A trip down Memory Lane...
Devoted fans of our national pastime will remember the name Mickey Rivers. He played center field for several teams in the ‘70s and ‘80s, most notably the New York Yankees and the Texas Rangers. He was a very good ballplayer, good enough to have a 14-year MLB career - an American League All-Star and two-time World Series champion.
I first watched Rivers in the early ‘80s when he was a key piece of the Texas Rangers, where he spent his last five years. In those days, the Rangers trained each spring in Pompano Beach on the east coast of Florida, and my son Denny and I were fans. Very recently, Denny and I made a sentimental stop back at the field the Rangers used. For us, it was like sacred family ground, definitely a stroll down Memory Lane.
Back in the day I would take Denny to Rangers’ spring training games, where we would sit in the first three rows behind home plate in the company of former players turned scouts as they clocked pitching speeds, regaled each other with baseball yarns and showed World Series rings from yesteryear.
Rivers was a leadoff hitter. Batting first today for the Texas Rangers and playing center field is #17 Mickey Rivers. From the on-deck circle would come Rivers shuffling to home plate. He walked slowly like one might imagine a man of 110 years in need of knee replacements.
Finally, he would arrive and stand in the batter’s box with his feet ever so close to one another. Long about the fourth pitch, he would make contact and was off to the races, flying down the first base line at the speed of sound resembling what one would imagine to be an Olympic sprinter. That extraordinary speed is where the name Mick the Quick came from.
Even more than his on-the-field skills, I became an admirer of his insightful musings about events of his day. Sports Illustrated once wrote of Rivers: He is the most sweetly irascible of ballplayers. His conversation is so full of twists and turns and switchbacks and culs-de-sacs that no grammatical roadmap can help you understand him. As former major leaguer Mike Easler said, He mixes you up. But if you listen close, he makes a hell of a lot of sense. This is what drew me to Mickey and why I absolutely loved him.
He had a special and unique way of framing his opinions. Here’s one of my favorites as it appeared in The New York Times. We got top names, guys can still hit in the majors, guys been out of the game hittin’ the ball, shockin’ it. Don’t have no old guys. Not sayin’ they don’t get a good job done. Fact is they’ve been vice versa. So that’s incentive right there. It’s been a plus.
And then there was this one: I like playing on this team. We actually been doin’ real good. Got a different mix here. Most important thing is you gotta keep pickin’ up in paces. That’s why we’re playing contentious play.
I miss those days. I miss spring training. I miss Mickey Rivers. He was a fun ballplayer worth watching, listening to and remembering. He brought a lot of smiles and good memories to a little boy and his dad. And he still does.
He didn’t sweat the small stuff. But, he sure was ready to fly down the baseline in a blur after shockin’ the ball. I don’t get upset over things I can control, because if you can control them there’s no sense in getting upset. And I don’t get upset over things I can’t control, because if I can’t control them there’s no sense in getting upset.
Sounds about right to me. Thanks, Mickey, for a lot of great memories.
DY: In Just a Few Words is a blog that comes out when something needs to be said or every Tuesday - whichever comes first. Davis Young is a communications professional who adds 50+ years of experience and perspective to issues of the day. His emphasis in DY: In Just a Few Words will be humor (a touch of sarcasm here, a pinch of facetiousness there...). Once in a while, he will touch on something a bit more serious - but hopefully not too deep or depressing.
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