Derek Jeter And America


This was written in 2004. I was then proprietor of Horsefeathers, a blog I co-wrote with Yale Kramer, M. D. Today, Horsefeathers is no more, but the subject of the blog post is now entering baseball’s Hall of Fame Here is one of his great moments, as well as a remembrance of the early days of a war ended by a President who has dishonored every value Derek Jeter embodied.

        Horsefeathers is quietly sitting in front of his TV set sipping a Gentleman Jack and watching an unremarkable game between the Yankees and Mets. It seems a world and century away from Yankee Stadium last night, where he witnessed, from his left field seat near the foul pole, the greatest regular season game ever played. He attended with his friend of 40 years, a lifelong Boston Red Sox fan. Transcending our respective allegiances is our shared appreciation for the beauty of the sport. Baseball, the greatest game ever invented, better even than chess because of the physical dimension and the potential triumph over time---just keep the rally going, as Roger Angell pointed out--and the game never ends. Extra innings makes the promise of time's defeat seem real. Last night, 13 innings was as much as any fan could endure--even pleasure can turn to pain if prolonged--and, at the same time, we wanted more. The ebbs and flows, the buildup of tension, was almost beyond pleasurable endurance. And for all the worthy contributions of sabermetricians, the truth of Casey Stengel's aphorism prevailed: "Most games are lost, not won". Defensive plays--made and missed--were critical. No statistical measure could entirely describe the essence of this game, an essence that was as much psychological and aesthetic as mathematical. It was almost-but not quite- enough to convince one that Keats was correct when he wrote:

"There was an awful rainbow once in heaven:
We know her woof, her texture; she is given
In the dull catalogue of common things.
Philosophy will clip an angel's wings,
Conquer all mysteries by rule and line,
Empty the haunted air

        Last night, Alex Rodriguez made a defensive play truly beyond rational description, certainly never seen in the thousands of games Horsefeathers has witnessed. It was a play the statisticians would simply record as a forceout-throwout double play, but the manner of its improvised execution was extraordinary. What metric could descibe A-Rod's stop of a hotshot headed for extra base territory, touching third base and then his impossible throw from his knees, clearing the right shoulder of the base runner to the catcher for the double play? Then came Derek Jeter's instantly legendary catch in the 12th inning. What can one say about such a catch? A-Rod said he feared for Jeter's life when he saw him hurtle into the stands, full tilt, body extended. "Oh Captain, my Captain". This was not far fetched: a human body hurtling head first into hard concrete, iron and wood is not a prescription for longevity. Yet, as Jacques Barzun famously noted, "Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball, the rules and realities of the game."
        Horsefeathers notes that the same spirit of individual sacrifice to the team effort is what motivated the boys of Pointe du Hoc and what motivates our fighting men today. The Islamo-fascists and their leftist allies judge us to be an effete, self absorbed nation of metrosexual narcissists. Last night Derek Jeter proved them wrong.