He was an aged veteran; a catcher by trade. He was bookended in history by Yogi Berra and Johnny Bench. He had his ring and two pennants. An all star at times. He was a respected game caller. When young he was better than most at keeping the runners in check. He was good at mentoring rookies and working with what he had. He was never going to be the dream athlete; the big star. So he never hit that memorable home run. He had plenty of clutch hits that at least he remembered.
Time had been a cruel mistress. He'd broken his hands so many times from foul tips that there were days when holding the bat hurt; let alone gripping the ball. He still loved the game that no longer loved him. It was time to go. The hard scrabble farm in Connecticut was calling him. His other way back to the dirt. The hands are truly gnarled; the knees no longer willing to take the season's long grind. It's time to put in the crop and retire. And so he did.
The summer came and the old fires still smoldered. Throwing things at the TV did no good. Pay attention to the crops! This Farm is now your living old man. And then the phone rang one day. A respected baseball man called. "I don't want to coach" He thought. No a respected competitor was hurt and his team is in contention. "I'm not up to playing everday anymore" He thought. No the backup is past ready to make the everyday leap. We need some one to back him up. He's well rested. we won't use you unless we have to. Could you put on the gear for a last time? You'd be in the pennant race one more time! You might even get to the series again. Well the crops won't be ready to take in for weeks. I can still get the guys from last year to take them in when the time comes. Why not?
So he finished up the season. he played now and again. The Pain! "When the season's done; so am I". But the season didn't end just yet. In the playoffs his team eclipsed the team of the player who had always overshadowed him. The man he replaced was in the dugout wondering if he was watching the end of his own storied career. The Youngster was playing well. Now for the world series.
He never thought he'd get to play here at this place in a game that mattered. Now he was a spectator on the bench. The series went home and came back. Now the youngster is hurt. You have to play the last games. The opposing manager is famous for his small ball. Be on your guard. If he can find a way to make you look bad old man; he sure enough will. It's the middle of the game with two on in scoring position and no outs. Call the breaking pitch. The "Squeeze" is on! Tag the runner and and throw to first. Good double up old man! Runner at third two away. That's a good way to be remembered. Get that out and get out of the inning. Call the fast ball low and in. What? The suicide? Grab the ball and take the hit. OoooF! "Yes, I held on to the Damn ball Billy!"
The Heroics of Reggie Jackson decided the series against him. My memory fades and i might not have all the details right. That is how I'll Always remember Jerry Grote.