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Monday
Sep302013

A Perfect Ninth

 

A Perfect Ninth

 

Unlike his distant cousin Warren, who periodically appears in my baseball-themed writings when I need to make an analogy to financial markets, Jimmy Buffett isn’t anyone’s idea of a deep thinker. After all, this is a man best known for songs like Cheeseburger in Paradise and Margaritaville, and for concerts that celebrate a certain brand of live-and-let-live hedonism. 

And yet, Jimmy Buffett penned one of the best works about middle-age I’ve ever come across.  It’s a common topic for filmmakers, writers, and singers to address as they observe their fleeting youth to the point that it’s a worked-to-death topic.  However, Buffett’s A Pirate Looks at Forty is far from a mid-life crisis cliché; instead it’s a wistful and poignant look at a man who’s come to realize, thanks in part to circumstances beyond his control, he doesn’t have a lot left to contribute to society. In addition to the unexpected bittersweet thoughtfulness of the song, it’s also surprisingly timeless.  A Pirate Looks at Forty was written in 1974 when Buffett was just 28, but I challenge any equities trader reading this – and if we’re peers you’ve been at this for at least a decade – to pull up the lyrics and reflect on the story of technology rendering the job of a middle-aged man a bygone relic. 

You simply don’t expect lyrics like,

My occupational hazard being

My occupation’s just not around

Feels like I’ve drowned

Gonna head uptown 

from the same man who wrote Why Don’t we Get Drunk (and Screw).  Is the right blend of poignant and bittersweet notes more effective when the source is unexpected?  That’s certainly a matter of opinion, but I think so.  For me, those unexpected moments are what made movies like Superbad, The Full Monty, and The 40-Year Old Virgin so memorable.

Last week, on September 27, I had exactly the same feeling when I saw the cover of Friday’s New York Post.

I’m an unabashed fan of the Post.  I moved to New York in the summer of 1995 and within days of my arrival, Hugh Grant, at the time the long-time boyfriend of supermodel Elizabeth Hurley, was arrested in Beverly Hills for soliciting prostitute Divine Brown and the Post had a field day.  For a week, in the pre-internet world that existed then, the Post crushed Grant with its daily headline (“How Could Hugh?”  “Hugh Dirty Rat” etc.)  From that time on, I considered the New York Post part of the New York City experience.  I don’t live in New York anymore and newspapers really are a dying medium for news but when someone like Anthony Weiner makes headlines, I always like to check online to see how the Post summed up the event.

Another place where genuinely unique surprises are generally unexpected is on the baseball field. Certainly during any game an unlikely series of events can occur which result in a surprising outcome, but I’m referring to a set of truly unique circumstances that create a just-this-once moment. Just such a moment occurred last Thursday evening in Yankee Stadium and it really was unexpected.

How can you make a retirement event really unique? Players retire every year and even for an all-time great, the farewell tour is a staple of every sport; the path is well-worn and the tour itself is largely tedious.  Mariano Rivera’s final stop through each American League city in 2013 was no different.  (Special creative points to the Minnesota Twins however for serving up a twist on the greatest of clichés, the gift of a rocking chair, by constructing it out of broken bats.)  The Yankees did themselves proud as well at various points during the season hosting Mariano Rivera Day and bestowing on him the ultimate honor: A statue in Monument Park while he was still an active player.  All of that is certainly fitting for the undisputed Greatest Closer of All Time.

Everyone knew it was going to be Mariano Rivera’s last game in Yankee Stadium this past Thursday night and they knew, regardless of whether New York was winning or losing, it would be Rivera pitching the top of the ninth and getting the final out for the home team.  Joe Girardi, however, had another, truly inspired idea.  After having retired the first two batters of the ninth inning – his third and fourth in a row as he took the mound with one out in the eighth inning – in a game in which the Yankees were losing 4-0, Rivera looked up to see Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte, his long-time friends and teammates strolling out to the mound. As he processed the moment the look on his face changed from surprise to amusement to the realization that Pettitte had just signaled to the bullpen for a new pitcher so that he, Rivera, could walk off the field to one final moment of adoration from the fans at Yankee Stadium.  It was too much for the normally stoic Rivera to take and he buried his face in Pettitte’s chest while his entire body heaved with sobs.  Finally, after an extended embrace with Jeter, the Greatest Closer of All Time left the field as chants of “MAR-I-A-NO” filled the air.

There is nothing particularly unique about most final appearances – hell, minutes later Todd Helton homered in the first inning of his final home game with the Rockies after 17 years with Colorado – but the appearance of three of The Big Four on the mound after Rivera’s last pitch was an exceptionally unique moment crafted by Joe Girardi.  I certainly didn’t expect it.

I expected even less for best summation of the evening to occur roughly eight hours later on the front page of the New York Post.  Would I turn there for a searing inside account of a celebrity scandal?  Of course.  The Post’s front page as a megaphone for a populist view of world events?  Sure.  But summing up the last home appearance for an iconic local sports figure -- a legacy of legendary writing which includes John Updike’s seminal account (“Gods do not answer letters”) of Ted Williams’ final at-bat?  No, I don’t look to the Post for that type of quality.

So imagine my surprise, as I walked out of the subway on Friday morning, September 27 and saw this absolutely perfect New York Post headline:

Greatest Closure of All Time

 

Extra Innings:

The reason that I, a San Francisco resident, emerged from a New York City subway station last week is that earlier this month, I started a new job with Novus Partners, a New York-based company that provides data management and investment analytics to the asset management community. As a result of acquainting myself with, and introducing myself to the firm over the course of the summer, my baseball writing ground to a halt. Similarly, it’ll be impossible for me to create as much playoff-related content this post-season as the two prior, but I’ll try to get a couple of pieces written before each round.  To that end, I’ll let today’s Game 163 festivities, as well as the first two Wild Card games play out before previewing things for the final eight teams standing this Thursday.

 

Mop Up Duty:

Joe Peta is the author of Trading Bases, A Story About Wall Street, Gambling, and Baseball*  (*) Not necessarily in that order, a Dutton Books/Penguin (U.S.A.) publication currently available wherever books are sold.  Here are three on-line booksellers you can currently choose from:

http://www.amazon.com/Trading-Bases-Gambling-Baseball-Necessarily/dp/0525953647/

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/trading-bases-joe-peta/1111308063?ean=9780525953647

http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780525953647

He is also the author of Trading Bases, the Newsletter, a companion piece to the book.  If you have been forwarded this issue and would like to be placed on the mailing list, please send an e-mail to tradingbases@gmail.com

All newsletter archives are located at http://tradingbases.squarespace.com

You can follow me on Twitter here:  @MagicRatSF

If you want to be taken off the e-mail list, please let me know at tradingbases@gmail.com

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