Saturday, April 20, 2013

Bookends of Life

There’s a repetitive nature of life, a bookending of things, that, as we get older, seem more obvious. It’s either nature’s way of letting us correct errors in the past or allowing us to see things with a changed, time-adled perspective and, while we may not be able to fix them, at least we can see the differences in how we process them then and now.

When I began the 1981 baseball replay with my APBA game, I found this evident in more ways than an obvious one. 

On the surface, my goal was to replay the season with the statistically-based game to see what would have happened if the baseball strike never occurred. That season bothered me; my college girlfriend moved away at the end of 1980 and, in that stumbling reel of heartbreak that first-time loves feel, I moped through the first three months of the following year. I looked forward to the 1981 baseball season with more vigor than normal hoping the games would replace the hole in my heart.

But the strike happened and for several weeks in the summer, there were no games. The distraction I hoped for was gone.

The second goal in doing the season replay 31 years later was deeper. It was to relive, in part, those days of 1981. I could “fix” the season, but while I couldn’t repair the lost love, I could reflect on those days.

Little did I know that the season’s replay mirrored life and I came out on the other end a bit wiser of things.

The replay began and ended with pop ups. In the first game I did, Pete Rose opened my 1981 season for Philadephia with a pop up against Cincinnati. The season concluded when Hal McRae popped up against Los Angeles in Game 6 of my World Series and the Dodgers won the championship, 4 games to 2, over the Kansas City Royals.

The replay was also bookended with contact with my girlfriend from ago. Twenty-five years after our split, she called me and we’ve remained friends in the seven years since, talking on the phone and even going to dinner at times.

So, I played the game, remembering certain dates of that year and where I was. My birthday without her that year, watching Lady Diana’s wedding with her little sister at her parent’s that summer in an attempt to recapture something, the fall that I prepared to fly to Mexico to shoot photographs in a Yucatan peninsula jungle for a college class.

I talked with her on the phone, updating her on the progress of the replay. She seemed interested, but I’m not sure whether it was actual interest or simply polite attention to my weird APBA obsession.

And the bookend of life happened. When I completed the season two weeks ago, I put the APBA game cards in their envelopes and returned them to a closet where I store all the games. Then, I drove about an hour and a half to meet her for lunch. We only spent a few hours together, but it was a great time.  More than 30 years evaporated and it was 1980 again when I was young, innocent, still full of hope and in love.

We aren’t going to get back together, and that’s not the point. I think I’m damaged from the death of my wife seven years ago and I no longer trust people. I couldn’t handle a relationship if I had Dr. Phil hangin’ out with me and giving me daily tips. She also had a tough time in the past and I think dealing with a commitment isn’t in her plans now, either. 

Instead, it was more of an understanding that we were both “the ones that got away” and whatever type of relationship we maintain, it’ll be okay. 

So, the 1981 replay taught me something. The baseball strike happened because, well, because it just happened. It was what it was. It was just the way of life. Our breakup back then happened, too, because it was just the way of life as well. It was no one’s fault. It just happened.

It’s the roll of the dice, life is. You either hit home runs, or you pop up.


  1. Loved this post, excellent how you tie in life and your APBA replay, and how it seems like that at times... a simple roll of the dice. Excellent stuff!

  2. Wonderful post. Many of us seek these narratives in our lives, and I see nothing wrong with a cards-and-dice baseball game helping to frame yours. In fact, I'm a little envious: How many of us have something like your devotion to this game that serves as such a strong tie that binds?

    I'm not presuming anything about your faith, lack thereof, etc. (I consider myself a skeptical believer), but anyway, John Sexton, the President of New York University, has authored a book titled "Baseball as a Road to God," drawn from the title of a seminar he teaches by the same name. It's an odd book, a bit schmaltzy and over the top in places, but I think he's basically saying that if you can understand baseball, you can understand faith. Robert Coover's Universal Baseball Association is among the books he praises.

    Sexton's take on baseball and your take on APBA's role in your life aren't quite the same, but I somehow make a connection when it comes to our life narratives and meaning.

    Thanks for another thought provoking post!