My latest from the June 18, 2012 Boston GlobeBARRINGTON, R.I. – Dana Quigley will never forget the route. A straight shot down 45th Street to St. Mary’s Medical Center in [...]
My latest from the June 18, 2012 Boston Globe
BARRINGTON, R.I. – Dana Quigley will never forget the route. A straight shot down 45th Street to St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach, Fla. Easy. Five minutes to reach his son, to see his best friend.
Whenever the phone rings at night in his West Palm Beach home, Quigley, the 2005 Champions Tour Player of the Year, jumps out of bed to answer. What if the kids are in trouble? At 1 a.m. last Dec. 1, a call woke the golfer dubbed “Iron Man,’’ shoving him into a living nightmare.
Quigley answered. Silence on the other end. He texted Devon, his son, who was out that night at a friend’s birthday party. You just pocket-dialed me, Quigley wrote. That’s when the police called back.
“You need to get down here right away,’’ the officer said.
“Well, how bad is it?’’ Quigley responded.
“You just need to get down here.”
Here meant St. Mary’s. Less than two hours prior, Devon’s BMW barreled into a semi-truck in Riviera Beach. Paramedics needed an hour to remove Devon from his car. Quigley was unable to identify his own son’s swollen face. Doctors said the 27-year-old would not live, and put him in a medically induced coma. Quigley went to the parking lot with his wife, Angie, where they cried.
The morning after the accident, two pastor friends visited Quigley at home. Devon’s not even your son, they said. He’s God’s son. And you just have to accept that.
“It got me over the hump that morning,’’ said Quigley, who on Monday and Tuesday will make his 11th appearance at the CVS Caremark Charity Classic, Devon’s favorite tournament, here at Rhode Island Country Club. “I thought I’d be devastated. But I wasn’t. I was actually calm and at peace.’’
Three weeks before the accident, Dana and Devon were baptized together. Together like when Devon caddied for his father on the Champions Tour, where Dana has won 11 tournaments. Together like their early-morning rounds at Bear Lake Country Club in West Palm Beach, where they played all day, every day.
“The saddest part of it all? I’m missing my best friend,’’ said Quigley on Sunday, sporting a pink-striped polo with a “Devo Strong’’ logo, complete with a heart and angel wings. “It’s tough. But I know that God has a plan for him, and I’m willing to accept it.’’
Quigley and his wife never visit the accident site. They drive by, but never look. Never went to the police station to see the totaled car, either. They focus all their energy on Devon, awoke from the coma after three or four months. The exact date is sketchy. Doctors didn’t realize it until the Quigleys sent them video of Devon answering questions with his eyes.
Sunday was Father’s Day, a day Dana Quigley, who was born in Lynnfield, usually spends on the road. Devon watched the US Open on television throughout the weekend. Dana returned to Rhode Island CC, where he used to caddie alongside his nephew, Brett.
“We’re probably as close as any golfing family could be,’’ said Brett, a PGA Tour player who will also be competing in the CVS Caremark Charity Classic. “Getting back on the course, Dana sees how strong a support group the golf community is. Everyone just wants to know what’s going on, that they’ve been thinking about the whole family.’’
Devon has regained total cognition. He will soon get hooked up with a computer. He might be able to text his father, the Iron Man who made 278 consecutive Champions Tour starts from 1997-2005. Dana anticipates a simple first message.
I love you.
“It’s amazing,’’ Dana said. “If you saw him, you would just swear he could get up and walk away. The doctors are amazed at what physical shape his body is in.’’
One day, beside Devon’s bed, Dana issued a proclamation. When we’re back playing golf, he said, I will finally outhit you, something Devon used to do by 50 yards before the crash.
“Look up if you think I’ll outhit you,’’ Dana said.
“You still think you can outhit me?’’
Devon Quigley’s eyes shot straight up.
Internship? Meet fire. My first week with the Globe sports department concluded with the Sox’s three-game series at Fenway against the Nationals. They got swept, and I wrote some articles [...]
Internship? Meet fire.
My first week with the Globe sports department concluded with the Sox’s three-game series at Fenway against the Nationals. They got swept, and I wrote some articles about some players, which you can read on Boston.com, if you really want. In one of them, I rhymed. Try to find where.
Presented without comment, 10 hardly baseball-related observations from Fenway this weekend:
[View the story "Celtics-Heat as told through injured players' tweets" on Storify]
Seven semesters ago, an ephemeral time period by any standard except perhaps one labeled “Kardashian Marriage,” I began writing this column. Today marks my penultimate penning, the final weekly installment [...]
Seven semesters ago, an ephemeral time period by any standard except perhaps one labeled “Kardashian Marriage,” I began writing this column. Today marks my penultimate penning, the final weekly installment of “Live From Mudville.” And there are so many people I would like to thank before the orchestral music plays me off the stage.
Thank you to those who provided me with a constant source of material over the years. Ozzie Guillen, LeBron James and all the rest of the other volcanoes for traditional column fodder, spewing hate−filled vitriol and naivete that never failed to beg for social commentary on the state of the world.
Thank you Jeremy Lin and Tim Tebow, for repeating the trope of the alluring narrative, that black hole of story that sucks in fans and media alike, spiraling the story so far out of control that it almost becomes unrecognizable, too distant from its origin.
Thank you March Madness, Marathon Monday and any other alliterative springtime traditions that I can relentlessly ridicule, all in the name of fun. My relationship with such events is somewhat like a schoolyard bully pulling the pretty girl’s pigtails. Because man, are those fun to write about.
