Archive for the ‘Cesar Cedeno’ Category

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Cesar Cedeno 1976

August 28, 2009

Cesar Cedeno 1976

After I finished reading Leo Durocher’s Nice Guys Finish Last, I started reading something completely different, a 2005 novel called Prep by a young woman named Curtis Sittenfeld. It is so good I want to carry her around with other acolytes on one of those Egyptian royalty conveyances and chant her name. It is so good that a couple mornings ago I got buried in it and missed my goddamn stop on the train and was late for work, something that has only happened once before in my extremely extensive life of reading on trains, and that previous time, many years ago, was because I happened to be in the midst of a very long girlfriend-less slump and so was particularly attentive to a long fuck scene in Sexus.

Sittenfeld’s book is set in a boarding school in Massachusetts (named Ault in the book; the author went to Groton School), and part of the ache in my gut as I devour her crystalline glimpses of a young life taking shape in that setting comes from the sliver of my own past that took place at a boarding school in Massachusetts. I was only there for two years, or actually less than two years since I didn’t quite make it all the way before being ordered to leave. I’ve covered that before on this site, but in a way I don’t think I’ll ever fully cover it, or recover from it. It’s too much.

It’s an odd thing to long for, a year and a half that I spent feeling like an addle-brained maladapted misfit until I discovered I could pulverize those feelings with bong hits. But there was a certain high concentration of experience there, such a striking contrast to my solitary rural life before and the solitary urban life that has come after, that makes it stand out as more unreachable and haunting than any other of the many unreachable and haunting places in my past. But high concentration of experience isn’t quite the right notion. Sittenfeld may be getting it right when she uses the word possibility:

This was the single best thing about Ault, the sense of possibility. We lived together so closely, but because it was a place of decorum and restraint and because on top of that we were teenagers, we hid so much. And then, in dorms and classes and on teams and at formal dinners and in adviser groups, we got shuffled and thrust together and shuffled again, and there was always the chance you might find out one of the pieces of hidden information. . . . Depending on circumstances, a wild fact could be revealed to you, or you could fall desperately in love. In my whole life, Ault was the place with the greatest density of people to fall in love with. (p. 42)

I think we all must be haunted a little by the times in our lives when we felt a greater sense of possibility. Even that tenacious, focused warrior Leo Durocher seems to have been guided in a certain key way by a persistent attachment to a bygone feeling of boundless possibilities.

I say this because of the way he speaks in the book about Pete Reiser, the great and unlucky Brooklyn Dodger centerfielder whose career was cut short by injuries often brought on by his gung ho fielding style, which led him to crash into many unpadded outfield walls. At one point, and fairly famously, I think, Durocher claims that, if anything, Reiser was more talented than the greatest player Durocher (or anyone) ever managed, Willie Mays. “Might have been better,” Durocher says, comparing Reiser to Mays. After he was done managing these two centerfielders, Durocher was always on the lookout for the next Mays or Reiser, always looking for a way to return to a time bursting with the possibilities that a player of that caliber could bring to a team.

After managing Reiser’s Dodgers and Mays’ Giants, Durocher managed the Cubs, a team that seemed to have bothered him with its lack of a player like Reiser or Mays who could do it all. The possibilities with the Cubs slimmed down to the blunt inelegant flip of a coin that was the plodding center of their attack: the all-or-nothing slugging abilities of Ron Santo, Ernie Banks, and Billy Williams. When he finished with the Cubs he must have believed that he was finished for good. At a certain point you let go of the search to reconnect to that long gone feeling of possibilities.

But then Durocher decided to give it one more try, and the reason was simple: After all these years, he looked out to centerfield and thought he saw the glory of the past coming back to life. He looked out to centerfield and saw Cesar Cedeno.

“Natural talent?” Durocher noted. “Cesar Cedeno has it to burn.”

Unfortunately for Durocher, Cedeno seems not to have possessed the one thing that had connected the athletically limited Durocher (in 17 seasons as a player: 24 home runs and a lifetime batting average—in the batting average Mecca of the 1930s—of .247) to the athletically blessed Reiser and Mays: a burning desire to excel. Cedeno, it should be noted, ended up having a long, good career, but Durocher is certainly not the only observer who thinks that he could have done much better. By the time this card came out, in 1976, Cedeno was still only 25 years old, but his two greatest seasons, 1972 and 1973 (coincidentally or not the two seasons that Durocher served part of or the whole season as manager), were already behind him.

“You spend your life looking for the great talent that comes along about once a decade,” Durocher says while speaking of Cedeno, “and you have to sit there and see it being thrown away.”

You spend your whole life looking for possibilities. You spend your whole life looking for Willie Mays and Pete Reiser. You spend your whole life disappointed.

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But, on a lighter note, it turns out Durocher wasn’t forever on the lookout only for a do-it-all centerfielder. . . .

Here’s some video footage of Durocher’s scouting attempts to sign a hard-throwing country boy (who in the youtube silent narration is recast as Roger Clemens).

And here’s some more video footage of Durocher’s encounters with a freakishly talented slugger.

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Cesar Cedeno

November 4, 2008
 Untitled

I have to go early to my job today and stay late. I couldn’t sleep last night, worrying about all the things I have to get done. Eventually that worry expanded into a metaphysical reckoning, something that should never be entered into at two in the morning. I got out of bed and went to the room with the computer and sat there on the edge of the futon in my underwear holding my stomach. The small blue circle of light around the on-button of the computer monitor flashed. I got more and more upset. Felt trapped. I did some push-ups. I punched myself a few times in the head, even though I swore I’d never do that again. I pondered existence, panicking. The Big Question: What is this shit? I took deep breaths. I fucking prayed. I pray sometimes. In fact that’s what I’m doing now, what I’ve been doing all my life with the Cardboard Gods. I was able to go back to sleep for a couple hours. Now I’m up and have to go do my job, which has gradually become the job of three people. Everyone in the cubicles around me is doing the job of three people, too. This has something to do with the increasing number of empty cubicles. At night we watch the news of the economy collapsing, jobs disappearing. I’ll never be a father. I wish I was mildly brain-damaged, free of responsibility and expectation. Only an asshole would say such a thing. My stomach hurts now, and my back, and my eyes have that gauzy feel from lack of sleep. My shoulders are tight. None of the things I will do today will be memorable. If I get old and look back at my life this day will not be there, even though it’s a potentially historic day. Where were you the day Obama was elected? Where were you the day Obama was shockingly defeated? What did you do? This is what my grandchild would ask, presumably, if I were to live a life that included children and grandchildren. Anyway I’d have no answer. I worked. I went to my job and did the shit you do to stay clothed and fed.

The future curdles. This is a thing only an asshole would say on a day that many are feeling hopeful about. Change, great. I voted for “change” and did so happily. (I voted early, in some kind of old municipal hall that was also hosting a Halloween dance. No one was at the dance yet. “Jungle Boogie” by Kool and the Gang was playing. There was a skeleton and skulls and a Darth Vader head hanging over the door to the building.) Will it impact my life? I doubt it. The future used to be one thing, and now it’s something else. It’s clearer, less vague, narrower. I’m 40. I will work until my heart ceases, most days squares to put a line through when completed. Cesar Cedeno, shown here around the time it had become clear that he was after all never going to be the next Willie Mays, seems to be both safe and irrelevant. The play is happening somewhere else. He has lost his helmet. He has been moved from centerfield to first base. He has aged. He is looking toward the play going on without him. In a few years he’ll be altogether gone from the scene.

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