Posts Tagged ‘Babe Ruth’

Aretha, Elvis, the Babe … What’s Up?

Saturday, August 25th, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

 Aretha Franklin, January 20, 2009

Aretha Franklin, January 20, 2009

A member of royalty has died. Aretha Franklin, the “Queen of Soul,“ was 76 when she succumbed to cancer on August 16. Usually, the date of someone’s death is a footnote, an afterthought, unless the person is famous or a loved one or, as with Aretha, loved and famous. Even so, the actual date of death seems to us mortals to be random. The luck of the draw.

In this case, I’m not so sure. I’m wondering if there wasn’t more than randomness involved in choosing what for many fans of the music icon will be a date to remember. In fact, it’s almost as if August 16 was preordained to be the day Aretha shrugged off this mortal coil. It seems to be a day designated for royal departures.

As news of Franklin’s death spread, even a casual user of social media would’ve been hard-pressed not to notice that August 16 was also the date on which Elvis Presley, “the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll,“ died. Hmmm.

There was more. The immortal Babe Ruth, the “Sultan of Swat,“ the ultimate symbol of baseball royalty, also died on August 16, we were reminded. If you don’t believe in synchronicity, it might be time to start reading up on it. As a believer, I went to a website that lists famous (and not so famous) deaths on August 16.

Would you believe, Bela Lugosi, who brought the infamous “Prince of Darkness” to, um, life, on the silver screen, also died on August 16? Heart attack. No sunlight, silver bullets, or wooden stakes involved. He was buried in his full Dracula costume.

So, Count Dracula, the Sultan Babe, and the musical king and queen all died on the same date. Coincidence? Maybe, but I’m thinking it’s more likely there’s a message we humans haven’t figured out yet.

Well, some of us. Carl Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist, offered what he thought was a pretty good explanation of “coincidences.” There aren’t any, he said. Everyone, he theorized, is connected through a greater unconscious and something called synchronicity ultimately controls what happens seemingly randomly. We just go around acting like we do it all. It’s obviously a lot more complex than that, but it’s the best I can do right now.

Then, of course, there is quantum physics, which also talks about everyone and everything being connected since everyone and everything is energy. Still, till, most physicists are reluctant to accept Jung’s explanation for scientifically unexplainable coincidence  — synchronicity.

Personally, I’m inclined to think that if we are all connected through a greater unconscious or consciousness or energy or whatever you want to call it, then there’s a force at work which we choose to call “coincidence” for lack of any other explanation.

And I think it is altogether reasonable to assume that this greater consciousness to which we all contribute would devise a way to keep “special” people together for the greater good. Like having them leave their earthly bodies on the same date as a way to help plan for future use of their unique contributions to lift the positive energy level on this planet, not to mention the universe. 

In fact, the mere recognition that such special people all died on the same date surely had an effect on our collective energy level this past August 16. With the shared shared sadness of the loss of Aretha Franklin also came innumerable shared memories of shared happiness that she — and all the August 16 departed — have contributed. W With those memories came the recognition that, even in this sometimes maddening, occasionally depressing world, there can be beauty, joy, special moments created by special people for all of us to share.

And, if I may theorize a bit, it need not solely involve “royalty.” Another of the August 16 Departed is Bobby Thomson, a pretty good baseball player responsible for one of the greatest moments the game has known — “the shot heard ‘round the world.” Thomson’s home run  in the bottom of the ninth-inning of the final playoff game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants in 1951 — a game the Giants were losing until Thomson came to bat — sent the Dodgers home and put the Giants in the World Series. It certainly made Thomson royalty as far as Giants fans were concerned.

But the fact that it was the first major sporting event televised live (another “coincidence”?) made it an exciting, exhilarating moment for many more than the 34,320 fans gathered in the Polo Grounds. Broadcaster Russ Hodges’ home run call, “The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!“ became instant legend. The Giants had staged an improbable end-of-season comeback to catch the Dodgers and Thomson had finished them off. With baseball as metaphor, it was a dramatic that even when you’re down to your last at bat, there is always hope.

Dodgers fans, of course, have always blamed their “fate” on Ralph Branca, the pitcher who served up the home run ball. Despite that and the fact that the Dodgers and Giants were arch rivals, Thomson and Branca wound up being good good friends when their baseball careers were over. The greater unconscious, it seems, had something beyond a baseball game in mind when it brought these two men together.

Let’s all get together next August 16 and see who’s missing.

rjgaydos@gmail.com.

For Little Leaguers, No. 2 was No. 1

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

By Bob Gaydos

Derek Jeter

Derek Jeter

Confession: As coach of my son’s Little League team, I used my responsibility as uniform distributor to make sure that Zack got the number he wanted. Number 2.

Yeah, it’s the number probably 90 percent of the kids wanted, but I never felt guilty about it because: (a) the smaller kids got the lower numbers and Zack had a delayed growth spurt and (b) c’mon, what dad wouldn’t do what he could to help his son got Derek Jeter’s uniform number?

For those who may have been on another planet, Jeter is retiring after 20 years as a New York Yankee. This is his last week as a major league baseball player. The season has been a continuous homage to his career and, more significantly, to the professional, dignified manner in which he has lived it. Number 2 has been Number 1 when it comes to athletes as role models.

Some people (not Yankee fans) have complained that the Jeter Love Train has been a bit much this year, with tributes paid to him in every ballpark the Yankees visited. I can understand that, but when the commissioner of the league says he’s proud that Jeter has been the face of baseball for a decade or more, I think it’s important. There has been no hint of scandal attached to Jeter for his 20 years with the Yankees. No steroids. No arrests. No trash-talking or posturing.

And, by the way, only five players (Pete Rose, Ty Cobb, Hank Aaron, Stan Musial, Tris Speaker) have compiled more hits (3,460 and counting) than Jeter. He happens to have been a hell of a ballplayer. Clutch hits. Clutch plays in the field. Mr. November. The Captain. Five World Series rings. Mr. Consistency. More games at shortstop than anyone else. Never played another position. He is a guaranteed first-ballot Hall of Famer and any baseball writer who doesn’t vote for him should have his voting privileges rescinded.

Jeter managed all this in the toughest market and media center in baseball — New York City. Funny thing though, while he qualifies as an all-time great and conceding that playing with the Yankees has helped burnish his image, Jeter doesn’t even make the list of top five Yankees of all time in my opinion. That would be Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra. Still, being number six to that group is no small thing and it’s hard to imagine anyone breaking in to that Top Six club.

Mostly, when I look at Jeter’s career, I’m impressed with how quietly he went about his job, how almost routine he made the anything-but-routine appear. I don’t know how humble one can be when millions of fans shower you with praise every day for a year, when TV commercials extol your nice-guyness. Of course, Jeter has made hundreds of millions of dollars from baseball and those product endorsements. But that’s the world we live in and he has managed to carry it off with a sense of grace and dignity. You don’t hear those words used much around athletes these days.

Not to belabor what is really only repetitive, I felt an obligation to publicly thank Derek Jeter for showing youngsters how to go about whatever they do in life with a sense of purpose, responsibility, dedication, modesty, focus and respect for others. For showing them how to be grateful for the gifts they may have. That he also played baseball much better than most others was icing on the cake.

So here’s to Number 2. That number will be retired by the Yankees this year, which means a new generation of young ballplayers will have to find another number to demand. And a new group of dads will try to make it happen.