August 17, 2007

WOULD BE SMOKY JOE:

The Natural Returns to St. Louis (Charles Krauthammer, 8/17/07, Real Clear Politics)

In the fable, the farm boy phenom makes his way to the big city to amaze the world with his arm. At a stop at a fair on the train ride to Chicago, he strikes out the Babe Ruth of his time on three blazing pitches. Enter the Dark Lady. Before he can reach the stadium for his tryout, she shoots him and leaves him for dead.

It is 16 years later and Roy Hobbs returns, but now as a hitter and outfielder. (He can never pitch again because of the wound.) He leads his team to improbable glory, ending the tale with a titanic home run that, in the now-iconic movie image, explodes the stadium lights in a dazzling cascade of white.

In real life, the kid doesn't look like Robert Redford, but he throws like Roy Hobbs: unhittable, unstoppable. In his rookie year, appropriately the millennial year 2000, he throws it by everyone. He pitches the St. Louis Cardinals to a division title, playing so well that his manager anoints him starter for the opening game of the playoffs, a position of honor and -- for 21-year-old Rick Ankiel -- fatal exposure.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 17, 2007 9:13 AM
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