Oh, Kevin Millar.
With the score in sweltering Chicago 5-2, Kevin Millar hit a herky-jerky single to left field. It bounced at the foul line just fair, rolled to the wall in foul territory, meandered lazily back toward Scott Podsednik.
Maybe Millar could be forgiven. At Fenway, with Manny loping around the outfield, that hit could easily have been a double.
But this was Chicago, and the park's not the same, and Podsednik is one of the fastest players if not the fastest players in the league, and Kevin runs with cement shoes in the mildest weather.
Kevin would certainly have been safe at first base on the hit, and Jason Varitek's ensuing homer could have put the Red Sox within one run, and so Johnny Damon's fly ball to left center might not have been the third out, and...
Like Trot's baserunning gaffe in Baltimore awhile ago, you can make a number of arguments at points elsewhere in the game where the Sox (THE Sox, OUR Sox) gave it away to those dopplegangers of the Midwest, but this, for me, was the real turning point.
"Did you think he was only fast on the basepaths?!?!" my dad cried at the television. I said some stuff too, but somehow we'd both already let it go. The play was over, the game was over, the minute Millar took his first lumbering step toward second. It wasn't so much an blowout as a deflation. A wilting, if you will.
Meanwhile, two pictures have come to my attention tonight.
The first I saw when my mother dropped it in my lap. She'd saved the edition of Boston Globe Magazine with the pictures of Manny Ramirez Jr.'s room for me. I flipped through it, I'd already seen the pictures before, of course, and...
But this picture. Let's just say it looks different in the magazine.
It's cropped differently, for one. It does make a difference - the background fades more, makes you focus more on the central subjects. The enlargement makes you look at the details, the huge floppy batting gloves on the child's hands, the perfect manicure on Mrs. Ramirez, the eye-popping ice on one finger.
But it's more than a "Wow, she's beautiful," or "Damn, he's rich," or, "that child is too adorable."
There's something really deep in the photograph, whether or not you can argue its subjects are necessarily deserving or of profound significance. Looking at it in its full-page magazine edition, you're reminded, well...of something like this.
Of course, that's blasphemy of the highest order, but from that allusionary jumping-off point there are several differences--differences that actually make it an even more fascinating image. For one thing, Madonnas rarely look anywhere but their Child. Juliana Ramirez looks at the camera, smiling. Manny Jr.'s face, too, is more enigmatic than the dogmatic Child.
First thing I think, looking at it, is, I know little boys take after their fathers, but this is ridiculous. How is it that some women seem to end up as little more than Xerox machines in their child's genetics? In this and the other pictures of Manny Jr., the child has his father's dark brow and inscrutable expression, the one SI writer Charles P. Pierce described thusly:
It is the face of a great silent comic, one that Mack Sennett would have cast on the spot. It is open and broad. Part of the appeal is the huge brown eyes and another part is the wild, brambly hair above them. But mostly it comes from the ability to reveal most of the humor without sharing all of the joke.
In fact, in a way Manny Jr. looks more like Manny than Manny does himself. In some ways, the often childlike Manny Sr. seems an overgrown imitation of his son.
And the real arrow to the heart, at least for my admittedly hormonal self, are the batting gloves. The humungous, mostly empty batting gloves on the little boy's hands. He doesn't really even seem to be aware of them.
Like father, like son.
My dad ripped into Manny again today, after his 0-4 showing, but I just can't be mad at Manny. He seems like just a mystery, one we can't read or fathom, so don't even try to guess at it. If he's not hitting, he is not meant to hit at the moment. If he is hitting...it's like the way Mozart is portrayed in Amadeus, just a conduit for God's voice.
And anyway, when it gets right down to it my unconscious thought about Manny, though I know and respect consciously that he's a grown man, is, ah, go easy, he's just a little kid.
He is and he isn't. Baseball is so often described as "a child's game." This is often said in derision towards those adults who make millions playing it. But an alternative viewpoint is that we value baseball not because we are frivolous individuals but because we value, in a worthwhile sense, the childhood preserved and embodied by the game. And who better to star in said preservation than one who seems an overgrown toddler, with the same precociousness and playfulness and petulance? This is what makes Manny Ramirez great. This is what makes him a favorite.
Just a thought.
The other beautiful (yet somehow melancholy) photograph that came to my attention tonight was emailed to me by Sam.
"I nearly burst into tears when I saw this," she wrote.
Ansel Adams once said, "a great photograph is one that fully expresses what one feels, in the deepest sense, about what is being photographed."
Caption: "Dave Roberts tries on a Red Sox 1918 collectors jersey and takes some ribbing from teammates Damian Jackson, Mark Lorretta and Eric Young. It's his old team." Click for big.
"Oh, get over it, a utility player is gone," you
Yankees fans pragmatists in the audience are scoffing.
But I've come to this conclusion about Dave Roberts, which I hope will explain what otherwise seems an undue expression of esoteric fixation on our parts: what we miss is not Dave Roberts, but last year. And what we miss most about last year is the sense of serendipity. The idea that a utility man with some speed could join the team so late and later turn out to be the main cog in the postseason miracle, in a way that seemed meant.
Today, on the anniversary of such a memorable day in 2004, the game the 2005 Red Sox played was miserable and hot and long. They're grinding right now, and with our pitching staff threadbare and our bats largely asleep, our baserunners bumbling, the outlook for this year seems bleak. We miss the feeling that the baseball gods are watching over us, and smiling. We miss Dave Roberts, yes, but most of all on a day like today, we miss that magic.