Goodbye Old Friend

Written in November of 1991.

It was about seven months ago.  The days were getting longer and the sun was getting hotter.  The snows of winter had said their goodbyes, and the blossoms of spring said hello.

It was seven months ago that the old mitts were dusted off and the stadiums were cleaned off.  Men eagerly reached for their baseball bats.  They dusted off home plate and put the bags in their place.

It was seven months ago when men started playing a game that plays out mens’ dreams on a field of green, brown and white.  26 teams took out their uniforms.  26 teams all started out even, seven months ago.  It was seven months ago when the man in blue yelled, “Play Ball!!”

For seven months the Orioles, the A’s, the Mets, the Padres and 22 other teams would play a sport of beauty and grace.  On any given day you could find the game being played.  Every day had a new hero.  Every day the old man would move closer to a record.  Every day a rookie made a better name for himself.

Much happened in 162 games.  Nolan Ryan had a no-hitter for the seventh time.  Ricky Henderson becomes the new stolen base leader.  David Cone strikes out 19.  Cal Ripkin Jr.  has a career year as he passes his 1500th straight game played.  Ottis Nixon would get suspended for drugs in a pennant chase.  An umpire would get shot trying to stop a robbery.

Dominant teams in the past like the A’s and the Mets would give way to the Twins and Braves.  Cecil Fielder and Jose Conseco would continue to smash the ball.  Roger Clemens and Nolan Ryan would continue to throw heat.  Glavine and Avery would make names for themselves.  The Orioles would say goodbye to their ballpark.

For seven months, memories would be made, but with each week passing, another team would drop from the race.  The 26 teams would reduce to 20, then 16, then 12, then 6 and finally, after 161 games baseball was left with four teams: the Braves, the Twins, the Blue Jays and the Pirates.

As the leaves started to change colors and the days grew shorter, four teams would make baseball memories.  In the International Dome Series, the Twins would rapidly end the Blue Jays’ season.  The Braves would chop down the Pirates as the whole nation was doing the Tomahawk Chop.  Then there were two.

Never before had team gone from last place in their division to first place in their league in the history of baseball.  Int he 1991 series, there were two such teams.  The Braves and the Twins would go from baseball’s jokes in 1990 to baseball’s pride in 1991.

And proudly would these two teams play.  Seven months of play would come down to seven games.  These two teams played them the way they should be played–very closely.  But int he end, only one would win.  there’s an old saying: “No one remembers who finished second.”  I think this year everyone will remember who came in second, because the Twins and the Braves made the Fall Classic just that: a classic.  Congratulations Braves and Twins, you’re both winners in the world’s eyes.

And now, those of us who love the game of baseball must put our mitts and balls away, and sit warmly with the memories of the seven months of the sun.  The baseball season is over and now winter is truly upon us.  But we can look forward to five months from now, to the day when the man in blue will shout: “Play Ball!”  Goodbye old friend, see you in the spring.


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