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#EdgarHOF - Day 57

The persistence of memory vs. the consistence of memory and the Double

Rangers v Mariners Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

By now, I have watched The Double so many times, I don’t remember when the first time was. I was fifteen at the time, old enough to have a memory of that day, and while I have memories of several distinct days of my life around that period—for example, I remember one particular winter day in 1996 and the deep contentment I felt reading Carol Shield’s The Stone Diaries in a blue Pendleton sweater while a snowstorm raged outside—the original memory of the Double is gone. I know I was there, in front of the TV, although neither of my parents can remember me being there, and now that I think about it, I had a job at the movie theatre that kept me busy on the weekends. Could I have been there instead? No one can confirm, and I can’t remember. It’s entirely possible I’ve invented a memory of the moment for myself, that I’ve seen it so many times—from the Eagle Hardware “My Oh My” VHS tape I still own, to today, where I can summon the highlight at will, any hour of the day and any place I wish—that I’ve just drawn myself into a space that makes sense for the memory, sitting in the living room on our awful beige leather couches. Memory is tricky like that; where gaps exist, our brains step in to act as auteur, splicing scenes together or creating new entirely new ones. Proust understood memory maybe better than any other author, recognized the double-edged sword of it: memory will give you what you want, but it might be a lie. Memory isn’t a fixed thing, but instead a thing that shifts and pivots based on our own relationship to the past. So too is the past not a fixed thing, a moment in history, but something we are constantly in dialogue with, a space we are negotiating against our current understanding of our own identities.

That’s a lot of words about a lot of really fuzzy ideas, so here’s Edgar to blow them all up with his bat:

I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve watched that highlight. But it’s like Christmas: I could know it’s coming, having done it for years; I could appreciate the over-commercialization of it, the seeming cheapening, and it will still break me down in tears with its beauty every time.

Here’s the whole inning, to locate yourself in the context of it:

If you’d rather hear Dave, it’s here, but the quality is poor, fair warning. Pretty worth it to hear Dave call Joey Cora’s bunt “a dandy,” though. And whichever one you watch, watch one of them, because it’s the only way to really localize yourself inside this game. Watch Cora slither his way into first and Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” starts up. Griffey comes up and both announcers, the national ones and Dave, have a quality of expectation in their voices. Who else do you want up right now? This is the guy, right here, who is going to tie the game. Griffey singles sharply on a high fastball, Joey “scampers” to third, and then it’s Edgar’s turn.

You hear the MVP chants before you ever see him at the plate, mixing with the “Ed-Gar” chants. McDowell’s first pitch is a called strike, although it looks off the plate and Edgar doesn’t seem happy with it. For the briefest moment, his eyes flash back to the umpire, before he re-focuses to the field, tilting his head slightly as if shaking that last pitch off of him. The next pitch zips in a little, but Edgar turns on it like he was expecting that exact ball in that exact place and rifles a shot down the left-field line. “We are tied,” declare the nationals, who apparently have never seen Ken Griffey Junior fly around the bases like a sportscar hugging some impossibly mountainous curves in a TV spot. Dave knows better; Dave knows from the second that ball is hit that the Mariners are going to win this game, and that he’s going to have to make words about it. Maybe on some level, Dave knows too that the cameras will not find Edgar Martinez, and so his is the first name out of Dave’s mouth.

Maybe the reason I don’t remember this moment is that, after he hits the ball, Edgar drops out. He’s not in the shot, trudging towards first base and then second. We don’t get to see Edgar’s reaction. As always, Edgar plays second fiddle to Griffey, whose grinning visage beneath the dogpile at home plate became the iconic image of the Double. It may be called The Double, but the image is The Slide. This, of course, is another aspect of memory playing tricks—the throw was late, the slide was a pop-up slide, the reason Junior is on the ground is not because he was there after some dramatic near-miss slide, but because he was tackled with joy by his teammates several steps from home plate.

The cameras don’t go to second base, where we assume Edgar wound up, prepared to be in scoring position in case his teammate was thrown out at home. There is one shot that I have found in image search, taken from center field:

Even after, the camera tracks Griffey hugging his teammates, the fans in the stands clutching their faces to make sure they’re still attached, more Griffey hugging, a waving Lou Piniella, more Griffey high fives, more ecstatic fans, some sad Yankees. Griffey is the postgame interview on the field. The man whose hit created this madcap joy is absent from the frame. That’s how Edgar would want it—in the background, face obscured by teammates. It does a number on one’s memory, though.

This is the last of this series, maybe ever, because I don’t know if I will be doing this again next year, because I don’t know what happens a year from now. I could be living on the moon farming space periwinkles for a new fuel source, who knows. And if I’m not here to write it, I don’t know that anyone else would, because I don’t know how many people there are who both are baseball writers and share my singular focus on Edgar Martinez. Edgar is my baseball alpha and omega: he marks the entrance to me caring about baseball deeply, when as a ten-year-old, I found myself rooting for the curly-haired third baseman with the kind eyes; and he marks the end of when I followed the Mariners closely, when I left Seattle the year after he retired. So too does Edgar mark my passage into baseball writing, with a fan post on this website of which I now, through a combination of luck and circumstance, find myself at the helm. It turns out, sometimes, you can come home again. 2016 is drawing to a close—and to be honest, good riddance—and then it, too, will fade into the shadowy recesses of memory, and we will begin again to use where we’ve been—or where we think we’ve been—to figure out where we’re going. I’ll be excited to see you all there.