Tuesday, August 02, 2005

A Moving Speech From...Baseball?!

American professional sports are not known for producing quotable masterpieces. Sure, there's the occasional Yogi Berra, a man who bears a capacity for wit and wisdom that tugs at the general public. Far more common, however, is the athlete seemingly trained at the academy of the catch-phrase. You know the type. Their sagacity usually stems from a beautifully crafted reporter's question, something like, "Incredible comeback, sports star. How did you guys manage to mount that one?" Generally, this bombast of intellect prompts a response like so: "Well, capaciously minded reporter, coach just told us to take it up another level. So we gave an obscenely high percentage of effort and came out ahead in the end." At this point, one's mind usually struggles to compute the exchange. Just what exactly did he mean by "another level?" How am I supposed to figure that statement, metaphysically? And general confusion ensues, soothed only by some inane beer commercial.

In a strange bit of fate, though, some of America's least loquacious folks stand side-by-side in their profession with some of the most eloquent: baseball sportswriters. George Will, Roger Angell, and Peter Gammons (pictured above left with Red Sock Carl Yastrzemski) stand out as some of the most gifted writers to ever interpret the box score. Recently Gammons, a New England guy, was elected to the Hall of Fame as a sportswriter of uncommon distinction. Required to give a speech for the occasion, Gammons spoke with elegance of his love for the sport. I include it on consumed because the writing is so good, so moving, that most anyone could appreciate it. Here's an excerpt from the transcript. Gammons is recounting a touching story about two Angels players who, in the midst of World Series chaos, remembered an old friend.

"If any of you are familiar with the Cape Cod League you might have heard of Arnie Allen, a special needs gentleman who for 40 years was a batboy for the Falmouth Commodores. He was diagnosed with brain cancer in the summer of 2002. 72 hours later a duffel bag ofAngels paraphanalia arrived in Falmouth, courtesy of two Falmouth players, Darin Erstad (pictured right) and Adam Kennedy. Of course the Angels went on to the world series in 2002 and after winning one incredible sixth game coming from five nothing deficit in the eighth inning. Before game seven Erstad and Kennedy pulled me aside before they went out to stretch, they told me, we know you are going to be speaking at the Hall of Fame in deductions in two weeks on the Cape. They said in unison, "as you speak, could you do us a favor, Arnie will be there probably for the last time. Could you just tell him that Darin and Adam Kennedy said, we are thinking of him before they went out and won the world series?"

You can imagine what happened. The Angels won. Pretty powerful stuff, isn't it? Stories like this made Gammons' speech one of the more memorable address I've heard lately. They also remind one that sports, while not ends in themselves, can reflect some of the happiest aspects of life--fun, teamwork, caring. Gammons' speech has many more such stories. Check out the full transcript of it here.


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