Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Moment's Perfection. A Lasting Impact.

An obvious advantage of being at the tail end of a big family is the joy that is "hand me down" clothes.  Fortunately for me, among my five older siblings are two brothers.  An oversized head and epilepsy were enough for me to overcome as a kid on the playground.  Attending school wearing an older sister's jumper just might have been too much.   Thankfully, I never had to find out. 

A less-obvious advantage - at least in our baseball insane family - was picking up a love for the Great American Pastime from not only both of my parents but from my brothers and sisters as well.  I have loved baseball for as long as I can remember.  And for as much baseball as I have watched - and for as many plays at the plate as I have seen (not to mention the dozens in which I was involved while wearing the tools of ignorance in whatever adult softball league we happened to find ourselves playing in) - I have never seen anything quite like what Ichiro Suzuki of the Yankees pulled off in the top of the first inning on Monday night in Game 2 of the ALDS against the Orioles. 

Matt Wieters of the Orioles who is not only among the best catchers in Major League Baseball but at 6'5" and 230 pounds (without all of his gear on) is NOT a person that someone with Ichiro's build wants to run into under any circumstances, whether while motoring down the third base line or in a back alley, gave it one hell of valiant effort but ended up being "Posterized". 

Simply an amazing play by Ichiro.  I could not help but notice - as you might have also if you too are a baseball fan - that Ichiro pulled off baserunning perfection on the fifty-sixth anniversary of Don Larsen's perfect game, which Larsen pitched against the Brooklyn Dodgers in the fifth game of the 1956 World Series.  It remains the only perfect game ever pitched in the World Series. 

From afar, Larsen seemed to be an unlikely candidate to achieve baseball immortality.  He likely appeared equally ill-suited for it from up close as well.  He had pitched Game Two of the '56 Series against the Dodgers.  Not only did he not come achieve perfection, he failed to get out of the second inning.   He drove to the Stadium on October 8, 1956 not expecting to pitch.  On arriving at his locker, he was startled to discover a ball in one of his shoes.  That was how his manager, Casey Stengel, informed him that the start was his.  

On this past Monday, Larsen and his battery mate Yogi Berra appeared together at Yogi's Museum at Montclair State University to announce that Larsen is selling the uniform he wore on that magical afternoon fifty-six years ago.  Apropos of nothing - or perhaps not- the old battery mates are the last two surviving players from that game.  

Larsen's uniform is being sold on-line through an auction being overseen by Brandon Steiner.  Today is the first day that bidding is permitted.  Bidding shall remain open for fifty-six days (fifty-six being a number that seems to pop up more than once when discussing the history of the New York Yankees) until December 11, 2012.  While it is not known just what price it shall fetch, Larsen hopes that it garners somewhere in the neighborhood of $1 Million.  At age 83, Larsen has a specific purpose for whatever money he earns from the sale:  to pay for the college educations of his two grandsons, ages 20 and 14 respectively. 

Last weekend Larsen was interviewed - as he is annually in early October as the anniversary of his achievement approaches - and among the questions he was asked was whether he has tired of talking about that day five and one-half decades ago.  His answer was, "No.  Talking about it never bothers me. I wish everyone can have a day like that, no matter what they do in their lives."

A wish worth wishing.   Just ask Raul Ibanez


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