Baseball’s Moonglow

The point came where we hadn’t seen the moon in a week, and wondered if it were still back there somewhere, behind the thick metal curtain of rain and clouds.

I mean, what would happen if the moon went away?

I suppose the tides would stop, and the slimy things that breed in wet sand – the grunion, the surfers – would soon become extinct.

Poets would miss the moon. The Pismo clams —  a gorgeous clam, the Courtney Cox of clams – would certainly miss the moon. Tourists would miss the surfers, not realizing what an ornery bunch they often are.

So we’d see this trickle down effect: first the moon, then the grunion, then the clams and the surfers and the poets. And so on.

Obviously, the impact would be incremental.

Might be a good science fiction piece though. Where did the moon go? Did it leave a note?

Did aliens steal it? Did those idiot North Koreans miss with another missile?

Of course, the stars would appreciate it. A full moon steals their wink. 

Farmers would really miss it though. They work under harvest moons. In the gritty, muddy world of agriculture, it’s the one moment someone might look out wistfully across a wheatfield and think: “I think I’ll write a song tonight.”

“It’s a marvelous night for a moondance, with the stars up above in your eyes…”

Or, as when those famous homesteaders Johnny Mercer and Henry Mancini spotted the rising moon:

“Moon River, wider than a mile, I’m crossing you in style some day…”

If the moon went away, I would tell my granddaughter long and elaborate stories about what it was like. The way it once lit the breast of the new-fallen snow. Or, how I held hands with her grandma along the Intracoastal Waterway in Ft. Lauderdale, under a December moon, as the holiday boat parade glided by in 1979.

“Long story short: It’s the reason you’re here today,” I’d say.

I’d tell my granddaughter that a full moon is usually a good time to fish. Snook, in particular, seem smitten with the lacy phosphorus in the water beneath a full moon. So, yeah, the snook would miss the moon as well.

I’d tell Cakes how a moon would sometimes show up in baseball’s beloved box scores, especially in October. I’d tell Cakes how the World Series always seemed to feature a full moon rising over left field in about the fourth inning, and how sportscasters – not normally an observant lot, not super-bright to begin with – would gush over the sight of it.

“But there was this one,” I’d tell her. “Scully. He could handle a full moon. He could put it in perspective. He would sing about the moon, recite some Wallace Stevens, caption the moment.”

“’The moon is the mother of pathos and pity,’ a poet once wrote…

“Bottom of the 5th and the Dodgers are still looking for that first hit. And, I suppose, probably feeling a trace of pathos and pity themselves.”

Cakes would yawn. Guess you had to be there.

And, yes, were we ever there.

I miss Vin Scully. I get bad butterflies at spring training, and the sense of grief grows as opening day arrives. Baseball without Scully is like Christmas without church.

There will never be another one, and the heirs apparent … wait, there are none, no one even comes close. There’s only one Scully, just as there’s only one Santa, or one Mozart, or one Pavarotti.

So now baseball — our most-musical game, a nightly prom — has become a more-austere experience, almost homework. The sportscasters seem to have taken a step back toward the Stone Age, with their incessant chatter about stats and Wins Above Replacement and split-fingered goober balls that cut this way, then that.

Honestly, today’s telecasts are mostly engineering studies.

News flash: Nobody cares about spin rates. Know what fans care about? What did Max Muncy’s daddy do? Did the kid once make an airplane out of old bicycle parts and fly it into the neighbor’s porch? Did he meet the love of his life at a county fair when his truck wouldn’t start and she just happened to be hanging around, cleaning the cotton candy machine?

Without Scully, there is no moonglow to baseball. But there still is luster, and glory, and hardship, and joy.

That’s plenty, I suppose.

So go ahead if you must. Play ball.

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24 thoughts on “Baseball’s Moonglow

  1. I miss Vin too. A 62-year-old native Angeleno and second generation Dodgers fan, I’ve heard Vin Scully’s voice more than any other. I especially liked the games toward the end of the season when the team had already been eliminated from the pennant race because that was when he was at his best. He would tell those stories that were more interesting than the contest just to keep us in our seats, like when he got Babe Ruth’s signature as a kid in New York even though he was a Giants fan…

    Play ball? sigh

  2. Even as Angel season ticket holders, my wife always said she learned more about the Angel players when they played the Dodgers. What a gift Vin was to all of us.

  3. Without Scully, there is no moonglow to baseball. Shedding a tear before my morning coffee. Thank you.

  4. Best column ever. Love the part about you telling Catty Cakes. And spot on about Vin Scully. One of a kind and sorely missed.

  5. Great column, Chris. Man I miss Scully so much too. He could make a blowout 12-0 game interesting. No one close to him. His broadcasts were sheer poetry.

  6. Just the finest original free association prose (like a sinker) going down, that can connect baseball and the moon with ease; and the words resolve into a big-armed hurler that throws cutters and change-ups that look as big as the moon coming across the plate, but disappear like the moon flying behind a storm cloud when your mind takes a swing at them, head-on. I think the moon is a home run you just hit out of the park, Chis, rising majestically over the left field stands, forever. Thanks for this one, my friend.

    1. FYI they Gad s beautiful dedication to Vin at St Patrick’s cathedral in NY, last week, given by Fordham University, where he attended and honed down his God given talent. Thank you, I agree! We don’t need figures during game! We need stories! I love Cake’s look (taking it all in like a spy)!

  7. Yes, Scully was our Santa, giving us gifts from our Dodgers at every game. I wonder what he would have said about the new rules.

  8. I am turning 75, and listened to Vin when I lived in New Jersey and was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan. Still have the 56 yearbook celebrating the first world championship. And it was never spring until Vin called a spring training game. My family moved to LA 3 years after the Dodgers did, so Vin has always been an important part of my life. His voice, his stories, his magic. One of a kind, never to be replicated. Thanks for the memories.

  9. Thanks for the memories of Vin; 3 generations of our family enjoyed his silky oratory describing the boys of Summer.

  10. Beautifully put, Chris. Perhaps our South pasadena neighbor, Joe Davis, might read this and take to heart the need for poetry and prose expressed at the baseball game – after all a baseball field is like a pastoral sonnet at sunset.. It could never come close to Vin, but form a occasional subtle and fitting tribute.

    1. Joe doesn’t need my advice. He’s a total pro…almost a prodigy. But I hope that, as the seasons pass, he ditches all the stats and discovers the human connection that really makes the games so wonderful.

  11. Chris, you have knocked it outta the park! Jim Murray and Vinnie are looking down and saying “He’s one of us!” I will be saving this column for the rest of my life.

    1. Dave, thank you, but don’t get carried away. Jim and Vin have golf to play and stories to tell! They were both wry and well read, and their stories came with a twist. Afraid that era is going, going, gone.

  12. Who doesn’t like to start their day with a cup of coffee and a touch of melancholy? Such a lovely piece of writing, thank you.

  13. Oh, beautiful, delicate, vulnerable Audrey Hepburn. She sang it best. She poured those years of starvation in Holland under the nasty Nazis, and the insecurities of Hollywood, everything she had into Holly Golightly. The kind of music I could listen to as I drift off into the next realm someday. Dream maker, you heart breaker ….

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