MLB has been haunted by a single scene in a motion picture for nearly thirty years that decries crying in baseball. It’s time to let it go…
Major League Baseball (MLB) is the epitome of humanness, and yet we have grown to expect the men who play the game to wear armor made of steel while they engage themselves in a game that accentuates failure.
We demand stoicism from players, who if they are lucky make the Baseball Hall Of Fame having failed seven of every ten times they stepped to the plate.
Emotion is interpreted as an MLB player who is not in control of himself, a la Paul O’Neill, who took his bat to the water cooler in the Yankee’s dugout more than once after a failed at-bat.
Or Pete Rose, who knew of no other way to play the game except on an always high-charged engine, but to come barreling into catcher Ray Fosse during what is largely labeled, and supposed to be, an exhibition game during the 1970 All-Star Game.
Don’t get too high, but don’t get too low. This is the tightrope ballplayers’ walk.
Exhibit a come-si com-sa demeanor, and quickly you are likely to be labeled as too “nonchalant” to play at the MLB level.
But the one thing a major league ballplayer never does is cry.
Crying, for all practical purposes at the MLB level, was outlawed when the movie “A League Of Its Own” came out in 1992 when Tom Hanks told us in no uncertain terms…
MLB: When Art Takes On A Life Form
Grown men don’t cry, especially when they become MLB stars and idols of millions of fans, set in a world of make-believe but still playing a boys game as men.
So, we can only guess that Mets infielder Wilmer Flores, not a native of the United States, never saw the movie or heard the words in the script when he stepped to the plate on July 29, 2015 – completely unaware that he had just been traded to another team (Note: Later, the trade would be rescinded).
Nor did he know that his three minutes of fame were about to be linked to MLB lore forever, all because he was visibly seen to be crying on the field at the news that he was about to be separated from the Mets, the only team he had known in his career.
Similarly, just two days ago, former Mets (is there a pattern here?) ace Matt Harvey took the hill to face his former team as a Baltimore Oriole.
For those who may not have followed Harvey’s career in New York, it was anything but smooth.
Still, most of the COVID limited crowd of 8,035 fans rose to greet him with a standing ovation that moved Harvey (visibly) to tears.
His words following the game spoke volumes about Matt Harvey’s journey through baseball, telling the New York Daily News at one point:
“I was holding back tears. I’m not going to lie about that. It was pretty hard holding them back. It reminded me of, really, a lot of the good memories.”
Why he felt the need to hold those tears back is the subject of this piece…
MLB Players And The Robots We Think We Know
If we allow ourselves to be removed from the jealousy we sometimes have for these players, who are hauling millions of dollars for playing a boys game just for a minute, only then can we move from the robots we see on the field to the human beings behind the mask.
Phillies manager Joe Girardi, for instance, is always quick to point out when tasked with defending one of his players, that “this game is hard to play.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone even once going as far as to call his players “savages” in the wake of a bad call by an umpire.
We hold MLB players, especially the really good ones, high up on a pedestal, forgetting they are just like you and me, and sometimes we wake up on the wrong side of the bed, and we simply feel “off” that day.
Some days, don’t you just feel like crying?
MLB: How To Redirect Emotion In Baseball
Without emotion in MLB, there would not be individual pride, and without pride, there could not be excellence.
We’ve seen, though, how emotion can turn negative, as, for example, when Trevor Bauer once thought it was a good idea to hurl a ball over the center-field fence instead of handing it (respectfully) to his manager, Terry Francona, when he was being removed from a game. (Video)
Conversely, every fan of baseball has to be visibly upset when a player making $20 million a season strikes out for the third time with runners in scoring position, only to calmly walk to his dugout, placing his bat and helmet in its proper place, without so much of a word to his teammates – a la “That really sucked, I’ll get ’em next time. Pick me up”.
Instead, MLB players learn early in their career all of the “talking-points” and cliches that tumble from their mouth following a bad day as a starter, or a poor play in the field in a game that is decisive for their team.
Wouldn’t it be refreshing if a player who just committed an error that gave the game away were to say (after the game), “Ya know what guys, I’m too overcome with emotions right now, and if you don’t mind I’d just like to get dressed, go home, and have a nice meal with my wife and kids?”.
Or, what if that player were to remain there to answer the usual questions, wiping off an occasional tear – would we think any less of him?
Yes, MLB Is Not Meant To Be A Soap Opera
This is not meant to say MLB should be a soap opera.
But I do believe that one speech about there being “no crying in baseball” took a lot from the game, even to the point where we see Little League coaches muttering different versions for kids – kids! – Telling them to suck it up, and to hide their emotions for fear they will be seen as “crybabies”.
If we believe there is a time and a place for everything, then there surely must be a place in MLB for an occasional tear to be shed.
This, rather than the violent outbursts of emotion that are more prevalent in MLB today, where we see banged-up water coolers and bat racks in the dugout…
Extra Reading – Giancarlo Stanton Humanized
Here’s What Readers Are Saying…
David Ruckdeschel Yeah, that’s what wrong with baseball…
Jay Kirk There’s no crying in baseball
Chester Miles I stand by the “no crying in baseball” as a general rule. However, like every rule there are exceptions. Wilmer Flores comes to mind.
Anthony Di Nota Crying in baseball – there no crying in baseball !!
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While I didn’t expect a slew of favorable comments on this one, and they’re still coming in, I also didn’t expect the comments from male readers who couldn’t refrain themselves from using the word P___ies as a reference to players.
Nevertheless, from time to time I’m going to continue to dedicate articles away from scores, box scores, and stats. Steve Contursi 3:10pm ET 5/14/2021