Thank you to the Miami−based Sled Dog Action Coalition, for emailing me at 8 a.m. one morning my freshman year to teach me about cruelty in the Iditarod. Your credibility is through the roof, especially given that your intern presumably spent the morning frolicking on Google News, trolling for someone — anyone, even a Tufts Daily columnist — to send your prepackaged, South Beach rhetoric about a snow sport to.
Thank you to the Tufts athletics community, for welcoming me into its ranks and giving me journalistic access. Thank you to the brains behind the men’s basketball team’s “Circus” promotion, to football coach Jay Civetti and baseball coach John Casey for their willingness to talk and to their players for opening up to a kid.
I’d like to thank you, my reader. All one of you. Over the past seven semesters, I’ve written about Thanksgiving, Patriots’ Day and Christmas. I’ve written about why we love to hate, why we cry at a trivial game featuring players with whom we will never come in contact but grow angry when those same players show that same emotion, and why we love these same players to whom we somehow feel this spiritual connection, bonded through sport.
I’ve written about scapegoating, reactionary fans and knee−jerk panic; the appeal of enmity; the plight of the masses and the road to becoming a legend. I wrote about Anne Frank’s purported blindness, dropping the f−bomb on television and the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl. And then I went out and ate Beef O’Brady’s.
I’ve written serious open letters to idiot coaches, hopeful ones to budding leaders and satirical help−wanted ads for Tufts graduates. I wrote that The Tufts Daily sent me to cover the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, and people wondered how I made it back for class later that week.
I wrote about a “fantasy−fantasy baseball” draft featuring only fictional players, and I solicited user submissions for columns about your most glorious moments playing fantasy football. I told readers about my love for Kool−Aid Jammers, “(500) Days of Summer” and “Recess.”
To pretend I, or any columnist at the Daily for that matter, maintains a loyal readership would be delusional. But this is an amazing platform for expression, for a weird kid to make bad jokes and write about the intersection between sports and life on a weekly basis. So thank you for reading, and thank you to those — editors, readers, friends — who helped make this column somehow last seven semesters.
Most of all, I want to thank Jesus. Jesus Montero. Catcher for the Seattle Mariners. I like the way he plays sports. Thanks, Jesus. For everything.
On Patriots’ Day, that glorious Massachusetts and Maine−only holiday when two states get to bask in our New England eliteness while the rest of the country suffers a painstaking case [...]
On Patriots’ Day, that glorious Massachusetts and Maine−only holiday when two states get to bask in our New England eliteness while the rest of the country suffers a painstaking case of the “Mondays,” I undertook the most grueling task I have ever faced, one that promised to test — and likely break — my every will and push me to a breaking point never before experienced.
I ran the Boston Marathon.
Actually, that’s a lie. While friends — far physically and mentally stronger, and far more admirable than I, mind you — were trekking from Hopkinton to Boylston Street beneath a blistering April sun, I sat indoors and envisioned what it would be like to run the actual Boston Marathon. What follows is a running diary of my experience:
10:00 a.m. — Start of the elite women’s race. I am neither elite nor a woman by any stretch of the imagination. Given this newfound data, I probably should not be allowed at the starting line right now. For an international event, the Boston Marathon is extremely relaxed on security. Going to get a quick snack for some last−minute fuel before the starting gun fires for my wave in 40 minutes.
10:10 a.m. — Downed three soft tacos with sour cream from Chipotle. Their barbacoa is tops. The tortilla was slightly soggy.
10:36 a.m. — Officially lined up to begin my 2.62−mile−wait … the decimal goes WHERE?
10:40 a.m. — And we’re off!
10:41 a.m. — And I’ve fallen!
11:21 a.m. — Following a quick 40−minute pavement power nap, I’m back on my feet and ready to run.
11:32 a.m. — One mile down, and this is already getting boring. Really wish I had something to occupy my time on the run. Luckily, I’m carrying a backpack filled with hardcover editions of all seven Harry Potter books. We’ll start at the beginning…
11:34 a.m. — About to grab a cup of water from a beautiful volunteer beside the road. I think I’ll talk to her.
11:35 a.m. — Rejected pickup lines, part nine: “Want to see my Boston Marathong?”
11:39 a.m. — Hagrid just told Harry that he’s a wizard.
2:13 p.m. — Received word that the Red Sox lost to Tampa Bay at Fenway, 1−0. Pitcher Daniel Bard loaded the bases then walked Evan Longoria, scoring Sean Rodriguez as the Rays avoided a sweep on a day that manager Bobby Valentine called out Kevin Youkilis for a perceived lackadaisical effort. Both Longoria and Youkilis make millions of dollars each year. I take this as a sign that I too should be lazy and walk.
3:04 p.m. — Snape killed Dumbledore.
3:56 p.m. — I am roughly halfway through mile four, as I stopped in a Dairy Queen to read and pick up a DQ Caramel Delight Pie Blizzard. Did you know that you flip the Blizzard upside−down and the ice cream won’t fall out? These are the important things in life.
4:08 p.m. — Hailed a taxi and moved up a few miles. Had to exit in Natick because I spent my last three sock−quarters to put rainbow sprinkles on the Blizzard. Worth it.
4:20 p.m. — Another mile down. The time is 4:20. That means it’s time to smoke … the competition.
4:46 p.m. — At the halfway point just outside of Wellesley. Trees are a blur on the side of the road. I grab a cup of Gatorade at the next aid station. It is lemon−lime flavored. I hate lemon−lime.
6:41 p.m. — Ghost−riding a van to the finish line.
