Hall of Fame greets Rickey Henderson, Jim Rice, Joe Gordon…and Dorkus White
Posted by athomeatfenway on July 28, 2009
Long after we sat down in our folding chairs facing the induction stage and jumbotron, Dorkus White of Bennington, Vermont bared his spooky grin. “Mind if we pull up next to you ?”
I nodded affirmatively. A light aroma of body odor wafted in the air. He plunked into his seat. “You don’t mind since I’m not wearing any of that YANKEE SHIT !”, he snarled.
I am no Yankee fan for sure, but my hackles were up.
I am too old to fight. I am too smart to fight. But I cannot tolerate those who begin a conversation by disrespecting the traditions of other fans. I was pissed.
My anxiety level was up from spending 4 hours in a car with nothing but prunes, coffee and peanuts in my belly.
I was ornery.
I clenched my left hand into a fist and drew it back, positioned to thwock this boob and lead with my wedding ring.
Then I thought about the resultant civil suit and relaxed, so as to preserve my home, my 401K and all other small assets so that they may be picked over by my children, and their future generations to come.
We met all kinds this day, Sun., Sept. 26, 2009 in Cooperstown. Without even trying, we spoke with 30-odd fans who flew in from the Oakland area, others from St. Louis, Kansas, Virginia, Staten Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Maryland. As expected, Baltimoreans made their presence felt during the national anthem by Shouting “O !” instead of “Oh, say can you see?”
These were baseball loving people from all over the States. They treated each other well, and showed their loyalty is expected and curious ways.
The streets of Cooperstown were populated with young and old, trim and fat, Black, White, Hispanic and Asian.
They were decked out in mustard green, baby blue, Redbird red, road greys, home whites and the multi-colored Houston horizon.
We were at The United Nations of Baseball. 20,000 of us sat comfortably in our lawn chairs on a great field.
A delegate from Alexandria testified on the greatness of Stan Musial, he with 3,630 hits – exactly half of them on the road. A delegate from St. Louis railed against the unbearably high cost of All Star Game tickets. A delegate from Mississippi invoked State birth rights and claimed ownership of one Jonathan Papelbon, who currently resides in Boston.
Secret languages were being spoken. Everyone understood every word of it. Those who confessed to ignorance became learned.
On this field and in the village, 20,000 hard-wired Baseball fans, age 2 to 92 walked, sprinted, sat and leisurely strolled through Cooperstown, engaged in conversation.
The talk was unrelenting.
20,000 pilgrims expressed a baseball thought every 15 seconds for 10 hours, resulting in 480,000,000 baseball opinions.
Not one positive thing was said about Bud Selig.
Dorkus was a sinner. This runt of a man was given to excess. Excess eating, and by his smell, excessive sweating. 5 ft., 5 inches tall and 260 lbs., he wore non-matching green cargo shorts and a yellow-and-white checkered shirt from the mark down table at Ocean State Job Lot. His gnarly toe nails stared up at me from a pair of open toed flip flops.
As he skootched his chair so close to me that our armrests interlocked, I swear I heard him fart.
He pushed back his oily hair with one hand, then followed it with the other, snugging a Red Sox cap, a 1946 Cooperstown Collectible repro, above his greasy brow.
This pig of a man……like me…..was a Red Sox fan.
Dorkus White, on a one-day parole from his trailer park, scanned the crowd of 20,000, observing the stage and Baseball circus before us.
He smiled broadly.
Judy Gordon is a lean, lion-maned, energetic woman who conjures the intellect and grace of a PBS historian. She stood up for her family and accepted the HOF plaque for her Father, Joe Gordon.
Gordon, a second bagger, clouted 253 HR’s, a remarkable total for a keystoner. He batted .278, beat Ted Williams for the 1942 MVP, played the field acrobatically. He won FIVE World Championships with the Yankees and Indians in an 11-year war-interrupted career.
Judy was the first speaker to draw emotions. Although the day was marked by lusty cheering and standing ovations from fans of Rickey & Jim, it was Joe Gordon’s girl who compelled thousands to choke up.
As Judy Gordon closed her summary of Joe Gordon’s life and career, she explained how personal humility stopped him from allowing a funeral to be conducted.
