me it explains baseball at its essence. And why when baseball goes away I feel adrift, no land in sight. I have to get my compass and reorient to north, to life. My heart is tied to baseball.

On October 9, 1979 I bore my first child after a difficult pregnancy that I didn’t know was difficult. I thought it was normal. Because I hadn’t traveled the road before. Millions of women had gone before me without whining, and I didn't want to be a baby. I said little. I just waited for my infant girl.

She came. Just at the moment I had a seizure followed by a cardiac event and a weeklong coma. I know these things because others told me when I awakened.

“My baby? Where’s my baby?”

She had died and I didn’t meet her. Never saw her.

It was a long time before I could inhale without doubling in pain. I was too young to know that life would march on and would hold highs in proportion to its lows.

It took a while to recover. Much time before I wanted to rejoin life. Even after Boy was born and I was ecstatic; it was in some ways more difficult to have missed Girl's short stay, I came to realize, as I played with his tiny toes.

I became accustomed to her leaving. It happened slowly. I almost didn’t notice that I didn’t think about her several times a day. But it was a nearly impossible climb into the reality that she never laid nestled in my arms.

Not once.

Will Clark ~ Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
On her tenth birthday, October 9th, 1989, I was at Candlestick Park, a spectator as the San Francisco Giants beat the Chicago Cubs to win the National League pennant for the first time since 1962. 

Sitting in the upper deck with a high blue baseball sky above me while the gods anointed my team as representatives to the World Series. Caps flew into the air as the radio broadcast was routed through the Sony Jumbotron screen and we heard Hank Greenwald shout, “27 years of waiting is over. The Giants have won the pennant.” My husband and I lifted our eight-year-old son onto his seat where he could stand for a better view of the hugging, yelling, jumping players in a dog pile on the pitcher’s mound.

They had done it. We had done it. Different victories, similarly sweet.

We had stood huddled beneath a temporary canopy to shield us from the pouring rain the day we buried Girl. Her small white casket lowered in the ground, a lambs wool bear tucked inside. We did not know what lay ahead for us. I didn’t think I'd again hear the sound of my own raucous laughter. Would breathe freely, tickled by the air.

Yet there I was, ten years later, my little family including a son I didn't know was waiting for me, jumping in unison with the team from our perch in the stands. We sang “Bye-Bye Baby,” wore team colors, and cheered till we were hoarse.

I didn’t need to look back on that day to see its irony, its metaphor. In the moment I stepped away from myself and watched it unfold; I wished Girl a silent happy birthday.

Life moves on, even when we’d give anything if it would only stop.

Bay Bridge Collapse ~ George Nikitin, Associated Pres
Baseball, like life, holds many surprises. Some of them leveling while others shoot us to the moon. A few days later an earthquake rocked the 1989 World Series; while there were deaths outside, Candlestick Park held baseball fans safely in her arms. 62,000 of us were defended by the old concrete lady. As she shook she grumbled, “I don’t care if you think I’m ugly, I’ll protect you anyway.” That she did. She didn’t tell us the City was on fire or a bridge to our north had collapsed. She didn't give a hint.

Baseball sent scores home from work early, avoiding peak commute at 5:04PM when the earth moved and there would no doubt have been more casualties. Fans had already taken their places on the sofa by the television while they awaited the game’s first pitch. Folks watched baseball, and baseball watched out for them.

Baseball. Life. One a microcosm of the other. 

Tomorrow a parade in San Francisco to celebrate the 2012 World Series win of the San Francisco Giants. An orange and black barrage of wildly enthusiastic Bay Area residents ready for pandemonium after a season of blows that spurred a tornado of wins and ended in a sweep of the opponent. Our baseball team had blown right back.

Then, the temperature will drop and days will grow short; baseball will fade into dormancy. From chaotic celebration to rest, reorganization, and preparation. From a hurricane to a quiet day with no news to report. Other pursuits and events will fill the void. Don’t know what those will be, what the future holds.

Inning to inning, day-to-day, life and baseball play out in flukes, serendipitous twists. We hold on through the bad breaks, savor a ball that sails out of the yard, hang in when a star player goes down, and when our spirits are as wreckage on the rocks.

Life keeps us in wonder even on its hardest days.

Baseball Annie Savoy
"I believe in the Church of Baseball."* Even when it seems my team doesn’t have a chance, or I don't, I know there's hope.  An unexpected turnaround. A rally. A win. A cheer. 

An alleluia.

Life's like that. That’s why you shouldn't leave the game early. Not till the last out. You just don’t know what lies ahead.

* Quote from Baseball Annie Savoy, "Bull Durham". With thanks to for the photo.


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