Tuesday, April 12, 2011

My Harry Burns Moment

You Say Jump - Cheap Trick (mp3)
Salt in My Tears - Martin Briley (mp3)

“Sid Bream.”

If you are of a certain age, those two words, mentioned at any point in time, in any circumstance, conjure one and only one highly-specific and eternal moment in time. Back to that in a minute.

Last night, I attended a send-off party for a friend and coworker at a Chattanooga Lookouts baseball game. We sat in a special section in right field, the only section in the ballpark where wine and liquor can be downed. Which makes it both special and priceless.

In addition to serving as one of our trusty IT guys, he has spent years moonlighting as a photographer, and one of his areas of interest is on women in various states of undress. I don’t judge. For professional reasons, I’ve done my best not to oogle or in any way look at his shots in this area, because it just ain’t appropriate in my line of work.

While much of the crowd were coworkers and friends, we expected a few of his models to also show up for the festivities. One other guy and I actually had fun with this expectation, stopping everytime some female walked up the ramp to our section to look at one another and either shake our head or nod. To be honest, we always nodded, because it was funnier to think that all the women of varying levels of attractiveness coming up the ramp were models.

At one point, a semi-attractive woman walked past us, and we nodded that she was probably a model (or, that is, wished she was a model and paid for a “professional” photo shoot). When she walked past us, she looked at me and said, “Excuse me, is there a door?” The entrance to the inside area was a sliding glass door. She didn’t see the handle. Yup, a model.

Maybe you had to be there.

Anyway, in the fourth inning, two particularly eyebrow-raising blondes walked up and past us. They required that I actually walk over and confer verbally with my coworker.

“You think they’re models?” he asked.
“No way,” I said. “Baseball wives.”
“Gotta be. Only one way to find out.” I promised him I would find out before we left. Because I had been drinking beer, and beer makes one stupid and confident.

The bottom of the fifth hit, and rain began to fall, and we all filed into the party room area for shelter. I swallowed the rest of my present beer and with it the courage and stupidity to introduce myself to the two blondes. Because I was unavailable -- and believe me, they were clearly disappointed that my scooter-loving booty could not be theirs for the taking -- I only offered a few friendly lines before I got to the point.

“Home or away?” I asked. I figured if they were models, they would look dumbstruck or offended by my question, but if they were baseball wives...

“Home, actually,” one said quickly.
“Yeah?” I said. “Who are the lucky guys?”
The slightly older (and more attractive) one responded quickly, “He’s not playing tonight. Night off.”
“Yeah? Where’s he play?”
“He’s right field. Scott Van Slyke.”

My response was instantaneous, which is saying something considering I’m neither a baseball fanatic nor a Schwab wannabe: “Andy’s son?!?”

“Yes, actually,” she said, smiling. She was impressed by my connecting two simple dots. I wonder how often she had to act impressed at slightly-inebriated men connecting simple dots. Probably a lot if she’s a baseball wife.

I wasn’t that much of a baseball fan in 1992, but I had grown up knowing just enough about the Atlanta Braves to know they had a history of sucking. On a trip to Atlanta in elementary school, my parents bought me a book that included a history of the team and bios on all the players, and being bookish, I actually read it. Having watched only a few games, I knew details about Bob Horner, Bruce Benedict, Phil “Knucksie” Niekro, several other players and, above all, the inimitable Dale friggin’ Murphy, a.k.a. The Greatest Mormon Centerfielder Ever.

Watching them on TBS as a kid was not so much a habit as proof of desperation and boredom. Yet, knowing that they would always be on TBS, and that the Cubs would always be on WGN, somehow offered this strange comfort to me. Worst-case, I could watch baseball.

The name “Andy Van Slyke” SHOULD mean awesomeness. Big white stud of a baseball player who spent his prime with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Three-time All-Star. Five-time Golden Glover. Two-time “Silver Slugger.” All of these honors earned during his years in the ‘Burgh.

But that’s not why I know him. I had to look that crap up. No, I know him because I know Sid Bream.

More specifically, I know the 1992 National League Championship Series. Also Known As “The Greatest Series In The History of Baseball” for 80 percent of humans born south of the Mason-Dixon line.

