Goldman: C.C. Sabathia and me, after the balloon animals

From SABR member Steven Goldman at The Hardball Times on May 3, 2019:

News articles on CC Sabathia during spring training sometimes described what he had gone through this past offseason as a “heart scare.” That’s even what Sabathia called it on his podcast, “R2C2.” I beg to differ. Calling an arterial blockage that requires a doctor to intervene with a balloon angioplasty a “heart scare” is like calling a coma a “nap scare.” Sabathia was in real jeopardy. I should know; I just had the same procedure.

I am much older than CC Sabathia, but I wasn’t always. In fact, I used to be younger than Don Mattingly. Donnie Baseball was a JFK baby, born on April 20, 1961 as the Bay of Pigs invasion was going disastrously wrong. I was a Tricky Dick baby, born in 1970 as the Beatles were breaking up and the Vietnam War dragged on. With his great bat control, legitimately clutch hitting, and great glove, Mattingly was the first player to capture my imagination and make me a fully committed baseball fan. I recall lying on my childhood bed, staring at the back of a Mattingly 1985 Topps card, and comparing our birthdays. He was 23; I was 13. The future extended out before us both, unlimited—which is to say that the final reckoning was far enough away that we could pretend it was unlimited.

Many years have passed since then. Mattingly didn’t make the Hall of Fame and neither did I. That is not to say that I regret the way it has gone. There are words and deeds I would take back given a second chance, but I wouldn’t want to be 13 again. The ensuing years have brought my brilliant wife, my beautiful, intelligent children, and the opportunity to write stories like this one, my heart’s desire from an even earlier age. And yet, in many ways I am frozen in that place. My willfully bundling up an ever-present sense of mortality with Mattingly’s age and mine, and pushing both off to a hazy, forever far-away horizon remains characteristic of a man who needs to be in denial to function. I exist here, in 2019, but I also exist there, clinging to false hope. This bifurcated existence has taught me that emotional time isn’t a straight line. At best, it’s a singularity in which all moments take place at once. At worst, it is a line, but one bent like a paperclip, curving you past the person you were before and in some incalculable percentage still are.

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Originally published: May 3, 2019. Last Updated: May 3, 2019.