"He wanted to know the being behind the appearance. Esse est percipi -- if not perceived, then non-existence. His lifeworld of “umwelt” wasnʼt working; hence, his self-imposed psychotherapy; his mesmerism of psychic phenomena; his entering a dimension of supernatural consciousness; his paranormal experience -- his philosophical exploration of removing all barriers in an attempt to find his personal “homeworld” -- his meaning of “being in the world.” He had examined his tragedy with an existential microscope and didnʼt like what he saw. What was this life without baseball? Being and Nothingness?”
"Once inside the main gates, you could hear the din from the crowd, the chatter of the players, and that distinct sound from the crack of the bat that echoed throughout the enclosed arena. Straight ahead, upon entering the ballpark, stood the concessions -- sodas were a dime and hot dogs a quarter--free if returning a foul ball. One could sense the stale air -- an atmosphere that reeked with the fumes of Lucky Strike cigarettes and sloshed Pabst Blue Ribbon. Other teams liked to play there while local players took the grand ol' park for granted. Bryant Field--named after long-time-running mayor Daniel E. Bryant--home to the Marysville Giants, Marysville Braves and Peaches, Yuba-Sutter Rebels, Twin Cities Giants, Yuba College 49ers, Marysville High School Indians, and American Legion Post 42 along with a few others."
"These stigmatic thoughts would be planted in his brain, leaving an embedded permanent scar that would subconsciously affect the rest of his life. In his restless dreams, this castaway walked alone. Hello darkness, heʼs come to visit you again. 'The hell with baseball! I may never play this game again, he thought' ... then became mired in a deep depression.”
This otherworldly astral experience transcended Bobby Van Roth into a nonphysical realm; into a world beyond his impediment. For brief moments, he could step out of his earthly bleakness and into a timeless kingdom of ecstasy and wonderment by transcending himself beyond his physical incapabilities. Lameness would cease to nip at his heels like a pack of starving hyenas. The essence of his bright mind radiated.”
"Was baseball his metaphorical god? Requiem aeternam. Rest eternal dear God. On the fourth shelf of his library, along with other works of existentialism, were several books written by Friedrich Nietzsche which were initialed and heavily underlined by both brothers. Included, was Nietzscheʼs The Joyful Wisdom where a madman in search of God is confronted by a group of mocking nonbelievers. 'Where is God? asked the madman. Where is God? I will tell you, shouted the madman. We have killed him. You and I. All of us are his murderers... Then, this madman went into the churches and asked that God be put to eternal rest, but was again dismissed before realizing that perhaps he had arrived too soon; that maybe the world wasnʼt ready for a Godless one.’"
"Something was missing. Like putting together the pieces of a human jigsaw puzzle, I had reenacted the early life of the young ballplayer, but not all the pieces fit. Others were obscure. I got the feeling that there was something more to that blank, distant look of withdrawal on the face of the little-leaguer. Something lurked behind the mask, something hidden beneath his facial veneer; a first sign of becoming a skeptic with a deep mistrust for authority; that, and a hidden passion -- a deep yearning and hunger to be a champion."
"As far back as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by how an athlete competes while under duress; reacts when the crowd’s screaming at the top of their lungs; how a ballplayer performs when the game’s at stake; when the championship is on the line; when the count is full with the bags loaded in a game that’s all tied up with two outs in the bottom of the ninth -- how a single choice that someone makes can alter not only the career and course of their own life, but also that of others as well."
"The pitching philosophy was fairly simple--pound the low outside corner of the plate with four-seam fastballs, overhand curves, and late-breaking sliders until the batter begins to lean in that direction or crowd the plate; then bust him inside with heat just below the belt, and occasionally deliver a little chin music, just to keep the hitter honest.”
In 1985, manager Bill “Bo” Hughes piloted the 1985 Humboldt Crabs to an incredible 51-3 season, including reeling off 49 straight wins to start the year before bowing to Oscars of Oakland to end the regular schedule; all home games.'"
