A daily accumulation of history and present as I follow the 2011 year through the baseball season and reflect on the glories and disappointments of the greatest game on Earth.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Robin Roberts

Imagine being a celebrity and going through life with cancer and trying your damnedest to beat it and all of a sudden, the Internet swells up with rumors that you're dead. I can't imagine the mortality that would be associated with cancer let along a false death rumor.
Mark Twain once summer it all up by saying, "stories about my death are premature," but for Robin Roberts, the Phillies pitcher from the 1950's, his life dd come to an end at age 83.
For a man with the benefit of being in a 4-man rotation, his 286 wins and 2357 strikeouts aren't that great of a total, but he did this for a largely lame Phillies team that was at most points lousy (including 107 losses in 1961) and at one stretch the Whiz Kids.
Despite being on a lousy set of teams, he finished his career with a 3.41 ERA.
In a week where famous deaths come in 3s, the Grim Reaper took Detroit broadcaster Ernie Harwell at 92. I was never a Tigers fan, so I can't say I have any memories of him. In fact, prior to his death, I had no reason to know who he was, but when he died, the MLB paid tribute to him and the rest of the country saw a man who was a legend in his market. I can only imagine that this was how Harry Kalas's death was received by the non-Philadelphia world.
Nevertheless, somewhere in there, Bob Uecker went to the hospital for heart surgery and made it out intact, a little bit worn out from the process, and ready to be again. Whether this is a person or whether it fulfills his goal of returning to the broadcast booth later this season, only time will tell, but we can be truly thankful that the fates and the skills of the surgeons gave him the opportunity to have another go around.
Life seems short and we all deal with mortality in our own different ways. Older men seem to get really quiet while they're watching friends and family shuffle off this mortal coil. Younger people seem to live in an invincible status as if time will never catch up with them. For me, I just notice the white hairs in the mirror and hope that in the downward slide that I'm going to be a silver fox or at least have the energy to do the things that I want to do. Having been fortunate enough to only have had a couple times where my health has been in question, I hope that my body makes it long enough to do the things that I want to do. I hope the same for my wife, my family, and my friends. I'm not ready to deal with death on any level up close and in person. In that, I'm a fairly lucky almost 39 year old. I lost a favorite teacher a few years ago and when I went to his funeral, it was the first one I had been to since 1989. When my grandmothers passed away, I was in England and unable to come home. I never knew my grandfathers, so I've avoided death save a few musicians, a few baseball players, and some historical figures that seemed shocking to think that they were dead, but all in all, it's not like I sat around mourning anyone for a long period of time. Frankly, Michael Jackson didn't mean anything to me, so I can't say that I took his death as anything.
The same can be said for my association with Robin Roberts. I never knew he might have been the best pitcher of the fifties. Never knew. I always thought it would be someone else, but at the end of the day, the eulogies came out. This isn't to disparage him. He was a Hall of Fame baseball great, but it's just that in history, we only have room to tell so many tales, which leads me to wonder what tale anyone will tell about me or those I love when the time comes.
To this, all that is left is the living. Anything else seems rather trivial.

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