February 15, 2005

I fear rivers over flowing I hear the voice of rage and ruin

* Tom Watson on Daryl Strawberry. [via] excerpt:

"I've always liked Darryl - from his introduction to New York fans as a top draft pick - the 'black Ted Williams,' a tall, stringy outfielder with a long, loping swing - to his final last-chance at bats with the Yankees. His were the plate appearances you didn't miss, the four or five times a game when conversation stopped, when you put down the book or the paper and really watched the game, pitch by pitch, swing by swing. The slightly open stance, the unquiet windmilling of the bat, the nervous glance back to the umpire with every pitch he took - these habits revealed the unsure Strawberry, the young man in the glare not quite comfortable with his talents, not quite sure if everyone liked him. Then the swing, that explosion of wood through the strike zone, and the sound when Darryl connected - a unique sound in those pre-steroid days - a deep, maple-tinged crack. And of course, the long, arcing moonshots to right-field."
"Strange, as Lou Reed says, how time turns around. Seven years from spring training in 1962 to a fairy-tale world championship - the time from birth to second grade for a couple of 7-year-olds - and then 17 years until the next title. At 24, Strawberry seemed to be on the edge of a Hall of Fame career. Still hidden were the demons, the alcohol and the drugs, and the violent anger. In 1986, I was the callow deputy editor of The Riverdale Press, the youngest newsroom denizen of that storied Bronx newspaper, learning the hard first lessons of management and responsibility. When she turned over the reins to me earlier that year, my predecessor - a brilliant community journalist - cracked laconically to this fresh-faced 24-year-old: 'no more boy wonder, huh?' No kidding. My beat was Bronx politics and what an education the likes of Stanley Friedman, Mario Biaggi, and Walter Diamond provided on a weekly basis."
"And so it goes. When he was in jail in Florida a year or so ago, his last chances run out and his promises dim, I wrote him a quick letter. Just to say he wasn't forgetten. And because, as another 40-year-old with a different set of miles, I was well aware of the 'there but for the grace of God' factor at play. Darryl could hit a fastball a mile, and I could write a line or two. His talents produced an arc of success and failure like the creaky, wooden rollercoaster at Coney Island - loud and scary and sudden. Mine produced what has been, comparatively, a series of more gently rolling hills. Who knows why."
"It would be easy to point to Strawberry's upbringing in a tough LA neighborhood and his early success as factors in his downfall; these are the oft-cited reasons. Poor black guy from Compton had too much too soon and crashed. This is simple, too simple, and life is more complex, all myriad shades of gray. As I told Strawberry in that letter, everyone has demons, we're all in the midst of a titanic battle against them almost every day. The only path is forward. Because of his talents, Darryl's were played out in public, in the rocket's glare of his moonshots. Springsteen wrote: 'Nothing is forgotten or foregiven when it's your last time around.' But we're also a society of comebacks and, it seems, it's almost never too late, unless the pilot light goes out."

* For the first time ever English soccer club Arsenal has no English players.

* "Why should we honor those that die upon the field of battle, a man may show as reckless a courage in entering into the abyss of himself." --William Butler Yeats


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