Who says there’s no crying in baseball?
Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra’s suggestion that a couple of his players were “crying in the locker room” after a recent loss to the Chicago Bulls sent the media into a frenzy. Not surprisingly, humor was the most prominent method employed in the around-the-clock coverage of Crygate. In particular, the classic Tom Hanks’ scene from the movie “A League of Their Own” was splashed all over TV and the internet as all forms of media sought to poke fun at the Heat.
Contrary to the now often repeated line, there is crying in baseball. In fact, the sport has produced enough tears to rainout a season’s worth of games. Just ask a Cubs’ fan.
All kidding aside, there have been so many poignant moments in baseball history covering everything from tragedy to joy. Yankees fans, in particular, have been witness to numerous example of this outward display of emotion. From Lou Gehrig’s gut wrenching “Luckiest Man” speech to Joe Torre’s frequent displays of emotion, the Bronx Bombers’ high and lows have often been punctuated by tears. However, whenever I think of crying and baseball, two Hall of Fame third basemen prominently come to mind.
When the Boston Red Sox lost the 1986 World Series, enough tears were shed to fill the Charles River. However, no one epitomized that collective pain better than Wade Boggs. As the Mets finished off their miraculous comeback in the series, Boggs alternately sat with his face in a towel and his red eyes blankly staring at the field. Although most people correctly identify Bill Buckner as the tragic figure from that World Series, the video of Boggs’ anguish best defined the Red Sox’ agony.
Most people didn’t know it at the time, but in Boggs’ tears was more than just extreme disappointment about letting a championship slip away. Earlier in the 1986 season, his mother was killed in a car accident, and from that point until the final out of the 1986 World Series, the perennial .300 hitter suppressed the pain by immersing himself in baseball. Once there were no more games to be played, however, Boggs could no longer hold back his emotions.
The finality of the season tore me up. I’d been OK as long as I had the game to preoccupy myself with. Then, when it was over, I was thinking, ‘Now I’ve got to go home and when I walk in the house, she’s not going to be there.’ That’s what’s going on when you see the image of me in the dugout.” – Wade Boggs, quoted in the Boston Globe, July 31, 2005
Mike Schmidt’s retirement announcement provided the other indelible image of a ballplayer overcome with tears. Inspired by the culmination of a great career, Schmidt’s intense emotional display illustrated just how deeply the Hall of Famer cared about baseball. Because he had too much respect for the game and his teammates, Schmidt decided to walk away from something he loved. Today, most fans are probably too cynical about modern ballplayers to appreciate this kind of emotion, but as a kid growing up under the spell of baseball, Schmidt’s tears validated everything that was good about the game.
I no longer have the skills needed to make adjustments at the plate to hit or to make some plays in the field and run the bases. I feel like I could ask the Phillies to keep me on to add to my statistics, but my love for the game won’t let me do that.” – Mike Schmidt, quoted in the New York Times, May 30, 1989