Whatever skills help me cope with blindness, I learned by being a baseball fan. A White Sox fan, to be precise. White Sox fans become strong, according to humorist Jean Shepherd, “because they have known death every day of their lives and it holds no terror for them.”
Back in ‘59, I listened to the White Sox lose the World Series. The voice on my transistor radio belonged to Bob Elson, nicknamed “Professor.” “Errors,” he said, “like runs and hits, are all part of the game.” That reality, and my first reading of Casey at the Bat, molded my nine year-old soul.
Seasons pass. The ’83 Sox almost won it all. The 2005 Sox really did. Between the two seasons, I lost my eyesight. The 2013 Sox lost 99 games. Worse, they gave up. Losing is understandable; quitting is inexcusable. As the 2014 White Sox take the field, Sox fans take leave of the lessons of history. Last year’s failures are forgotten; resilience is renewed.
Tonight, I listen to Ken Harrelson, nicknamed “Hawk,” on White Sox TV. He expounds on perfecting the hit and run play, on avoiding that dreaded leadoff walk. Hawk is spare with description; I fill in what I don’t see and what Hawk doesn’t say. The Sox are two runs down in the bottom of the ninth. I’m skeptical, but Hawk says we can come back, one batter at a time.
Hawk chronicles one pop out, one base hit, one walk, another hit, another walk or two, one ground out. Bases loaded, two outs. I’m still skeptical. Then the crack of the bat and Hawk calls the grand slam. Sox win! Sox win! Hawk is shouting, “These kids just won’t quit!” And I listen and relearn my life lesson. “These kids,” says Hawk, “just won’t quit!”