I’m never good with remembering specific dates except the birthdays of family, friends and a few baseball players, maybe none more shazbah-ding! than Henry Aaron’s being February 5th and Babe Ruth’s a day later. But there is one date; November 22, 1963 that fascinates me in a baseball and death sort of way.
Aldous Huxley and John F. Kennedy both passed away that day; the President in full extroverted glory and Huxley flat on his bed, unable to speak, inching closer and closer, but still scribbling a note to his wife Laura; “LSD 100 mm intramuscular” and so she obliged his request and that’s how the writer and essayist drifted into golden sleep. (from This Timeless Moment by Laura Huxley)
C.S. Lewis also died that day and so did many nameless others, but there is no reverse astrology in terms of the day someone dies and how it impacts their life and for obvious reasons. They’re already dead. No more horror scopes to consult. Few bother speculating about the next dimension or after life or whatever and understandably so. We’re too busy climbing hills here and now and yet, we do perform rituals before bed every night.
Regardless, the curtains closing on Huxley and Kennedy within hours of each other added another dichotomy to an already endless list of smiling mailman and a dog’s primal yap. Everything splits into polar opposites. Why would death’s door on November 22, 1963 be any different? Ease up on dental philosophy I hear one of my sides warning the other, but then a third side emerges and relishes the kicking coincidence in the groin.
Kennedy’s connection to baseball is indirect through Marilyn Monroe via Joe Dimaggio and the occasional visit to the dugout. Huxley had none as far as I know.
I don’t see November 22, 1963 every time I sit in stadium seats, but it’s happened more than once. The crowd makes it easy to imagine a parade to see the president or pope pass in a motorcade. Stuck in a mob arouses my life vest. I’m scared, but eventually surrender to the chants.
There is a frozen moment however when I cling to thoughts and it’s on the field where I imagine Kennedy; in the suspense hidden behind the casual hot dog smile of a first baseman; in the nervous, but determined faces of shortstops and their fingers twitching under gloves, in the toes of outfielders always raised, always aware and ready, just in case the pinball rolls.
Everyone is supposed to know what to do. They’ve rehearsed it thousands of times, but the real deal still stings. Marilyn applies some lipstick to my right, but the bullet picks up speed anyway. The moment is at hand and someone’s time is up.
The pitcher fidgets, scratches and spits. The batter struts to the plate like a motorcade; stops, pauses and continues on with swagger and pomp; invincible. It all happens under the sun or electric lights; thousands of eyes looking on. The action is minimal; happens in hushed milliseconds and yet the interim sound is extroverted and loud.
My eyes are the camera. They decide. This is not TV. They drift towards the bullpen where I imagine Huxley, but not the bowling alley bullpen down the right or left field foul line. That’s too exposed. Players flirt with fans there. It’s the other one; the dungeon; tucked away beyond the home run fence; out of sight and mind, introverted, soft, and strange, maybe a shamanistic ritual; the hot foot, sunflower seeds, synchronized tap dance.
Maybe a Jim Brosnan notebook is drawn from a back pocket along with a Kodiak tin for a spit and an illumination scribbled, far from the cocktail spotlight. A candle wick waves out there.
I let my eyes go back and forth between the exhibitionist diamond and enclosed pen, between the stage and reflection, drama and dream, eventually fixating on the mound and the strange gyrations of the pitcher and the equally strange gyrations of the batter.
What’s buried underneath that mound? What tugs on so many puppet strings, sets them in motion, arousing the illusion of order? including my heart pumping as the count has gone full?