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Friday, May 22, 2015

I wonder how he feels now

One of my favorite comedians is Larry Miller, who became popular with his stand-up routine The Five Levels of Drinking and went on to play many comedic and dramatic roles in films and TV. I subscribe to his weekly podcasts, and I'm reading his very funny book, Spoiled Rotten America: Outrages of Everyday Life in which he extols baseball.

And then tonight, during intermissions of a hockey game, I notice that Field of Dreams — another ode to baseball — is playing on a cable channel.

Around the 7th grade, I remember a phenomenal pitcher a year older than I. Let's say his name was Earl. Nobody could hit Earl, not even the best athletes who were (of course, in Alabama) the football players. I batted against him and couldn't produce so much as a foul ball. Earl had a fastball, a slow curve, a slider, a change-up, control... he had everything. I can't say for certain that he would have been the next Tom Seaver, but he was rapidly becoming a local legend.

And then came an accident. It was farm equipment, if I remember correctly. He didn't pitch again.

I wonder, when Earl sees baseball on TV today or reads a box score in a newspaper that still prints them, what runs through his mind. Is he sad? Is he bitter? Did he have those feelings at one time but overcame them? Does he look back at his talent as a short-term gift that provided immense happiness for a while, albeit not for long enough? I don't know how to get in touch with him, and I recognize that even if I did, attempting to do so would be unacceptably intrusive and insensitive. I can only hope that he thinks positively — and that he understands that some of us still marvel at his talent and wish we could have been like him, even for just one day.