I turned 41 a few days ago, the same age as Orlando Pena was in 1975 when he was the oldest player in the American League. It’s an age when most people have already moved on to the next stage in earthly existence, the one that comes after the early dreams of what life might be have rusted or collapsed or dissolved. If you’re still living in that first stage, you won’t be for much longer. That first stage began for me as Pena’s was ending, my conscious life dawning as I began to become aware of the Cardboard Gods. I don’t remember getting Pena’s 1975 card, one from the very first series of cards I collected, but I’m sure I thought I would never grow as old as the wizened coot shown here. He would only appear in a few games in 1975. By early May he would be released.
I never did have to face the public microcosm of dying that is the end of a long career in professional sports, but I think I may have gotten a small insight into the sadness of that ending yesterday afternoon, when I read what my brother wrote about our old cat Rumpus’ last hours. What made me wet-eyed in my cubicle was seeing the dates of the big guy’s life written down, 1994-2009. It’s a span that could have been that of a veteran who had found a way to stick around in the majors for a while but eventually just got too old to stay on the field. In fact, if I had been one of the chosen few with the athletic ability and will to get to the pros and stay there, it could have been my career span, though it would have been one with a fairly lengthy prelude in the minors, given that I was 26 in 1994. But that sounds about right. Even in the realm of fantasy I’d have to be kind of a low-rent palooka who somehow figured out a way to survive. Read the rest of this entry ?