Saturday, August 25, 2012

The terrible Ivy of Wrigley Field

A diversion today.  Consider it a side trip from the road trip.  But after recent musings on how baseball reflects America I saw a brief item on the Minnesota Twins website that agitated me a bit.

OAKLAND -- Twins center fielder Denard Span was scheduled to get an MRI exam on his right clavicle on Tuesday, but couldn't get through the exam because he was claustrophobic.


Alright, lets just acknowlege up front that Denard Span is a very good ball player, and by all accounts a very good person.  Further, I will concede that being cooped up in an MRI machine for half an hour is difficult for many.  It is a narrow space, dimly lit and full of assorted mechanical clanks and whirrs that bring to mind every Hollywood sinking submarine movie ever made.  Denard tried taking some anxiety reducing medication but it was no go.

But still.

My all time baseball phobia story is of a certain Lou Novikoff, sometimes called "The Mad Russian".  He played for the Chicago Cubs in the talent starved wartime years.  He was not a bad player by the low standards of that era....but he was deathly afraid of the ivy that covers the walls at Wrigley Field.  When a fly ball went deep Lou would back up a certain distance and then stop. 

This was clearly an issue for his manager, a long suffering fellow named Charlie Grimm.  Charlie did all that he could...and then some.  He brought in samples of poisonous plants to show The Mad Russian the difference between them and ivy.  In desparation he even took ivy leaves and rubbed them all over his own face and hands to prove they were harmless.  He took a few leaves and chewed them up!  All to no avail.

The Cubs tolerated Novikoff for four years.  In part of course due to the talent drought with all the star athletes being in Uncle Sam's uniforms.  But perhaps part of the tolerance relates to another fact.  I have not been able to find exactly what Navikoff was paid, but the average major league salary in the wartime years was just under $11,000 a year, and was in fact a little less than the average American wage earner took home at that time.

Mr. Span's 2012 salary is three million dollars, as compares to an average per capita income for Americans today of around $40,000.

So for that kind of princely riches I think we lowly bleacher sitters should demand a little more effort.  Trust me on this one Denard, we have some very excellent medications that would ensure that you have no cares at all during the procedure and for the better part of the day thereafter!

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