"Aimlessly, he wandered back and forth through the park before finding himself staring at a great monument. The life-sized sculpture of a base ball pitcher had toured art exhibitions in New York and San Francisco before William E. Brown of the Southern Pacific Railroad bought the statue and donated it to the city of San Francisco provided it be showcased at Golden Gate Park where it still stands today across from the Garfield Monument near the Conservatory of Flowers. Douglas Tilden, hailed as the Michelangelo of the West, was born in Chico, California in 1860. Scarlet fever left him a deaf-mute at age five. Two years later, he entered the California School for the Deaf in Berkeley, California and later attended UC Berkeley before leaving for Paris, France to study art. In 1889, while in France, Tilden created "The National Game,” also known as "The Base Ball Player,” recognized as the most famous, classic baseball art-piece of all-time. To Davie Van Roth, the great statue meant ... nothing."
"The square-jawed Bobby Van Roth could have been a great ballplayer with his exceptional hand-eye coordination, upper body strength, competitive spirit, and vast knowledge of the game. He was passionate about sports, especially baseball, but he would never play the game at the organized level. If only he could have ran the bases. At age four, the lefty was crippled with polio; still, he became a topnotch sandlot player where he pitched, played first base, and ... coached. At age fifteen, he put his younger brother under his wing and became his personal trainer, mentor, father figure and guiding light."
"Bobby was a stargazer who lived by proxy, and as a teenager, satisfied his wish-fulfillment as an athlete vicariously by transcending; by living a competitive life through the actions of his trained protégé. The brothers became close with a cohesiveness more like that between sisters or twins, certainly not like two brothers separated by seven years. It was older brother Bobby who taught his younger brother how to play the game of baseball. Could Bobbyʼs tragic misfortune become his brotherʼs reward?"
"Together, the brothers Van Roth formed a lethal, record-shattering combination. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Jack Kerouac, and Jean-Paul Sartre, among others, would attempt to change all of that. Fascinating, how individuals get caught up in situations and systems that are beyond their control -- like dodging obstructions and attempting to escape binding chains while winding oneʼs way through societyʼs maze in an attempt to reach a quixotic goal. There would be headwinds and shark-infested waters to navigate; roadblocks to dodge. If only the world would just get the hell out of the way."
"Joe DiMaggio was the quintessential Ayn Rand hero; a Howard Roark or John Galt; proud, quiet, emotions in check with unmatched preeminence; the epitome of pride and determination. Joltin’ Joe was a rock, an island, and Northern California's greatest ballplayer."
“He needed some answers and he needed them right then and now; needed an awakening; an inward deepening; a bold choice about the kind of life he wanted to live; an authentic decision that would transform his life; a design whereby he could fully devote himself to an existence that would uplift and sustain his being; a leap of faith, an epiphany, a raison d'être -- a main purpose for his existence. A Kierkegaardian Leap was the only way he was going to get out of this slump of an existential crisis.”
"He didnʼt say whether it was the peyote, tequila, or combination of the two that caused his William Blake-like hallucinations of phantasmagoria; his profound mystic transcendence into another dimension outside his physical body and it didnʼt matter. This would be his soul catcher, or as Rod Serling would say -- 'that mental state between reality and fantasy; middle ground between light and shadow; between science and superstition; a zone that lies between the pit of his fears and the peak of his knowledge; a dimension of imagination; a no-manʼs land ... a hallucinatory state -- a dimension known as ... 'The Twilight Zone’.
"After reading page 52 of his journals, Edvard Munchʼs “The Scream” came to mind, along with an unexpected feeling of melancholy. I thought Van Roth was on the verge of suicide or at least suffering from a kind of psychosomatic brain fever and in the throes of some psychological crisis. Why the ascetic self-laceration and mental torture, and what was the cause of his revulsion? Could it possibly have been from the books he was reading? Getting kicked off the baseball team and engaging in the study of existentialism seemed like a sure recipe for disaster.
Ralph Waldo Emerson: “I read the other day some verses written by an eminent painter which were original and not conventional. Always the soul hears an admonition in such lines, let the subject be what it may. The sentiment they instill is of more value than any thought they may contain. To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart, is true for all men,—that is genius. Speak your latent conviction, and it shall be the universal sense; for always the inmost becomes the outmost,-- and our first thought is rendered back to us by the trumpets of the Last Judgement.” THE ESSAY ON SELF-RELIANCE. NY: Roycrofters, 1908. pp. 9.