6:42 p.m. — Fans are chanting my name as I cross the finish line. Turns out that a homeless guy named Alex was chugging a gallon of milk down the road.
8:00 p.m. Back at Tufts, home in time to file my column and watch “Bones” on FOX. What a great show.
CHAPTER SEVEN: RESOLUTIONS AND CATHARTIC HOMECOMINGS The inherent nature of the scapegoat involves permanent exile. Leviticus explicitly states that the community’s gates closed on the goat, leaving it to wander [...]
CHAPTER SEVEN: RESOLUTIONS AND CATHARTIC HOMECOMINGS
The inherent nature of the scapegoat involves permanent exile. Leviticus explicitly states that the community’s gates closed on the goat, leaving it to wander alone in the wilderness with society’s sins, never to return them to their origins. Interestingly, both Merkle and Buckner defied this clause, experiencing cathartic homecomings of sorts that allowed them forgiveness, which lends beacons of light to otherwise dim situations. Can a resolution be reached? Can humanity realize the errors of its scapegoating ways and forgive the scapegoat for unfairly passing blame onto him? In the case of Merkle and Buckner, the answer is unequivocally yes.
Merkle experienced such a catharsis in 1950. The year prior, members of the 1916 Giants team were invited to the first game of the World Series between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Yankees. Everyone attended except Merkle, who told Dodger announcer Red Barber that he still felt hurt by the innumerable people who referred to him as “Bonehead.” Barber later wrote a column that “informed readers that Merkle wasn’t at fault for costing the Giants the pennant in 1908.” In 1950, at the Giants’ Old-Timers game, Merkle was received well by the 35,073 Giants fans attending the park that day. Despite a couple of jeers, Merkle reportedly said, “It makes a man feel good to hear such cheers after all these years. I don’t think I’ll forget. I expected so much worse.” This event effectively ended Merkle’s seclusion from the game he once loved; he began to attend other baseball games in the Florida State League and later became an instructor. After his first day teaching young children about baseball, he cried.
A similar event unfolded for Bill Buckner, shown in “Catching Hell.” The 2004 World Series victory ended the suffering, removing the pain of past defeats and with it Buckner’s pain. Boston reached out to Buckner during a reunion for the 1986 club, but Buckner declined. After the Red Sox won for a second time in 2007, they reached out once more to “forgive” Buckner. But should it have even come to this? “That’s an unfortunate way to put it,” Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy says in the film. “But the idea that he’s off the hook is true, because he’s part of the story that was the weight and the baggage that they were carrying around, that they’re not carrying around anymore.” In 2008, Buckner returned to Fenway to throw out the first pitch of the season. During a press conference, Buckner addressed the media about the moment with tears in his eyes:
It’s probably about as emotional as it can get … I really had to forgive, not the fans of Boston, per say, but I would have to say in my heart I had to forgive the media, for what they put me and my family through … I’m over that … I accept you guys back into the family.
After he addressed the media in that way, Buckner said, he could finally return to Fenway Park. Interestingly, it was not the fans that needed to forgive Buckner, but the other way around. The scapegoat returned to the city from which he was exiled, and the community had to beg forgiveness of the blamed. But Bill Buckner was once part of the Red Sox family, and his accomplishments for the organization are tangible. Steve Bartman, on the other hand, will likely never return, even if the Cubs win the World Series. It is hard to envision a situation in which the fans forgive him, because he gave them nothing other than heartbreak. In that way, he is the twenty-first century embodiment of a ritual scapegoat.
Towards the end of “Catching Hell,” Rolenz states, “We need to look at what damage the idea of scapegoat does. And not only to the person who becomes the scapegoat, but to those people that are jeering and berating the scapegoat. It diminishes our humanity.” The minister is onto something, but she unfortunately has it backwards. Scapegoating does not diminish our humanity. It is our humanity. When Fred Merkle, Fred Snodgrass, Bill Buckner and Steve Bartman were exiled out of the baseball community by fans and the media, they were only pawns in a ritualistic practice that dates back centuries. Scapegoating is not exclusive to baseball, or even exclusive to sport. Scapegoating is human nature, and always will be so long as our need to deflect blame away from ourselves persists.
CHAPTER SIX: STEVE BARTMAN AND THE OUTSIDER In winning the 2004 World Series, the Boston Red Sox at once ended 86 years of futility and expunged Buckner of his transgressions [...]
CHAPTER SIX: STEVE BARTMAN AND THE OUTSIDER
In winning the 2004 World Series, the Boston Red Sox at once ended 86 years of futility and expunged Buckner of his transgressions in 1986. The Chicago Cubs, Buckner’s former team, have not been nearly as lucky. The Loveable Losers have not won a World Series title since 1908 and last won an NL pennant in 1945. Like with the Red Sox, Cubs fans are notorious for believing in curses, a notion that dates back to 1945, when Billy Goat Tavern owner Billy Sianis declared,” Them Cubs, they aren’t gonna win no more” after the Wrigley Field staff refused to allow his pet goat into the stadium. Chicago, like Boston, is a town with a history of baseball disappointment, and the pain of losing was presumed personal. But a loaded roster in 2003 promised hope. Dusty Baker had come to the Windy City after leading San Francisco to the World Series the year prior. The lineup included the dynamic pitching duo of Kerry Wood and Mark Prior, not to mention an outfield featuring the powerful Sammy Sosa in right and Moises Alou in left, as well a solid defensive middle, anchored by sure-handed shortstop Alex Gonzalez. After beating the Braves in the divisional round, the Cubs entered National League Championship Series against the upstart Florida Marlins. Chicago went up 3-2 in the series, and held a 3-0 lead in the eighth inning of Game 6 at Wrigley Field on Oct. 14, 2003. Only five more outs after Mike Mordecai flew out to left, and the Cubs would go to the World Series. For fans, this would end all of the suffering and the ill will.
