20 – 20 VISION

Bob Feller, Cleveland Indian and baseball great, won his twentieth game

Of the season in 1939 at age 20 years, 10 months, 5 days ; Dwight Gooden

Won his twentieth in 1985, When he was 20 years, 9 months and 9 days old;

When soon after that occasion, Feller was asked to comment on Gooden’s

Early greatness, Feller grumbled something about waiting to see if Gooden could

Maintain that lofty level of pitching mastery for a whole career, as he had,

— and I, an original Met fan having waited for years for an imitation of Tom Seaver’s

Met mystique, dismissed Feller’s words as an old man’s spitting out

Sour grapes. Gooden might as well begin working on his Hall of Fame

Acceptance speech, I mused . . . but I was wrong and the old Feller

Was right on the target. Gooden did okay in his career (not quite 200 wins) but

Never matched that golden year’s 24 – 4 record, never won 20 games again,

Didn’t even reach double figures in victories nine of his final 10 years

. . . And while I cannot credit Feller with anticipating the effect of

Drugs on Gooden, I sit here nodding in my old age and admitting

That Feller understood one thing the younger me never could consider:

That it takes not just skill but also strength of character to maintain

God-like status once you’ve reached it. The annals, as they say, are filled with

One-hit wonders (so to speak), I loved Gooden in those early years

After the despairing desert decade that preceded him, but as

My admiration for him dwindled, my respect for the old man

Transitioned from his loss of a place in the books to a proud place

In my heart. I still admire Dwight, not for his career but for

The man of substance he became. As for my baseball vision,

It’s funny how I now in my ninth decade of Life

Remember how I once looked upon an old man as the stereotypical

“Why, in my day” observer of those who had replaced him.

Irony never ever grows old, does it?