The Baseball Project play in Cooperstown. (This is me, later, with drummer/singer Linda Pitmon, a notorious Twinkies fan, who is reacting to my TANAKA t-shirt. There were HUGE sparks between us. She could barely keep to herself.) If you've never heard The Baseball Project, try this song. They are a super-group that includes two Rock n Roll Hall of Famers from R.E.M., who write smart songs about insider baseball. One chronicles the day when Dock Ellis beaned five Reds in a row. One argues that Bernie Williams should be in Monument Park. One covers the conspiracy of fates that made Bill Buckner an eternal Boston pariah. They are the Bruce Springsteens of baseball music.
On the two-hour drunk-drive home, we caught the last tortured innings of John and Suzyn. It was like listening to George Washington Carver give the play-by-play at Abe Lincoln's funeral. Instantly, the whet and timber of John's voice told us the Yankees were in trouble. We heard a desperation, a sense of urgency and terror. Every night, John Sterling is dying, right before our very ears. In the seventh, when the Evils went 1-2-3, John couldn't contain the Yellowstone super-volcano of emotions inside him, and groused, "The Yankees are stuck at two... and two is simply not enough!"
If LeAnn Rimes were denied weight-sustaining laxatives for a month, she could not lament in a more fierce and desperate tone. If Shia LeBeouf were punched in the nose by a homeless man in a fight over delicious hair tonic, he could not cry out with more pain. We are listening to a human being disintegrate, hearing the last gasps from a dying planet.
Yes, John Sterling's Yankee Radio Network is being driven by Jeep... Driven insane!
At the end, when John death-warbled, "Ballgame over, Boston wins..." you knew the immortal fan in the eternal Sunoco Broadcast Booth had glimpsed the end of the season, if not the end of the world. John knows how this movie ends: Ali McGraw croaks, the dog gets shot, McMurphy gets a lobotomy, Thor becomes a woman... it's over, dammit, over! John has witnessed what humankind is not supposed to see. He is trying to shield us from the knowledge, claiming that you cannot predict baseball. But his voice gives everything away.
Comrades... close your eyes and imagine - say - three years of Steven Drew playing shortstop.
I think that's what John Sterling is doing. It's a wonder he can speak.
Listen: The next two months will be Hell. We will need precious laxatives and fortifying pint bottles of hair tonic. Rest assured, it will all end October 3. It's time to start picturing the world after Derek Jeter, the world after John and Suzyn. But take comfort in one certainty...
Some day, a song will be written, and we will all be in it. That's all I can say. Calgon beauty bath, take me away!