These are the moments when you realize the unique horror that constantly seeps into a baseball game. Players don’t think about it because they can’t – because if they think about it, it will prevent them from ever stepping into the dough box, on the rubber of a pitcher, or in front of a linear drive traveling 116 miles per hour.
No. I can’t think of any of that.
That’s why the photos from the Atlanta Park in Atlanta on Monday night were so touching, so telling, so emotional. Mets and the Braves, for a man, saw Kevin Pilar crash in the face with a fast ball at 94.5 miles per hour from the fingers of Jacob Webb of Atlanta. They saw the blood gushing from Pilar̵
“You’re shaking your head,” said Mets Taijuan Walker’s pitcher. “You get a stomach ache.”
“Time stands still,” said James McCann.
Because they were looking at the Ladder. But they also saw each other. Years ago, shortly after Tony Conigliaro’s death, his old Red Sox teammate, Carl Jastremski, recalled the night of August 18, 1967, when Conillaro’s career and life were changed forever when Jack Hamilton of the Angels defeated him at Fenway Park. .
“What we all live with,” Yaz said, “is how easy each of us could be.”
Gilke McDougall of the Yankees vowed in 1957 that he would leave baseball at the age of 29 if he hit a line that hit the Cleveland star pitcher Herb Score worth Score eye. There were many Indians and Yankees on the Polo grounds in the gray afternoon of August 16, 1920, when Ray Cleveland’s Ray Chapman was beaten by New York aide Carl Mace, who admitted that they suffered periodically from nightmares for the rest of their lives.
“It could have been any of us.”
The bases were loaded in the seventh inning. There were two outs. The Mets had already won the run, they were still thirsty. The pole was in a hole with two blows. He took the ball. And then he was on his knees. Horror. Horror. Fear. McCann, standing in third place, was frozen.
“The last thing on my mind,” McCann said, “is to touch the home plate.”
Somehow Pilar managed to find his feet, to get off the field. Somehow McCann saw him walking around the club soon after. In fact, Pilar somehow survived before: two years ago, as a giant, he took a 97-mile fast ball from Dinelson Lamet of San Diego on the chin. And somehow a game the next day.
Somehow you wouldn’t understand him when he got in the dough box.
“This man is a warrior,” said Mets manager Luis Rojas. “You saw him.”
Pilar was at a local hospital at the time, doing a CT scan and also tweeting, “I’m doing well #RBI #gamewinner.”
Mets won the game 3-1 and this felt like the most trivial information. The Mets kept their focus on another half of the business inning. And then they turned their attention to their fallen teammate. Knowing, heart by heart, could easily be any of them.