Gone Too Soon
Jose Fernandez was a fantastic young pitcher for the Miami Marlins. I say was because, as you probably heard, he died last weekend in a boating accident off the coast of Miami. Fernandez’ story is an incredible one. As teenager, he escaped Cuba on a boat on his fourth attempt to do so. During the final trip, in the pitch black, someone fell overboard. Without knowing who it was, 15-year old Jose risked his life by jumping into the dark waters. As it turned out, the person he saved was his own mother. Eventually, Jose and his mother made it safely to the United States – and there found the freedom they sought. More than one writer has remarked on the irony here – Jose died in the same waters that provided him that freedom.
As a baseball fan, I will miss watching Jose pitch. Unlike many baseball players, Jose didn’t take anything too seriously. He understood baseball is a game, and games are supposed to be fun. My favorite Jose Fernandez moment was probably this one:
I have watched that 1,000 times, and it has never gotten old. As soon as I quite literally woke to the news of his death, I thought of that play. And 0f this:
I wish anything could get me that excited. Again, as baseball fans, we will miss not seeing what Jose might have become. No less than Pedro Martinez said this week that he saw Jose as having better potential than Pedro himself. That is high praise – and it’s not the inflated praise that is often heaped on a player after an early death. Jose was for real. His ERA+ was 150, which means he was 50% better than the league average. That’s the highest ERA+ of any pitcher with at least 70 starts since WWII.
His fastball touched 100. His breaking ball moved like this:
He made hitters look positively silly. But as I sat there early Sunday morning, watching and reading everything I could about Jose – his life, his death – I was struck by the very real emotion from those who knew him. People like Eduardo Perez on ESPN that morning (please watch).
I read stories about how fun he was to play with, like this story from Jayson Stark. I read stories about what a wonderful human being he was – like this story from Dan LeBatard, himself a Cuban-American and Miami native, about how respected and loved Jose was in the Miami’s Cuban community. I watched this video, the final pitch of his all too short career, with his mother and grandmother watching and celebrating. And I watched the emotion and pain in his teammates’ eyes on Monday, when Dee Gordon led off the team’s first game since Jose’s death with a home run – his first of the season and just the sixth of his entire career.
It all made me wish I had learned about this side of Jose under less tragic circumstances. I wish we had the pleasure of seeing Jose play baseball for many more years. And I wish his friends and family, and those who looked up to him and saw in him the personification of their dreams, didn’t have to feel the pain they feel at losing Jose, at losing that hope. Damn, this one really got to me. Rest in peace, Jose Fernandez. You will be missed. -TOB
PAL: News of Fernandez dying definitely got to me, too. On a human level, it was his joy. A kid playing a kid game game and dominating the best men on the planet. On a baseball level, it was his truly awesome talent. What’s more, he was well on his way turning that talent into greatness. Like a brilliant artist, writer, or musician dying too soon, the world is denied the pleasure of a prodigy mastering his craft. I know that sounds overstated, but he was on his way to being that great.
But, who knows, right? Life is cruel, not only tragically cruel. Maybe he blows out his elbow again in the next game. Or he just loses that electric stuff in a of couple years. That’s why most of all, his death got to me because of this:
TOB: Damn, that had my eyes overflowin’.
Vin Scully Takedown
Vin Scully is GREAT. He started broadcasting Dodgers games in 1950. In Brooklyn. He was the broadcaster for the World Series at the age of 25. People of Los Angeles have spent their entire lives with him. As babies, as teenagers, as college dopes driving home for summer. On the way back from the hospital with their first kid, driving away from funerals of parents. Setting out on a roadtrip to the to meet their first grandchild. There has been one constant in a Dodger’s fan’s life: Vin Scully. He has been in the homes and cars of L.A. for 67 years. That’s not a career, that’s a lifetime, and not just his.
Even that – even all of that – does not excuse what I’m about to show you:
00:14 – That mime hug. What a sweet, sincere, grandpa move. Oh, Mr. Scully. Picture of grace and humility. This is too perfect. The Dodger clinch the division on a walk-off home run. Sending out Scully in style.
01:00 – Scully thanking the fans: “Believe me when I tell you I’ve needed you far more than you’ve needed me.” Again, grace and humility. Class act beyond reproach.
01:18 – “Anyway, I wanted to try to express my appreciation to all the players, God bless them, and to all you folks here in the ballpark. It’s a very, very modest thing. I sang this for my wife…” Huh, Vin Scully is going to go out singing a song. That’s pretty cool!
01:40 – “You know the song. ‘The Wind Beneath My Wings’.” WHAT? Oh no, Mr. Scully.
01:53 – “I know it’s modest. I know it’s an amatuer. Do you mind listening?” He’s really going to sing Bette Midler. Don’t do it, man. Don’t sing for 50,000 fans. Not that song. Do ‘Take Me Out To The Ballgame’ or something like that. Come on!