*At age 29, he knew that this would be the end; knew that this would be the last game heʼd ever pitch; knew that heʼd never look into those eyes again. He was pitching with a partial tear to his shoulderʼs rotator cuff and a lump in his right forearm, the result of a torn muscle suffered in the first game of the 1976 season. His right arm hung like a wet noodle but there would be no whiskey this time. He would pitch with pain as the game was too important to impair his focus and concentration.“
“For the year 1970, he pitched in 44 games in four different leagues at four different levels of competition compiling a combined 27-8 record with eight saves. He logged a total of 273 innings while striking out 343 batters (11.31 per nine innings) with a combined 1.61 ERA. Not only had he won more games and struck out more batters than any pitcher in the history of Yuba-Sutter baseball, but also, his 343 K's amassed during a calendar year produced the greatest display of the strikeout in Northern California baseball history ... at any level. For his efforts, the lanky right-hander received an invitation to attend spring training with the Minnesota Twins in Melbourne, Florida., but he was a no-show. What the hell?”
"They met toe-to-toe, face-to-face, vis-à-vis. I can only imagine the look on Van Rothʼs face as he hurled the rake aside -- cold-blooded glacial eyes with the lethal fixed stare of a basilisk, king of all deadly serpents; that same look described by Mr. Hughes -- sharp malignant peepers: a leery gaze not unlike one described in Joseph Conradʼs Heart of Darkness -- an immense stare of condemnation and a loathing for all the universe.”
DAVIE & GOLIATH — "On May 21, 1981, during the opening round of the NCAA regional baseball playoffs, a game was played in New Haven, Connecticut at run-down Yale Field that pitted the heavily favored 31-2 Redmen of St. Johnʼs University against the home team Yale Bulldogs, a club with twelve losses. Articles about this game have been written days, years, even decades later including Roger Angellʼs “The Web of the Game” which appeared July 20, 1981, in The New Yorker. The game matched Yaleʼs two-time All- American pitcher Ron Darling against St. Johnʼs unbeaten lefty, Frank Viola. Supposedly, among the two to three thousand fans in attendance were fifty major- league scouts. A classic pitcherʼs duel took place with neither team getting a man to third base through the first nine innings. The Eliʼs couldnʼt manage to score after stranding six runners in the first five innings against the crafty Viola while the Redmen didnʼt even threaten as Darling was tossing a no-hitter. St. Johnʼs number two pitcher and future major-league star John Franco summed up the game: It was like one of the big boxing matches like whoever was gonna land a big blow -- and we landed a big blow with an infield hit.
The ice was finally broken in the twelfth inning when St. Johnʼs speedy leadoff man, Steve Scafa, drubbed an infield single, stole second, stole third, and then stole home on a double-steal to win the game. Viola pitched 11 innings, gave up seven hits, two walks, and struck out seven. Darling took the tough loss while giving up just the lone infield single. He walked five and struck out 16. Just a few days later, Darling was selected in the first round of Major League Baseballʼs Annual June Draft -- the ninth pick overall by the Texas Rangers. Frank Viola was picked thirty-seventh overall, early in the second round by the Minnesota Twins. Both advanced and logged stellar major-league careers with Viola named World Series MVP in 1987 and winning a Cy Young Award in 1988. Also, Yale outfielder Rich Diana went on to play football for the Miami Dolphins and shortstop Bob Brooke skated for pro hockeyʼs Minnesota North Stars. Future articles written about this game have been headlined: “The Greatest College Baseball Game of All-time” or “The Greatest Amateur Baseball Game Ever Played.” Not so fast, Quickdraw. Two articles published by the Appeal-Democrat in Marysville, California during the spring of 1966 would suggest otherwise.
Late spring, 1966 -- Oroville, California.
It was the first game of the 1966 American Legion baseball season, played under the lights at Orovilleʼs Mitchell Field and the stands were jam-packed ... standing room only. Any news about the trepidation and excitement that preceded this game, or the one that followed a week later, would have been an understatement. Northern California had witnessed her fair share of thrilling, nail-biting baseball games in the past -- pitcherʼs duels, slugfests, walk-off homers, bat-wielding bench-clearing brawls, championship games ... you name it; but the anticipation of these two Legion games could only be matched by a 1927 contest that featured legendaries Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in a barnstorming exhibition game played at Marysvilleʼs old Third Street Ball Park. That game was sold-out days in advance at fifty cents a ticket and had an air to it more like a Big-Top Circus that was coming to town rather than an exhibition baseball game; although, Dunnigan pitcher Clyde "Tub" Perry from Sutter, California was out to make a name for himself. Ruth and Gehrig were playing-managers on opposing teams made up of star players from the independent Sacramento Valley League. The two idols both hit a pair of mammoth homers with Ruthʼs Bustin Babes prevailing 9-7.