Like Red Sox devotees, Chicago fans also look for harbingers of doom. One came in the seventh inning, when comedian Bernie Mac sang “Take Me Out To The Ballgame.” Instead of singing, “Let’s root, root, root for the home team,” Mac sang, “Let’s root, root, root, for the champs, champs.” Then in the eighth inning, Luis Castillo curled a foul ball down the left-field line. Alou sprinted towards the stands, and multiple fans leapt to grab a piece of history. “It’s the natural reaction for a fan to want to catch a foul ball,” Gibney says in the documentary. Among those in the stands who reached for the foul ball was Steve Bartman, a youth baseball coach who was wearing a navy sweatshirt, a green turtleneck, a Cubs baseball cap and Sony Walkman headphones. He and others around him in got in Alou’s way, and the ball fell harmlessly into the stands. In response, Alou threw a tantrum on the field, slamming his glove and glaring up at Bartman. “This could be huge,” FOX analyst Steve Lyons said on the broadcast.
Indeed, it proved a turning point in the game, but even more so for Steve Bartman. A wild pitch advanced Juan Pierre, who was on second base when the incident happened, to third. Ivan Rodriguez singled to left, scoring Pierre and cutting the lead down to 3-1. Miguel Cabrera then hit a ground ball to the normally sure-handed Alex Gonzalez, who misplayed a surefire double play. All runners were safe and the bases were loaded. Derrek Lee then doubled, chasing Prior from the game, and Florida went up 4-3 when Jeff Conine hit a sacrifice fly. On that play, Sosa missed the cutoff man, allowing Mike Lowell, who was intentionally walked, to move up to second base. A bases-clearing double from Mordecai gave the Marlins a 7-3 lead, a margin which was upped to 8-3 when Pierre singled.
The Man With The Headphones
As AP sports columnist Jim Litke said, “When Alou goes, ‘I could have had it, I could have had it,’ everybody in the ballpark went, ‘Yeah, we could have had it.’” First baseman Eric Karros described the Wrigley Field atmosphere as deflated following Alou’s missed opportunity. But the blame fell squarely on Bartman, even though, like with Buckner, there was another game to be played in the series. The next night at Wrigley Field, Florida overcame a 5-3 deficit to capture the pennant, 9-6, and went on to win the World Series over the New York Yankees. Cub fans were left to wallow in self-pity yet again, and looked for someone to blame for the newest bout of sorrow. There were so many other things that went wrong, especially Gonzalez’s boot at shortstop, but few can recall the events after Bartman interfered with Alou. Were the players choking, or did Bartman invoke the Cubs’ curse?
Rather than blame their beloved players, fans seemed content with showering hatred onto the defenseless man sitting in the front row, on the innocent soul who simply wanted what every other fan arrives at the ballpark hoping for: a foul ball. As a television producer said, “The human element took over.” Indeed, the human tendency to scapegoat took center stage in the Wrigley Field stands; fans seemed to forget that there was a game going on, directing the innate desire for violence described by Girard onto Bartman. Even though there was no JumboTron or instant replay inside the archaic Friendly Confines, fans positioned outside the stadium were listening to radios. One was even standing with a television on his head; fans could thus see replays of the Bartman incident, which incited a chant of, “A—hole. A—hole” that spread like wildfire into the bleachers. The anger, along with the chant, built. People started pointing at him and made Bartman the scapegoat. It got to, as Gibney described, “a fever pitch.” Home videos taken during the game show fans screaming things like, “Rot in Hell,” “We’re going to kill you” and “Everyone in Chicago hates you.” One young adult was getting bombarded by an entire city.
A mob mentality developed, reminiscent of an entire city casting its sins on a helpless goat in Leviticus. As one talking head described, it went from a “Mardi Gras atmosphere to a funeral.” Fans began pelting Bartman with beers, hurling obscenities as he sat stone-faced, only looking ahead at the field. When security finally escorted Bartman and his two friends out of Wrigley Field, people started booing, jumping down from their seats to point and scream at the newfound scapegoat. “I’ve been covering sports for 30-some-odd years, and I’ve been to English football matches, World Cup matches, drunken NFL, final two minutes where guys are really aggravated, and this kid was taking a lot of abuse,” Litke said. Like the goat was ritualistically led out of the city in Biblical times, so too was Bartman literally led out of Wrigley Field, trailed by a crowd exhibiting a “lynch-mob mentality.”
In his postgame press conference, Baker refuted the notion of curses, instead saying that it was “about the fan interference.” Even though he later mentioned Gonzalez’s error, Bartman came first on the manager’s list of goats. Governor Rod Blagojevich said, “If anyone convicts that guy of a crime, he’ll never get a pardon out of this governor.” A lifelong Cubs fan, ESPN writer Wayne Drehs later asked, “What are we going to do, take him out to the center of town and throw snowballs at him? It’s a sickening feeling.” Yet in antiquity, thrown snowballs would likely be the least of the scapegoat’s problems. A postgame radio show on WGN received a call saying that Bartman’s address had been found, and a mob was going to go kill him. In “Catching Hell,” host David Kaplan said, “I was on the air, a) as a therapist, trying to talk people off the ledge, and b) trying to calm people down, saying, ‘It is not Steve Bartman’s fault that this team gave up eight runs.’” No real violence was ever inflicted against Bartman, but his life has clearly changed forever. He not publically surfaced since the incident, refusing requests for autographs and trade show appearances, even when offered hundreds of thousands of dollars to show his face. In a very real way, Steve Bartman was kicked out of the community and had the town gates shut behind him.
