Were the tears for us -- or for the Orioles?

Stephen Vicchio

October 09, 1991|By Stephen Vicchio

Some memories are realities, and are better than anything that can ever happen again.

* Willa Cather, "My Antonia"

I WAS there the day Memorial Stadium died. If you were not, I know you probably wanted to be. You are like distant relatives who could not make the trip, and the funeral home only held so many mourners.

I want to tell you about it. I want to tell you about how thousands of grown people cried. They cried when Mike Flanagan was brought on to strike out the only two batters he faced in the top of the ninth.

They cried when Cal Ripken hit into a double play to make the last of the last outs. They cried not because he grounded out, but because he was Cal Ripken, the only remaining link to an era when ballplayers were good and Memorial Stadium was good enough.

We thought about the stadium then as Memorial Stadium. We thought it would last forever, even if we, creatures who succumb to time and tragedy, do not. We listed the names of our war dead on the wall and in our hearts, hoping that the brick and mortar would outlive us. It did not.

The real tears came that final day after the last out was made. They began when Brooks stepped out on the field to take up his familiar station at the hot corner. He was followed by Frank and then Palmer and all the others. Dempsey came. And Earl kicked dirt on a hole that used to be home plate.

Old men, wearing familiar numbers, trotted to their former positions, many limping with an unfamiliar gait. This was when the real tears came. They came with the realization that the field -- that dazzling garden of green and tan -- had not aged a day

since 1954. There was that strange juxtaposition that comes only at the best of wakes: the marriage of the infinite and the finite, the spiritual with the corporeal. These were old men, eternally young in the mind's eye, who had returned to remind us that we are all made of protoplasm and hope.

It was a beautiful day. The sun was setting when we left. And God was reminding us why he gave us memory.

Stephen Vicchio teaches philosophy at the College of Notre Dame. His latest collection of essays, "Ordinary Mysteries," recently was published by Wakefield editions.

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