Immortality is a literal impossibility that we play at by constructing Halls of Fame to honor our heroes. Who can resist the allure of “enshrinement” by an institution that promises to perpetuate the memory of their deeds into the future?
Don’t ask how long such a future might last. That ruins a perfectly good illusion, thank you very much.
Then again, Moby says we are all made of stars. And he is right. According to physics, immortality is not only not an impossibility, it is an inevitability.
I thought he was going to talk about baseball. This is weird.
Back in April the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction took place in Los Angeles. I attended primarily to see Rush, one of my childhood heroes. But other legends were honored as well: Randy Newman, Lou Adler, the late Albert King and Donna Summer, Quincy Jones, Public Enemy, and Heart (the first band I ever saw perform live, in the mid-’80s).
The speeches varied in quality, as did the performances, but the event had energy. Memorable moments included watching Carole King honor Adler with a solo piano version of her 1971 hit “So Far Away,” hearing audio clips of Albert King talk about going back to driving bulldozers if music didn’t pan out, and listening to Chuck D. talk about the honorees’ connection to the blues.
We are all made of stars? We are all made of the blues.
He still isn’t talking about baseball. What’s going on here?
In 2007, I drove to Cooperstown to see another of my heroes inducted into a different Hall of Fame. Anthony Keith Gwynn was being honored as one of baseball’s “immortals.” Thanks to Gwynn and that summer’s other inductee, Cal Ripken Jr., it ranks as the best attended ceremony in history.
The energy differed from that of a rock concert, but there were similarities. Both had the excitement, the anticipation, the curious camaraderie that develops when strangers share a common passion.
In L.A., I chatted with Rush fans who had traveled from all over to see the band inducted. I knew nothing about them other than that they loved Rush. It amazed me that they had come from so far away (as Carole King would say) to see this. For me, it was a short drive up I-5.
In Cooperstown, I was the one who had traveled far. It took me six days to get there. It took folks from Baltimore to see Ripken six hours.
But they didn’t get to meet the aunt of Khalil Greene‘s wife at a bank in Amarillo; visit Old Durham Athletic Park, where Bull Durham was filmed; or stay in a glorified laundry closet at a hotel in Clarks Summit along the way. Oh, the adventures they missed.
Pictures, or it didn’t happen.
A while back, Rick mentioned his favorite Tony Gwynn stories. I have a few, but none shine as brightly as the time I saw him step up to the mic in Cooperstown to accept his well-deserved honor. I met several fellow Padres fans amidst a sea of Orioles fans, and we all beamed with pride at watching our guy claim his rightful place among the game’s greats.
The most gratifying aspect of the day was hearing Orioles fans talk about Gwynn. Every one of them who approached me expressed surprise and delight at how eloquent and gracious he was.
Yeah, no big deal. Tony being Tony.
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My notes, i.e., this old book, inform me that I listened to Rush’s Snakes and Arrows on the drive from Cooperstown to Syracuse after the induction. Being a Rush fan hasn’t always been easy. The same can be said of being a Padres fan.
I won’t defend either choice to anyone. They are necessary parts of who I am. I can provide excruciating details about the path that led me to these places, but nobody wants to hear that.
And anyway, the point is that we aren’t fans because it’s easy. We are fans because we love them.
We are all made of the blues. We are all made of stars. We are all made of baseball.
Diamonds in the sky. Diamonds on earth. Diamonds everywhere. Carbon, like us.
Shine on, Tony Gwynn.
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