A friend reminded me Thursday of a backyard ball game in 1967 among some high school chums.
It came up in conversation because it was the last time there was a triple crown winner in Major League Baseball — Carl Yastrzemzki. One time every game, at least one of us would try to emulate the batting stroke of “Yaz.”
But the triple crown achievement of Miguel Cabrera, who coincidentally hit the same number of home runs (44) as Yaz, may not have been the greatest event in baseball this week.
We refer you to Adam Greenberg.
A footnote in baseball history.
Cue the Fantasyland music. Yeh. “When You Wish Upon a Star.”
Greenberg was a promising minor league player in the Chicago Cubs organization in 2005. He got his chance in the big leagues as a pinch-hitter. On the first pitch in his first at-bat, he was hit on the back of the head, collapsing with a concussion.
He became a painful asterisk in baseball history — one of two players who was hit by a pitch in his first plate appearance before taking the field.
He tried to revive his career but he had extended effects from what was described as a mild concussion. For months, he would have prolonged headaches when he bent over to tie his shoes.
His dream vanished.
For seven years.
Then, filmmaker Matt Austin, a Cubs fan, started a “One-At-Bat” petition drive to give Greenberg the Major League League chance he never had.
Inspired, the Miami Marlins signed Greenberg to a one-day contract. Tuesday, he was an official member of the Marlins, and went through the regular routine as a pro baseball player and was sent by manager Ozzie Guillen to pinch-hit against R.A. Dickey, a knuckleballer. With “Dream On” playing as he walked to the plate, Greenberg received a standing ovation.
Then, struck out.
On the stat line only.
“I never thought it was about getting me an at-bat,” he said later. “It was about doing it for everyone who had a dream that was taken away from them and has ever worked hard to accomplish a goal and gotten knocked down and the ability to keep pushing and keep working and try to make the impossible possible.”
Greenberg signed for $2,623 for his one-game appearance. The money will be donated to research for brain trauma injuries to athletes.
The contest was an otherwise meaningless game against two disappointing teams who were playing out the string.
“I think I’ve never seen this ballclub more excited than today,” Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said. “We’ve been losing so many games we hate each other.”
The game went extra innings.
Maybe one more magical touch to extend a dream.
Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 505-1235 or firstname.lastname@example.org