I probably didn’t linger very long on this card when I got it in 1977. But every card got at least a little look. Surely I flipped to the back and saw that this player never cracked .200 in his two partial years in the majors. There was a note beneath the anemic numbers about him winning a game against the Brewers with a home run in bottom of the 15th inning. But so what? And I probably didn’t register that this player had been taken in the first round of the 1974 draft. I was looking for superstars and didn’t consider that the best was still to come for Mike Miley. This was not anyone to exult over, to hold onto tightly.
I was nine that year and didn’t read the papers. I didn’t know what had happened to Mike Miley in January, that he flipped his car and died. I didn’t know much about death. I knew a little. By 1977 we’d lost our first dog, a beautiful Irish Setter-Golden Retriever mix named Jupiter. He got hit by a car. It was cold out, and the ground was frozen, and Tom had to use a pick-axe to break up the ground for a grave. He was out there for hours, hacking, grieving. When he was done Mom and my brother and I all went out into the back yard to join Tom and stare down at our red and golden dog lying in the shallow crater.
Now is when you say something. What is there to day?
According to a January 14, 1977, AP news report, Mike Miley had a blood alcohol level of .23 when he died in a one-car accident while driving his sports car. The accident occurred close to the LSU football stadium where just four years earlier Mike Miley had quarterbacked LSU to nine straight wins and a berth in the Orange Bowl. He threw bombs. He bootlegged around the line for daring last-second game-winning touchdowns. His nickname was Miracle Mike.
Jupiter was a blazing river of fire up through the woods. We’d go on hikes into the Green Mountains and free of the leash and choke collar he’d sprint way ahead, disappearing, and then sprint back, checking on us, and then he’d sprint out ahead again, climbing the mountain ten times for our one slow human ascent. On the way home, on the floor of our VW camper, Jupiter’s chest rose and fell as he slept, unbothered by pot holes, frost heaves, anything, the breath coming in deep and whistling out through his wet black nose. I reached down and stroked his soft red and gold fur again and again as he breathed. Sometimes his legs jerked. He was still running up the mountain.
Look at the eyes of Miracle Mike. Is there any doubt that life will continue? That the glory of winning games with last-minute touchdowns as 60,000 adoring fans roar is merely a preview of the bliss to come? The future will be a long, untroubled rise.