Pass me a tissue, would you, friend? Or I could just use your sleeve again and call it good.

I’ve been trying to think of things that are as sad as the end of baseball season. A child at a birthday party at which no one showed up? A kitten placed in a beach pail and set adrift in the uncaring sea? That time I decided that Crisco would probably make a perfectly fine sunblock?

Sad stuff, indeed, but none of it compares to the heartache of Major League Baseball rising to its bat-cracking climax and then ending in a series of champagne-cork explosions. Nothing says “summer is gone, summer is dead, summer is decomposing” like the final play of that final game in the final series of the season.

Let’s face it. The Red Sox are probably going to mow down the Cardinals in six. Five if David Ortiz keeps coming to the park surly. And that means we have just slightly more than a week left to watch baseball. Just slightly more than a week and there will be football on every other channel and kids in coats kicking around soccer balls on fields once occupied by kids with bats and gloves.

I just sobbed openly. Remember that song “Shannon?” The one in which the faithful dog swims out to sea and never comes back? And the whole family mourns, with no way to console one another because their grief is so big? “Maybe she’ll find an island,” the songwriter bawls in the main chorus, “with a shady tree. Just like the one in our backyard. Just like the one in our backyard.”

That song is a rib-tickling knee-slapper compared to the grief of baseball. So is the song “Wildfire.” So are the movies “Brian’s Song,” “The Yearling,” “The Green Mile” and “Old Yeller.” (I would’ve included “The Notebook” in this list, but that would involve me admitting I’ve seen “The Notebook.”)

When baseball is done, so is everything else. Beaches? Closed. Camping equipment? In the basement, developing that special moldly smell exclusive to tents and sleeping bags. Motorcycle? Stuffed in the back of the garage with its battery pulled out like a defective heart. Cargo shorts? Tank tops? That mesh shirt that looks so good on you? In mothballs, man. For seven months and maybe more, you’ll have no use for them.

I keep my baseball glove around through the winter because I like to pick it up and sniff it once in while. I also have the novelty Kansas City Royals baseball bat I can use to swat bottle caps, wads of duct tape, pennies, balled socks and, on occasion, lamps and that nice knickknack from Cave Creek, Ariz., my wife still doesn’t know I broke.

The death of baseball leaves giant chunks of time in my schedule. No more afternoon games to make me late for work. No more West Coast all-night marathons to keep me up until dawn. No more blowing off weekend excursions because the Royals are playing the Mets, and who wants to miss an explosive match-up like that?

You’d think I’d use that extra time to do something productive, but nope. I wander around the house, sighing like a sad widow and swatting things with my novelty bat, including that blue glass bottle my wife has had since she was kid. When she discovers THAT sucker underneath the sofa, she’s going to go all George Brett during the Pine Tar fiasco, right down to the red face and bulging neck tendons.

That’ll fix her for making me watch “The Notebook.”

Just over a week and it will be over. The Red Sox will win in six, some of you yahoos will go to your third parade in a decade while the rest of us will watch snow come in to bury the mini baseball diamonds we’ve set up in our backyards. Snow, early dark, Christmas and stinging cold, all things that are the antithesis of baseball season and its grass-and-leather-scented glory.

You want to watch a sad movie? Watch “Field of Dreams” in late November. If you’re a baseball fan, you’ll sob plenty, not because Ray Kinsella finally reunites with his dead father (seriously, why isn’t Ray scared? That’s a ghost, you know) but because green grass, sultry air and the intoxicating sound of bat meeting ball are so far off, they might as well be gone forever.

Sad, sad, sad. The only thing sadder that I can think of is the sight of you in that mesh shirt.

Seriously, friend. Throw that thing away.

Mark LaFlamme is a Sun Journal staff writer. To donate toward his epic postseason therapy bills, email [email protected]


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