Friday, October 30, 2009

The old men in the World Series: Autumn has arrived: Former Royals drive Phils

What we saw last night in Yankee Stadium is a perfect example of the beauty of baseball.

Because baseball is organic, because it has seasons, because players have lifespans within the game, baseball is a perfect subject for novel writers. Players emerge in the game as boys, mature, become men, and leave the game as old men, sometimes staying too long, rarely leaving too soon.

In baseball we see the new tender leaves sprout and we see the leaves fall.

And so last night we witnessed the very nature of aging, of growing old. And at times it made us cheer. It also reminded us youth does not last forever, and our strength and wiles have their limits.

For five innings, Pedro Martinez defied age. Even without a major-league fastball, the old man struck out eight Yankees using precision and wisdom. His performance was something old men could cheer.

And then his house of cards came crashing down. We knew it would; everybody in Yankee stadium knew it would. But it was reassuring to watch as long as it lasted and it was the sort of drama only baseball can bring.

Then the masterful Rivera came on and, uncharacteristically, got in trouble and we were reminded again "after all he is 39 years old." He managed to escape but it is clear even number 42 can't defeat age.

I think we see two kinds of age. Physical Age is a force of nature. We can try, medical science can try, but Physical Age will win. Mental Age is something else. Mentally, we can push back against nature. Perhaps our spirit is even ageless.

I remember walking away from our last 60-and-over ball game this fall on a disappointing damp wet night. The boys (perpetually of autumn) were saying their goodbyes, see you next springs. And they were talking to each other about what they would do this winter to get ready, to be better. They talked of lifting weights and jogging and -- above all else -- of being twenty pounds thinner when the sun comes back and the leaves are tender. Sixty-some years old and we're still thinking about getting better.

We, no doubt, watched those two aging pitchers last night with special joy.

And, some of us made arrangements for batting practice this weekend.

PPS: Tom points out how much fun it is to watch Charlie Manual manage a team old-school style, and I agree. He may have made the classic mistake of riding the horse one inning too long, but still I like to see a manager who smiles once in a while and lets the boys play a bit. Younger managers seem much more like control freaks. Of course, my favorite manager is in John R. Tunis' World Series -- a player-manager battling his own age issues.

I almost forgot to mention Matty Stairs, as well. Can't catch up to the fastball, Joe Morgan said (over and over). Hmmmm... Think he had the only Philly RBI, didn't he?

And how much would you give to go back in time and reverse the stupidity of letting Raul Ibanez leave? Come to think of it, former Royals accounted for the only run Philly scored last night. Makes you proud, eh?


1 comment:

  1. It was fun to watch,I thought another old man had something to do with the game too. I have come to really like Charlie Manuel but he may have severely influenced his team's chances to take a commanding lead last night. Pedro had taken things as far as he was going to go but he stuck with him, probably an inning too long. Ah well, its a good series so far, great pitching match ups.

    Hit it hard John...battle on.