Sunday, October 22, 2006

Walking Mike Davis

I can't believe...what I just saw!"
--Jack Buck

It's been 18 years since Mr. Buck uttered the words above in describing Kirk Gibson's shocking homer against Dennis Eckersley in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. For a long time, re-airings of that moment cause me to quickly turn the channel or stomp angrily from the room. The enormity of his achievement, yanking one out while standing on half a leg, had obscured what occurred before. The A's 104-win season, leading the division from stem to stern, the sweep of the arrogant Red Sox, the Bash Brothers. All goodwill vanished in an instant.


I went to church this morning. I go occasionally, less in the past couple months with my soccer games (seven wins on the trot, two goals conceded in that time), jam-packed work weeks crying out for a Sabbath spent on the couch. I almost didn't make it today, either. After I saw the Sermon Notes, I nearly turned right around, grabbed AJ from his Sunday School class and laid a squealing G35 scratch in the parking lot.

Marriage and Family: Winning Where Others Fail

Um, too late.


Mike Davis, Michael Dwayne Davis, was, in every sense of the word, a journeyman. He broke into the majors in 1980, a fourth outfielder on Billy Martin's A's, backing the mighty triumverate of Rickey Henderson, Dwayne Murphy and Tony Armas. After less than 100 starts, he replaced the popular Armas in RF in 1983, after the Venezuelan slugger was traded to Boston (mainly) in exchange for Carney Lansford. In '85, Davis's OPS went above .800 for the first and last time. He was above-average defensively, with a fabulous arm befitting his position. In fact, after he logged 16 assists in '83, people stopped running on him.

But he still sucked. He had moved to center by '87, but remained strikeout-prone. So when he was let go in favor of free-agent signing Dave Henderson, nobody batted an eyelash. He was signed by the Dodgers for whom he would amass 281 ABs in 1988 and put up a batting average of .196.


As the pastor got into the meat of his message, he stressed how what he was talking about didn't concern ONLY married couples or families. How the way we conduct ourselves in regard to every relationship--friend, lover, brother, sister--carries not only a responsibility to give, but also not to take more than our share. It's like depositing your bi-weekly paycheck. If you put two grand into your local branch, but could only withdraw a grand, you'd feel unsatisfied, wouldn't you?

People talk about being the "head" of the relationship, the Decider or, in the parlance of George Costanza, "having hand." I always felt like the head of my family. All the responsibility for their well-being was on me. And, almost universally, X was happy to let me take that role.

The problem with that is it created in her a passivity, a feeling of being dominated, where her wants and needs did not penetrate. She never stood up for how she felt. And I continued on my path because that was simply the way it was. I was in charge because I thought it was best for all of us that I was.


There were two outs, none on, in the bottom of the 9th in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. Tommy Lasorda, with a gimpy Kirk Gibson on the bench, sent up Mike Davis to pinch-hit. Michael Dwayne Davis, carrying the weight of a horrid year at the plate. He promptly fell behind The Eck 1-2. That he was gonna K was a foregone conclusion. That Dennis Ecklersley, he of the 45 regular-season saves, with four more in the sweep of Boston in the ALCS, would send this journeyman sulking back to the dugout, send the Dodgers back to their home clubhouse with a loss. And then, impossibly, Eck let him get away. Three tailing fastballs, all of them bending outside, and Mike Davis was on first via walk, bring up Kirk Fucking Gibson.

It was a 3-2 slider he hit and Gibby later said he knew the slider was coming. The swing was all arms and upper-body torque. In replays, you can almost see him throw his entire torso into it. No doubt. Two-run homer. Dodgers win 5-4 and Jack Buck's words forever implanted in my skull.

Later that evening, over beers--many, many beers--with Donny, we talked about the REAL disgrace. Not allowing the walk-off, but giving Gibson the chance in the first place, by Walking Mike Davis. The end result is what everyone focuses on, but it was the events leading up to the result that framed it. There can be no end without a beginning and middle.


X cheated on me. We all know that. The unkindest cut of all. The end result. But how did we get there? How did our marriage find itself in a state where such a cruelty could occur? Those questions have haunted me these many months. I've grasped at every available straw, every hurt and missed opportunity. It's true that I've blamed myself, found my behavior lacking. Especially early on, I seized on dozens of moments where, had I done one thing, one small thing, I might have prevented it.

I know now--Today--that's not true. We were fucking doomed from the start.

I have a question for you. If you were to identify one thing that poisons a marriage--any relationship--what would it be? Lack of trust? Dishonesty? Finances is a big one, a chart-topper in many of your finest studies. I would have absolutely went with one of these if queried.

The pastor went through a list of "divorce predictors," all of which would have you nodding your head saying, "yeah, that makes sense." But then he came to the nuts. The #1 Reason. And it blew me away.

Habitual Avoidance of Conflict

I've talked to people about my situation and many times I said, "But we never argued!" And it's true. But, sadly, it wasn't because we didn't disagree. It was because she never stood up, never made her needs forcefully known. I've written about it before, this so-called "black stomach," but never have my suspicions been so totally validated. Nor would I have ever embraced this theory. Until it was presented so clearly, so obviously, that I have no choice.


When that ball sailed over the right field wall, nothing else mattered. It was a seminal moment, a shocking October surprise. The Dodger Stadium bedlam, the signature Gibson fist-pump, the A's trudging disconsolately to their dugout. All indelible, dramatic images, so other-worldly as to block all that came before.

