Jim’s article today got me to thinking of a day in my youth, because let’s face it, we all don’t mind pondering days gone by, back when we were cool, and just dumb enough to believe we knew everything, and flavored most conversations with unbridled enthusiasm, wry grins, or derisive snorts. Well, some of us more than others, perhaps.
Anyway, Jim’s delightfully fun list of all-time two-way all-stars has its criteria, but it seems a shame to forget Derek Lilliquist’s May Day surprise in 1990, when he became the hero of the people (not counting Mets fans) by tallying 42 points. Only 13 were scored on offense as a result of his pair of homers and light-footed baserunning to score a third team, but what’s he supposed to do when the three batters ahead of him were Ernie Whitt (at the end of a fine career), the infamous Andres Thomas, and the Lemmer, Mark Lemke? It isn’t his fault there wasn’t anyone on base for him to plate on his pair of bombs. There’s something compelling about this game being Lilliquist’s first victory on the year, and something sort of unusual, in that a little more than two months later he’d be dealt to the Padres for Mark Grant, one of the all-time great pitching flops of the ’80s, and someone who didn’t have a lot left to offer, as you might expect with that description alone.
The pity of it is that Lilliquist was “almost there,” so to speak, in that he was the sixth overall pick of the 1987 draft, a University of Georgia product nabbed by the Braves, and he came up in 1989 to do a creditable job in a rotation that had Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, and Pete Smith in their sophomore seasons. And then he gets dumped for Mark Grant? That’s something of a mystery, and then he winds up missing out on the Braves’ renaissance? That’s not exactly happy stuff.
Anyway, Jim’s article made me think of that fine spring day, or more basically, that fine spring morning the day after, as I settled into the grungy basement office of my cushy campus job with some coffee and the previous day’s boxes–in print –and spent that morning gabbing with a friend (Matt, a Phillies fan, and frequent wingman for trips to Comiskey Parks old and new) over the previous day’s games. We paid special attention to Lilliquist’s great game, perhaps inevitably asking but not being able to answer the very question Jim addressed today.
So, setting aside how cool the present is, because Jim could answer any Owings-inspired curiosity, for me that vignette sort of captures the basic beauty of newspapers, of boxes, and of baseball, something I don’t get too much of these days, not just because I’m older, but because those days are gone. I suspect most of us read boxes online–those of us who look at them at all–and unless you’re especially indifferent about your laptop’s well-being, you’re not tossing it back and forth across the office.
Hrm… I didn’t exactly want to wind up in Grandpa Simpson moment… I guess my point is that Jim managed to put me back in a place where simple pleasures were just as pleasant–I’m here in Chicago, enjoying coffee and boxes this morning, just the same as then–and that what Micah Owings means to some people now, for delivering something you almost never see is what Lilliquist meant to me then, the star of a delightfully unusual bit of on-field achievement.