A Story About The Fans
Can we pinpoint a reason as to why Bartman was scapegoated and not, for instance, Alex Gonzalez? Bartman’s subservient demeanor and geeky wardrobe may have contributed, but he was fundamentally an outsider from the moment he stepped into that stadium. Steve Bartman was a fan. Ever since Bill Buckner, scapegoating players has faded out of common practice. Managers and, in Bartman’s case, fans, seem more likely to get blamed than the players actually playing the game. But there have been other cases of fan interference, most notably with Jeffrey Maier, when the then-12-year-old deflected a batted ball into the stands during Game 1 of the 1996 ALCS between the Yankees and the Orioles. Maier never received any criticism, and was even hailed as a hero in New York. As stated earlier, scapegoats often arise in major media markets, but the Yankees came out on the winning end of that game, and the game was played in New York. Had the situation been reversed, had Maier interfered with a Yankees right-fielder and cost New York the game, he almost certainly would have been vilified as a scapegoat just like Bartman.
Like with Buckner, partial blame rests with the media. The replay was shown constantly in the hours following the game. The popular ESPN show, “Pardon the Interruption,” had a segment the next day where hosts Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon ranked the people who should receive the blame on a “Food Chain.” People to be ranked included Gonzalez, Prior, Mac, Baker and the Billy Goat. But Wilbon put the “Headset Man” atop his list. Everyone began wondering as to Bartman’s identity, and the truth finally came out for “Chicago’s Most Wanted.” The Chicago Sun-Times eventually broke the news, publishing Bartman’s name, hometown and place of employment. Police surrounded his house to keep him safe and to keep others away. Lyons recognized that the media has to replay the clip over and over again, but must share in the blame. The consensus among those on the television production side interviewed for “Catching Hell” was that they had a job to do, but from a humanist perspective they were unhappy with how everything turned out for Bartman. But as one caller to WGN said, “I think the big factor was the crowd’s reaction. Everyone that was there just was clenching, and I think if the fans had let it go and just continue to be behind the Cubs and support them, I think it would have been a totally different outcome.”
To label Bartman as a scapegoat means that Chicago fans needed him to play a certain role. Reverend Kathleen Rolenz, a Unitarian minister in Rocky River, Ohio, devoted an entire sermon to the Steve Bartman incident. Citing Leviticus as the basis of her sermon, Rolenz said in the documentary, “The goat is innocent. The whole idea of the scapegoat is you take an innocent thing and you put your sins upon it. Scapegoats are solitary and vulnerable, so in that sense, he was the perfect scapegoat.” Bartman appeared about as solitary and vulnerable as a person in his situation could appear. Though he attended the game with two friends, he said only a few words after the incident occurred. His wardrobe caused him to stand out, and he looked a little bit “dorky.” Unlike Merkle, Snodgrass and Buckner, Bartman is a true scapegoat in that he was a true outsider. He had no ties to the Chicago Cubs other than a lifelong love for the organization, so fans found it easy to blame him. After all, they needed someone on whom to cast blame, lest they fault their beloved Cubs, a notion absolutely out of the question.
Also unlike the aforementioned three case studies, Bartman was not a public figure. He did not live a life constantly hounded by the media. Baseball players accept the scrutiny and criticism inherent with their job, especially when associated with mistakes they make in critical situations. Bartman wanted none of that. He was a reclusive soul made a scapegoat by a city desperate to cast blame elsewhere. Shortly after the incident, Bartman asked for forgiveness, issuing a short apology statement. Scapegoats, however, do not get the opportunity to apologize. Their role is simple: to take on the ill will and the sins of a nation and walk silently into the abyss. Still in hiding, Steve Bartman has done just that.
CHAPTER FIVE: ‘THE BALL GETS BY BUCKNER’ The Red Sox went on to win the 1912 World Series after Snodgrass’ gaffe, and again in 1915, 1916 and 1918. Boston fans [...]
CHAPTER FIVE: ‘THE BALL GETS BY BUCKNER’
The Red Sox went on to win the 1912 World Series after Snodgrass’ gaffe, and again in 1915, 1916 and 1918. Boston fans then suffered eighty-six years until the 2004 squad finally broke the “Curse of the Bambino.” And along the way, in 1986, the Red Sox returned to the sport’s biggest stage, poised to rid the franchise of years of disappointment. Then one error turned Bill Buckner into history’s most famous scapegoat in an event that at once reinforced the Bostonian notion of a “curse” and absolved the rest of the team of all guilt. It is a classic example of the scapegoat mechanism brought into our sporting culture.
Bill Buckner was a stable force in his generation, a perennial .300 hitter who was traded to the Boston Red Sox in 1982, a move that failed to deter his consistency. But ever since Buckner twisted his ankle in 1976, his “days began and ended as he soaked his ankles in a bucket of ice water for an hour. If needed he would inject himself with painful cortisone shots to ease the sore, swollen muscles he bore throughout the years he played baseball.” In the 1986 ALCS against the Angels, Buckner injured his Achilles tendon during Game 7 while running towards first. However, he always played in spite of the pain, determined to help the Red Sox break the infamous “Curse of the Bambino” and play in the World Series. Boston would play the New York Mets, heroes in the Big Apple even before a pitch had been thrown in the World Series. The Red Sox entered Game 6 on the brink of history, one victory away from clinching the club’s first title since 1918. With ace Roger Clemens starting, things looked even more promising.
