It’s time for Jose Melendez’s KEYS TO THE GAME.
1. Jose Melendez’s long disappearance is in no way unprecedented. He is just the latest of a long line of men, some great, some terrible, and most utterly without distinction, to disappear into the African continent.
Yes, Jose returned to these pages from time to time after he first set foot south of the Sahara on the balmy Christmas Night of 2007. He would go through the familiar rituals of pecking at the keys and typing out the KEYS when circumstance or his own commitment to the strange juju of the Red Sox fan demanded it. To prime a playoff game or to halt a long losing streak, he would go through the charade of being the man he used to pretend to be.
But always there was Africa.
The delight, the passion Jose had once found not only for the game of baseball but for writing, in his own analytically invalid way, about the game of baseball, was gone. And instead of dreams of heroes of the diamond, his nights were tortured and titillated with visions of vast savannahs, dry red earth, and so many of the other cliches to which would be Africanists inevitably succumb.
And then he was gone, lost, seemingly forever, to four long baseball seasons in a land without pitchers, without catchers, without the sweet rhythms of balls following strikes.
He was, a modern day Livingstone, gone into the interior, more a mission than a man.
It must seem haughty, Jose imagines, to see him compare himself to one of history’s great men, but the parallels between Jose and Dr. Livingstone are impossible to ignore. Jose is his equal, if not his superior, in the sense that Jose has been vaccinated for typhoid.
We have converted the same number of people to Christianity--zero. (Note: Technically, Livingstone converted one, but the African, a man named Sechele, converted back. So it doesn’t count.) We both abhor slavery. And neither of us has ever been in Cliff Clavin’s kitchen. We even share a belief system based on three Cs. Christianity, Civilization and Commerce for Livingstone. Catching, Clutch hitting and Cool Ranch Doritos for Jose.
But most importantly we were both lost… and we were both found.
Livingstone, as is well known, was found by a man who went by the name of Henry Morton Stanley. Jose says “went by” because it was not his real name. (Note: Hmmmm… Jose has something in common with Stanley too!) Stanley, a Welshman, an American, a charlatan, a hat inventor, and a veteran of both sides in the U.S. Civil War, trudged a third of the way across a continent to find Livingstone, and bring him back to the Swahili Coast. Jose, as modern Livingstone, was inevitably found by the modern Stanley--The Boston Red Sox. Stanley and the Red Sox also share many commonalities right down to their questionable racial history and interest in funny hats.
But the Red Sox have succeeded--today--where Stanley failed. Stanley brought word of Livingstone back to the West, but left the man, stubborn and ill, in the jungles of what is now Tanzania.
The Red Sox, on this third day of the World Series, have succeeded. They have brought Jose back from Africa. Back to the land of the ball and the strike. Back to the crack of the bat and the roar of the crowd. Back to peanuts and cracker jack. Back to the ballpark where he finds that while much has changed, Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury and Jon Lester, and Big Papi, Big Papi, BIG PAPI are right where he left them. And Jose, the man who was lost but now is found, reverses Stanley famous salutation, and asks SoSH, asks Boston, asks the Red Sox themselves--RED SOX NATION, JOSE PRESUMES?
2. But Jose, has left some things in Africa. Most notably his shiny new wife. Fun story about her. At Jose’s wedding, they decided to have a ceremonial first pitch instead of throwing a bouquet or garter or whatever, because baseball is sexier, more romantic and more aesthetically pleasing than any of that stuff. But there was an outstanding question of who would pitch and who would catch. (Note: Jose can see you making the wisecracks about transgressive gender roles right now, and he says stop it. Baseball is a metaphor for life, politics, finance, international affairs, art, metaphysics, Newton’s first and third laws but not the second, breakfast, man’s eternal struggle against nature and the decline of the Roman Empire--but it is NOT a metaphor for sex.)
We went with the bride as the pitcher because, quite frankly, Jose has the yips. The yips, for those of you who are reading this despite not knowing anything about baseball, is the condition where a player becomes unable to make even routine throws for a psychological reason. It is known to have a sudden, perhaps even inexplicable onset. In Jose’s case it started mysteriously 37 years ago sometime between his birth and the cutting of his umbilical cord. Anyway, if Jose had thrown out the first pitch, there is a very real chance that the first act of Jose’s marriage would have been to bean a guest. On the other hand, Jose can only throw 50 mph (note: still the fastest in the Melendez family!), so it probably wouldn’t have done much damage. Anyway the bride threw a strike, which makes her both a wonderful wife and a better pitcher than Franklin Morales.
But she’s still in Africa, Malawi to be specific, where there is no one to talk baseball with save this one Malawian guy who is, inexplicably, a hard core fan of the St. Louis Cardinals. Also he speaks fluent Finnish. So for the sake of Jose’s wife not having to listen to a Malawian guy trash talk her in Finnish for the next year, LET’S GO SOX.
3. So with all of the African exploration and wedding reminiscence out of the way, let’s get down to the actual analysis of these two teams and this series which, as long time KEYS readers will know, is not really Jose’s strong suit.
Initially when Jose looked at this series, he had to reluctantly pick the Cardinals.
But then he found out that Trevor Rosenthal isn’t Jewish, so really it’s anyone’s game.
Jose originally just assumed that Rosenthal was Jewish and that naturally it would give the Cards an edge over a painfully goyische Boston squad, but then Jose discovered that Rosenthal’s first name was Trevor, which naturally raised suspicions, what with even Christian being a more Jewish name than Trevor.
Upon doing some additional research, Jose discovered that Trevor once told ESPN “My dad is an attorney, and he gets invited to bar mitzvahs all the time." Which frankly plays on a vicious stereotype and gets some things seriously wrong about jewish culture. Yes, many Jews are attorneys (note: though many others are employed in non-stereotypically jewish professions such as construction worker and British person. Seriously, Jose met this guy with a British accent and he was Jewish! Crazy world!), but Jews also know better than to invite an attorney to a wedding, bar mitzvah or casual household gathering, unless it’s someone who must absolutely be invited like a family member. The reason, of course, is that lawyers are notoriously litigious and may be tempted to sue you if they slip and fall or see their child grab an electric fence.
I’m Jose Melendez, and those are my KEYS TO THE GAME.