SURE, THERE'S CRYING
IS THERE CRYING IN BASEBALL?
WELL, THIS IS A NEW YORK METS
FAN IN MORTAL GRIEF!
Hate watching grown men cry? Then avoid baseball.
By MAURY ALLEN
Tom Hanks, playing the role of an alcoholic former star player turned World War II manager of an all girls baseball team in A League of Their Own, reminds his players--Madonna, Geena Davis, Rosie ODonnell and company--Theres no crying in baseball.
He may have gotten it right in Saving Private Ryan, Sleepless in Seattle, Big, Philadelphia, and Splash, but he sure got it wrong in the lady baseball epic.
Theres crying in baseball. Tons of it. By just about everybody.
On the last day of the regular baseball season in New York, the third year manager, Willie Randolph, could have filled a bucket of balls with a torrent of tears.
And the fans?
Wow. Shea Stadium was, for crying out loud, the crying capital of North America as old kids and young kids, black kids and white kids, gals and guys filled their handkerchiefs with the frustration of the Mets.
So many people are now walking around New York City with paper bags over their faces or dark glasses covering their eyes on cloudy days. Why? Because most Mets fans are now in the Mets witness protection program, afraid to be seen publicly, for fear Yankee fans and others will embarrass them with ridicule.
Mickey Owen cried in 1941 when he allowed Hugh Caseys curve ball or spitter to escape his glove and the Yankees rallied for a 3-1 Series win and the next days triumph.
Cal Abrams cried when he was thrown out at home in the last game of the 1950 season as those dreaded Phillies outlasted the Dodgers for their first pennant in 35 years.
Ralph Branca cried when Bobby Thomson did that dirty deed in 1951 and snatched a Brooklyn triumph out of the jaws of inevitability.
The first big crying jag in baseball that I personally witnessed occurred October 13, 1960 when the Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the New York Yankees in the seventh game of the World Series on the games first Series walkoff homer by Bill Mazeroski.
As the season winds down to the precious few, it is a good bet that as the late games of October or the possible games of November are played, there will be lots of crying in baseball. A relief pitcher gives up the game-winning homer. A ground ball (a la Bill Buckner who never cried) slithers under a players leg. A .300 hitter and 100 RBI guy takes a called third strike with the tying run leading emotionally off of third base.
Players cry in the dugouts, in the ramps leading to the locker rooms, in their clubhouses alone from the media and late at night in the solace of a soothing drink at the neighborhood bar.
In the 1960 Yankee loss, Mickey Mantle, the home run king, the Hall of Famer, the tough guy Yankee with the adoring crowd, bawled his head off in the crowded, sticky, smelly visiting team clubhouse at long gone Forbes Field.
Legend had it that Mickey was so distraught at the bitter loss that it all came pouring out of him in tears. It was a tough loss, the seventh Series game always is, and Mantle was as emotional a player as there was. But that was not why.
His humanity caused him to break down.
In those faraway days the media was still allowed to hang around the now off-limits training room, watch as players were bandaged up, chat with sore-armed pitchers and console losing players that you might even care about.
When I entered the small room, shortstop Tony Kubek lay on a long table. Blood dripped from his neck and a towel covered most of the area. It was red with Kubeks blood.
In the eighth inning of that game, Kubek was hit in the throat by a hard ground ball off the bat of Pittsburgh centerfielder Bill Virdon, later a Yankee manager. It knocked Kubek to the ground. He was helped to his feet by trainer Gus Mauch and examined inside the locker room by local doctors.
The game ended with that dramatic blow by Mazeroski and the press was admitted inside the Yankees clubhouse in a few short minutes. Kubek was still on that table when I entered the room and the flowing blood made me ill. Mantle walked in just behind me.
He took one look at Kubek and burst into tears. This was a pal, a teammate, a longtime friend and his health meant an awful lot more than the loss of a baseball game, even a Series game.
Five years later Kubek was out of the game. He was not yet 29 years old
I remembered that scene for a long time afterwards, Mantle told me years later. It just broke my heart to see Tony like that.
Baseball is a game of much sadness. Three successes out of 10 chances at the plate make you a star. One wrong pitch after 20 victories make you the goat of a town.
Tom Hanks may not think there is crying in baseball. Let him watch a team blow a pennant or another team blow a Series in a few weeks. Let him see a serious injury.
You bet theres crying in baseball. It wouldnt be inaccurate to change the name of the sport to the Crying Game.
©2007 by Maury Allen. The Maury Allen caricature is ©2001 by Jim Hummel. The illusration is from IMSI's Master Clips Collection, 1895 Francisco Blvd. E., San Rafael, CA, 94901-5506, USA. This column first posted Oct. 5, 2007.
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