With Halloween rapidly approaching, many Americans are bracing themselves for both the unreal and the downright scary. For baseball fans, such preparations have probably been rendered unnecessary. They say if you watch baseball long enough, eventually you’ll see something that’s never happened before. Yet if you’ve been following baseball in the 21st century, you’ve already witnessed countless events that often seem to defy reality.
Consider that just last week the AP ran a story about the Boston Red Sox and their pennant-winning celebration after a brilliant come-from-behind series victory over the Cleveland Indians. The article read, in part, “Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Okajima stood on the Fenway Park mound, posing for pictures with Boston general manager Theo Epstein, a Japanese flag and the American League championship trophy.”
Can you imagine Boston fans in 1945 watching the Japanese flag being paraded around Fenway Park? The flag of Pearl Harbor, the Baatan Death March, Unit 731 (the Asian Auschwitz) and the rape of Nanking. Yet few back then (if any) could have known that Japan would go from Hirohito to Hiroshima to Hello Kitty in only two generations. One can only wonder what World War II veterans watching the aforementioned celebration in Boston must have thought. We are commanded by the Almighty to forgive. However, forgetting for many veterans (Allied or Axis) is just outright impossible.
And in a somewhat related issue, consider that in seeking still another foreign market, both the Red Sox and Yankees have established formal baseball relations with the Communist Politburo in Beijing – human rights be damned.
But that’s just a warm-up.
Consider that Red Sox outfielder Manny Ramirez brazenly declared “Who cares?” if the Red Sox lost during the Indians series. This from the showboating player who allegedly wears an iPod in the outfield during the games. Considering Red Sox tickets are now so expensive the USA Today reports some fans and their families have been reduced to attending AAA games at nearby Pawtucket, one can only marvel at fans who’ve lost so much respect for the game that they would tolerate a musical outfielder.
According to the press, New York Yankees steroid-plagued first baseman Jason Giambi reads Playboy during the games. In a bizarre coincidence, Jason signed his mega-contract with the Yanks on the very same day his brother Jeremy, also a player, was arrested for drug possession in Las Vegas. One New York tabloid carried both brothers’ eventful stories on the very same page. Talk about your bad omens.
The Yankees, locked in a bidding war with the Red Sox for East Asian pitching talent, wasted $46 million on Kei Igawa, a Japanese pitcher so terrible he was banished from the team and sent down to the minor leagues. This when the team could have signed former Yankee and All Star left-handed pitcher Ted Lilly, who practically begged to come back and pitch for the Yanks. Lilly instead signed with the Chicago Cubs, won 15 games and pitched his team to the playoffs. You’d expect better decision making from the franchise with both the highest equity value and yearly payroll. But this is postmodern baseball, where nothing succeeds like excess.
The Yanks’ star third baseman, Alex Rodriguez, was caught out with a stripper on the cover of the New York Post. “Stray-Rod” read the headlines. Undaunted, his wife showed up at Yankee Stadium sporting an “F-bomb” tank top in front of 50,000 people. Yankee general manager Brian Cashman was so undone by Mrs. A-Rod’s classy outfit that he failed to enforce Yankee Stadium’s obscenity laws, even though a small child was sitting nearby. What would Mickey Mantle and Mr. Coffee think?
Former Red Sox, Blue Jay and Yankee pitcher Roger Clemens, who made a pro-rated version of $28 million this past season, hurt his elbow (requiring a cortisone injection) because of blisters in his shoes. After more than 300 wins and 20 years of stardom in the Bigs, you’d think you could find the right cleats for a million dollars every six innings one time per week. This is the same Clemens who beaned and nearly killed former Met Mike Piazza before throwing a broken bat toward him during the World Series. Clemens explained to the entire known world that he threw the bat at Piazza because he “thought it was the ball.” OK? Remember Dodge Ball in gym class? Now we have Dodge Bat.
Cardinals outfielder Rick Ankiel, the new Roy Hobbs, reappeared on the Major League scene after missing several years and for a time in July became the most prolific home run hitter in all of Major League Baseball. Yet the former star pitcher soon came undone by HGH steroid allegations. Ankiel took HGH as prescribed by his doctor after major surgery. One can only wonder how he feels now that Indians pitcher Paul Byrd, also an HGH user, announced only days ago that he has developed a tumor on his pituitary gland.
Yet none of these things, strange as they are, can even remotely approach that which will forever haunt the Red Sox, Fenway Park, the city of Boston as well as countless millions of fans across America and the world. It seems that former Red Sox great Ted Williams, “The Splendid Splinter,” a former World War II and Korean War fighter pilot and the last man to hit over .400 in a single season, had his head cut off and frozen.
According to an AP story, “Ted Williams was decapitated by surgeons at the cryonics company where his body is suspended in liquid nitrogen. … The operation was completed and Williams’ head and body were preserved separately. The head is stored in a steel can filled with liquid nitrogen. It has been shaved, drilled with holes and accidentally cracked 10 times, the magazine said. Williams’ body stands upright in a 9-foot tall cylindrical steel tank, also filled with liquid nitrogen. The procedure, approved by Williams’ son, John Henry, and daughter, Claudia, carries a $136,000 bill.”
Kevin Kiernan of the New York Post described this as a “macabre” scene that was “something out of a Stephen King novel.” Incidentally, eight of the 182 DNA samples taken of Williams have gone missing. One can only wonder if Williams, echoing the hopes of Walt Disney, will one day be revived, cloned or has finally come to understand that a perfect home of eternal life had already been prepared for him.
For now, we are only left with the postmodern version of Washington Irving’s eerie tale, wondering what the baseball gods will bestow upon us this Halloween, and beyond, as the ghost of the Headless Batsman rides through New England.
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