Every night, around 10:00, I swallow melatonin and then turn off my phone. Soon after, I jump in the shower so the melatonin has some time to set in. After the shower, I lay in bed and do some light reading–nothing that requires active thought or making difficult conceptual connections (in this case it was Stephen King’s son who goes by the nom de plume Joe Hill) as the goal is to wind down. Yet despite this fickle routine, sleep eluded me and I tossed and turned all night before finally deciding that it just wasn’t going to work out. I resolved to watch some Japanese baseball and it was a moment of perfection as the Chunichi Dragons and the Yomiuri Giants were headed into extra innings. Watching baseball seems to liberate me from the emotional tangle of subdued melancholy and the long-ago forgotten past that is so scratched up that it skips when played, always materializing to haunt me in the witching hour when one should be dead to the world and swimming in the abstract. Ultimately, the Dragons pulled it out 3-2 in 10 innings as the players felt compelled to run choreograph routines while clutching stuffed animals and bowing to the fans in a light-hearted and victorious fashion. What’s the point of all this? Nothing. Just….nothing.
My buddy Mark over at the impeccable Retro Simba sent me a bunch of 1970s Oakland A’s baseball cards in the mail, and I had the right mind to send one out to Darold Knowles to be autographed before receiving the cardboard beauty back 3 weeks later. The highlight of Mr. Knowles’ career would probably be the World Series in 1973 against the Queens borough Mutts (I can still hear the echo of esteemed baseball writer Roger Angell in my head, resentful about Willie Mays’ exit from the Giants and condemning him in a NY pinstriped, double-knit polyester uni) in which he became the first pitcher to appear in all 7 games and had a sparkling ERA of zero. That’s pretty good stuff right there.
Knowles was on the mound for the last out, (retiring Wayne Garrett on a looper to Campaneris–his only batter–with the tying runners on) relieving Rollie Fingers and earning the save. Other notables: Clint Eastwood threw out the first pitch, Lou Rawls sang the National Anthem, and the number one hit was Gladys Knight and the Pips’ “Midnight Train to Georgia.” In another strange twist– while researching this piece, I was jolted into remembering that I met the loser of this game, John Matlack, 30 years earlier when he was a pitching coach for the now-defunct Las Vegas Stars. I still have that autograph, permanently pressed onto a flimsy 1981 Fleer, stashed away somewhere.