Listen My Children: Ben Revere’s Mighty Swing
Listen my children
Do you remember what it was like to go to a baseball game as a child? The overwhelmingly green grass; the intoxicating aroma of hot dogs and cotton candy; the complete and utter joy of an afternoon at the ballpark. A child doesn’t know or care about the contract status of the men playing a child’s game on the diamond below. A child doesn’t know or care about the aging curve or player projections. No, for a child, the game is simple. Cheer when good things happen for the home team, pout when bad things happen, and cry when terrible things happen (yes, Joe Carter, I’m talking about you). The only game that matters for a child is the current one, the only pitcher that matters is the one standing on the mound and the only batter that matters is the guy digging into the batter’s box.
And you shall hear
Baseball, in my admittedly biased view, is the American sport with the richest oral history. Young baseball fans grow up with voices on the radio and television teaching them the ways, the language, and the history of the game. Many Philadelphia fans were fortunate enough to be raised under the tutelage of the late great Harry Kalas and today, fans of all ages across the country tune in regularly for Los Angeles Dodgers broadcasts not out of any allegiance to the team, but because Vin Scully, the greatest play-by-play man we may ever know, calls their games.
Scully began broadcasting for the Brooklyn Dodgers in Jackie Robinson‘s fourth Major League season. He was present for Don Larsen‘s perfect game in the 1956 World Series and Kirk Gibson‘s mythical blast in the 1988 World Series. He watched Don Drysdale‘s scoreless inning streak develop in 1968 and then watched Orel Hershiser break Drysdale’s record 20 years later. The stories he can tell on his broadcasts make him a most treasured resource and companion for anyone who enjoys the game of baseball, in part because he’s an extraordinarily gifted broadcaster with an unparalleled eloquence but also because, for better or worse, baseball worships at the altar of its past.
Consider that The Sandlot, a 1993 children’s movie about baseball, was set in 1962 and featured an appearance by the ghost of Babe Ruth, a man whose playing career lasted from 1914 to 1935. There were grandparents of kids watching the movie in the ’90s that had no memory of Ruth’s playing days, but his presence never felt out of place. Mention The Babe today, nearly 80 years after Ruth’s final game and many children will know who you are talking about. We are raised on the stories of past greatness from Ruth’s “Called Shot” to Bobby Thompson‘s “Shot Heard ‘Round The World” to the “Carlton Fisk Wave”. It’s natural and it’s a beautiful part of this game.
Of the mighty blast
There have been countless home runs in baseball history. In just this season alone, there were 1,383 round trippers entering play on Tuesday. They’ve come in a wide variety of forms from the titanic blasts off the bat of The Mighty Giancarlo Stanton to an inside-the-parker by catcher Kurt Suzuki. Even despite the thousands upon thousands of blasts that preceded it, a home run last night caught everybody watching by surprise.
Before yesterday, you, me, and your grandmother all had one thing in common with Ben Revere: zero career Major League home runs but when Ben Revere stepped to the plate for the 1,566th time in his career, everything changed. I don’t mean to say Revere’s home run was necessarily a spiritual experience, but I will contend that time stood still for a brief moment. I was fortunate enough to be watching it live on television and, I swear, after Revere made contact, the ball hung in the night sky just a split second longer than physics should have allowed. I was grateful, because mere mortals such as myself needed that split second to fully process what was happening.
To be sure, last night was more or less inevitable. Since World War II, no man had stood in a Major League batter’s box as many times as Revere without eventually homering. Ultimately Revere’s streak to start his career didn’t end up being close to close to record setting. A man in the dugout last night, Phillies’ bench coach Larry Bowa, failed to hit one over the fence until his 2,474th plate appearance. As long as Revere continued getting opportunities to hit, he would eventually get a hold of one. Many theorized his first would be of the inside-the-park variety. I wondered whether Pesky Pole might call his name should he ever get back to Fenway Park. The way it played out in reality, though, was perfect. He hit a no-doubter, at home…
…and the Phillies lost.
The thing of it is, the end result of the game was entirely irrelevant. Ben Revere took his mighty swing and Phillies fans across the Delaware Valley were suddenly watching the game with a child’s mindset. All that mattered was the moment and in this moment the harsh realities of the Phillies’ performance and the outlook for the remainder of 2014 were irrelevant. This moment existed only of Ben Revere doing something we’ve all dreamed of: hitting a Major League home run.
By Ben Revere
In The Sandlot, Ruth’s ghost comes to Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez with an important message: “Remember kid, there’s heroes and there’s legends. Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.” Will Ben Revere’s name join the ranks of timeless legends like Ruth, Ted Williams, or Willie Mays? I’ll take a gamble and say no. But he will be remembered. The next time a slap hitter comes up and fails to hit a home run in his first couple seasons, it will constantly be compared to Ben Revere’s streak. But more than that, he’ll be remembered by me, if by no one else, for providing one moment in a meaningless baseball game during a lost season to enjoy the game as a child would. I may not be Harry Kalas or Vin Scully, but I’ll enthusiastically recall Ben Revere and the night he reminded me how great this game can be.