There’s a line in the movie “A League of Their Own” where Tom Hanks’ character says, “There’s no crying in baseball!”
And while I love that film almost as much as I do “Field of Dreams,” I take exception with the quote about crying. When it came to baseball, I cried a lot as a kid. Sixty-one years ago, I was a nine-year-old following Mickey Mantle’s attempt to break Babe Ruth’s home run record. “The Mick” was my hero. My mom made me a Yankees jersey complete with Mantle’s number 7 on the back.
I was crestfallen when Roger Maris hit 61 homers. The next year, I cried myself to sleep listening to the Seattle Rainiers on my transistor radio. The minor league farm team of the Boston Red Sox stole my heart and then proceeded to break it. Whereas they had taken first place the previous season, the 1962 Rainiers finished in fourth place — 15 games behind San Diego. The mesmerizing voices of play-by-play announcers Keith Jackson and Lee Desilet pictured for me the lackluster performances of my favorite players on the diamond.
Could my team ever repeat as champions? I wondered. I hoped. I cried.
Fast-forward a half-dozen years. Seattle gets a major league baseball team. But the Pilots taxi for an entire season and never really take off. The team leaves town. More reason for sadness.
A decade later a team called the Mariners docks in Seattle. And baseball fans flock to the Kingdome with hopes the Mariners will prove once and for all that Seattle truly is a baseball town. And the fan loyalty shown the Ms made such a case.
But, with the exception of a couple of seasons in which the Mariners made an impressive run for the Fall Classic, drought-weary fans have had a reason to cry. We are the only team never to have played in the World Series. And what is worse, we haven’t made the playoffs in two decades.
But, alas, this year our tears of sorrow have been replaced by tears of joy. For the first time since 2001, we are playing games beyond the regular season. A never-ending season of sadness has given way to a season of joy. Regardless of how far our team advances in the playoffs, we have reason to kick up our heels.
To celebrate our team’s amazing accomplishments this year, I was asked to display my extensive Mariners memorabilia at Covenant Living at the Shores. Forty-five years of waiting for a World Series appearance has resulted in quite a collection of which my colleagues aware. When I learned that a couple on our campus still have their Kingdome program from the very first Mariners’ home game in 1977, I asked if they’d be willing to add it to my display. Denny and Sharron Horn enthusiastically agreed. The wait for something to celebrate has been equally as long for them.
There is a verse in the Bible that puts into context the times in our lives when we find ourselves waiting for hoped-for happiness. In Psalm 30, the writer observes, “Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” In other words, times of sorrow eventually give way to times of rejoicing. If you grew up cheering for the Chicago Cubs, you know how very long that night of weeping can be. But the truth of that passage has to do with much more than heartache related to the hometown team. It has to do with grief at home when a family member loses their extra-inning battle with cancer. It has to do with the tears that come with unexpected unemployment or an undesired divorce. Yes, there is crying in baseball as well as in life.
And it’s true. Waiting for a good outcome can be long and painful. But the promise of the passage in Psalms offers reason to hold out for a positive result. I love the way the psalm concludes. “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.”
Guest columnist Greg Asimakoupoulos is chaplain at Covenant Living at the Shores in Mercer Island.