Thursday, August 12, 2010

Magic (Part 18)

"Life's like a movie, write your own ending."
- The Magic Store from The Muppet Movie

It started with a decision in the spring of 1990. He asked her if their first date should be an afternoon at the Art Institute or a double-header at Wrigley Field.

"How is that even a call?" she replied.

The sun gleamed, the grass glowed underneath the ballplayers and the magical afternoon was made more so because he thought it was probably their last date as well; neither was from Chicago.

But he was wrong. Both traveled enough to occasionally gain discounted tickets and the 1000 miles between Minneapolis and Philadelphia wasn't as isolating as they both thought it would be. Or at least not initially.


Two years later, it was. So with $1000 shoved into his pocket and all his worldly possessions crammed in an '84 Honda Prelude, he moved to Philadelphia to court her. The courtship was fun, but not especially easy. First he had to find work during a recession, then she was assigned to a project out of town. And when the business world stopped conspiring to keep them apart, the tougher questions began. "Will he ever marry me? What's he waiting for?" "Is she really the one? How do I know?" The questions were more destructive than geographic distance ever had a chance to be.

On a summer trip out west, his questions were answered in the Black Hills. And on August 13th, when they were supposed to go to a Phillies game, he showed up with flowers, acted all goofy and suggested they go for a walk. And she knew her questions were about to be answered too.

Unaccustomed to being nervous, the proposal was awkward but genuine, and the response was delayed but jubilant. Standing together in the park, their future felt too large. Neither knew what to do, where to go, who to see.

"So do you still want to go the Phillies game?", he asked.

"How is that even a call?"

It wasn't a call, because the one place in Philadelphia where they both knew there was some magic that year was at the Vet. The '93 Phils, lead by blue-collar rejects like John Kruk, "Dutch" Daulton, "Nails" Dykstra and closer Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams had somehow claimed 1st place in the NL East. They'd won games at Veteran's Stadium in every conceivable manner, including one in which Williams got the winning hit in the bottom of the 10th - at 4:30 AM. Tonight they were playing the hated Mets and it seemed like as good a place as any to look for magic.

The electricity they felt made the game a secondary concern. She'll readily admit that she spent most of the game looking at the back of her hand. But the game slowly became the focal point when the Phillies lost their early lead in the top of the eighth. They scratched in a run in the bottom half, but were still down 5-4 heading into the bottom of the ninth.

But there was a reason this hard-nosed city loved this team. They used a crucial error by the Mets to score one run and loaded the bases with two outs. Kim Batiste, a light-hitting 25-year-old utility infielder who seemed to have a special gift for striking out, came to the plate, and.......

Grand Slam.




Tonight they'll go to a game, like they have every August 13th for the last 18 years. But for the first time since that first one, tonight's will be at a home outdoor ballpark. They've waited years for this opportunity - and the weatherman says oppressive heat and rain will be tonight's reward.

So be it. After 20 years together, they understand all too well what comes with the commitment. It isn't always fair and sunny. They've weathered quick-forming storms and stifling pressure, clinging to each other and to the magic, even when they weren't sure why.

(Check that - especially when they weren't sure why.)

The storms pass. The pressure breaks. The magic endures. Tonight they'll celebrate that, and see if they can't find it, in the place where they both know there is plenty to be found.


mike said...

Great post. I'm celebrating my anniversary tonight too. Unfortunately I'm outta country, or I'd love to be at the game as well.

tborg said...

Congratulations. Gotta love the Kim Batiste photo. I don't remember it from your previous annual posts on this subject.

Robbie Lee said...

Great post. Happy Anniversary.

P.S. Darren Daulton is hot.

Jack Ungerleider said...

Congrats on another year together. I have to ask if you had flashbacks to that game when a certain light hitting (at least this year) shortstop stepped up to the plate and bashed a Grand Slam to tie a ball game for the home nine (not our home nine) early in this most recent road trip?

Enjoy the game, with any luck the front will move through early, just for you.

SoCalTwinsFan said...

My wife and I celebrated 28-years on Saturday. We started with tail gating dates at The-Met. While not sharing my obsession, she is an enabler. We live in Southern California but journeyed to a game at Target Field and two at Miller Park (all Twins' losses) this year. Thank you for the post and the opportunity to revel in my own marital magic.