“…you spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball and in the end it turns out it was the other way around all the time.”

So ended Jim Bouton’s classic “Ball Four,” the season-long diary of a big leaguer just trying to hold on after his best days had long passed.

Maybe that explains John Smoltz and Brett Favre.  Two future Hall of Famers who seemingly can’t let go, or so say fans and all the sportswriters and talking heads.

Johnny, we hardly knew ye.

Johnny, we hardly knew ye.

But they know something we don’t know.  They know what it’s like to put on a big league uniform and perform on a field for thousands of people.  They know what it’s like to compete at the highest level and win.  Of all of us who ever picked up a ball in one sport or another, they were among the miniscule percentage of the population who were good enough to make it to the top of their sports.

They don’t want to give it up.  Or, at the very least, they want to leave the field on their own terms (though so few do.)

Pretty in purple?

Pretty in purple?

I went to college with a guy who had a cup of coffee with the (then) California Angels.  A bunch of us went to see him play at Fenway, and he caught and hit a double that day.  He didn’t last long, and was understandably down about it.

But as we pointed out to him, he did make it.  He got to put on a big league uni and take the field.  Not for long, perhaps, but he did it.  And that’s more than the rest of us would ever do.  He, at least, had a taste.

Smoltz and Favre had the full course meal, and now they’re enjoying a nice after-dinner port.  Their legacies are secure.  They can do whatever they damn well please, and obviously, they’re out to please themselves and no one else. 

Lucky them. 

(Predictions:  John Smoltz will be a professional golfer in the next two or three years.  He’s that good.   And the Packers are going to absolutely kick the **** out of the Vikings.)


About Gerry

I've been covering Connecticut news and sports since 1974. I know, I don't look that old.
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4 Responses to Legacies

  1. Li'l Em-Kel says:

    I was real good basketball player as a kid. A bit below average in my NYC high school days. And an intramural slug in college.

    I believe virtually all American males, however athletically gifted, reach a point, as I did, where they have to admit, “I’m not that good. I can’t play with these guys.”

    I wonder if “these guys” (Smoltz, Favre and lots of other over-the-hill jocks) have the same epiphany. Maybe they just add the word “anymore” to the quote above – and feel just like I did watching freshman hoops practice at my college.

    You’re right, though. At least your college pal was a contendah.

  2. em kel is being modest. If memory serves, his high school was in the same league as Power Memorial. Where a kid name of Lew Alcindor played.

  3. Peter N says:

    Kareem! And Smoltz worked hard and long to try to get back to where he was. His body wouldn’t cooperate.
    It’s a wild card race for the Sox unless they catch an unforgettable fire. That’s what it would be but the pinstripers have too much starting pitching…this year. We’ll be there in October. I just know it.

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