Charlie Huisking — Nov 02, 2003


Baseball hits dramatic heights

Before leaving home for an Asolo play several years ago, I briefly considered slipping my Sony Walkman into my pocket so I could get an update on a World Series game during intermission.

But I feared I might be tempted to keep my headphones on during the play's second act. And I didn't want the Asolo's Howard Millman confiscating the Walkman, the way Sister Julianna took my transistor radio in seventh grade when she caught me listening to a series game.

My passion for baseball is the only thing that equals my love of the arts. And after just experiencing what possibly was baseball's greatest post-season ever, I'm afraid that going to see a mere play will be a letdown.

Can any local production provide the drama, heartbreak or exhilaration that these extra-inning nail-biters, comeback victories and startling collapses offered?

Oh, I'm sure the Asolo production of "The Crucible," which opened Friday, will be gripping.

But the dictionary definition of a crucible is "severe test or trial." You want to talk crucibles? Try being a fan of both the Chicago Cubs and the Boston Red Sox, as I am.

Like Banquo's ghost in Shakespeare's "Macbeth," Bill Buckner still haunts my dreams, 17 years after that ball went between his legs. This year, I had to watch both the Cubs and the Red Sox find excruciating ways to avoid making the World Series, after coming within a few outs of getting there.

This post-season definitely reached Shakespearean heights. You had mere mortals dealing with curses and destiny and the crushing force of history.

In the Red Sox and the Yankees, you had the Montagues battling with the Capulets. Shakespeare had to be pres- cient when, in the "Romeo and Juliet" prologue, he wrote of "Two households, both alike in dignity …"

And how about these lines: "From ancient grudge break to new mutiny/ Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean."

That's an obvious reference to Game 3, when Pedro Martinez went head-hunting, Don Zimmer went ballistic, and Yankee bullpen bullies took out their frustrations on a groundskeeper.

Shakespeare would have loved such heroic warriors as Marlins catcher Ivan Rodriguez, who kept getting clutch hits, and who provided the playoffs' most stirring single image.

In the final play of the final game with the Giants, he withstood a violent collision and tagged out the potential tying runner. As teammates mobbed him, Rodriguez continued to tightly clutch the baseball, as if it were a precious jewel.

Baseball gave us brash youngsters (pitcher Josh Beckett) and revered elders (72-year-old Marlins manager Jack McKeon, King Lear with a cigar).

We had tragic figures (Steve Bartman, that Cubs fan whose life changed in an instant when he put his hand up for a foul ball). And we even had Shakespearean fools (Grady Little, the Red Sox manager whose life changed in an instant when he didn't put his hand up and signal to the bullpen).

There's no Shakespearean equivalent to the villainous George Steinbrenner, because frankly, The Boss doesn't have enough grandeur. He's more like the blustery, pompous Big Daddy in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof."

As it happens, I'm going to New York next week. Maybe I'll make the transition from baseball to theater by seeing the new off-Broadway show about Yogi Berra.

To quote Yogi, I hope that when next year's post-season occurs, "It's déjà vu all over again" in terms of drama. Except that, next year, of course, the Cubs and Red Sox will meet in the series.

Hit Counter