There had been no service for Joe Gordon upon his death in 1978, Judy said.
Her voice shut down with emotion. She breathed silently, trying to gather herself.
In that instant, all realized that Gordon had passed from this Earth without a celebration of his life. No gathering. No chit chat about his exploits and loves. No public recognition of the impact he had on others.
Judy explained that on this day, July 26, 2009, the family considered this induction ceremony to be Joe Gordon’s funeral celebration, and his eternal resting place to be the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Jim Ed Rice is many things. Put your arm around the “Boston Strong Man” and feel the shoulder muscles that writhe like a barrel of snakes. Stick a microphone in front of him and hear him elaborate like an Emerson graduate. Take him off camera and hear him talk about the importance of family, love, and teamwork.
Rice’s speech dragged a finger across the arc of human life. Youthful days enjoyed. Finding the love of your life. Earning what you own. Bringing children into the world. Experiencing many, many pleasures, and then knowing the confounding joy of grandchildren.
The man who once allegedly deposited a reporter upside down in a locker room garbage can made his induction speech about family, love, marriage, teammates.
He honored Johnny Pesky, his personal batting coach and BP pitcher in Jim’s rookie season. He honored Celcil Cooper, his roommate.
He did not back away from his denial that war with the media had hurt him. Instead, he pointed out the irony that he had become one of them.
Jim Rice. Ed Rice. Poppa. Uncle Jim. Jim the Friend Who Never Calls You Back.
Jim Ed said that he is all of the above.
He said he is also Jim the Grateful.
Though massive talents and achievements prevented Jim’s words from resonating with humility this day, the cocky confidence that marbled his words was not unbecoming.
He knows what is important. And he knows he belongs in Cooperstown.
The High School Baseball Coach brought ice cream to Rickey’s home to recruit him.
His Mom told him to stop with the Football, and concentrate on the diamond.
A teacher offered him 25 cents for every hit, run and stolen base he made. He made cash money.
Rickey’s life has turned on small things.
As the entire baseball world waited for Rickey to float into a eubonic-plagued “Rickey-says-this and Rickey-says-that” soliloquy, Rickey Henderson instead carefully enunciated a well constructed speech of gratitude.
He recognized Billy Martin as a great manager. He pointed to his best friend, Dave Stewart. He allowed that his wife of 30 years, Pamela, has supported him in all that he has done.
Rickey hit every consonant. (And a few that do not normally get hit.)
He spoke carefully, making every syllable heard.
He had prepared his ass off.
What else would you expect from the man who scored more runs than anyone (2,295), stole more bases than anyone (1,406), and led off more games with a HR than anyone (81)?
As Bill James once said, he’s so good you could split him in half and get two HOF’ers.
Rickey was not going to be embarrassed at his celebration.
And, oh the numerous A’s fans did rejoice. They played banjo, danced, shouted and screamed. They let out their Rickey Love, their A’s Ardor. They represented the Bay Area impressively.
They may have outshined Red Sox Nation, which interrupted Rice with a loud “Let’s Go Red Sox” chant just as he started, and earlier gave Yaz a long and loving ovation.
You just had to tip your hat to the many from Oakland who traveled 3,000 miles. Decked in splendor, elephants on their sleeves, mustard on their jerseys, they soared on the achievements of a player the likes of which we will never see again.
Dorkus White of Bennington, Vt. had impressed me.
There were his loathsome characteristics, sure. But his heart seemed to be in the right place.
Dorkus had jumped to his feet and cheered 92-year-old patriot, Bob Feller. He had hollered for Yaz, Yogi, Koufax and Reggie. He had applauded Rickey when the speedy one paid respect to Roberto Clemente.
I had observed that a small, yet warm, heart was radiating from his unwashed and ill-clad breast.
Still, I didn’t want to get too close to Dorkus as the wife and I pulled up stakes. I moved silently and avoided eye contact.
Then the filfthy, decent little Dorkus reached out to me with a friendly shake and a warm goodbye.
I realized that Dorkus White, Red Sox fan of Bennington, Vt., had had a pretty good day.
He is overall, it seems, a pretty damn good baseball fan.