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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Struck Strikes Out : May God and baseball show us the way

Friday, October 15, 2010

Despite all the hoopla surrounding the National Football League and America's passion for college football, there is no denying the intrinsic values and global impact of baseball - truly and forever our National Pastime.

Just this season, the game of baseball and its basic goodness has grabbed many of us by the heartstrings on several occasions when the Boys of Summer have stepped up to reveal an awareness and grasp of humanity that they aren't afraid to wear on their sleeves, or are too embarrassed to display publicly because it might not be "cool."

The first incident of Baseball Wonderful occurred when umpire Jim Joyce blew a game-ending safe/out call at first base that cost Detroit Tiger pitcher Armando Galarraga a perfect game.

After the game, Joyce took full responsibility while admitting he missed the call. He then said how terrible he felt and how he couldn't sleep for days knowing what he did to Galarraga and the game they so love and cherish.

Ironically, Joyce had the plate the next day and he wept as he took the field. Then, when Galarraga presented the umpire with the Tigers' lineup card at home plate before the game, Joyce and Galarraga shook hands, hugged as two men are wont to do, and Joyce gently clapped Galarraga on the shoulder as he went back to the dugout.

Joyce also apologized to Galarraga after the game the night before and hugged him in the lockerroom. The benevolent Galarraga said he was angry at first but after Joyce emotionally and sincerely apologized and the two men hugged, all was forgiven.

"I just cost that kid a perfect game," said a teary-eyed Joyce.

"The players are human, the umpires are human, the managers are human," a gregarious Tigers' skipper Jim Leyland said.

The second Baseball Wonderful incident happened during the recent National League Division playoffs between the winning San Fancisco Giants and Atlanta Braves and their legendary, retiring manager Bobby Cox.

Cox is calling it a career at age 69 and heads for the rocking chair as the fourth-winningest manager in baseball history (2,504 regular-season victories) but one major shortcoming on a record that will surely be good enough for the Hall of Fame. In 16 trips to the playoffs - one with Toronto, 15 with the Braves - Cox's teams captured only one World Series title, way back in 1995.

After the game won in the last inning, the San Francisco Giants couldn't wait to get to the champagne, to pop the cork on a celebration eight years in the making.

But first, antsy as they were, they had to pay their respects to the guy in the other dugout.

Bobby Cox's career ended when the Atlanta Braves lost to the Giants 3-2 in the deciding game of the NL division series, giving San Francisco its first playoff victory since a run to the World Series in 2002.

This most touching gesture was provided by the Giants, who quit jumping around in their frenzied celebration long enough for the entire team to stand silently for several minutes and clap for the teary-eyed Cox and tip their caps in his direction.

Grown men.

"He's a legend in this sport," Giant second baseman Freddy Sanchez said. "He's been a great mentor to so many people in the sport. We had to show our respect. First things first. Then we celebrate."

Cox was so moved by the gesture he couldn't discuss it without breaking down.

The third Baseball Wonderful incident came after the Texas Rangers beat the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League Division playoffs.

Like the victorious Giants reveling in a wild post-game victory celebration, the Rangers, too, "put a lid on it" with class and style and celebrated in the lockerroom with...uh, ginger ale.

What? No champagne and beer showers amidst a wild ruckus?

Maybe later.

Yes, the champagne was on ice, but first the AL West champions slipped on red t-shirts, fitted themselves with goggles and toasted the first playoff series victory in franchise history with plastic bottles of ginger ale.

The real bubbly flowed only after the Rangers' Josh Hamilton left the room.

The major league batting champion, who overcame alcohol and drug problems to revive his career, was moved to tears by the entire team's show of support.

"I'm speechless. This is so unbelievable," Hamilton said after the Rangers beat Tampa Bay 5-1 in the decisive Game 5 of the AL division series.

"For my teammates to understand why I can't be part of the celebration, for them to adapt it, it's amazing," he added, his lip quivering and tears filling his eyes.

Ah-h... Man's humanity to man cloaked within America's National Pastime.

I say, somebody make a video of these three magical baseball moments and market it worldwide.

And make sure the evil-doers like Bin Laden and Kim II-sung get one so they can finally see that maybe those "Ugly Americans" aren't too bad after all if their prized National Pastime can produce such poignant reminders that we're all in this together, and that living and loving supercede wars and killing.