The stats and surrounding circumstances are what make these two American Legion games special. Oroville Post 95 was the three-time, defending champion and their star pitcher had just led his Oroville Union High School Tigers to their third straight Sierra Foothill League title. His combined Legion and High School record was 48-3. One of those losses was to Sacramentoʼs powerful Bishop Armstrong High School in a last-inning relief appearance while pitching with a cast on his left wrist. A suicide squeeze bunt that landed in left field delivered the winning run. The Oroville ace not only had the best fastball in Northern California, but possessed one of the best heaters in all of baseball, including the major leagues. Hall of Famer and L.A. Angel baseball scout Joe "Flash" Gordon had scouted the Oroville star in a high school game and told minor-league manager Harry Dunlop: That kid could pitch in the majors right now.
Of course, the Oroville pitcher was the great Gary Nolan, arguably and statistically the greatest pitcher ever to come out of Northern California. Nolan, who stood 6'1" and weighed 193 pounds, was a big, strong country boy that was ready for the majors well before collecting his high school diploma. The flame-throwing Nolan threw heat, was fastest in all the land, and ... threw strikes. While still a teenager, he would lead the National League in strikeouts per nine innings (8.18) and finish runners-up to Tom Seaver for NL Rookie of the Year honors.
Opening night in Oroville was electric. The jam-packed stands at Orovilleʼs historic Mitchell Field included more than twenty major-league scouts, all there to see if Nolan was worthy of a first-round draft pick in the upcoming MLB June Draft. The visitors, Yuba-Sutter Post 42, had a hard-throwing right-hander of their own in William Daniel Wright who had just finished his first season at Yuba College. He would go on and set several pitching records at Yuba and would be an Atlanta Bravesʼ 38th-round pick in the 1967 June Draft. He had faced Nolan several times before but without success. Post 42 also had Yuba City High's Robbie Thompson and East Nicolaus standout John Stam available, both on their way to setting school records by tossing shutouts and no-hitters for the Honkers and Spartans. Why waste your best pitching against Nolan who was virtually unbeatable? Instead, throw somebody else to the wolves and save Wright for the next game. Is that what Yuba-Sutter coach Fred Heringer had in mind, or did the ex- pitcher and team captain from Stanford know differently? He was Stanford Universityʼs ace pitcher in 1935, and that summer, led Amalgamated Sugar to a semi-pro Rural League championship. Heringer, a Yuba-Sutter peach farmer from Clarksburg, California, was also the starting pitcher for a team called the U.S Olympics when baseball was first introduced as a possible Olympic sport in 1936. That exhibition game took place in front of 90,000 spectators at Berlin's Olympic Stadium.
The sacrificial lamb would be Davie Van Roth -- Olivehurst-Lindaʼs 145-pound, rookie, sixteen-year-old Marysville JV pitcher coached by Tom Crowhurst. Van Roth was no slouch. He had struck out 131 batters in sixty-seven frames, averaging nearly two strikeouts per inning with an 8-1 record. His 1-0, no-hit, eighteen-strikeout masterpiece on May the twenty-first where he tripled and scored the gameʼs only run is the greatest performance ever displayed in a Marysville Indian uniform.
Nolan was pitching one of his typical games, on his way to nineteen strikeouts, while Van Roth needed a nifty double play orchestrated by shortstop Salvador “Sally” Balderrama in the first inning to get out of a jam. He was in trouble again in the second when Orovilleʼs Don Anderson led off with a double, but Van Roth countered by striking out the side to end the inning. Three errors in the third inning again put the lanky Yuba- Sutter right-hander in a hole, but he climbed his way out with another strikeout and got cleanup hitter Don Blake to pop up for the third out. The “rook” was tough when need be while Nolan was cruising along with a no-hitter. Then ... in the fourth, Nolan made two mistakes. He walked number-two hitter Keith Shaw and after Wrightʼs high fly ball to deep right field sailed into the darkness, Shaw scored as the ball dropped for a double. The hometown crowd went silent. There would be no more Oroville threats as Van Roth toughened and got better as the game went on. A final rock was slung and the mighty behemoth fell. A mysterious glaze clouding Van Roth's vision. The young righty had no idea what this childhood glory would lead to next.
