As I logged onto limaohio.com last Wednesday from the road to check my column, I had an uneasy feeling, as in, some whisper emanating from the back of my cerebral cortex that I’d made a mistake in my weekly rant.
Now, the scrupulous worrier that I’ve always been means I have a lot of experience with such whispers because I generally tend to see the glass as half empty. Additionally, I’ve authored a multiplicity of mistakes in my time, so, again, I know the feeling.
Sure enough, in a column in which I was pretty well pleased, one that I’d successfully navigated the sometimes-choppy waters of vocabulary choice, grammar, usage, spelling and punctuation, my heart sank when I got to the sixth paragraph.
It was there in my column that thematically centered on an unforgiving public when it comes to our sports heroes’ mistakes that I identified one of my three examples, one Fred Merkle, who infamously failed to touch second base in a crucial September pennant-race game back in 1908 and cost his team a big win, as a Chicago Cub instead of what he was, a New York Giant. It’s a mistake that really didn’t alter the message I tried to impart; a mistake many of you, I’m pretty sure, never noticed; and a mistake that smacks of the ultimate irony, a writer who writes about mistakes and then makes the mistake of putting a guy in the wrong uniform!
After mentally fetching a switch and delivering a few well-deserved licks across my posterior, I briefly thought of how I could perhaps “spin the mistake” as a politician might do and tell those who noticed the transgression that I’d done it on purpose to prove my point that us mere mortals’ mistakes aren’t magnified and remembered forever as those who live under the white-hot lights of notoriety, especially our athletes. I could tell them I was trying to use some unvoiced irony. As Saturday Night Live’s compulsive-liar character played years ago by John Lovitz used to say, “Yeah, that’s the ticket!” After all, I think that’s the first reaction to mistakes, our tendency to try to convince the world that the emperor really does have clothes on. But, then I remembered what history has shown us time and again, that the cover up is always worse than the crime!
Similar to the famous five stages of coping with grief, I suppose that was my denial phase, with a little political deception thrown in to accent the flavor.
Then disbelief set in. How, on earth, could I have made so elementary of a mistake in using an allusion to a story I have known since I was 9 years old? I mean, really, as a native Chicagoan, I’m well aware of the travails of the Cubbies, a team that plays in a place more famous than they are, Wrigley Field, the hallowed ball field that is a veritable field of dreams with its brick walls rife with Boston ivy by mid-summer, that verdant, vibrant fauna that was first planted after the suggestion was made by a young Bill Vecck in 1937, first, to beautify the park and, second, to cushion the players, usually the ones wearing those Cub outfits, who ran into those brick walls trying to run down long blasts off opponents’ bats.
I know that the play known as Merkle’s Boner made the Cubs a winner when the game was resumed, with that one win being just the one needed to edge the Giants by a game for the National League pennant and send them to the last World Series they would win for, now, going on 106 years! I know Merkle was a Giant, damn it!
I know about the Cub double plays of Tinkers-to-Evers-to-Chance and The Curse of the Billy Goat and Steve Bartman!
Yet, perhaps because I was spending so much time getting all the commas in the right places, I let one slip through my content filter and tried, albeit unwittingly, to pile even more misery on those poor Cubs by trying to make Fred Merkle a Chicagoan.
Following my anger, my urge to cover it up and then my disbelief, there came the urge to blame someone else, as in those who edit at the fancy building off Elida Road. However, after a few moments, I had to admit that their job is more to spot potentially inappropriate and/or libelous content and shoddy mechanics that impedes what should be the King’s English, not to be well versed in baseball trivia, so I let them off the hook.
Then it was, of course, acceptance and atonement. Feeling the need to absolve myself of guilt, I turned to my best pal, Mike “Shag” Schepp, and text messaged him on the faux pas and asked if he’d noticed, which, of course, as a great lover of history, especially that which is sports-related, he had. And, as good friends do, he didn’t make me feel worse than I already did!
I also went on Twitter and made known my unintentionally false testimony, feeling the combination of telling Mike and tweeting my “peops” would assuage my shame. However, since I only have 16 currently in my Twitter posse, along with said pal Shag, that only gave me 17 potential sets of ears, which I didn’t think was sufficient to warrant full atonement.
So, I’ve come before you, those of you who noticed and those of you who didn’t, on bended knee in full Lenten season-mea culpa mode, to set the record straight, exonerate the Cubbies and move on to the next mistake!
This Century’s Fred “Bonehead” Merkle