02:01 – Look at all those young bucks down on the field for the Dodgers. They absolutely want to pay their respects. They understand how big of a deal Scully is. They also know there’s about 1,000 beers and champagne just waiting for them. They’re itching to RAGE CAGE. Just waiting for gramps to say his piece.
02:06 – Pre-recorded instrumentation kicks in. So…Scully is going to sing along with Bette Midler, or is this a karaoke situation?
02:20 – Whaaaa? So he wasn’t kidding when he asked the fans if they minded listening…to a recording of Scully singing this song as a much younger man. Seriously, this recording is no doubt from the 80s at the very latest. Also, I cannot believe what is transpiring.
02:24 – Hey, here are fans giving the ol Sign of the Horns while listening to a pre-recorded tape of Vin Scully singing ‘Wind Beneath My Wings’:
02:45 – Just a warm embrace between manager and player, while a pre-recorded tape of Vin Scully singing ‘Wind Beneath My Wings’ by Bette Midler plays after they clinched the division. No big deal. WHAT IS GOING ON?!?
02:57 – Scully is tearing up with his arm around his wife, and I feel like an absolute asshole. 67 years of work. The man can do whatever he wants.
03:25 – This guy, giving a misty-eyed salute to Vin Scully while a pre-recorded Vin Scully sings ‘Wind Beneath My Wings’ in Dodger Stadium…after the team just won the division. Is this dude attempting to hold his left hand over his heart? God, the Dodgers really are the worst.
05:09 – This song is still going on! A stadium is going to listen to a pre-recorded Vin Scully sing the entire song. Players getting restless. It’s time to rage, dammit. I ask again, WHAT IN THE HELL IS GOING ON?
05:41 – The song is wrapping up. Everyone applauds on a perfect, sunny afternoon in Los Angeles. Of course they are applauding Scully, but 10% of every fan is applauding that the collective awkwardness is over.
05:57 – Scully wave and wipes a tear. I am an asshole.
05:59 – The song is not over, but the champagne party has erupted on the field. This image is taking place while a pre-recorded Vin Scully singing ‘Wind Beneath My Wings’ by Bette Midler fades out in a stadium of 50,000 fans.
Wow. Just…wow. – PAL
TOB: Vin Scully is great, and by all accounts is a great person, as this story by ESPN’s Jayson Stark shows. And he’s an old, old man who gets to do whatever the hell he wants…but this was just sooooo awkward. My favorite part was the players on the field, who just wanted to party, man, waiting out this 5-minute song and then going bonkers before the track ends. I love that Vin isn’t really singing along.
Fan Sinks Pressure Put At Ryder Cup
It was a practice round – sure, but ‘daaaaaaaaamn, Daniel.’ So a heckler at the Ryder Cup got called out by the Euro team. Henrik Stenson calls the fan’s b.s., and bets the fan $100 to take the put if it’s so easy. Fan walks onto the green like a doofus and sinks a 10-12 foot putt in front of a packed crowd. Dude does his best Tiger celebration, then nails the interview afterwards with the kind of charm only found in the Midwest. “I closed my eyes, swallowed my puke, hit the putt and it happened to go in.” Nice work, random dude. Made $100 off of Henrik Stenson at the Ryder Cup. Pretty good bar story if you ask me. – PAL
Source: “American Fan At Ryder Cup Heckles Europeans, Gets Called Out To Putt For $100, Sinks It”, Samer Kalaf, Deadspin (09/28/2016)
TOB: This is hilarious and great, but I’d like to point out that the guy is from North Carolina, which is NOT the Midwest. You Midwesterners with your hella big egos wrapped in false modesty.
PAL: Wrong. He’s from Mayville, North Dakota. What’s that about egos now?
TOB: Ok, ok. I heard it wrong. I should have known he was from the Midwest because of his AWFUL fashion sense. Did you see that abominable Twins hat?
Sportswriters Are Weird
Very little amuses me more than “inside baseball” stories – and sportswriters writing about sportswriters is among the best. In this story, sportswriter Joe Lemire writes about sportswriters’ insane love for Marriott property hotels, and the accompanying obsession with Marriott reward points. I laughed a half-dozen times, at least.
Source: “Sportswriters Love Marriotts More Than You Love Anything”, Joe Lemire, Vocativ (09/23/2016)
PAL: Solid pull with this story, TOB. Never heard of Vocativ. Here’s my favorite quote from an unnamed baseball writer, which may as well be a radio spot penned by Don Draper:
“For me, the Marriott thing was about points, sure, but also familiarity after a while…When you’re on the beat you have no control over your life. News can break at any moment, you cover a game with no clock, you go to work not knowing what time you’ll be be done, you don’t know if the morning flight to Denver will leave on time. But dammit, I know where I’m sleeping tonight. I’m sleeping at a Marriott.’”
Marriott point earners sound a lot like people obsessed with frequent flier miles. Here’s a hilarious Judge John Hodgman podcast on the subject: http://www.maximumfun.org/tags/frequent-flyer
PAL Song of the Week: Creedence Clearwater Revival – “Hey Tonight”
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