Thursday, May 15, 2008

A Brief Encounter with a Baseball God

Welcome to Part 3 of the SoSG Guest Writer Series (Part 1 - Part 2). Today's guest writer is Karen Cooksey, who tells us about meeting a Dodger near and dear to our hearts.

It was in 1982, that by way of some grand system glitch in the universe, I was afforded the rare opportunity to be a part of the everyday life of a god in the baseball world. I was plucked out of my own adventure—making my way to meet my boyfriend in Hawaii—to step into another. Now, if I had been an avid Dodgers fan, or sports fan for that matter, it would make sense that the agent at the LAX United counter might have caught a cosmic message and recognized how deserving I was as I stood there before him.

"Now here's a baseball fan if I've ever seen one."

But that wasn't the case. If I'd been asked to say when the World Series started, I would have had to admit I hadn't a clue. The cosmos hiccupped.

There I was, looking into the airline agent's eyes, hoping he'd know just by looking at me that I'd never flown alone before, that he'd kindly hand me my economy-class ticket and point the way. But instead he smiled broadly and fiddled with some papers.

"Would you like to be seated in first class?"

I couldn't have told you when the World Series started, but I wasn't stupid.

As I boarded the jet I turned left, leaving the throng behind. I showed my ticket to the flight attendant. She guided me to the front row, far-right window seat. Though entirely unnecessary, given the wide berth between rows, the man in the aisle seat stood up as I settled in. I looked up to thank him and noticed how very good-looking he was. Exceptionally good-looking. We introduced ourselves. He was Steve.

As we waited for take-off there was a great deal of service going on...pillows, drinks, magazines. I soon became aware that the fussing centered mostly on my seatmate and that he was drawing lots of glances and smiles. When the pilot stepped out of the cockpit to turn directly to Steve, shake his hand and say what a pleasure it was to meet him, I strained to hear Steve's last name. It was obvious at that point he was someone I should have recognized. Someone I should have politely acknowledged. I thought about faking it until I could sneak off to ask the flight attendant, but that wasn't me, so...

"Steve, you're someone I should recognize but don't. I'm so—”

"Steve Garvey. I play for the Dodgers. What do you do?"

Steve Garvey was as generous in clipping off my apology as he was with the excellent service he drew to our corner of the cabin. Whenever the flight attendant sweetly and regularly asked if he wanted anything (and blatantly didn't care if I was dehydrated, starving or freezing), Steve would turn to me to ask if I wanted something before answering her.

This was Steve Garvey, traveling alone, soon to be divorced as I later found out, reading a book on perfectionism. There was a bit of sadness behind the smile as he talked a little about his two daughters. I later wondered if the difficulty of separation and plans for divorce were already then a part of him. He read during much of the four-hour flight. When I asked him about the book he was reading he said that there was always room for improving one's skills and that the book was about striving for perfection.

As we deplaned in Honolulu, Steve asked me to join him on his electric cart to pick up our baggage. I looked for Leyan, who was to meet me at the gate but wasn't there, so I hopped in the cart with Steve. As we sped down the walkway we whisked by my prankster boyfriend, who had been hiding behind a column. He was waiting for me to walk by so he could jump out and surprise me. Instead, he looked to see what everyone was staring at and by so doing, saw me sitting next to the object of everyone's attention—Steve Garvey. Leyan stepped out from behind the column and turned his head to follow my gaze as I waved to him.

Leyan remembers me going all the way to baggage with Steve while I remember stopping the cart, thanking Steve and walking back a bit to Leyan, where he placed a fresh flower lei around my neck. Whichever it was, Leyan, with a smile, still says he has never forgiven me.

The universe had gifted me a personal, up-close encounter with a man esteemed, and yes, revered, by baseball fans around the world. To those who would have done the unspeakable to spend this time with Steve Garvey, I can only say: Life in all its wonders is not always fair but is full of surprising twists and detours. Fortunately, life also is sprinkled with amazingly talented people like Steve Garvey who strove for perfection and came as close as anyone to it in his field, and was friendly and gracious to strangers traveling alone for the first time.

Thanks, Karen!


Mrs. Orel said...

Wonderful story, Karen. I love the image of Leyan watching you fly by in a cart with Steve Garvey. I wonder how many women flew through airports with Steve Garvey? Incalculable is my guess.

Mrs. Orel

Unknown said...

Hey Karen,

I, too, loved the image of you whizzing by Leyan. I can see the expression on his face!

Love to you and Mrs. Orel.

Guest writer# 2.

Mrs. Orel said...

PS: This story could be a movie:

"Strangers on a Plane" or "Snakes on a...." Oops, done.

Mrs. Orel

Unknown said...

What a great story! Thanks for sharing.