Now that I think about it, it’s a bloody good thing Fred Merkle, Freddie Lindstrom, Ernie Lombardi, Mickey Owen, Ralph Branca, Gene Mauch, Leon Durham, Don Denkinger, Donnie Moore, Bill Buckner, and Mitch Williams didn’t live in the cyberspace era. Not to mention too many Cubs, Red Sox, Phillies, and St. Louis Browns.
At least they had to wait for the next newspaper editions to suffer the sewage thrown their way for committing their immortal sins. They didn’t have Twitter feeds or Internet forums to explode with the sort of insults that would have been considered obscene in Larry Flynt’s playroom.
Trent Grisham doesn’t have their temporary luxury. And if Joe and Jane Cyberjerk had their way, the only luxury he’d have would be a coffin, the sooner the better. Just look him up on Twitter. At the minute I sat down to write the cyberjerks didn’t quite out-number those looking to give the Brewers’ rookie a hug, but they were as nasty as the year is long and Grisham’s off-season will be longer.
The goat business still does booming business even though it should have long, long gone the way of the buggy whip, the stove iron, and the autogyro. Maybe there’s no point asking when they’ll ever learn. Two more laws of sports remain impervious to sense: 1) Somebody has to lose. 2) Too many people think losing a game equals moral failure, if not terpitude.
All Grisham did with the Nats having the bases loaded and two out in the bottom of the eighth was scamper in from deep positioning in right field, get his glove down to cut off Juan Soto’s frozen rope single, and watch the ball skip to his right unexpectedly and behind him, ending any prayer he had of keeping the Nats from doing anything worse than tying the National League wild card game.
He didn’t start the Civil War or leave Mrs. Lincoln to answer questions about the play. He didn’t lead the Sand Creek massacre, sink the Titanic, assassinate Archduke Ferdinand, start the Chicago Fire, order the St. Valentine’s Day massacre, or found the Soviet Empire. He didn’t bomb Pearl Harbour, plot the Holocaust, or build the Edsel. He didn’t assassinate two Kennedys, a King, or a Beatle, blow up the Challenger, shoot down Korean Air Lines Flight 007, level the World Trade Center, or create New Coke, either.
So tell us, Joe and Jane Cyberjerk. Be honest for once. And can it with the “my five year old would have come up with that ball!” crapola, while you’re at it. That theme’s been beaten to death and back more than a bazillion times. Even the simplest plays turn rotten through no fault of a human’s own. And you don’t know whether your five year old would have come up with Soto’s single.
Now tell us: Would you have been willing to go to work in front of 55,000 people right there in your office, and a few million more watching you on the flat screen, or listening on the radio, and take the risk that one errant baseball skipping away from your properly positioned glove in right field would ruin your day? If not your team’s? Your year? And several more to come?
I didn’t think so.
There isn’t a baseball team alive or dead that failed to understand that nothing’s guaranteed even when you’re strong enough to guarantee it. The biggest braggarts the game’s ever known know in their heart of guts that the minute the umpire hollers “Play ball!” all bets are off, all boasts are void, and from the first pitch to the final out nothing’s given except that someone wins, someone loses, and anything can happen in between—and often does.
Bigger game than Merkle, Lindstrom, Lombardi, Owen, Branca, Mauch, Durham, Denkinger, Moore, Buckner, and Williams have come up fatefully short on the game’s biggest days and nights.
Or did you forget Babe Ruth being foolish enough to try stealing second with the Yankees down to their final out of the 1926 World Series but with Bob Meusel at the plate and Lou Gehrig on deck?
Did you forget Robin Roberts missing a pickoff sign and throwing right down the pipe to Duke Snider, his kishkes saved when Richie Ashburn playing shallow nailed Cal Abrams at the plate, letting the Phillies’ 1950 Whiz Kids live long enough for Dick Sisler to hit the pennant-winning home run?
Did you forget Willie McCovey hitting a speeding bullet of a line drive that would have blown anyone else’s brains out but somehow caught Bobby Richardson with a bulletproof vest (well, glove) ending the 1962 World Series?
Did you forget Carl Yastrzemski popping out against Goose Gossage with two on despite the chance to yank the Red Sox back from the dead instead of ending the 1978 American League East tiebreaker game?
Did you forget Tommy Lasorda thought it was secure to let a relief pitcher pitch to Jack (The Ripper) Clark with first base open and the Dodgers one out from the 1985 World Series, only to watch Clark hit a glandular three-run homer and the Dodgers have no answer in the bottom of the last?
Did you forget Dennis Eckersley hanging a slider to Kirk Gibson to end Game One of the 1988 World Series?
Did you forget Mariano Rivera throwing Luis Gonzalez the one cutter that didn’t cut but did cut the Yankees down for keeps in the 2001 World Series? Or having no answer when Dave Roberts broke for second with the Red Sox three outs from being swept out of the 2004 American League Championship Series?
Maybe only Hall of Famers have any business coming up short in the biggest hours. One and all of the foregoing errant Hall of Famers were allowed to go forward with their Cooperstown careers. Except that they weren’t yet Hall of Famers when those horrors beset them.
Or maybe Ruth, Yastrzemski, Lasorda, Eckersley, and Rivera had a license to shake it off because they’d been there, done that on the big stages.
Maybe rookie outfielders who enter a wild card game after committing no errors in 70 outfield chances during 42 regular-season games don’t have any business getting a glove down only to see the ball behave like a Super Ball for a split second and escape like Bugs Bunny outwitting the witless Elmer Fudd yet again.
Maybe they make it too easy to forget relief pitchers brought in to shoot for six-out saves but having enough less of their usual command to load the pillows for the Sotos in the first place. Lucky for Josh Hader. His pleading Tuesday night’s disaster was on him wasn’t half as much fun as sending Grisham to the stockade.
Or maybe Thomas Boswell was right thirty years ago, lamenting Donnie Moore’s suicide, when he wrote, “The reason we don’t forgive you is that there’s nothing to forgive.” And maybe Joe and Jane Cyberjerk picked the wrong day to miss their second grade teacher’s having that in her lesson plan.
Almost to a one, Grisham’s Brewers teammates got to him as fast as they could in the Nationals Park visitors’ clubhouse and let him know they had his back. Grisham himself made it even easier. He didn’t flinch from even the most ridiculous questions after the game. He answered honestly, candidly, making no attempt to blame anyone else or anything else. Obviously he wasn’t raised to become an American politician.
For that his Wikipedia page got vandalised, too. It only began with inserting parenthetically, next to his name, “AKA ‘Bill Buckner’ and ‘Helen Keller Player of the Year’.” How about awarding Joe and Jane Cyberjerk the Howitzer Prize for Extinguished Commentary?