Mistakes are made. Hearts broken. Away from the emotion, 18 years and 9 months respectively, I now, finally, know what happened. And if I ever get Mike Davis down 1-2, I'm going right after him.


At 4:08 AM, Blogger High Plains Drifter said...

Wow. Now *that's* a post.

(alternately, I was thinking, on a lighter note... is there *anything* a sports analogy can't explain?)

At 7:50 AM, Blogger PokahDave said... least you this to cheer you up...Ken Macha has been fired by the A's....

At 8:12 AM, Blogger Gene said...

I watched Gibson's homer in the press box of Beaver Stadium. Syracuse had just killed Penn State and I had to go down to the visitor's locker room. They made us wait in a room just outside, and the door opened and you could hear the players going absolutely nuts. Dick McPherson, the Orange coach, ran into the room and hugged me. I interviewed Daryl Johnston while the "Moose" was wearing nothing but a jockstrap. Let's say I felt...inadequate. Well-spoken guy.

We got our quotes and went back to the press box to grab our backpacks. Someone had switched the TVs to the Series, and we saw Gibson come to the plate. We had no idea what the score was, that it was the bottom of the ninth. Couldn't hear the commentary. And then that seemingly innocent swing (I thought Gibson fungoed one down the line) and history was made.

Not that this was the primary thrust of your post. Nor was inadequacy the cause of my own divorce. She thought I was...adequate. I guess. Sigh.

At 9:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Baseball explains everything. I think if Eck would have thrown a personal tantrum after the stupidity of nibbling and walking Mike "Huge Glasses" Davis, maybe the end result would have been different. Arguing with your ladies is always a good thing- unless you argue too much.

Good job, Little Buddy.

The Skipper

At 9:43 AM, Blogger Heather said...

This is a fantastic post - I would have loved to hear that sermon.

At 10:05 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

What a great post. Just fantastic.

And at the risk of sounding like Dr. Phil here, jackass philosophier that he is, let's reflect...

The Kirk Gibson moment was one of the great moments in baseball. It's a great example of why baseball is a great game with moments of drama that really can't be matched by any other sport (and I'm not a huge baseball fan).

It's painful for As fans, I'm sure, because it cost you a World Series that was rightly yours (I was a Mets fan that year, so it sucked for me too).

But as a fan of baseball, you can recognize that that pain was good for the sport, right? That ultimately the sport is better off because of it?

Maybe Speaker is better off as well. It seems that way to me based on reading you now. The pain, perhaps, was worth it. Of course I can't say for sure. I don't know you.

At the very least, your readers have enjoyed some great blogs because of it.

At 10:37 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

I force my wife to argue her points and not hold them in (she's very introverted, with some exceptions).

Sometimes to the extent of tears, but at least both of us get our opinions out in the open and there's closure on the subject.

Its hard to argue with someone you love, sometimes it needs to be done because you love them. I'm sure you know that through raising AJ.

At 1:49 PM, Blogger slb159 said...

I remember watching that game. I figured when Gibby came out as a pinch hitter with that shin-guard on, it was just for show. Yeah, quite a show. Being a Yankee fan since my early years, I didn't have a particular favorite in the WS, but yeah, that's something that'll be tough to forget.

At 1:49 PM, Blogger Derek McG said...

great post bro.

At 3:23 PM, Blogger Iakaris aka I.A.K. said...

I truly hope you're right, because I'm married to a girl who can raise some serious hell when she wants. Given my volatile disposition it's quite the cocktail, but I tell myself I'd rather have it out then let it fester.

Great post, but what else is new?

At 3:30 PM, Blogger April said...

I think you're 100% absolutely right. My ex and I never fought either, and while on the surface (like you said) it created the illusion that we were perfectly matched; the reality is that he was like X and uberpassive, whereas I was desperate for someone who would put up a challenge; stand up to be a bit.

And I think you know where that went...

And have I told you lately how much you rock?

At 8:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know, my ex and I never argued either. She never stood up for herself either, she just held it deep inside until she went crazy. Now all she does is go to the courts and say that I'm an abuser. In hindsight....I wish I did abuse her. Man, I would love to beat the shit out of her right now.

I'll never forget that home run. I was eating a fajita, and then came the homer. I dropped my Tex-Mex delicacy and uttered...."no fuckin' way. What a great moment for baseball." I was rooting for the A's then. But now that I hate the A's, I'm glad it happened.

keep your pimp hand strong,
Sasha Mitchell

At 11:02 PM, Blogger geewits said...

Habitual Avoidance of Conflict

Wow. That was me in a nutshell. No wonder I identified in some ways with your ex. I don't know what her reasons were but I grew up in a volatile home and DID NOT want to re-live that. I guess "Peace at all costs" has a pretty big price tag.

At 9:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hate the A's? How could you hate a bunch of slow, short, chubby dudes with goatees, mullets and white shoes. You sound like someone who's moved 24 times in the last 19 years.

Marlon Desert Blue

At 9:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hate the A's? How could you hate a bunch of slow, short, chubby dudes with goatees, mullets and white shoes. You sound like someone who's moved 24 times in the last 19 years.

Marlon Desert Blue

At 9:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post.

One quibble: Jack Buck said "I DON'T believe...what I just saw." (not "can't") You are excused for the error though, since the event was so traumatic for you.

At 1:05 PM, Blogger SoxLover said...

Great post. I shared it with SoxWife and she agrees that in our marriage (still going strong after 7+ years), our willingness to express our conflicts vigorously keeps things from festering.

On the other hand, she points out that it may increase the chances of our marriage ending by (my) untimely death.



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