Thunder and Lightning ( Mortality of Wonder and the Tears of Joe DiMaggio)

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Editorial and Opinion  |  House: Booksie Classic
I've written a piece dealing with the current steroid situation in baseball, yet the article is actually a kind of "Ode to Wonder". Baseball is poetry, and poetry is wonder, and perhaps if one dies the other shall also cease to exist.

Submitted: February 17, 2009

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Submitted: February 17, 2009

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Thunder and Lightning (Mortality of Wonder and the Tears of Joe DiMaggio)
"Where have gone, Joe DiMaggio?
a nation turns its lonely eyes to you (woo-woo-woo)
What's that you say, Mrs. Robinson?
Joltin' Joe has left and gone away!" "Mrs. Robinson",  Simon and Garfunkel



Is wonder mortal? If you walked right up to wonder and visciously stabbed it over and over again, would it simply keel over and die? Would real tears be shed afterwards? Who would give the "Eulogy of Wonder"? Or would we merely stand aside and say "It never existed to start with. Wonder is only a childhood myth, and as we get older, we acknowledge this in our minds.....maybe not in our hearts, but certainly in our minds. Wonder is only a myth......nice to think about, but it doesn't pay the bills" Is that the truth? Who's gonna win the civil war between our hearts and our minds?

I should have seen this coming years ago.......I'm not talkin' about the current economic mess here. I have no idea who's to blame for all of that....maybe it's just the cycle of things. The economy booms and the economy swoons and most of us ride the rollercoaster and hang on for dear life..... We just hope that the roof stays on. But what if the disease isn't the economy? What if that's just a symptom? I should have known better when a simple two word concept was invented: Fake grass. Fake grass is a crime against humanity.....plain and simple.

Sports are my "drug" of choice. When I was a young child, it was the whole "winning and losing" aspect that attracted me to sports. I cried when the Bulldogs lost a football game. I called the men who 'strapped it on' and brought the thunder my heroes....I wanted to BE these men! These men were SHAKESPEARIAN, for God's sakes, and each game represented a new act in a play where the ending was always a glorious suprise. I always felt like I was in the balcony at the Old Globe Theatre in London. Football and basketball always served as the warm-up acts.....both are games of great suspense, I think, but neither are Shakespearian. Football and basketball are games that the Spartans would have enjoyed. But Lord Byron? He would have loved the month of April..... but not because of the rains, you see. He would have loved April because it always brings the wondrous, romantic -era inspired, mystifying, majestic symphony that most of us simply call baseball.

Have you ever "pined for grass?" How can that be possible? Baseball will IMPLORE you to pine for grass! Doesn't make a whit of difference whether you love the game or not....you'll think of grass, and you'll think that summer's on the way, and you'll think that wonder is still alive. You won't think "Tomorrorow will be a great day".....You'll think "TODAY is the truth!, TODAY is a marvel!, TODAY is MY Day! and TODAY has finally arrived and it's about damned time!! You'll find yourself feeling "randomly fantastic", and you'll ask yourself "Why can't it always be like this? Why?" It's because April only comes once a year.....and April is a month of WONDER.......'cause April always brings us baseball.


Baseball is Babe Ruth, a man of glorious girth and Herculean might, smashing 60 home runs in 1927. The Sultan of Swat. The Great Bambino. Saving the game from the misery of the Black Sox Scandal. A man who grew up in an orphanage, not even knowing who his Momma or Daddy were! A hell- raiser and a world saver. Saving us all from all from our damnable selves! DARING US TO WONDER!! And guess what they still call that jewel in the Bronx where the Yankees play? "The House that Ruth Built, that's what they call it!" What magic! 60 homeruns! How can a number be so impossily magical? Only in baseball........because baseball is wonder, and when the soul of baseball is on fire, we can all escape our own darkness....even if only for a few brief months. We can all be six years old again...and we can all pine for grass.

Baseball is 1961. Roger Maris taking his turn at the wondrous Globe Theatre. Performing brilliantly while the naysayers on the balcony questioned his heart...... questioned his desire.......... questioned his talent......questioned his very baseball soul, for God sakes!! Roger Maris, a good and honorable man, guilty only of "not being Babe Ruth or Mickey Mantle", found his magic in 1961. It almost killed him. Mr. Maris started swatting home runs out of The Globe at a record clip, and if closed your eyes you could see old William Shakespeare weeping in the balcony. Roger was a tragedy,you see, a man who loved baseball with all of his heart but loved his wife and children with ALL OF HIS SOUL. His biggest crime was his shyness......he didn't want the attention. But he started approaching "60." So the media startin' botherin' Mr. Maris.....and his hair started falling out......and he almost had a nervous breakdown......and he cried bitter tears as he slept in lonely hotel rooms in God- forsaken towns as summer turned into fall. But on the LAST frickin' DAY of the season, October 1st, 1961, Roger Maris belted number 61 into the front rows of The Globe, and Mr. Shakespeare wept tears of equal parts joy and sorrow. And guess what the spectators did? They stood and gave Roger Maris a standing ovation. Afterwards, he went home and had a nice supper with his wife and babies. 61!! Tell me you don't feel the magic of that number!!! The WONDER!!!


Baseball is Mickey Mantle taping BOTH of his legs from the knees down before every game because he suffered from osteoporosis. A lion of a man who suffered from brittle bones! John Keats would've appreciated The Mick. A brilliant tragedy of a man. Drank too much.....smoked too much.....womanized too much. Played the game as if the very existence of mankind depended on his performance. He saved us all, even when we refused to save ourselves. When he left the stage, he walked away with 536 dingers in his back pocket. What MAGIC!!!