Game 6 remained knotted at 2-2 until the top of the seventh, when Boston went up 3-2. Clemens was removed from the game in the top of the eighth after developing a blister in the fifth that rendered him unable to throw his patented slider. New York tied things up in the bottom of the eighth, but came up empty in the final frame, moving into extra innings. In the top of the tenth, Dave Henderson homered to give the Red Sox the lead, and Marty Barrett singled in Wade Boggs to bring the score to 5-3. Boston retired Wally Backman and Keith Hernandez to start the bottom of the tenth, bringing the Red Sox one out from a World Series victory. Even the scoreboard in right-centerfield flashed, “Congratulations, Boston Red Sox, 1986 World Champions.” For a fan base traditionally marred by “curses” and ill will, this proved a bad omen for the immediate future.
‘The Ball Gets By Buckner’
Bill Bucker will forever be associated with a fielding error, but he was ironically one of his generation’s top fielders during the earlier part of his career, ranking first in the National League in field percentage in 1973, second in 1978 and third in 1979. Furthermore, his range factor per game, a sabermetric measuring a fielder’s range capabilities, ranked first in the NL in 1973 and 1978, and in the top 10 in seven other seasons. No stranger to irony, Buckner was ultimately done in by a lack of range due to his rickety ankles in the World Series. When Boston was ahead in the late innings during those playoffs, manager John McNamara would replace Buckner with Dave Stapleton, but people have speculated that McNamara wanted Buckner to be on the field when the Red Sox won the World Series. His desire to honor his gritty veteran ultimately did both Boston and Buckner in; Buckner’s ankles were so bad “that his body moved back and forth each time he went to field a ball or ran down to first.”
After Backman and Hernandez were retired, Vin Scully began reading off the names of the NBC staff, and Bob Costas was sent to the Red Sox locker room. Plastic covering was applied to all of the lockers to prevent champagne from splattering. A podium was set up to present the World Series trophy to Jean Yawkey, the widow of longtime Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey, and the media chose Bruce Hurst as the World Series MVP and Marty Barrett as the player of the game. It was all too premature to last.
Gary Carter singled into left field on a 2-1 pitch. Kevin Mitchell, who was so sure that the Mets would lose that he was making travel arrangements to fly home to California, was sent to pitch hit against Calvin Schiraldi, his former teammate in triple A with Tidewater. He poked a single, moving Carter to second base. Ray Knight punched a single into center, scoring Carter and moving the Mets within one run. Bob Stanley came in to replace Schiraldi and faced Mookie Wilson. With the count 2-2, the Red Sox one strike away from the World Series title, Rich Gedman was unable to handle an errant pitch and it sailed to the backstop, scoring Mitchell and evening the score at 5-5. In the ninth pitch of the at bat, Wilson rolled the ball towards Buckner down the first base line. As Scully said, “So the winning run is at second base, with two outs, three and two to Mookie Wilson. Little roller up along first…behind the bag! It gets through Buckner! Here comes Knight, and the Mets win it!” New York had lived to fight another day, and went on to win the World Series the following night in Game 7 after a one-day rainout. But that loss happened gradually; the Mets clawed back from a 3-0 deficit, ultimately winning 8-5. Buckner’s error was a moment that Boston fans could directly point to as the turning point; once that error happened, Game 7 was over in their minds. The error was tangible. It made Bill Buckner the scapegoat.
There were no nicknames, no calling Buckner “Bonehead” or referring to his “$30,000 Muff.” Instead, the incident is known merely by the surname: “Buckner.” Television replays and mass media took over, unequivocally reinforcing blame upon the Boston first baseman for losing the game. That much is certain. Following Game 6, John Feinstein of the Washington Post wrote, “In a game that will be remembered as one of the strangest in World Series history, Stanley and Buckner wrote themselves into the legacy of New England’s disasters forever. If the Boston Red Sox recuperate and win Game 7 from the New York Mets, all will be forgiven.” Of course, few have forgiven Buckner, even to this day. He ranks right up there with Bucky Dent and Aaron Boone as the most loathed players in Red Sox history, except he played for the team. But should he have even been playing first base in that fateful inning? He had a damaged Achilles tendon and Dave Stapleton was fresh. But Buckner did not throw the passed ball, and Buckner can hardly be blamed for losing Game 7. So what makes him such a poignant scapegoat, even though he went on to enjoy a respectable career for years later, accumulating more hits than 70 percent of all Hall-of-Famers?
In “Catching Hell,” part of the critically acclaimed ESPN 30-for-30 documentary series, director Alex Gibney briefly profiles Buckner, the man who has suffered through 25 years of replays and comparisons, and the plight of the scapegoat. Though the film is about Steve Bartman, the subject of this essay’s penultimate chapter, Gibney spends time drawing parallels between the modern era’s two greatest scapegoats. A lifelong Red Sox fan, Gibney felt a connection to the Buckner case. “For years, I would freeze the moment before the ball got to Buckner’s glove,” Gibney says over the film’s narration. “I wanted the dream, not the nightmare.” He is referring to a retrospectively prophetic statement made by Buckner to the media twelve days before the World Series, when he stated, “The dreams are that you’re going to have a great Series and win, and the nightmares are that you’re going to let the winning run score on a ground ball through your legs.”
