Originally published on PhillyBaseballNews.com, this writer weaves slightly 'off' and even misquoted (the carousel of life?) lyrics from The Circle Game, but he seems to love Joni and the Philadelphia Phillies!
Cole Hamels - an inspiration
CD's Connect the Dots... The Circle Game
Date: Aug 20, 2003
There was a delightfully poetic song in the late 1960's called "The Circle Game." Sung by Joni Mitchell, the lyrics speak of a beautiful circle of life that goes round and round, and the painted pony that goes up and down. It speaks of the symmetry of life...and of the people who create that symmetry.
This column has been a wonderfully enriching and personally moving experience since I began writing it four months ago. To share my love and devotion about a team, the Philadelphia Phillies, that has been with me since my youth is quite exhilarating. To know that readers share the same passion for the team, and show it in their e-mails, brings me new friendships that may last a lifetime. This alone makes writing these articles, quite endearing.
Yet, if you are blessed and fortunate enough to experience something truly significant during your labors of love, it makes the experience all the more significant. This writer had two such experiences this week...and made the song, "The Circle Game" all the more meaningful.
Oh, Kevin Millwood wins are meaningful. The Phils three-game sweep of the St. Louis Cards last weekend was meaningful. A Jim Thome upper deck blast is meaningful. But this week, the writer received two touching e-mails that put the word “meaningful” into proper place. That their stories are entirely different is in and of itself fascinating. That they both center around the Phillies is symmetric.
The first was from a very nice family who wanted to share their hopes and prayers for their son, who had recently suffered a broken arm while pitching on a wet field. It seems the 14 year old, with an 80 mph fastball, slipped and broke his pitching arm. While trying to console their son about their hopes for his recovery, they discovered my article written in May called ”Baby Steps”.... my examination into young Cole Hamels debut as a professional pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies.
Now, Hamels is not your average minor league player. Blessed with a wonderful left arm, he was the Phils number one draft pick last year and was making his professional debut in May of this year. This, is in and of itself significant, but what made it even more significant was that Hamels was doing it with an arm that had been shattered two years ago.
The medical marvel that put back together what was once broken has inspired many Phillie fans...and was being used to inspire and uplift a young boy who was convinced his career was over. That Hamels, and the Baby Steps article written about him, could be used to inspire a young boy recover emotionally from what must have been a traumatic event, was quite touching. That the circle game of the written word about a young professional ballplayer was read and having a positive impact on a 14 year old was not lost on this writer. Humbled would be putting it mildly. The boy is hopeful of contacting Hamels in Clearwater. If Hamels responds to this boy and with his words helps with the healing process, then this circle game will be complete.
Had this been the symmetric event for the week, this writer would have considered himself fortunate, but an e-mail received yesterday allowed the circle game to expand even wider. For those readers familiar with this writer’s childhood stories, the details of my early experiences with the Phillies are quite extensive. From Johnny Callison to Joe Koppe, Tony Gonzalez to Pancho Herrera, my youth was spent collecting baseball cards... and memories.
Foremost among those memories is the love I had for a relatively unheralded left fielder named Tony Curry. Now I never saw him play, I missed him by a year. But, oh, how I treasured my Tony Curry baseball card, it was my prize collection and one of the reasons I adopted the Phillies as my own. His card was of a color I had never seen before and his smiling face made the card even more meaningful. I have it even today! That Curry was a favorite of mine can be seen in the way I weave his name into stories of Phillies yesteryears, as if he were the reigning NL batting champ in 1960.
Actually, although he did have a fairly successful rookie year in 1960 and made the Topps All-Rookie team, his defensive deficiencies made him a liability in the field and he was gone in 1961. Though he resurfaced as a pinch hitter for a few games in Cleveland in 1966, for all intents and purposes his major league career consisted of that one season in 1960. As any fan of a long forgotten former hero, I often wondered what became of Curry…where he lives, how he is doing, is he even still alive?
On Monday, my answer came in the form of an email from a man named Steve from Oregon. It seems he had read my article called “The Sure Thing”, an article in which I discussed Curry at length. To my surprise, Tony Curry did not have just one fan, he had at least two. Steve had seen him play in Portland while a Triple A Beaver in the mid 60's, loved his smiling demeanor, and had been a fan ever since.
The story of Curry is now a disquieting one as he recently suffered from double kidney failure while back home in Nassau, Bahamas and is dependent on a dialysis machine. An article on Curry recently appeared in his local newspaper, the Nassau Guardian. The irony.... and potential for good will, was not lost on this writer. That a former Philadelphia Phillie player could so inspire two young boys from entirely different backgrounds to maintain a lasting interest in him is simply amazing. That my childhood memories of Curry have taken me to a place where I now write about the very team he played for, is poetic. That a person who shared the same feelings about this player, and read of my memories is symmetric. That Curry should know of this symmetry is symbiotic. The hope is that Curry will read this article and know that there are at least two people whose prayers he can count on. That it may lift his spirits as he once lifted ours is a fitting end to the circle game.
A number one draft pick, with a rebuilt left arm, beginning his professional baseball career. A boy, with a broken arm, who gains strength and courage from this recovered athlete. A former professional baseball player, who so inspired a young boy in Portland with his smile, and the boy, now a man, who continues to follow his story. And a writer, fortunate enough to be able to connect all the dots into a truly wonderful story of the human experience!
Joni Mitchell's song is nearly 40 years old, yet rings as true today as it was when first sung...."and the seasons, they go round and round, and the painted ponies go up and down.....in the carousel of life.....in the circle game."
Columnist’s Note: Suggestions, questions and comments welcome. Please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will respond!