Joe Posnanski on fatherhood, which memories stick with you, and taking his 14-year-old daughter to see “Hamilton.”
There’s no reason you should care about this … but 1986 was the pivotal year of my life. It was the year my car spun out, the year I worked in a factory and in the photo department of a retail store (I called people while they were eating dinner to offer them a free 3×5 photograph), the year she said she just wanted to be friends. It was the year everything seemed hopeful and the year when reality came crashing down like the top shelf of an overstuffed closet. It was the year when a little man dunked, when young Bears rapped and an old bear charged, when the hand of God reached out (and the referee missed it), when a ball rolled through the legs, when a genius set up behind the net. It was a year of folk heroes and comic book bad guys, a year when a gladiator dressed in black terrified the world.
Anyway, the record will probably be Mike Powell’s for many years to come because, like I say, we just don’t jump like we used to. Nobody in years has jumped close enough that the NFL chain gang would even bother to come out and measure. The longest jump of 2010 wasn’t even 28 feet. And the longest jump this year, by Australia’s Mitchell Watt, is just 28 feet 3/8 inches. Carl Lewis had 24 non-wind aided jumps in competition longer than that in his career. TWENTY-FOUR. No, nobody — at least nobody on the visible horizon — figures to jump as far as Mike Powell. But what if I tell you that the longest jump in the history of the world was NOT Mike Powell’s? What if tell you about a mystery jump by Carl Lewis when he was at the height of his powers?
The first day I ever spent in Kansas City was the day I interviewed for the job as sports columnist at the musically named Kansas City Star. The paper’s sports editor at the time, a dreamer named Dinn Mann — the grandson of the famed Judge Roy Hofheinz, who built the Astrodome — picked me up at the airport and began to drive us toward downtown.
The Washington Generals always lose: to begin with. There is no doubt whatsoever about that. They lose on indoor basketball courts and outdoor courts. They lose on ships, they lose on aircraft carriers, they lose in prisons and they lose on the back of trucks. … This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come from the story I’m about to relate. If we were to believe that the Generals mostly lost to the Harlem Globetrotters, or almost always lost, or even won only as rarely as the Detroit Lions, then there would be nothing more remarkable about that day 40 years ago than a Lions upset victory over one of the unlucky three or four or five teams most years who happen to haplessly run into it.
Jose Canseco says he has regrets. The man is reportedly broke. The man is a pariah — he has been excommunicated by the high priests of baseball. He seems to believe this is because he told the truth about some things, because he admitted using steroids and named a few other players who used them as well. Perhaps he is right. And perhaps no one is ever entirely right.
My memory, the one that echoes in my mind, is not of my time in the factory, or the work, or the people (I cannot remember their names) or the death I’d feel at the end of the day, or even the fear I had that this is all I would become. No, the memory is of that rainy day in North Carolina, my father driving, me staring out the window, both of us sitting in what would become my first car. That Pontiac did not have a 396. It struggled to go uphill.
A radio man nicknamed George Anderson “Sparky” way back in the early 1950s, in the minor leagues, back when George was doing what he always did — screaming at an umpire and getting himself tossed out of the game. The radio man said: “Look at the sparks fly! That’s one sparky fella!” George was out of control then — all spark and no plug. He only wanted to be a ballplayer, and he had no idea what would happen to him if he did not become a ballplayer.
When Vincent Edward Scully first came to Los Angeles to broadcast Dodgers baseball games in 1958, he worried because he could not find the essence of the city. The center. The heart. He was 30 years old, and he had some clear ideas about what it took to call a baseball game.