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September 28, 2001

by Bill Hogan



I planned on writing about retiring all-stars Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken, Jr. as they were supposed to be playing the last baseball game of their illustrious careers this weekend.

I planned to pay homage to these fine ballplayers by highlighting some of their many great achievements.


I planned on thanking them for being two of the greatest aspects of the great game of baseball for so many years.

Then it hit me. These "aging" stars, these soon-to-be retirees are my age! How's that for a reality slap to the graying temples.

Sure, I've been aware of the aging process and the inevitable lifestyle changes. I watch my cholesterol intake (heck, I've cut back to a pound of bacon a week). I've added more fiber to my diet. I don't drink a cup of coffee without first scouting out the location of the nearest bathroom. And I occasionally find myself checking out the bowl for abnormalities in my stool.

O.K., I have to stretch before mowing the lawn (and even then I'm a little sore the next morning). I try to find new, innovative ways to cover the growing bald spot on the top of my head. My son runs to answer the door every time my knees pop when I stand up. And it's a safe bet there will be another jar of metamucil in my Christmas stocking this year.

But I never considered myself "over the hill".

What really hits home is the fact that I've spent my entire adult life watching Tony and Cal play baseball for their entire adult lives.

And now they are retiring.

When Willie Mays retired as a New York Met in 1973, I was twelve years old. I hated to see him go but man he was old. Willie was forty-two. Tony and Cal are forty-one.

Is it selfish for me to ask these guys to hang in there for another year or two? Not to see them win one more batting title. Or earn one more gold glove. Just to see them out there playing baseball. If these two great players, my contemporaries, are on the field, then they're not old - and, by extension, I'm not old either.

Too much to ask? Probably.

After all, sports are a young man's game. Nobody wants to see a ballplayer using a bat as a walking cane. Or, handing the first base coach his batting gloves, shin protector and teeth after a hit.

And I guess it wouldn't be good for the game if pre-season physicals needed to include a prostate exam, a stress test, and a colonoscopy (terminology I have only recently become familiar with).

So, it seems best to say good-bye, good luck and thank you to these two great players, these two fine gentlemen as they enter the last week of their Hall of Fame careers.

And my "old age" doldrums will end this October with the beginning of the NBA season.

Because (thirty-eight year old) Michael is back!

* * * * *

It's been two-and-a-half humorless weeks since 11 September.

One of the many, many things that Americans do better than anyone else is laugh.

I hope this week's column gives you cause to laugh - if even for just a moment.

And thanks, Kevin, for reminding me of the importance of laughter and the role of this column.


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