So hey, remember yesterday when I went on a mini-rant about the way old ballplayers have a tendency to fade gently into anonymity without anyone really noticing, and as an example I used the fact that I knew the whereabouts of perhaps one or two of the guys from my time in baseball?
Mr. Moynahan, “Irony” is waiting for you on Line Two.
As I was walking into a building with a client this afternoon, a Fed Ex deliveryman held the door on his way out. I looked at him the way most people look at deliverymen, nothing more than a passing glance, until the part of my brain that handles visual memory decided to kick in.
“Hey, wait a minute…I know this guy.” It was Glenn Murray, without a doubt the greatest player in Nashua Pride history. He was the Atlantic League’s Most Valuable Player in 1999, led the team to a championship the following season, and became the first Atlantic League player to reach 100 career homeruns in 2003. If the powers that be were ever to create a Hall of Fame for the Atlantic League, Murray would easily be a member of the inaugural class.
In the middle of performing the automatic and mindless task of holding a door for someone, Glenn realized that I was studying him fairly closely. He took a closer look at me and recognition dawned. I don’t know if he knew exactly where he knew me from, and there’s no doubt in my mind that he didn’t remember my name, but he seemed to know that he knew me.
We exchanged greetings, shook hands, and talked for a minute or two, all about him of course. He coached for awhile after his playing days were done, but it didn’t really work out. He’s been working for Fed Ex for a couple of months now, delivering packages and making more money than he ever did as a ballplayer. I informed my client that he was looking at a living legend – he asked Glenn what he did, where he played, how long he played.
And then, it was done. With a “Take it easy” and “Good seeing you,” we continued into the building and he continued out to his truck. As I walked inside, I realized I should have obtained some contact information, that the life of an ex-ballplayer is something that fascinates me to no end and I would have liked to talk to him about it in greater detail. What, if anything, did he miss? Does he still talk to his former teammates? When did he know that it was finally over? Has he adjusted to the fact that it’s March and there is no spring training on the horizon? Will he ever really adjust to that reality?
Knowing Glenn, he’ll continue to accept that his time in the game is done without dwelling on it. But for me, a guy who watched him play every day for two seasons, watched him during late game at-bats in close games where you just knew a homerun was only moments away, watched him strike out on sliders low and away that simply looked too good to resist, watched him hobble around the bases on two bad knees, it was awfully hard to see him wearing the purple uniform shirt and carrying the clipboard of an average working Joe.
John Updike once said of Ted Williams, “Gods do not answer letters.” In Nashua, New Hampshire, unfortunately, one delivers them.