Rambling On About My Glory Days: Cheer Up Matt Holliday
by Joe Baseball – Note to readers, I am writing this article under an alias to protect the innocent.
Every baseball fan saw it; Cardinal Matt Holliday dropped a fly ball leading to a big (huge) loss to the Dodgers. I can feel his pain, although I was on the other side of it. The venue was the same – Los Angeles, Hollywood and Dodger Stadium. In 1980, I made the last out of our one-game playoff against the Houston Astros. The stakes were even higher, when it was win or go home, and we were going home after I made the final out of the season. Maybe the heartbreak I felt was not quite as severe as Matt Holliday’s, but I am pretty sure that the day after our defeats was much tougher on me than Matt. You see, Matt had to hop on a plane for a three-hour plane ride, face the media, and answer some questions about the game. On the other hand, I had to hop in a car for a twenty-four-hour drive home, face a crazed man with a gun, and answer questions from state police and the FBI.
Here is how it went down.
My mind was still going through my last at-bat the following morning as my wife, Linda, and I were driving through Arizona. You see, ballplayers relive games and at-bats many times in their minds until the next game, when new ones are lived and the process begins again. The best thing about pro baseball is that the wait for the next game is usually short as games are generally played every day. Unfortunately, this having been the last game of the season, I would have a long, agonizing memory till spring training the following season. Little did I know that, in a half hour’s time, that game and at-bat would be the furthest thing from my mind. The Lord works in mysterious ways, as some say.
“Jack, I think a policeman was just shot,” my wife exclaims. Looking back at the cars at the side of the road, I notice a policeman shooting at a car pulling away. “Linda, a car is going to go flying by us, do not look at it no matter what,” I responded. That is what happened as we noticed the car with a shattered rear window go by, get off at the upcoming exit and head left, out towards the Arizona desert. Whew! Thank God that is over, we thought. It’s funny how religious one gets at times like these.
Still not fazed much, though, we decided to get off at the same exit, where there was a gas station to the right. We figured we would have the attendant call the police to see if the afore mentioned officer needed assistance. Unknown to us, the driver of the speeding car had doubled back and came pulling into the gas station immediately after us. Jumping out of his car with gun drawn, gun shots began. Everyone is now startled, especially the gunman who starts yelling, “Who is shooting at me?” “It was your own gun stupid,” was the response from a cowboy who was standing at the station. (All fact, even Hollywood couldn’t make that up).
After ducking down to avoid being hit by a bullet, the gunman was upon my wife and I before we knew it. With the gun directly on my wife for what seemed like an eternity, the guy demands that we give him a ride. “I will, but she stays here,” I plead. My wife wanted no part of that. â€œI think I am going to throw up,â€ she says and begins to lean over. God then took over. “Oh, I give up, the gunman yells” in disgust and walks away. Immediately, my wife and I start walking to the gas station restroom for safety. “Hang in there, Linda, we’ll get to the restroom,” I whisper. “I was just kidding,” she responds. Wow, talk about thinking on your feet; probably the result of growing up on the east side of Joliet, Illinois in the 60s, as we did.
Of course, getting to the restroom proved unsafe as the lock on the door did not work. Not feeling safe, we returned outside to see what was happening. The gunman was still pleading with other people at the station to give him a ride to a nearby town so he could get a lawyer. Coming up unsuccessful, he drove off in his own car, only to be picked up by a number of state police a short time later.
The best part of the story occurred a short time later when I called a friend whom we were going to stop and see later that day. After beginning to tell him of our eventful day, I stopped and said, “You don’t believe any of this, do you,” because I realized how unreal it sounded.
Postscript: We received a souvenir from all the festivities with a bullet found lodged in our car trunk. The original policeman was shot three times but lived. The gunman received a number of years in prison for robbing banks and for the kidnapping of ballplayer and his wife. Ironically, the town where the gas station was located is in Two Guns, Arizona. Once again, this story is all fact and we are still waiting for Hollywood to call for the movie script. Ha.
So, Matt Holliday, Cheer Up - It could have been worse.
Former major leaguer Jack Perconte is the author of The Making of a Hitter (http://jackperconte.com) and has a baseball instruction site that can be found at www.baseballcoachingtips.net. He has recently published his second book Raising an Athlete – How to Instill Confidence, Build Skills and Inspire a Love of Sport