Still, there were plenty of other people to blame. The wild pitch that brought home the tying run was an egregious error right on par with Buckner’s boot. But fans only remember the error that explicitly resulted in the Red Sox losing; their ephemeral memories excommunicated the events that preceded. “Years later, I wondered why no one made more of that moment,” Gibney said. “Until Stanley’s wild pitch, a terrible mistake, the Sox were ahead. Why did no one focus on that moment?” The Mets were down to their final strike four times in that final inning, but only the final at bat has lingered throughout history, and Buckner has become the lone symbol of Red Sox futility. Gibney explores the potential reasons behind why only Buckner became the scapegoat, positing that it was perhaps the cruel image of an empty outfield that made the scene so memorable. The media immediately focused on the Buckner boot, quickly moving past Stanley wild pitch. At his locker, Stanley seemed happy to cast the blame elsewhere, stating, “It was just a sinker on the ground to first base. He didn’t make the play.” In the clubhouse, Dwight Evans and the rest of the Red Sox felt as though Buckner was not at fault. But as Costas said, “The Buckner moment ended the game, so it has the feeling of finality. And Buckner gets not just a disproportionate amount of the blame, he gets all the blame.” The next day, the media asked Buckner how he would deal with the burden of losing Boston the game for the rest of his life, a question that confused Buckner, especially given that the Red Sox had one more game to play. In truth, the Series was tied at three games apiece, and Buckner’s saga was just beginning.
In a talking-head interview during the documentary, longtime Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan pinpointed the reason why Red Sox fans made Buckner the scapegoat. As he said, “When the ball went through Bill Buckner’s legs, it was personal. It was different than it would have been in any other city and with any other franchise. People said to themselves, ‘That guy let me down.’ Not the team, not the franchise, not the city. Me.” Earlier definitions of the scapegoat pointed to a community sense of anger, but Ryan touches on another aspect: a feeling of personal harm. A community is only as strong as its individual pieces, and when the collective sentiment is directed towards one person, it is only natural that said person be cast out as an exile from the community. Such was the case with Buckner and the Red Sox fans, who felt like something was personally taken away from them. The team did not lose. Buckner lost.
But one lingering question still remains, according to Gibney: Why did the town need a scapegoat in the first place? Girard would point to the innate human desire for violence, but Gibney feels that it goes deeper. In Boston, he says, all of life’s disappointments are wholly confirmed when the Red Sox lose. Buckner, then, was there to take the heat for the rest of the city, to alleviate the burden of life’s troubles. Newspaper headlines read “Bouncing Ball Haunts Buckner,” “Buck’s Day of Despair” and “Error Will Overshadow All Buckner Achievements.” Buckner had a battle title and more hits than Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio. The error haunted a legacy, and in 1993 Buckner moved away from Boston for good, unable to handle the constant criticism and blame. For years, said Gibney, Buckner became the poster boy for the disappointment that haunted New England, the ultimate scapegoat for an event that was not entirely his fault.
In the final game of the 1912 World Series, Fred Merkle hit a clutch RBI single in the top of the 10th inning that gave New York the lead over [...]
In the final game of the 1912 World Series, Fred Merkle hit a clutch RBI single in the top of the 10th inning that gave New York the lead over Boston, putting himself in a position to be the hero and officially atone for his transgressions that made him a lifelong goat. The first batter of the inning hit a long fly ball to center field, which was dropped by the Giants centerfielder. That man was named Fred Snodgrass, who became baseball’s next major scapegoat just four years later. And Merkle did not get off easy either; he backed off a foul ball later in the inning, earning a volley of “Bonehead Merkle Does It Again” headlines and consequently the anger of his manager John McGraw. But this chapter is about Snodgrass, the man whose dropped fly ball earned him a permanent spot in the baseball doghouse.
While attending St. Vincent’s College, now named Loyola Marymount College, Snodgrass and the baseball team trained with the New York Giants in three exhibition games during spring training. John McGraw umpired the games. In February 1908, McGraw visited Los Angeles and inquired about Snodgrass, whom he remembered from those spring training games years prior. Both men later met at the hotel where McGraw was staying, and McGraw offered Snodgrass a $150-per-month contract, which Snodgrass later accepted and ultimately traveled with the team to Texas for spring training. Snodgrass made his debut in the majors for the Giants on June 13, 1908, and was present for the aforementioned Fred Merkle incident on September 23. It would not be the first time that a Giants player named Fred would be the victim of ritual scapegoating by the New York media and fans.
Snodgrass spent the bulk of 1909 on the bench, playing in 28 games and hitting .300 in 70 at bats. In 1910, he was toiling away as a third-string catcher when McGraw approached him about playing in the outfield, an opportunity at which Snodgrass jumped. He would up hitting .321 in 123 games with 44 RBIs and 33 stolen bases. When the Giants went to the World Series, eventually losing to the Philadelphia Athletics, Snodgrass was a regular, playing in 151 games and hitting .294 with 77 RBIs and 51 stolen bases. In 1912, New York won the pennant with a 103-49 record and faced the Boston Red Sox in the World Series. Boston won Game 1, and Game 2 was called in the eleventh inning on account of darkness, ending it in a tie. New York evened the series at a game apiece with a 2-1 victory in Game 3, but Smokey Joe Wood struck out eight in a 3-1 Red Sox victory in Game 4. Boston edged Christy Mathewson in Game 5, but New York broke through with two more wins that evened up the series at three games apiece. Since Game 2 ended in a tie, an eighth contest was needed. Boston won the coin toss to host the final game, where Fred Snodgrass’ downfall eventually took place.
