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Ken Griffey Jr and the Melancholy of Quitting

June 4, 2010

In April 1989 Vicki and I (not to be married for another four months) went to the home opener of the defending AL champion Oakland A’s. After years of mediocrity the A’s had made it to the World Series, where they lost to the heavily underdog Dodgers in five games. That was the Series that started with Kirk Gibson’s pinch-hit, how-could-he-hit-it-that-far-when-he-can-barely-walk home run off the almost unhittable Dennis Eckersley.

But all that was now forgotten as the A’s received their league champion rings and fireworks lit up both baselines into the outfield. That night they sent their ace, Dave Stewart, a 21-game winner, to the mound. Stewart was on his way to another 21-win season, and who better to open against than the mediocre Seattle Mariners.

In the first inning Stewart faced Ken Griffey Jr, still only 19 but making his MLB debut. Even in those pre-Internet, only-one-ESPN-channel days, there was considerable excitement about how good this kid might be. In his first at-bat against the league’s most intimidating starter, Griffey crushed a double into the gap. On a line. With authority. I looked at Vicki and said, “Good Lord, two years ago that kid was playing high school baseball in Ohio.” Or something like that. Talk about a future of unlimited promise.

This week Griffey retired. Now 40, he was hitting under .200 without a homer this year. It’s hard to remember that he hit 630 of them, without the benefits of steroids, and made it look easy. When your future is unlimited it’s hard not to disappoint, and mixed with the homages to Griffey this week (he “saved baseball in Seattle,” he “saved baseball after the ’94 strike,” etc) has been talk of what might have been. To some he made it look too easy–he didn’t work out enough, he didn’t study pitchers enough, he was too willing to run into fences instead of preserving his body. Despite all he did, there are still thoughts of what he didn’t do.

The hardest parts of being an athlete are having your skills decline at a young age, and in public view. Vicki and I have been married since 1989 and I’d like to think we’ve still got our best years ahead of us. I was three years into a teaching career in 1989 that still has miles to go and plenty of space for improvement. But for athletes it’s all over in a moment, and the arc of their careers finish at a lower point than they start from. Life is short enough if you think you’re getting threescore and ten, but elite athletic careers are shooting stars, gone before we know it.

At 47 I am now starting to realize that my own life, and body, and work, is an arc and not an arrow stretching interminably upward. I’m doing my damnedest to push back against the inevitable geometry, but Griffey reminds me this week that we all follow that path. Most of us do so quietly and without second-guessing. Best of luck to you, Junior, in the rest of your many days.


Glen invites the lawn folks to move down

May 21, 2010

“Now it feels like a gig!”


Soccer: the world’s game

April 10, 2010

Tonight I, an American, stood in a packed Irish bar watching a British broadcast of a Spanish soccer match (El Classico, Real Madrid v. Barcelona), and on the advert board next to the pitch in Madrid ran an ad for a web site where you could go to show your support for Qatar’s bid for the 2022 World Cup. Awesome.


Testing from iPhone

April 4, 2010

I want an easy way for blog posts to make it to my FB page.


Here I go again

March 31, 2010

I’ve started several blogs before, most successfully here. But I’m looking for one that allows me to easily post from my iPhone, and to link immediately to my Facebook page. WordPress lets me do that, and their blogs just look great.

What else is different this time? I’m writing this one on a plane from Raleigh to Atlanta, on my way to a quarterly business review with my little company, Vervago. We’re about to descend–time to post!


Moving On

August 30, 2009

To post more easily from my new iPhone, I am moving my blogging activity to I've only got three posts there so far, but hopefully I will add more soon. Thanks!

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Random Observations on the Way to Bucharest

May 29, 2009
  • I transfered at Heathrow, and the signs that direct you to the place where you fetch your luggage are labeled "Baggage Reclaim." Since the luggage was yours before the flight, that does make more sense than "Baggage Claim," which could be interpreted to mean you can grab whichever bags you'd like.
  • While even a 6-hour domestic transcontinental US flight won't serve more than a bag of peanuts in coach, my 3.5 hour British Airways flight from London to Bucharest served a hot meal and free beverages. Since I am a Liverpool fan, I opted for a Carlsberg.
  • Bucharest from airport to hotel provided similar views from my other trip to eastern Europe, Warsaw three years ago. There are some classic pre-war buildings, a lot of very bland Soviet-era buildings, and some post-1989 modern office towers, malls, etc. Lots of ads for web sites (ending with .ro), mobile phone companies, and the candidates running for the European Parliament elections on June 7.
  • My driver put on a station with songs sung in English, and at one point I heard Jai Ho, the theme from Slumdog Millionaire. I know the world is getting small when the first time I hear the English-language version of a song originally sung in Hindi, from a film about India made by a Brit, is in Romania.

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