Tag Archives: baseball

Me and Tony Gwynn

Emmanuel Burgin

At my local watering hole a bittersweet moment occurred. Chalked on the board of available beers was an AleSmith Tony’s Take .394 named in the honor of the late great Padre Hall of Famer and his final batting average in the shorten baseball strike season of 1994.

I had interviewed Tony a few days before the strike began; ending his bid to reach the .400 batting average last achieved in 1947 by baseball titan and Tony’s idol Ted Williams. The strike also cancelled the World Series, something not even World War ll had done. The strike would become a black eye on America’s pastime.

As a reporter for a small local newspaper getting an interview with Tony in the midst of his great pursuit of baseball history would be no small feat.

That summer day I took a seat in the dugout and nervously studied my notes and waited. When Tony stepped out of the clubhouse tunnel and into the dugout, I stood and introduced myself, and he quickly stated not today, come by tomorrow. Then up the steps he went bat over his shoulder on his way to a dozen interviews and eventually to batting practice.

I left deflated but returned the next day and sat in the same spot and waited. I heard a major sports magazine writer was in the ballpark looking to feature Tony and gazing towards the batting cage I spied the well-known writer near home plate chatting with ball players and coaches as if he had known them all his life.

Also, I could see the television crews and sports reporters lined along the first base line waiting to get a few words with Tony. When Tony finished with the TV crews he’d move on to the Major newspapers, and then with the time left he’d get in a few swings before the game: truly a media circus.

Tony I thought would never have time for me.  I wanted to leave.  Yet, I stayed and soon Tony approached me in the dugout. I remained seated this time and as he neared I smiled and made eye contact, he gave me a glance, a smile and not missing a step turned quickly and went towards the throng of reporters and news crews. I was crushed and embarrassed.

Then he stopped as if pondering something. Had he recalled his promise?  He could easily have ignored me, his time so precious, interviewers waiting, batting practice needed. Then he pivoted gracefully and looked at me for a moment and then he walked toward me with his bat over his shoulder, skipping down the steps he pointed at me and said “Go” and sat next to me in the dugout.

I knew Tony played basketball at Long Beach Poly High School because I had attended Lynwood high and our undefeated teams had met in the state’s biggest game that year. I would use this to ease into the interview.

“Ooooh we beat you bad” Tony said with a big smile, then gave that distinctive laugh.

They had and Tony, their star point guard, led the way. We reminisced about the big game, the big plays, and the great players who participated. We laughed and chuckled like high school kids. Every once in awhile I looked up to see reporters on deadlines not at all happy with me.  I finally asked a few questions, and then explained I had to end the interview because I had a second story to cover about an award recipient. I pointed to the ceremony beginning across the infield along the third base line.

“Yeah, yeah go” Tony said.

I thanked Mr. Gwynn and dashed toward the ceremony running past the gallery of reporters and the magazine writer, doing my best to ignore them.

Tony kept his word and a reporter for a small local newspaper is forever grateful. Cheers Mr. Gwynn.

Tony never held any bitterness about the strike. He was glad it happened when it did knowing if he were batting .400 at the time of the strike some would have questioned whether he could have accomplished the feat over a full season. He had made peace with the baseball gods and his missed appointment with destiny. But me, after the strike and his lost opportunity at baseball immortality and his chance to stand next to his idol Ted Williams as an equal, I had had it. I was never right with the game after that.

What Happened On the Comeback, Baby?

What Happened On the Comeback, Baby?

Your woman
Says something
About something
And you can’t hear
It anymore

So

You’re out the door
Get in your
Car
And go south on
The 5
But the traffic
Backs up
So you decide
To go east
And around it

But

Then you see
The sign to Las Vegas
And you know there
Is some open road
And six hours later
You’re at the crap table
Crapping out
On the Come Bet

You turn and there is a fine
Lady you once knew

looking sorrowful

Because she was
Hoping you would have
Won and taking her
For a spin

again

And

She lays
A hand on your
Chest
And says
Oh, What Happened On the Comeback, baby?

Your mind is searching
For something sharp
To say
But your mind
Is dull
And your body
Tired
And your only thought

Is

Do I have
Enough gas
To make it home

Your life didn’t
Come out right
Your phenom arm
Gave out before
You made it to
The big leagues

You

Left the
Game for a few
Years
Then tried a
Comeback
As an infielder
But light hitting
Infielders
Are a dime
A dozen

You took a job
As a sports bookie
In Vegas
Because that’s
Where you quit
The game

You met
A chorus girl
And moved to
Hollywood when
She got a bit
Part in a movie

You

  Took a job selling
Tickets
At the Alamo
That’s what the employees call the stadium
Box office
That sits out in the middle of parking lot C
The wife’s movie
Career didn’t
Pan out
And she’s
Selling real estate
Now

And

sometimes

Those crashed dreams
Fall on your
Heads
Like a
Hard rain
And there is
Nothing to do
But cover
And run

You were hoping
For Little Joe on the
Come Bet
But you crapped
twice
It was Little Joe’s that
Laid you out
Took all
Of the nothing you had left

That

  Turned you from
The table
With nothing
But the drink
In your hand
And
Not a penny
To your name

You

Lean against the
Table
Throw your
Elbows up
To brace yourself
Because
Your legs are weak
And
The world is
Creeping in
And
You’re rounding
Second to
Nowhere
And
The good
Looking blond
With the
Sorrowful eyes

Those

eyes you once knew
Is
Asking
What Happened On the Comeback, Baby?

And

For a moment
You thought
You had an answer
But it is passed you like a fastball
High and tight
Your mind has
Dulled out
Like your body
And
Third base is so far away

Still/and

You are wondering
If I turn third
Just right

Can I make it home?

Do I have
Enough in me
Enough gas
To make home