Once again, the game entered extra innings. Fred Merkle, the goat four years prior, singled to give New York a 2-1 lead in the top of the tenth. In the bottom of the frame, with Christy Mathewson on the mound, Clyde Engle lofted a harmless fly ball into right-centerfield. Snodgrass, the centerfielder, called for the ball, but dropped it. Engle wound up at second base. The error seemed to have little immediate effect on Snodgrass; he made a brilliant diving catch on the next play that robbed Harry Hooper of extra bases. Mathewson, on the other hand, could not settle down, and he walked Steve Yerkes on four pitches. With Tris Speaker up, Mathewson induced the Boston star to pop up into foul territory on the first pitch. Mathewson, perhaps acting on instinct or perhaps acting on mistrust of Merkle because of the 1908 blunder, called for catcher John Meyers to catch it. It instead dropped in front of Mathewson, Merkle and Meyers. Speaker took advantage and singled in Engle. Steve Yerkes later scored the winning run on a sacrifice fly from Larry Gardner, giving the Red Sox the World Series.
In ancient tales featuring scapegoating rituals, the aftermath is rarely discussed, especially from the point of view of the exiled. The community carries on living, free of its sins until it must perform the ritual again, while the scapegoat is left to wander alone in the wilderness. The Fred Snodgrass situation shows the damaging effects that scapegoating rituals within Major League Baseball have on the scapegoated. Even though McGraw, like he did for Merkle, refused to cast blame on the eventual scapegoat, the New York media still crucified Snodgrass. The next season, his blunder became known as the “$30,000 Muff,” referring to the sum that separated the winner’s share from the loser’s share. The next day’s New York Times headline read, “Sox Champions on Muffed Fly. Snodgrass drops easy ball, costing his teammates $29,540.00. Boston winning 3-2.” In the article, the paper wrote:
Write in the pages of World Series baseball history the name of Snodgrass. Write it large and black. Not as a hero; truly not. Put him rather with Merkle, who was in such a hurry that he gave away a National League championship. Snodgrass was in such a hurry that he gave away a World Championship. It was because of Snodgrass’s generous muff on an easy fly in the tenth inning that the decisive game in the World Series went to the Boston Red Sox this afternoon by a score of 3-2, instead to the New York Giants by a score of 2-1.
Fans and players throughout the league also held Snodgrass’ blunder with them through the years, frequently reminding him of his scapegoat status with a quick, snarky blow. In 1914, Boston Braves starter George Tyler taunted Snodgrass by throwing the ball into the air and dropping it, which drew a roar of approval from the Boston fans. At the end of the 1917 season, Snodgrass got into a contract dispute, quit baseball and returned to California to start a farming career. Nonetheless, the memory of his exile still haunted him. According to an interview Christopher Bell performed for his book, one day Snodgrass was in a grocery store when he dropped an egg. Someone said, “Dropped one again, Fred?” Even seemingly positive moments of remembrance, like getting asked for an autograph, proved to be directly correlated to his mistake, and to none of his successes in baseball.
Now, the concession has been made by many that Fred Snodgrass was the easiest scapegoat in this situation, that fans found him the most blamable. The question is: Why? He was unfairly saddled with total blame that should have logically been placed on other teammates, or at least on the collective unit. Mathewson should have let Merkle catch the pop foul, but he instead ordered Meyers to run after it, a foolish mistake in retrospect. Furthermore, no one seems to remember that Snodgrass made a tremendous catch on the ensuing play; had he not done that, the game would have ended even earlier. Longtime baseball writer Fred Lieb wrote, “The muff by Snodgrass was only one link in a chain of strange events. Mechanical errors such as his are part of the game and happen to the greatest players. McGraw, knowing this, gave the outfielder a raise in salary for 1913.” At least partial fault rests with the media. Both Merkle and Snodgrass played in New York, the country’s biggest media market. The nine scapegoats profiled in Christopher Bell’s book played in the following cities: New York, New York, Brooklyn, Brooklyn, Boston, Los Angeles, Anaheim, Boston and Philadelphia. Consolidated, four are located in New York, two in Boston, two in Southern California and one in Philadelphia, cities ranked first, second, fourth and fifth on the list of top media markets in the United States. This is no coincidence; scapegoats have simply never arisen in smaller media markets, most likely because of the mass exposure sure to ensue following any mistake, especially one that cost a team in this big media market a crucial game.
There are a few other things to keep in mind about Merkle and Snodgrass. Both played in the early 1900s, when baseball existed as America’s sole National Pastime. Professional football, the most popular sport today, had not yet been born. Neither had NASCAR or professional basketball, two other sports that battle baseball for viewership. Thus, when something went wrong in baseball, it instantly vaulted into the nation’s focus. Furthermore, news was consumed exclusively through newspapers, which created a pool of opinions watered-down from what we experience today. Television was far away, and the first radio broadcast would not occur until 1921. When Merkle and Snodgrass committed their now-infamous mistakes, the public read about it from sensationalistic journalists looking to make a national splash with a juicy scoop, one that often involved casting blame on someone. There were no bloggers or talk-show hosts or SportsCenter anchors to shed an opposing light on the situation. Once sportswriters placed the blame, it was there to stay.
Author Bio Tufts Daily columnist/sports editor; ESPN.com Page 2 freelance writer; Perpetual Post contributor; Blogger at http://livefrommudville.blogspot.com
Author URL http://livefrommudville.blogspot.com
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