21 Years Later, 120 Miles South

by on July 28, 2011

Baseball Fan Jim Babwe’s email submission to Baseballisms.com reprinted with permission. Readers of this site will remember Jim’s personal account of witnessing Kirk Gibson’s dramatic home run in Game One of the 1988 World Series, and presented in the first Legendary Game that we highlighted when we launched in 2008.

Jim’s submission today reminds us that the continuity and timelessness of the game of baseball has healing characteristics. Thanks for sharing this with the Baseballisms community!

In the summer of 1976, Bob and I decided on a “Four Corners of the USA Tour.” We started in Pomona CA, drove to San Diego, made a major u-turn and drove to Seattle in my 1965 Volvo 122S. From Seattle, we drove to Cleveland, then to Maine.

We drove to Ohio and picked up Bob’s brother Bill, who rode with us to Florida. We took Bill back to Ohio, then we toured parts of Pennsylvania and New York. Cooperstown and the Baseball Hall of Fame was one of our stops.

We drove back to California and made it just in time for the start of Fall Quarter at Cal Poly. Barely. 8 weeks. 16,000 miles. 75 cents in car repairs.

I’m still good friends with Bob and his family.

Last year, Louise (Bob’s mom) had a stroke and Bob called me, brought me up to date, and I met him at a hospice in San Juan Capistrano.

When I arrived, Louise was in a coma, surrounded by a small group of family and friends. These people were solemn, tired, worn out, frustrated with feelings of loss and helplessness.

One of my favorite things about Louise was her laugh, so after looking around the room, understanding that there was nothing any of these people could do but stand around and wait, I walked up to Louise and on the off chance that she could hear and understand me, I put my hand on her shoulder and said hello.

Adrian Gonzalez  | San Diego Padres | Baseballisms.comI reminded her about how much both her son and I loved baseball and I said, “The Padres are playing the Mets in San Diego this afternoon and unless you object, I’m planning to take Bob to the game. I don’t want to make you angry, so if you don’t want me to take Bob to the game, say something. Let me know.”

We waited.

There was an understandable mixture of emotions around the room, but when Louise did not object, I said, “I’ll take that as a yes. We’ll be back after the game.”

Knowing that there was nothing anyone could do to prevent the inevitable, I took Bob to the game that afternoon. The fresh air did him good.

After the game I took him back to the hospice, where his mom looked just as she did when we left.

Approximately 24 hours later, a truly great woman with great kids accepted another assignment and passed away.

The weird part? The game between the Padres and the Mets was the first baseball game that Bob and I attended together since World Series Game One in 1988.

Kirk Gibson’s legendary home run in the bottom of the ninth inning won the game for the Dodgers.

On June 2, 2010–over 21 years later–another left handed batter–Adrian Gonzalez, who was still a member of the Padres at the time, hit a game winning home run (this one was a grand slam) in the bottom of the 11th inning.

Not a World Series game.

Not even a playoff game.

Maybe the structure of baseball is sometimes responsible for reminding us to think about the overall structures of life. That’s how it worked for me and a friend that day.

Here’s a link to the box score: http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/boxscore?gid=300602125

Jim Babwe

July 26, 2011

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