Friday, October 22, 2010

Working to the end

Another baseball post.

On Friday, July 2, 1993, the Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the Montreal Expos in Montreal. The next day, Saturday, July 2, the Dodgers lost the follow-up game. But some of you may recall that they lost a lot more than that.

Earlier in the day on July 3, when the Dodgers gathered at their hotel to get on the team bus, broadcaster Don Drysdale was missing. Initially, people figured that he might have taken a cab to the stadium. But when he didn't appear by game time, police broke into his hotel room and found that he had passed away at approximately midnight the night before, of a heart attack. While Vin Scully and Ross Porter were broadcasting the game, Scully was asked to make the announcement:

"Friends, we've known each other a long time," Scully said, "and I've had to make a lot of announcements, some more painful than others. But never have I ever been asked to make an announcement that hurts me as much as this one. And I say it to you as best I can with a broken heart.

"Don Drysdale, who had a history of heart trouble--you may remember a couple of years ago he had angioplasty--was found dead in his hotel room, obviously a victim of a heart attack, and had passed away during his sleep."

This event has been on my mind for years. On the one hand, Drysdale died alone, in a hotel room away from home, which is sad in its own way. But on the other hand, he lived a full life, and was literally working up to the day of his death, doing a job he loved.

And, as all of us in southern California know, he lived long enough to see one of his records be broken - and he couldn't have been happier:

With that out, Hershiser surpassed one of those records that was never supposed to be broken: the mark of 58 consecutive scoreless innings set by Dodger Hall of Famer Don Drysdale 20 years ago.

In the ensuing two decades, that record wasn't threatened—until Hershiser came along and erased it. He did it with his 114th pitch of the evening, then greeted a wave of teammates on the infield and hugged a waiting Drysdale in the dugout....

Throughout the streak Drysdale, a Dodger broadcaster, has had a bird's-eye view. The Big D publicly cheered Hershiser on, but Drysdale wondered aloud last week about a ruling by the Elias Sports Bureau, the official keeper of big league stats, that excluded a pair of outs from his streak (fractional innings are included only in the records of relievers). "Is Elias running baseball, or is baseball running baseball?" Drysdale asked. "My streak was 58?, the way I look at it."...

When it was over, Drysdale was gracious. "They call him the Bulldog," he said, "and you were able to witness why." Hershiser demurred: "He was a much better pitcher than I am."

Oh, I don't know. They were both pretty good, and they were both linked with lefties (Koufax and Valenzuela). And Hershiser's now a broadcaster...
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