All toll, there was one run scored and 33 strikeouts recorded. The “Great One” barely knew the meaning of losing and he didnʼt like it, especially in front of his hometown fans and several professional scouts. It was supposed to be his signature game before turning pro. Instead, he had to accept defeat, and worse yet, by way of some skinny little sixteen-year-old beanpole. The 1-0 victory set the stage for a rematch, a grudge match exactly one week later; again under the lights in front of a full house, only this time it would be played at Marysvilleʼs own historic arena -- Bryant Field.
Post 42ʼs Danny Wright and lefty John Stam would later feast on lowly Red Bluff, but it would be Olivehurst-Lindaʼs Davie Van Roth that again got thrown into the lionʼs den to face an angry Nolan. Another duel immediately ensued with Nolan pitching with even more intensity; with more motive; with more furor. His blazing fastball was faster than during the previous match-up as he struck out batter after batter at a record pace. Vapor trails appeared in the cool night air behind his lightning-quick fastballs. While “Gary the Great” was putting up zero after zero, so too was Van Roth with his pinpoint control and sharp-breaking, overhand curveball. Neither team threatened till the sixth when Oroville finally put a man in scoring position, but as in the battle before, Van Roth toughened and a strikeout ended the threat.
Didnʼt you hear that guy yelling at ya from second base? asked Yuba-Sutter second baseman Keith Shaw between innings. Didn't you hear him cussing you out? Tryinʼ to rattle ya? I donʼt hear a sound while Iʼm pitching, replied a stoic Van Roth. The duel raged on and after nine innings, the score was still knotted at nil. Nolan was on the verge of breaking his own record of twenty-three strikeouts in a single game set a year earlier against Red Bluff. These are the kind of games when a young pitcherʼs arm could hyper-extend. A muscle, ligament, or tendon could tear, detach, or stretch beyond repair with one pitch and a promising career could come to a sudden halt. There would be no relief pitchers in the tenth, nor would there be any runs. Then ... in the eleventh, it looked like the young Van Roth was about to fall. With one out, Oroville loaded the bases on an error, a single, and a walk. Their number three and four hitters were waiting at the on-deck circle when Post 42 manager Fred Heringer called timeout and took the long walk to the pitcherʼs mound.
Tired? Asked the Yuba-Sutter skipper. Let me finish, replied Van Roth. iIʼs my game to win or lose. Oroville shortstop J. Stafford struck out before cleanup-hitter Don Blake ended the eleventh by grounding to Balderrama. Nolan and Van Roth fought it out to an eleven-inning stalemate. League rules stated that a pitcher could only pitch eleven innings on any given day.
When it was all over, Van Roth had pitched an eleven-inning two-hitter, walked one, and struck out twelve. Nolan gave up five hits, walked four, and struck out a record-breaking twenty-five batters. In the two games between Nolan and Van Roth, after twenty innings, there was one run scored and seventy batters had struck out; thirty-seven in game two with Nolan striking out twenty-five -- Northern California records that still stand today; statistically, the two greatest pitching duels in the history of baseball. Never, has 37 strikeouts been recorded in a baseball game of eleven innings or less. In 1971, there were 43 Kʼs in an MLB game between the Angels and Aʼs, but that was during a twenty-inning marathon with 2.15 Kʼs per inning and included several relief pitchers. Van Roth and Nolan combined to average 3.36 strikeouts per inning. A week later, Cincinnati selected Gary Nolan as their number one pick in professional baseballʼs Annual June Draft. In 1971, Nolan led the National League in winning percentage with his 15-5 record and his 1.99 ERA would be second only to Steve Carltonʼs 1.97. Just a few years later, “Gary the Great” would lead Cincinnati and their Big Red Machine to back-to-back World Series Championships."
