Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Sometimes your best ain't good enough

What a tough way to lose.

You had a feeling at the Halls High School baseball field last night that the regional match-up between Halls and Farragut High would come down to the wire. Halls ace Jeff Lockwood and Farragut ace Rob Catapano were pitching too well.

On it went, three, four, five, six innings -- and no runs. Halls had a chance. They managed seven hits against Catapano and nearly scored a run in the bottom of the sixth, when courtesy runner Quentin Bowman was thrown out at the plate.

As good as Catapano looked, Lockwood was even better. He allowed only two hits in seven innings, striking out 11 in a performance for the ages. But a bobbled ball, an unearned run and the inability to push across runs took all of it away, suddenly, shockingly. Halls lost, 1-0.

Just like that, it was over, and we walked away in the cold spring rain, knowing this won't happen again until next spring, if ever.

Driving home last night, I thought about Ken Johnson. Johnson pitched for the then Houston Colt .45s in the 1960s. He threw a no-hitter against the Cincinnati Reds on one magical night, April 23, 1964. And he lost the game.

Things were fine until the top of the ninth. Pete Rose bunted and reached first when Johnson threw the ball away. Rose ended up on second and Johnson was charged with an error.

Vada Pinson then hit a routine grounder to Nellie Fox. Fox bobbled the ball. Pinson beat the throw to first and Rose scored what turned out to be the winning run.

Johnson's final line was one run on no hits, two errors and three men left.

Baseball is tough. So is life. Sometimes you beat the throw. Sometimes you make the error. That's how it goes.

Bart Giamatti always said the game is designed to break your heart. And indeed it does.

But on a rainy night in Halls, I couldn't help but think there's a lesson in all this somewhere. I guess it would take the talent of Shakespeare (or at least Roger Angell) to find it.

As for me, I'll be content to remember Ken Johnson, and lament the fact that sometimes your best just ain't good enough.


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