People die. And that got us thinking. After you die, does your soul endure? Are you instantly annihilated? Are there refreshments? The answer is, none of that matters. What matters is how people remember you after you are dead, how you are immortalized through the written word. But you who are alive shouldn’t always believe the lies you read in obituaries.
To begin with, death isn’t all candies and wishes. We hate to be the (pall)bearers of bad news, but, much in the same way that all roads lead to Rome, all roads lead to death. Especially when you’re driving a charter bus filled with mollycoddled minor league baseball players, racing down I-294 so you’re not late for that damn game against the league champion Arlington Carpetbaggers.
Freeze frame. A herd of geese wanders into the road. Your whole entire life flashes before your eyes as you careen into the embankment. Red skinned potatoes in August. Tracy Gold in winter. Under the boardwalk, out of the sun. Mother Gibbs in a flowered gingham. A monster mash … a graveyard smash.
A graveyard smash. Twenty-three men dead in a ditch on a beautiful Thursday afternoon. The entire Mahwah Regulars roster slid home for the last time, grounding into that great double play in the sky. The game against the Carpetbaggers had to be forfeited. General Manager Lefty McGrove was quickly informed of the tragedy. Grief-stricken, he made the call, trading eight of his nine starting players to the Tigertown Dockworkers in exchange for the Brothers Noriega, longtime septuplets and circus-acrobats-turned-ballplayers. Meanwhile, the wreckage of the aforementioned bus was still aflame. However, state authorities have assured us that any rescue attempt would have been futile.
Starting pitcher Jerome Flaubert is survived by his house and his beautiful, supple, voluptuous, and often unattended young wife, Blanche Devereaux. He was the basis for Tony Danza’s award-winning performance in “Angels in the Outfield.” Danza said of Flaubert, “Now there was a man. A man of baseball. A baseball-playing man. I like pizza.” Flaubert was favored to win this year’s Percy H. A. Adams Award for Pitching Excellence. Instead, the award will most likely go to some Peruvian.
Ohil “Betty Spaghetti” Amato, starting center fielder, was the best damn minor league ball player we ever saw. We should all remember that time he raced through the outfield as he chased down a deep fly ball. Picture him running through the center field wall, catching the ball in his hat as a choir of angels descended from heaven streaming glories upon his league-leading statistics. He was always a crowd favorite and will be missed.
Ralphery McKenzie, the team’s cleanup hitter and starting catcher, was a womanizer. A dissolute womanizer. Nevertheless, he was a talent both on and off the ball field. He holds the record for most home runs by a catcher and the highest score in darts. He overcame many a difficulty, for not only was he a switch hitter (on and off the field), but he was also Scottish. He will be sorely missed on the field.
Little Roddy just graduated from the local high school. His father, Frank Roddy, was the team’s first baseman and the oldest member of the team. A veritable Regular legend, he was a madman on the base path. Even in his elder years, he stole bases like other men steal other items. His wife Sophie was a mother to all the Regulars even in their darkest times, cooking fresh meals and hosting cocktail parties for all the men and their families. “I have been a mother to the Regulars even in their darkest times,” she said as she choked back a tear, “but I’ve never seen a time as dark as this hour.” A screening of “Who’s on First?” will be held at Roddy’s funeral.
In American folklore, storks carry newborn babies to their mothers. Coach Buzzy Storks carried his young team back to their natural mother earth in his paternal beak that fateful afternoon. Unlike the other young hopefuls, Buzzy had seen the bright lights of the Big Leagues. A Montreal Expo for three years, he is most remembered for his staunch refusal to play for any American team: “Buzzy Storks won’t take no paycheck from Uncle Sammy. I like my money like I like my women. In my pocket and Canadian.” Buzzy didn’t believe in coaching signals or spoken language, and he was the first coach to employ a teleprompter to communicate with his players, coaching staff and family. His revolutionary methods and vision won’t be teleprompting much this upcoming season.
Matthew Singleton’s .153 batting average and lack of speed or power will also be missed.
An empty stadium stands in Mahwah, waiting. Some townsfolk swear they can hear the stadium cry.
These people know nothing of baseball. Like life, and death, baseball is a game of fate, and sometimes fate (and life and death) goes awry. If you build it, they will come, and sometimes that means you come home in a pine box. But death is not really an end. Even when someone dies, his memory lives on in an obituary. We can’t remember Grandma, but we have the newspaper clipping to prove she was real. So cut out this column and paste it to your heart so you will remember. Remember the at-bats, the ground balls, the on-decks, the in-the-holes. Remember each walk, each balk, the coach who wouldn’t talk. Remember the double plays, the infield fly rule, tagging up and reaching home. Remember the Regulars. We will.