Photo by Kate Joyce.
The final piece of my epilogue is coming tomorrow, instead of today. What follows explains in slightly roundabout fashion why I’m waiting another day to publish it.
My editor and I were in Greenville, South Carolina over the weekend. On Saturday, I visited the Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum. The museum is in Jackson’s old house (he lived in Greenville for most of his adulthood), and it’s open only four hours per week. I was lucky to be in Greenville during those hours. With Bud Selig’s recently announced retirement (planned for 2015) as Commissioner of Major League Baseball, there are rumors that he might be amenable to hearing the case again for lifting the ban on Shoeless Joe’s barred Hall of Fame candidacy — a legacy maker for Selig, perhaps — so the museum’s caretakers have extra fire in them these days as they try to participate in the effort. It was a good time to visit the museum and talk with them a little.
In 2008, the museum/house was moved over to Field Street (a coincidental name, apparently) from its original location, a few miles away. That put it right across the street from brand new Fluor Field, which opened in 2006. Yesterday, we walked down to the ballpark, home of the Greenville Drive baseball team. The Drive is/are a Class A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, and the franchise was branded as such from the outset. The affiliation is hard to miss when you’re at the field: there’s a replica of the Green Monster out there in left field, including the manual scoreboard. There’s also a Pesky Pole down the right field line and a 420-foot jutting nook out in center field; in fact, the entire ballpark’s dimensions mimic those of Fenway, the only difference being that their Green Monster is a few feet shorter than the Boston original. (The same is true of the Blue Monster at Durham Bulls Athletic Park; it’s sort of like how no building in Washington is “allowed” to be taller than the Capitol, although there is in fact no such law, and three buildings are indeed taller. But the spirit of the law persists.)
Fluor Field was shuttered on Saturday, but it happened to be open on Sunday afternoon. Ballplayers were out there practicing on a warm early-autumn day, and these turned out to be the Clemson Tigers. Apparently, their home field is under reconstruction, so the team is practicing at Fluor Field and at another Greenville park until the renovations are complete. Clemson has an excellent program, and if you’re a Durham Bulls fan, you might start preparing to be excited about Tigers product Richie Shaffer, who was the Tampa Bay Rays’ fist-round draft pick in 2012 and stands to reach Durham in the next couple of years. (Looking backward into the recent past, you might rue another Clemson alum, Chris Dwyer, who beat the Bulls in the Triple-A National Championship game on September 17, taking a perfect game into the seventh inning.)
Root locally, but think globally. There’s still a lot of baseball happening. It may not be happening for the Durham Bulls, whose season is over, but it’s happening in Greenville, a reminder that it’s always happening somewhere. Most importantly, it’s happening in the major leagues. The Tampa Bay Rays, Durham’s parent club, squeezed into the anteroom of the post-season yesterday. They scored six runs in the first inning at Toronto and then hung on, sweating out a tense 7-6 win that saw manager Joe Maddon get ejected (!) late in the game for arguing balls and strikes. That’s a either supremely confident managerial tactic or a shocking abdication; either way, Maddon’s team, which includes 2013 Bulls mainstays like Tim Beckham and Jake Odorizzi (not to mention Wil Myers), takes on the Texas Rangers tonight at 8:00 in a one-game showdown for the last American League playoff berth.
That means that, for the second time in less than two weeks, a group of ballplayers on the Tampa Bay Rays’ payroll will play an unusual, winner-take-all singleton ballgame, and this time all the marbles are definitely worth something: a trip to the playoffs. You either make the post-season today or you don’t, i.e. these two teams’ seasons can basically be called a success or a failure depending on today’s outcome.
The almanac of Bull City Summer needs that outcome to complete its appendix, so I’m going to wait one more day to conclude my epilogue in deference to today’s game. In the mean time, find a television tonight and tune in. And tune in here tomorrow.