"Whoa! What a gut-wrenching turn of events. He closed his eyes for a brief moment only to awaken and realize that all his dreams had vanished like dust in the wind. The moment was gone. Although blindsided, the dismissed pitcher never said a word ... merely turned and walked away; headed straight to the locker room and handed in his uni. The present was shattered, resulting in a blockage of the future; leaving the disavowed ballplayer standing face-to-face with a hostile world.”
"After descending the pristine beauty of Riding Mountain National Park, he looked ahead and could see the dusty outskirts of Dauphin, Manitoba -- “Gateway to the North” -- home of the Kings and Redbirds. Ahead in the distance, he saw a glimmering light. His mind turned heavy as his vision grew dim. 'Good God,' he thought. 'What the hell did I get myself into this time?'"
Walt Whitman: I see great things in baseball. It's our game--the American game. It will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism. Tend to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set. Repair these losses, and be a blessing to us.
"It was the great Leo Tolstoy, more than a century ago, who said, 'Why have I come here? Where am I taking myself? I am running away from something dreadful and cannot escape it. I am always with myself, and it is I who am my tormentor. I canʼt get away from myself.”'
"Somewhere up north. Two bartenders and his own mother said he played baseball somewhere up north. Former teammate Ron “Few Clothes” Hughes thought he might have played at Billings or Minot. The All-Star trophies at his shrine stated MSBL — the Montana State Baseball League, Maine State Baseball League, Minnesota State Baseball League, Mountain State Baseball League? I’d heard of the Florida and California State Baseball Leagues but none of the others. Somewhere up north was getting on my nerves."
"On top of each case of beer was a six-pack of Coca Cola and on top of that, tucked underneath their chins, was a twenty-six-ouncer of Canadian Club or Lambʼs Navy Rum. By the way these happy-go-lucky Canucks were pounding down the booze, youʼd think that they were headed to a Grateful Dead concert in Frisco instead of Calgary to battle some of the best baseball teams in Canada.”
“As far back as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by how an athlete competes while under duress; reacts when the crowd’s screaming at the top of their lungs; how a ballplayer performs when the game’s at stake; when the championship is on the line; when the count is full with the bags loaded in a game that’s all tied up with two outs in the bottom of the ninth -- how a single choice that someone makes can alter not only the career and course of their own life, but also that of others as well.”
"He tied his own school record of 19 strikeouts with a 1-0 triumph against the Roseville Tigers, then closed out the first half of the league schedule by tossing a consecutive shutout, this time, slamming the door on the undefeated Hillmen of Placer High 4-0. He had pitched in seven of Marysvilleʼs first eight contests including five complete games. The teamʼs 5-1 league mark and 7-1 overall was their best start in school history with Van Roth leading the way, striking out 67 batters in 40 innings averaging better than fifteen strikeouts per nine innings pitched. He allowed no earned runs for a 0.00 ERA at the halfway mark of the schedule while tossing 25 consecutive scoreless innings. The lanky right-hander from Olivehurst-Linda and his Indians were on a roll."
"He set a ton of records, then just disappeared. Rumor has it that an injury ended his baseball career. Some say he moved to San Francisco, became a hippy, and hid out during the Vietnam war. Others have said that he wound up in prison after nearly killing someone in a fistfight, while some say he gave up baseball, moved away, and became a school teacher somewhere up north. Any way you look at it, he never played ball around here again.”
The atmosphere was festive. It was happening, man. Everywhere! Bobby Van Roth turned his thoughts away from a formal education; away from family; and ... away from baseball. His thoughts were now directed towards his individual self rather than that preached by tradition and his impromptu decision-making led to a hasty farewell -- good-bye college, toodaloo Olivehurst-Linda, and hello City by the Bay. No one tells the wind which way to blow. He left without thought nor hope of ever returning home.”
“He loved every aspect of the game -- the smell of fresh-cut grass, the pop of the ball hitting the pocket of the glove, the sound of the bat after making solid contact and the echo that followed, pepper and warming up when everyone was a pitcher practicing their curves and knucklers, the chatter of ballplayers and coaches -- hey babe, attaboy, keep your head in there, eye on the ball, level swing. He didnʼt play organized football or basketball nor cared much about school; merely waited all winter until practice began the following spring. Baseball became his religion and reason for living. God, it was great to be alive!”
