In the current edition of The New Yorker, Daniel Mendelsohn observes the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. An unexpected reference to baseball arises therein:
[A]nother survivor, a boy of nine at the time, realized long after settling with his family in the Midwest that he couldn’t bring himself to go to Detroit Tigers games because the noise that greeted home runs reminded him of the cries of the dying.
One wonders how long after it was, whether he was forced to pass up Ty Cobb or Hank Greenberg or someone in between (Lu Blue? Pinky Hargrave?) and if he even missed it or simply went on with his life.
Imagine, though, undergoing an event so lastingly painful that you couldn’t go to a baseball game for psychological reasons. Imagine, too, the thin line between the sound of pain and pleasure, terror and exultation.
Depressed, dark-minded and twisted person that I am, sometimes when at a sold-out ballpark, I try to absorb just how many people are in the house, to take in all 40,000 or so that are there with me. It’s almost impossible to do. Then I start thinking of historic tragedies of that size or larger, battlefield deaths and so on, and visualize them in the context of the attendance. Combined casualties at Stalingrad were two million. I can’t contain that number in my mind except to think of it as 50 full stadiums. Even then, it doesn’t quite work. I’m glad it doesn’t.
The Titanic drowned a mere 1,500 souls. Even that is hard to visualize. Here, though, was a person for whom it was all too apparent, and all it took for it to happen was a deep fly ball.
When is an impossibly traumatic tragedy even more tragic? When its scars leave you unable to enjoy the wholesome, good things in life, the things that normally might heal you—in this case, baseball.
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