September 26, 2016, Prescott- Sunday took two bookends from our midst: Arnold Palmer, with his “army” of fans from Fort Gordon, GA, near his beloved Augusta National Country Club, and his popularizing golf as a sport for Everyman; Jose Fernandez, an exemplary pitcher, at the top of his game and on the verge of winning 30 games in a regular Major League Baseball season.
Arnold was an elder, had lived a full, astonishingly varied life. He lived it for his beloved first wife, and threw his reputation and his well-gotten wealth into a hospital, named for her and dedicated to the well-being of women and infants. He lived it for his two daughters, letting them realize their own dreams and never abandoning them to a de facto celebrity orphanhood. He lived it for his children’s children and for their offspring, and saw one of his grandsons excel at their shared beloved sport. Most importantly, he lived it for the city, state and nation that he loved so much. Pittsburgh returned the favour, during “The King of the Fairways’ ” last few days, taking loving care of him, as he prepared to take his final tee-off.
Jose was up-and-coming, in Major League Baseball. He threw himself, with Little League style abandon, into every game he pitched for the Miami Marlins.This was a good thing,and he became the toast of the town. Here was a man on the verge of winning 30 regular season games, a feat not seen in the big leagues since Denny McLain won 31 games, in 1968. The other 13 men who won 30 or more regular season games, all did so between 1900-1934. Jose was due to pitch on Sunday. He was, instead, moved back a day, in the pitching rotation. He went boating, off Miami Beach, as a way of relaxing on his off-day. The boat was speeding, due to circumstances still being investigated, and hit the dock at Miami Beach. Jose died instantly, in the crash.
Although far from proficient in either sport, I feel both losses. Many of my relatives are golfers. My brother, living in Georgia, has attended the Masters PGA Tournament, several times and has often been on the links, in courses across the country- and around the globe. The passing of Arnold Palmer brings to the forefront all the triumphs and troubles which the Masters, and Augusta National, have endured, over the past five decades.
The death of Jose Fernandez brings to mind the tragic loss, albeit over several years of suffering, of another great young player, Tony Conigliaro, hit in the head by a pitch and never able to resume his march to destiny. “Conig” was a hero, to my above-mentioned brother, and to me, as he and the great Carl Yastrzemski led the Boston Red Sox into the 1967 World Series. Jose’s Marlins are a long-shot to reach that lofty height, this year. With him, they might have surprised everyone. and done so. In his honour, they may yet be inspired to do so, anyway.
Life has a rough way of marching on, regardless of who, young or old, drops off its awesome and beautiful chain. It is, though, hard to imagine two more wondrous links in that line. Rest in peace, Arnie and Jose, and look through the veil at us, with messages of hope and strength.