This is glued into my mind because my girlfriend at the time, a freshman cutie named Meredith, the only girl who ever broke up with me -- I’m hardly bragging considering the teensy tiny number of females who dared even date me in the first place -- was a huuuuuge Braves fan. We spent most of our dates with Braves games on a TV in the background. (Oh come on. That’s kind of a funny joke even if it’s not at all true.)

To say I adored Meredith to the point of rational blindness is understated. I was drunk with smitten-ness even when I wasn’t literally drunk. It was very much the You Say Jump, I Say How High kind of relationship. Which is to say it was doomed from the start. But it was heavenly while I was privileged enough to be in it.

Our breakup took a month, because she wouldn’t do it. I was too nice a guy. I had to pull it out of her like an impacted wisdom tooth, and it hurt me worse than it hurt her.

My encounter at the Lookouts was a perfect Harry Burns moment:
Harry: Yeah, nothing from her not even a smile. So I down shift into small talk, and I asked her where she went to school and she said. "Michigan State", and this reminds me of Helen. All of a sudden I'm in the middle of this mess of an anxiety attack, my heart is beating like a wild man and I start sweating like a pig.
Sally: Helen went to Michigan State?
Harry: No she went to Northwestern, but they're both Big-Ten schools. I got so upset I had to leave the restaurant.
Sally: Harry I think this takes a long time. It might be months before we're actually able to enjoy going out with someone new.
Harry: Yah...
Sally: And maybe longer, before we're actually able to go to bed with someone new.
Harry: Oh I went to bed with her.
Sally: You went to bed with her?
Harry: Sure.
Sally: Oh.
“Scott Van Slyke” → Andy Van Slyke → Pittsburgh Pirates → Atlanta Braves → Sid Bream’s series-winning, series-ending tag-at-the-plate run in the 1992 NLCS → Meredith → heartbreak.

This chain of thought was instantaneous. Faster than the speed of night. This is how the minds of men work.

Plus, it’s a lot more fun to recall it all when I know the story has a happy ending.


Billy Bob said...

Billy, two things:

1. Thanks for the "sympathy comment" on my post from yesterday. I hope this doesn't turn out to be one for you. But you should know that even though there haven't been many comments lately, I do have a post back there (alas, with no comments) that our friend John said offhandedly that he had "intended" to comment on. So, that's something.

2. As a Pirates fan, the conclusion of the 1992 NLCS was, and remains, one of the most painful nights of my life. In fact, I pretty much gave up baseball after that.

Daisy said...

Love this post. I am convinced that this type of lightening round thinking is what prevents my brain from handling the minutia of day to day life...like remembering to buy milk when I go the groceries for the sole purposes of buying milk.

goofytakemyhand said...

"In fact, I pretty much gave up baseball after that."

So did the Pirates organization as well.

Anonymous said...


I showed "When Harry Met Sally" in my film studies class as a companion piece to "Some Like It Hot" recently and that scene you referenced got a disturbingly knowing laugh from my students. Sometimes I feel really old...

Billy said...

@Bob and Goofy - Poor Pirates. It really is kind of sad.

@Daisy - It seems like with each passing year, more and more items and songs and moments harken to some previous event, and the spiderweb of connected memories gets more complex. So yeah, eventually, even a walk down the grocery isle should evoke a half-dozen sub-references.

@John - How much longer until the scene where Harry is leaving messages on an answering machine to a phone hooked up to a cord in the wall is so foreign to kids that it's nonsensical? In their world, one could be trapped under something heavy and still be able to answer their cell phone.

Daisy said...

The phone message in WHMS makes me think of my favorite scene which also takes place on corded phones and that makes me think of my favorite scene in Broadcast News which takes place on corded phones which makes me think of how much I love Holly Hunter's black and white polka dot dress which makes me think of a black and white polka dot dress I had in high school and that makes me think about how many hours of my life I spent tethered to the telephone and that just makes me feel old.

Anonymous said...

@Billy--You should see them watching a film like North by Northwest where Cary Grant is calling his mother from inside a phone booth.