Childhood, baseball and the quest for an ageless milestone
We can't go back in time but we can still watch Cabrera chase his 3,000th hit
I’ve been right about a few things in my life.
I was right that Simple Minds’ “Don’t You Forget About Me” was going to take over the world and, not so long after that that Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child O’ Mine” would take it over, too.
I was right, after watching 19-year-old and 14-seed Pete Sampras top 20-year-old and fourth-seed Andre Agassi at the 1990 U.S. Open men’s final in straight sets, that Sampras was on his way to being No. 1 in the world.
I was right, too, when, after watching him dominate the 2003 World Series, I decided then-Marlin Miguel Cabrera, a rookie, was headed to the Hall of Fame.
I know what you’re thinking.
Cabrera’s not in the Hall of Fame.
That’s true, but he will be as soon as he becomes eligible, five years after hanging up his spikes, and that’s why, Thursday afternoon, free time on my hands, I watched Cabrera come to the plate four times against the Yankees feeling many things.
The rush of anticipation.
Nostalgia for my youth.
Happiness, because almost 22,000 were at the ballpark on a getaway afternoon, there to see if Cabrera, who came to Detroit from Miami and has stayed there, now 15 seasons, could get his 3,000th hit.
Perhaps I omitted that detail for too long?
Alas, it didn’t happen.
Cabrera went 0 for 3 with two strikeouts and, horror, was intentionally walked to load the bases with two outs in the eight inning and first base open.
The next guy up, Austin Meadows, flared a single into short left-center field, knocking home a pair of insurance runs of what became a 3-0 Tiger victory, so three cheers for karma and a million boos for New York manager Aaron Boone taking history out of Cabrera’s hands.
I was into it.
Like going back in time.
Because sports — you know, SPORTS — used to hang on baseball milestones the same way it used to hang on a big fight, the last crazy thing Bob Knight did, or the next teenage tennis phenom, be it Tracy Austin, John McEnroe, Aaron Krickstein, Jennifer Capriati, or either Williams sister, back when all such things were deemed more interesting than what an awful basketball team might do about its Russell Westbrook problem.
It — SPORTS — would hang on 3,000 hits.
It would hang on 500 home runs, which Cabrera achieved last August.
It would hang on the pursuit of .400, chased legitimately in my childhood by Rod Carew (.388 in ’77), a magician, and George Brett (.390 in ’80), and in my adulthood by Tony Gwynn, though I’m pretty sure his 475 plate appearances fell short of the threshold to make it count when he hit .394 in ’94.
It would hang on no-hitters and perfect games.
These things would lead SportsCenter.
They might lead SportsCenter night after night after night.
They don’t any more.
That they don’t are victories for the NBA, NFL and ESPN and losses for everybody else, because the sports conversation in this country, never narrower than now, used to be fairly eclectic.
So I watched Miggy’s at bats.
Had the sound on loud enough to hear the game when I left the room, remembered how much baseball meant to me growing up and how it still means more to me than the rest; even if I’d rather watch the rink and check on the diamond than the other way around. Come to think of it, I was like that as a kid, too … unless the Braves were playing.
Today is Friday.
You’re probably busy.
I am, too, covering soccer for my old newspaper. Should Miggy get 3,000 against the Rockies this evening, I’m doubtful to see it live.
But if you’re not busy, T-Mobile customers get the MLB package for free, no-cost streams are available if you know where to look and MLB Network is bound to cut in when Cabrera comes to the plate.
If he gets it, I’ll be sad to have missed it live.
But I’ll still have Thursday afternoon and it was pretty great.
If you enjoy this kind of writing, let me know and subscribe for no cost and not miss a post.