When the Boston Red Sox won the World Series on Sunday evening, I (born and raised in Massachusetts) read story after story about the victory. Here’s a braggadocio sampling from The Boston Globe’s male writers:
— Dan Shaughnessy: "The Boston Red Sox have emerged as hardball monsters of the new millennium."
— Gordon Edes: "A minute that used to recur like a comet, once (every) 86 years or so and missed by generations of Red Sox fans, is now beginning to feel like a birthright."
— Bob Ryan, addressing Red Sox fans: "You’ve got the best baseball team in the world to call your own. There’s nothing wrong with just lording it over people."
Nothing wrong on ethical but also factual grounds? Events almost always seem inevitable in retrospect, but in the process, the imitation of life called baseball is regularly up for grabs.
Had Cleveland’s third-base coach made a different split-second decision at a crucial point near the end of the Red Sox-Indians series, the seventh and decisive game would have been tied, and all thereafter would have unwound differently.
Even the ninth inning of the last game of the Series yielded only a tiny difference between a Colorado player’s long fly ball caught against the wall — the Rockies’ last gasp — and a game-tying home run. Would a home run only have delayed, not forestalled, the Red Sox’s celebration? Probably, but not certainly.
So three cheers for the Globe’s female baseball reporter, Amalie Benjamin. She was in the Red Sox clubhouse while they were celebrating Sunday evening to record poignant words pouring out amid triumph, words many guys would not think fit to emphasize:
— Star starting pitcher Josh Beckett, speaking of his teammates: "This is for all the family. I know we spend more time together than with our family."
— Star closer Jonathan Papelbon: "I’m just glad that it’s over, we don’t have to play any more games. Relief. The stress and everything else that goes along with it."
— Star designated hitter David Ortiz: "You’ve got to feel proud of wearing this name on your chest. You’re good at something."
You’re good at something? That’s what emanates from a mountainous man at the mega-moment of success — not "I’m the greatest" for the cameras, but the child’s "good at something." That’s honest. We want to be certified as good at something, and perhaps justified.
Amalie Benjamin reported these comments and painted one scene: "Then came the moment. Royce Clayton, veteran of 11 major league teams, a late pickup by the Red Sox. A guy who had never won a championship. With his face twisted slightly, the emotion stark, he was pulled up on the table with the big names. With Beckett and Papelbon and Ortiz. Royce Clayton. He didn’t stay long, just enough to lead a cheer and step off the table, into a hug with Coco Crisp."
Clayton did not play in the World Series and will not be with the Red Sox next year.
Outfielder Crisp, who lost his starting position to a wondrous rookie, also may be gone.
He told reporter Benjamin, "Everybody’s jumping around, hooting and hollering. … It’s an amazing feeling. This is what everybody dreams of."
All dream of that amazing feeling, but it’s here today, gone tomorrow.
Exhausted Papelbon said, "I have nothing else to give." A famous hymn begins, "For all the saints, who from their labors rest." The hymn tells of weary warriors who finally have no more games to play or battles to fight. But it ends with lasting joy as heaven opens, and "through gates of pearl streams in the countless host."
Baseball imitates life, which itself is a shadowlands imitation of true life, as C.S. Lewis declared. In baseball, the stars, but also Clayton and Crisp, come streaming in. In true life, here come stars such as Moses and Paul, but also you and me?