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Sid Bream

July 22, 2020

Sid BreamWhat’s It Good For?

part four of four

I don’t know why that man I met in the alley was carrying a plastic lion, or how long he’d been carrying it, or where he found it, or why the brief exchange with me seemed to prompt him to lay down his burden and continue up the alley, heading north.

I headed south, out onto the sidewalk of the street I live on. I didn’t pick up the lion. This was still not that long after those first days when I was afraid that touching any surface might bring the pandemic home to my family. I didn’t even want to be outside, let alone touch anything.

Since then the rate of people contracting the virus started briefly to dip, and then as caution about the virus abated the rate started going back up. Also, unidentified government gestapo forces are a thing now, shooting tear gas at people on their porches, throwing protesters into unmarked vans. Some of these fascist pawns are headed to my city right now. I didn’t ask for them to come. I don’t want them to come. No one wants them to come.

The morning after the intersection of my life with that of a man carrying a plastic lion, I took my dog out for a walk again, and the lion was gone.

The baseball season is starting tomorrow. I don’t care at all.

That lion! Where is it? What is it?

In the early 1990s, when I shared an apartment with my older brother, we once encountered the front grill of a car laying on the sidewalk and dragged it back home and put it on our mantle. Whenever our father came over to our apartment he complained about the car grill, specifically indicating a jagged metal border that had partially detached itself on one side of the grill, reaching out into the room like the tetanus-covered arm of a skeleton. We ignored the complaints. I filed them under the long list of evidence I was compiling that my father lived a fearful life, concerned more with safety than with feeling true life coursing through his body, or something, a feeling I never had either but wanted to believe was possible. I was, in truth, wracked with fear of everything. I still am.

I miss my father. I don’t know what happened to that car grill. We must have carried it out of the apartment when we carried everything else out. I kept carrying things from one place to another around New York City, than up to Vermont, then back to New York City, then to Chicago. A couple years ago my father passed away. I carried his vitamins out to the garbage, his books down to the basement, his ashes to a few different places.

Last night I watched that famous inning from October 1992, when Sid Bream had his moment. With a rally already starting to build, he reaches first base on four straight balls thrown by Doug Drabek. In the photo at the top of this page you can see Sid Bream as a Pirate, before he came over to the Braves. He was close with Doug Drabek, so much so that he and his wife were the godparents of Drabek’s children. In the photo at the top of this page you can also see another card hovering nearby Bream’s card. I don’t know if you can make it out, but it’s of Kyle Drabek, who just happened to be among the random cards that have made their way from random corners of my house to my desk.

I watched it several times last night: Sid Bream taking his lead off of second. He doesn’t seem to be carrying anything visible, but of course in the parlance of the game he’s carrying the potential winning run on his shoulders. Francisco Cabrera drives the ball into left field. Sid Bream starts running, pumping his arms, moving his balky legs as fast as humanly possible. It’s a moment of complete belief that life has a purpose.

What fixes the moment at home plate in time is that Sid Bream, after his slide, doesn’t get up, and after a moment he can’t get up. Had he bounced up to his feet after the slide, like a sprightlier player might have been able to do, like Dave Roberts did after scoring the tying run against the Yankees in game four of the 2004 playoffs, he would have quickly been subsumed in a mob, but he stays down and is frozen in triumph and joy by all his teammates piling onto him as he raises his arms and laughs and shouts with that big dumb beautiful mustache on his face.

I watched it again and again last night, the running, the slide, the pile-on, watched it all on repeat the way I listened to “Cremation” by Lou Reed again and again after my father died, and the obvious finally hit me: I was grieving for baseball.

The solidity of it, an illusion that carried me my whole life, is gone. Baseball isn’t gone, but whatever it still is or might be isn’t going to carry me, not now anyway.

Since this all began right around when pitchers and catchers would have been, in any other year of my life, reporting to spring training, I’ve felt like I’m carrying a weight. Sometimes it’s felt as strange and light as a baffling plastic lion. Other times it’s had no shape at all but has seemed as heavy and implacable as a thousand pounds of disintegrating cardboard.

What is it? What’s it good for?

6 comments

  1. I wrote a baseball blog for 10 years and somehow never mentioned the obsession my friend and I had with the 1988 Pirates. He was as rabid a Yanks fan as I was a Sox fan (he was also Knicks/Giants while I was Nets/Jets), so I think we just wanted to have someone in common to root for. The National League, especially back then, might as well have been a different sport, so what did it matter? We even bought banana-yellow Pirates T-shirts at Team Spirit. Sid Bream, wow…the memories of being 13, far from that unknown wonderland known as Pittsburgh, and jokingly rooting for Sid and the boys: Bonilla, a young Bonds, Van Slyke, LaValliere, Belliard, and the granddaddy of them all, Jose Lind.


  2. Not sure what to expect tomorrow. Whether it will carry me or just make the depressing reality all that much more apparent.


  3. I’m excited that season is about to begin, but I’m even more interested in that dang plastic lion. Here’s a title suggestion for your next book: The Case of the Missing Plastic Lion.


  4. Poor Jose Lind. I felt bad for him as I rewatched that fateful 9th inning.





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