Sometimes the world of sports takes you for a ride . . . and sometimes its the other way around. Over 16 recent days, I attended two weddings, a Hall of Fame induction ceremony, walked on the rink where the Miracle
On Ice took place, said a gloomy goodbye to two more St. Louis Cardinals (what a year!), and survived a week without Sports Illustrated. All stretch required was eight plane rides, two ferry trips across Lake Champlain, and several miles of driving in rural Vermont and upstate New York. Not bad for a sports nut badly in need of a grip on what really counts in life.
Twenty thousand baseball fans in Cooperstown, New York, to honor your boyhood hero seems like an emotional pinnacle. Until, that is, you see your one and only sister escorted down an aisle by your dad . . . and shes dressed in white. omeday Ill remind Liz that she married the most wonderful Philadelphia Phillies fan on the planet almost two weeks to the day after Ozzie Smith entered the Baseball Hall of Fame (along with, incidentally, Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas). When I do, Im sure her answer will be the same as it would have been at the end of that aisle? Hall of Who??
As if a central-Vermont chapel isnt wedding enough for one person, I hopped the Charlotte Ferry (the morning after my sisters big day) on my way to Lake Placid, New York, as my best man\ (of eight years ago, mind you) tied the knot a few two-irons from the arena where the last great amateur sports moment -- ever -- took place on February 22, 1980. That of course, was the date when miracles were indeed made believable, when he U.S. Olympic hockey team, behind captain Mike Eruzione and goalie Jim\ Craig, beat the might Soviet Union and reminded the world that
Cinderella was born, raised, retired, and bronzed as a Yank. I managed an unauthorized stroll on the ice surface, goose bumps the size of corn kernels. Yet by the time I left the wedding reception that evening -- having caught up with more high school mates than Ive seen in any one
place in years -- the rink shuffle was merely the second biggest highlight of the day.
Games played on as I traipsed across the northeast. The Cardinals suffered their longest losing streak of the season -- seven games -- and I almost felt rotten. But then I learned Darrell Porter -- the troubled catcher who earned MVP honors for the 1982 world champion Cardinals -- was found dead in a Kansas City park. With cocaine in his blood. Im not sure if the latter knowledge makes his premature death more understandable, or just more terribly sad.
Barry Bonds hit his 600th home run while I was a time zone away from Memphis. Say what you will about his personality . . . Bonds is the greatest player of the last 30 years. The only real question is, whos second? (My vote: Johnny Bench.) Wouldnt you love to see the player Bonds would have been had he been born with Enos Slaughters fire? (If there is footage of Barry Bonds going from first to home on a double --
as Slaughter so famously did to win the 1946 World Series -- I want to see it.) Cardinal Nation was left to grieve one more (last? please??) time August 12th when the Hall of Fame outfielder known as Country died at 86. Slaughters death didnt match the headlines of Ted Williams passing, and thats understandable. But as more and more fans yearn for the days of old school baseball, Slaughters position in the
sports history should be solidified.
Its nice to be back in Memphis. (How about that race in the PCL East?!) Back to a more rhythmic pace and a more steady take on whats happening in sports. My 16 days of travel sure were a fun reminder, though, that while were enjoying the games we love, cheering the heroes we adore . . . real life is happening all around us. And quite honestly, theres nothing more exciting.