Baseball is Carlton Fisk begging, ABSOLUTELY PLEADING WITH THE GOOD LORD ABOVE to just MAKE THAT BALL CURVE fair in the 1975 World Series! Can you see him? Can you feel his joy as that ball slams against the foul pole? Can you see Lord Byron in the audience? Baseball would've made him forget all about love for one moment.....or maybe he would've decided that baseball and love are one and the same. Wondrous. And what about the aforementioned Mr. Fisk? Carlton Fisk would've given ten years from his life just to make that ball stay fair, I bet. Mr. Fisk felt the magic and found the elephant on that magical night. He 'remembered how to remember'...can't you see that? Carlton Fisk was an eight- year old child whose heart was EXPLODING with wonder as he glided around those bases at old Fenway that night! What magic!!! Didn't matter if Nixon had just resigned in shame! Didn't matter if Vietnam was winding down in a tragic fashion! The soul of baseball had caught fire once again....and we all were a little better off for it. Magic was still alive! Baseball is wonder and maybe wonder is the last piece of magic left in this world.

But is wonder mortal?


In 1998, Judas came upon the stage. He came dressed as a priest, but he was doing the devil's work. Called himself "Mark McGwire." Doesn't matter. He sached right up to wonder, right IN FRONT OF ALL OUR VERY EYES, and stabbed it right in the heart. And guess how we all reacted from our posh seats in The Globe? We APPLAUDED him!! We knew that he had cheated us all, somewhere in our hearts we knew it, but we cheered as he and Sammy Sosa each punctured the ribs of wonder. Just stuck the knife in and twisted.......twisted until they were SURE that it was dead. McGwire hit 70 and Sosa had 65. All the sudden, numbers became bastards. How can that be? They stood in front of Congress a few years later, and one of 'em said he couldn't speak English and the other said he wouldn't "talk about the past." Obviously, he wasn't a history major. McGwire and Sosa used steroids to break the most sacred record in all of sports.....and we knew it.....and Commisioner Bud Selig knew it......and Sosa played again. He was ALLOWED TO PLAY AGAIN!!!!

Two years ago, Barry Bonds committed "assault with a deadly weapon" on wonder. He hit number 756. Broke Hank Aaron's magical record.....became the all-time home run champ. Later he admitted to using steriods.......said he thought he was taking 'arthritis creme'.Barry Bonds looks like he swallowed his younger self. He was cheating and we all knew it. 755, which Henry Aaron endured death threats to obtain, all while batting CROSS HANDED, has become another myth. The battle between cynicism and wonder has reached it's apex, and wonder is staggerin' around the ring, beaten half-silly and bleeding porously from the mouth. Begging us to PLEASE HELP HIM. Telling us that if folks don't BELIEVE, he's gonna die right there in front of us. The real tragedy is that he'll die because WE killed him....and we didn't even know it!! But somewhere we did know it, much to our own shame. And who will weep bitter tears for him? Perhaps Wordsworth, if it's an outdoor fight.

But it's not dead yet.....because wonder is the single most resilient and crafty fighter in the history of mankind. Makes Muhammed Ali look like an amateur. The bad news is that Bud Selig is gonna have to save it. He's gonna have to save us all.


Dear Bud Selig,

It's time for you to grow a pair, Commisioner. Wonder wants to stick around for yet a while longer, but if you don't act NOW, he will surely die. Last week, wonder caught A-Rod with a large butcher knife in his hand, Bud, and he was comin' in for the DEATH BLOW, but wonder saw him JUSt IN TIME and he's sreamin' "This is your LAST CHANCE!!! You've gotta help me!! After all, how many times have I saved YOU!! Will you give me a helping hand??!! Is that too much to ask?" Wonder says that A-Rod has been caught red-handed, Bud. Says that erasing his stats from his "cheating years" is the equivalent of sticking a band-aid on a buckshot wound. Wonder says that if A-Rod is even allowed to come to spring training, he's gonna die!! Don't you hear him wailing? He also says it's time to make Roger Maris' 61 the single season home run record the one that counts again. Time for ALL of Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Roger Clemens, and any other player who has or will be discovered to have cheated to be completely erased from the record books. Seems like a harsh judgement, doesn't it? You say, "What about due process?  What about the player's union and Donald Fehr?" Wonder says to tell you that he doesn't give a damn about them. Says all you've gotta say is "We're gonna save wonder because we owe him one." Take your case to the people, Bud. You'll be remembered as a hero. Daddies will be able to tell their boys again about The Babe, or The Mick, or Roger Maris, or Hamerin' Hank........and when those Daddies tell those boys those WONDROUS stories, those boys will see that their Daddies were indeed boys at one point in their lives. They'll see the eight- year old boy reflected back at them from a grown man's eyes and they'll smile. Save wonder, Bud Selig. Cynicism can have basketball, or even football (how it pains me to say that!!) but it can't have baseball. We owe baseball one......because baseball is wonder. It can't be allowed to die.....it just CAN'T BE ALLOWED TO DIE!!! This is a "soul-fight".....we gotta find our soul again. We gotta save ourselves, Bud. But we don't know how......so you're gonna have to do it. Save us all, Commisioner. The Babe would certainly approve.....and so would Roger Maris.... and his wife and now grown babies (God love 'em). They just wanna believe again, Bud. That's all they want. Wonder can save us all, but we have to save it first.


Where HAVE you gone, Joe DiMaggio?


Where indeed.


© Copyright 2020 Chad Williams. All rights reserved.

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