Bottom of the Ninth

Jim Coyle

I’m a fidgety guy. When I have to sit down, my feet start tapping and I look forward to when I can stand up and move around. Even when I’m absorbed by a great play or a film in a theater, I keep changing the positions of my arms and legs. When I give presentations or teach a class, I move around as much as I can (which fortunately is helpful for audience attention). I always need to be doing something. I rarely let myself unwind and relax – really relax.

It’s baseball’s World Series time here in the United States, so the sport is getting more press coverage than usual. Which got me thinking about baseball games I’ve attended – not very many – and how hard it’s been for me to be at the ballpark for seemingly endless games – no time limits, most of the time a relaxed pace compared to most other popular sports. Hard for a fidgety guy like me. A lot like Life, actually.

Even though I don’t know the intricacies of baseball, I know that something interesting, even game-changing, can happen with almost every pitch (and sometimes between pitches). In his Sunday column this week, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette executive editor David M. Shribman included a quote by sportswriter Paul Gallico that describes not only baseball, but Life itself:

The game is as full of surprises as a mystery play. The plot and its ending may be perfectly apparent up to the ninth inning and the last man at bat, and then with a stunning suddenness change entirely and go on to a new ending.

Today is the 50th anniversary of Game 7, the final game of the 1960 World Series, between the New York Yankees and the Pittsburgh Pirates. Shribman’s newspaper column recalled that season and the World Series as an exciting one for people in our area (Pittsburgh, PA, is the closest big city to me). And 50 years ago today, the Pirates’ Bill Mazeroski came to bat in the bottom of the ninth, with the Yankees ahead. Shribman writes:

We remember the late afternoon, late-inning drama. We remember the pitch, we remember the pop of the ball against the bat. We remember the way Yogi Berra watched the ball soar in an Oakland arc over the Forbes Field wall, the way Bill Mazeroski…held his hat on high – a moment of pure surprise, pure joy, pure exuberance captured unforgettably in a Post-Gazette picture…”

Photo by James Kligensmith, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

As you’ve read here on Vicki’s Voice, for Vicki and other people it appears that their lives are in the “ninth inning” and the “ending may be perfectly apparent” as Gallico wrote about baseball. But how life is lived to the end is not pre-determined. Every day, every moment – like every pitch in baseball – has potential to bring “a moment of pure surprise, pure joy, pure exuberance.” Such moments are treasures to be experienced.

On October 13, 1960, the Pittsburgh Pirates came from behind in the last inning of the final game of the World Series to win the championship over the mighty (then as now) New York Yankees. Shribman ended his column with:

Maz’s home run struck a blow we recall in legend and lore, but it did something more, something far more enduring. It proved a point for his time and ours. It’s never too late.

It’s Jim, Papa. I’m still here.

P.S. Today is my brother Tom’s birthday, and I wish him brotherly Blessings.

Link: David Shribman’s October 10 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette column.

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    • freda on October 14, 2010 at 9:59 am
    • Reply

    A ‘treasure’, thankyou.

    • Terri Shultz on October 15, 2010 at 4:12 pm
    • Reply

    Love this post… sweet it is…

  1. Lovely, James. Seems like I’ve been spending all my time on the sidelines, some days. But i make a darned good cheerleader!

    • Jim Coyle on October 26, 2010 at 10:57 am
    • Reply

    You sure are a great cheerleader, Vicki. But I can’t wait until you get your computer back from the shop so we can hear/read your Voice again!

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