This might be a little too inside baseball for some, but since “inside baseball” is what we do here, I will share it with you: I often write the ending first. I’ve always done it that way. Even when I don’t physically write the ending first, I still tend to have it working over in my mind … and then I work backward, “Memento” style.
For instance, I’ve already written the ending of this essay.
I just don’t know yet how we’re going to get there.
These days, I rarely think about why I write the way I write … but if I had to guess why I’ve always treasured endings more than beginnings, I’d guess it’s because I’m a lifelong fan of jokes. I think in punchlines. Why the long face? Funny, I couldn’t play the piano before. Yes, I’m Polish, but how did you know my name was Walter? You think I should have said “DiMaggio?”
Great endings, I think, do more than take us back through the journey … they make us FEEL the journey. On its own, “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” is not an especially compelling line. But at the end of “Casablanca,” it electrifies all the feelings, all the emotions, because there are so many feelings and emotions that have built up watching Rick and Ilsa and Louis and Victor and Sam try to make their way through.
The World Baseball Classic had the greatest ending imaginable … maybe the greatest ending of any baseball game I’ve seen in my lifetime. That’s not to say the result was especially great … I mean, I’ve just written a book called WHY WE LOVE BASEBALL that counts down the most magical moments in baseball history and so the splashiest and most emotional endings ever — Gibson’s homer, Fisk’s homer, Carter’s homer, Maz’s homer, the ball going through Buckner’s legs, a broken-bat single off Rivera, Yogi jumping into Larsen’s arms, Jeter rounding the bases after midnight with Ground Zero still smoking, Sid Bream rounding third, Kris Bryant smiling before he makes the throw, on and on and on — are very much on my mind.*
*I have been sending out WHY WE LOVE BASEBALL Save the Date packets to a lot of folks — the book comes out on Sept. 5! — and I wish I could send an individual one out to all of you. I can’t … but hopefully, this will serve as a substitute. I suspect you’ll be able to connect the individual cards to the magical moment.
This WBC ending might not quite reach the dramatic heights that some of those other endings reached. But because the journey to get here was so impossibly rich, so wonderfully played, I think the emotions surrounding this one were overwhelming. It’s the one moment that made me think — even while it was happening and the result was very much in the air — “I’m never going to forget this.”