Doctor Eclectic

Doctor Eclectic
Doctor Eclectic

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The National Pastime

Every day seems to bring new news about the LA Dodgers, and most of it lies somewhere between tawdry and sleazy. Lost among the divorce settlement, lavish life styles of the rich and famous, push-and-shove of Texas billionaire versus now-broke California millionaire and both against a Commissioner looking to make a statement, was a true baseball story.

A story of a dream come true, a call to leave the AAA farm team and make it to the big leagues. The story of Dee Gordon.

The Dodgers have not had a good year to date. Struggling from the cellar of the National League West, their fortunes were not helped by the untimely injury of Rafael Furcal, their highly paid shortstop, early in the season. Furcal had been sidelined for five weeks with an injured thumb and his recent injury to his side may have concerned Don Mattingly because veteran ballplayers don’t always bounce back quickly.

So the call went out to Albuquerque, to have the young Gordon join the team in Philadelphia. From the get-go he generated the kind of interest that makes an All-Star. He is faster than greased lightning and to date has stolen four bases. He covers the field like a ranging Gazelle, and shows a sense of the game beyond his young years. And, surprisingly he was maintaining his AAA batting average against veteran pitching.

Of course he comes from good stock. His father Tom “Flash” Gordon is a living legend. He pitched for eight different teams before retiring in 2009 at the age of 41. He is the only pitcher in MLB history to compile 100 wins, saves and holds. This in spite of playing two seasons with my favorite team, the hapless Cubs.

For me, Tom Gordon’s bigger claim to fame is that he was part of the inspiration for Stephen King to write my most favorite book for young adults, “The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon”.

I’m unsure why this book is so memorable. There could be several reasons. For one thing, both my wife and I listened to it rather than read it. Some books lend themselves to that medium and the reading, by Anne Heche is phenomenal .

Then there is the construction of the book itself. King tells the story of a young girl, separated from her mother and brother while walking the Appalachian Trail and wandering for more than a week, subsisting off the land and possibly at serious risk of being followed by a hungry bear, by dividing the Chapters into innings “Top of the First”, etc. This unique tool allows a suspenseful buildup much as we experience in a close ballgame. It also allows for the relief pitcher, more accurately a Closer, to figure prominently in the story.

We follow the Girl, who maintains contact with the outside world by listening to the Boston Red Sox games on her transistor radio, as she maintains strength and sanity in her perilous adventure. The book also is such an off-the-wall departure from King’s stories of suspense and horror as to be insightful of the complexity of a great writer, who happens to love baseball.

So there are lessons to be learned, about independence and resourcefulness, about courage and growing up, that make this a great book for young adults. I may be wrong, but I like to imagine that Tom would have exposed Dee to this story when it came out in 1999. Dee would have been about 8 at the time, a perfect age to learn the lessons captured by Stephen King.

So, that’s the Dodger story I am dwelling on this week. Of course the fact that Dee Gordon and I share the same first name makes it a special story too, in spite of the fact that he has recently gone 1 for 13 and has dropped his batting average below .300. Rumor has it that when Furcal comes back, they may shift him to Second Base to allow Dee Gordon to remain in the Shortstop position and on the roster. I hope so.

Los Angeles recently visited whether they would extend their contract on “red light cameras”. It just so happens I have a story about those cameras. Tuesday, I think I’ll share it with you.

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