End of an Era

Last night, the Braves lost to the Giants and ended their post-season. It was the end of the Bobby Cox era. For Chipper Jones, Bobby is the only coach he’s ever played under. In the locker room last night, there wasn’t a dry eye.

Words cannot begin to express what he has done not only for the Braves, Atlanta, Georgia, the Southeast, but for the game in general. Don’t forget the hundreds of players he’s influenced and the coaches whose careers he nurtured. During last night’s broadcast, I believe I heard that nine of the current MLB head coaches served under Bobby at some point of their career. He’s been in the game since he for 51 years, since he was 18 years old.

Baseball, more so than any other modern sport except maybe golf, celebrates character. Back in the summer, The Anchoress (a big baseball fan) discussed this character building when she wrote on the James Joyce/Armando Galarraga “moment”,

The home-plate encounter between Galarraga and Joyce was one of those transcendent moments which happen more often in baseball than in any other sport, because baseball is much more than a game.

Baseball is the teacher of lessons in courage, perseverance and grace. It pits one man, batter or pitcher, against an entire team and says “show us your heart.” Then, as Bart Giamatti wrote, “it breaks your heart,” because it is designed to do so.

But baseball then mends the heart it has broken, and in the most magnificent ways, in ways that uplift players and fans, alike.

Because baseball has no replay, the “bad calls” are part of the game, and because they are, so is the paradoxical transcendent lightness that comes from a heavy moment being shrugged off and allowed to pass.

Watching the game with your kids, you can point to a player who has been robbed of a hit, or a homerun, or an out, or a stolen base, or a perfect game, and you can say to them, “that was tough. Life is not fair, but see how this player is handling it. He’s not letting it take him down or own him; he is going forward with the rest of the game, because he knows that this is just one moment. He’s not getting stuck in it, because he knows that maybe another time, another game, a bad call will actually go his way. Things even out, in the end.”

Such moments are good for baseball, and it is good for the nation. Humility in error (or in the face of unfairness) and manly good-will are things we no longer see in a world full of puffed-up egos. They are examples we need to see lived out before our eyes, more often.

Like Hank Aaron, Bobby Cox is woven into the fabric of the Braves and Atlanta, never to be forgotten. Godspeed Skipper – here’s to hoping you go after retirement like you went after umpires, in record-breaking fashion.


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