Today’s baseball blast-from-the-past is this actual line up card from a Texas Rangers game on Sunday, October 2, 1977.
I am sure I bought this at a memorabilia convention somewhere in the Dallas area.
Probably at a Holiday Inn with bad carpet, although I no longer remember. It was in the box with a lot of my other baseball stuff that I have opened up this week, as I wax nostalgic in the midst of the Texas Rangers World Series run.
I bought this because…. I wanted a major league game lineup card, of course!
This was during the height of my baseball card collecting habit.
It was only this week that I actually looked up the story of that game. I don’t know why it took my forty years to decide to do this.
Grateful for the miracle of Google here, as I’d never bothered to consider any of the backstory before, literally, TODAY.
As it happens, this was the last game of 1977. A paltry crowd of 5,770 fans watched the Texas Rangers defeat the Oakland Athletics 8-7. It was a Sunday game, probably like the many my Dad and I attended after church at Lovers Lane UMC.
But, wait. There’s MORE to the story:
This game was the only major league victory for rookie starting pitcher, John Poloni. Meaning, his only MLB victory, ever.
Even weirder…John Poloni’s name is not on this scorecard, anywhere.
For forty years, I had no idea, but apparently I had my own “Moonlight Graham” story, right here in front of me, just sitting in a box in my closet.
Playoffs and World Series baseball are full of excitement. Almost every pitch has the crowd on their feet, and you can feel the stress and the energy with every swing of the bat.
A regular season game like October 2, 1977 is different, of course. There are 162 of them, played every year. 162 times 62 seasons equals roughly 1,000 regular season games over the span of the Texas Rangers’ existence. Now, multiply all those franchises over more than 100 years and….well, it’s a LOT of regular season games.
That’s a whole lot of “October 2, 1977.”
So, one of the beauties and challenges of baseball is remembering that it’s a game of inches, days, months, and years. In the regular season, it’s a credible theory that no one game ever matters that much.
Except, of course, if it’s Sunday, October 2, 1977 and you’re name is John Poloni.
That game means the world to you for the rest of you life.
Friends, this is another way that baseball is more like life than almost any other sport. Most of the year, the daily grind tempts us to boredom, as we plod one foot in front of the other, working our way through the regular season we call “normal life.”
But now and then, we have a John Poloni day, one that’s totally boring to everyone else, but for us one we shall remember forever.
Like when our children are born, or our parents die.
Like when we get the horrible news from a doctor…or the good news.
We all have “regular days” that are John Poloni days.
Then, of course, we all have “the holidays” too; which are like the baseball playoffs season.
“Holidays,” of course, is a shortened version of “holy days;” which is to say that holidays almost always used to have some sense that they were “special, holy, time.”
Tonight is Halloween.
Soon on its heels will come All Saints, or “Dia de los Muertos.”
Before we’ll blink we’ll be at Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and a dozen other mid-winter celebrations we humans use to push back the dark and cold of winter.
Like the “Playoffs” and “World Series,” our attention is peaked during these days. They’re easy days to get psyched for.
But here’s to the regular season we call life.
To every October 2, 1977…
To every “every day”…
To all the John Poloni’s who get up and go to work each day, like Jackson Browne’s “every man.”
Most of life is like this. Most people are like this. For every Verlander there are a million Polonis….and a million more who never even got the one win.
Which is why, even in the church we call most of the year “Ordinary Time.”
What a perfectly boring, perfectly brilliant name for the “Regular Season” of life.
Here’s to every “Ordinary Time” day, every “Regular Season” game; to all the John Poloni’s who remember those days in ways we never will.
One of the tricks to life is enjoying each “every day,” just like one of the tricks of baseball is learning to love those apparently meaningless regular season games. In both cases, there is a spiritual discipline of “paying attention” that can turn even the most mundane and boring into the memorable or sacred.
Most of life, like most of baseball, really is about showing up, putting on foot in front of the other, trusting in the journey; and trying our best to pay attention, on every “October 2, 1977.”
And, of course…Go Rangers