Just a Bit of a Vacuum

Last night, Maureen and i settled into our usual routine of watching the Padres on TV, or at least Maureen watches to somewhere around the seventh inning when she heads for the bedroom to read before sleep. You see, the anxiety she suffers in close games is difficult.

This old sportswriter has a built in inability to leave a game before the ending. As Yogi said, “It ain’t over until it’s over.” A quote attributed to Dan Cook, a San Antonio sports announcer, but i like to think it was invented by Danny Murtaugh, the manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 50s and 60s was “It ain’t over ’til the fat lady sings”. Those quotes and scorekeeping imbued in me to stick around. So i did.

Friday, i watched the Padres leading the Arizona Diamondbacks, 7-2, into the 9th, only to suffer a grand slam and two-run homer to fall behind 8-7. Then, in the bottom of the 9th begins with Jurickson Profar, an all-star, tie it with a home run, and then Manny Machado hitting a walk-off (he didn’t walk, he trotted) home run to win the game 10-8. Last night, i watched them lose in the “ghost runner” 10th inning, 7-5.

Throughout both games, i felt a vacuum. Jim Hileman and i shared Padre season tickets to Padre home games. Jim, like the preponderance of folks my age, has lost interest, not just the Padres but most professional sports — Jim still follows his Pittsburgh Steelers with a passion. The last guy around here who discussed Padre baseball with me was Marty Linville.

Marty was the subject of my short tribute Friday when he crossed the bridge. i kept feeling this vacuum of not being able to call or text him about a particular play or a particular call.

When Jim and i shared those tickets and Jim, Maureen, or Sarah couldn’t go, Marty was the guy with whom i most shared our tickets. We would sit and kibbitz over our beer and hot dogs for the entire game.

In the hospital room Friday, Rod Stark noted that he and Marty had been close friends for 40 years when Marty reported to the Naval Amphibious School Coronado in the Naval Gunfire department in 1984. i reported to the leadership department nine months later. That’s 39 years of a relationship with that man.

We drank together like the old sailor and soldier we were. We played golf together. We played softball together. We traveled on golf trips together. We dined with our wives together. We shared friends together.

i wrote to my daughter Blythe that i’m sure i will not ever again pick up a golf club, drink a gin and tonic, or have a martini without feeling like something was missing.

Something will be missing: sharing those things with Marty.

Ahh, stories about Marty will abound here in the future. He was a warrior. He was my friend.

4 thoughts on “Just a Bit of a Vacuum

  1. Everything you said is so true. No how many friends you have each and everyone has their own special part of our heart. That one person who will always be there to just listen. I feel your sadness as if it were my own. It will subside with time just hang in there and embrace each memory that dear man blessed you with.

  2. Nice story about your friends Jim….Enjoyable read…..I am afraid I feel like your friend that although I played sports for years the professional side no longer keeps my interest…..Grandsons actually keep my interest….

    1. Thanks, Howard. My grandson is not into sports and is a high school senior in Austin. There are two guys remaining of the core group that started our weekly golf. We are hanging in there. Two of us at 78 and 80, are still walking 18.

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