"Such an unusual, odd duck he must have been -- a James Dean-like ballplayer with home run power and a ninety-plus mile an hour fastball by day; a philosophical bookworm by night ... all the while, cruising the Sierra foothills in his hopped-up Model A with the sounds of the Moody Blues blasting away from his 8-track stereo. The sheer power of the Cadillac-powered hot rod combined with the sounds of the times provided an adrenalin-fed rush that motivated his performance on the ball field while a British logician kept it all under control."
"He opted to forget about the demands of society and cried, 'to hell with acceptance!' So, just like that ... without considerable thought, the lefty quit college, packed his rucksack, and moved to San Francisco; not just San Francisco, but the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco. One could hardly say that life was run-of-the-mill and ho-hum in “The Haight” during the mid nineteen-sixties. There was action in Golden Gate Park, in the coffee shops, on the streets.
Water color by Sandy Dawn
"It was a strange game. We were told not to talk to or mingle with the prisoners. I didnʼt dare say hello, but nodded a few times. Prison life didnʼt seem to have changed him a bit. Roscoe was still Roscoe. He cheered my every pitch and got the other inmates to join in even though we were the visitors. The convicts with Roscoe acting as head cheerleader were going wild and cheering me on. It was legal chaos inside those prison walls and I was psyched. When it was all over, I had my twenty strikeouts.”
"The most difficult task in all of sport is to strike a round hardball solidly and with authority using a rounded club, especially when the ball is traveling ninety-plus miles per hour; all-the-while dipping, sinking, cutting or sailing; not to mention trying to hit a curveball, slider, splitter, spitter, knuckler, change-up, forkball, screwball, or God only knows what else; and if that’s not enough, there's the fear factor, whether conscious or subconscious, of the brush- back, high-and-tight-one, or the beanball, intentional or not, that can bruise, break a bone, or even kill you. Ah yes, baseball, the non-contact sport -- good for the soul but tough on the body."
"In his attempt at self-hypnosis, he looked into Husserl’s mirror of phenomenology but only witnessed an image of himself. He wanted to know what existed beyond the image; who he was and what he was supposed to do in this world; his raison d’être; a purpose for his existence."
“Thatʼs impossible. Nobodyʼs pitching arm would hold up under those conditions. He would have pitched most of the season with two days rest and several games with one day or no rest. He would have pitched twelve innings in a day on several occasions while throwing 140 or more pitches. Nowadays, a coach and the college would get sued if there was an injury.”
“He had found the zone -- a state of flow whereby concentration, focus, discipline, and unwavering confidence all come together. Add to that a fierce, unyielding competitive spirit. So, where did this laser-like focus and full sensory visualization come from -- this focused conviction and intention — this power of a super-concentrating mind in a deeply tuned state? On the top shelf of his library was a copy of Ludwig Wittgensteinʼs Tractatus Logico Philosophicus and several works pertaining to Eastern religions, including Swami Vivekanandaʼs Hinduism -- Our duty is to encourage every one in his struggle to live up to his own highest idea, and strive to make the idea as near as possible to the truth, and Allan Wattsʼ highly popular Zen books during the late fifties and early sixties -- This is the real secret of life--to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now."
"Baseball had been his guiding light through which he navigated the world -- his moral compass and source of meaning -- his salvation. The diamond was his sanctuary and the dugout his refuge while the raised earthen platform and batterʼs box were his pulpits upon which he preached. Baseball was his gift of existence; his cloistered Ivory Tower; his Shangri-la; his world of passionate isolation providing remote seclusion from the battered streets of Olivehurst-Linda. Seemingly, his lifelong yearning of becoming a professional ballplayer was over. Just as God was dead for Friedrich Nietzsche, so too was baseball dead for Davie Van Roth. The game that he loved just died in his arms that day."
Type your paragraph here.
"Among the newspaper articles was a 1962 preview about a little-league game which was to be played later that night in Yuba City. It featured stats and a picture of Davie Van Roth that depicted a rather skinny-looking young lad with a blank, emotionless stare on his face; a stone-cold gaze as if met by the stare of a medusa that indicated a shy, yet precocious childhood. I looked at the photo and wondered how this thin, frail-looking young lad could put up such lofty numbers. Usually, little-leaguers that put up these kinds of stats are much bigger kids -- those who reach puberty at an early age."
"After reaching the parkʼs west side, he sat atop a sandy dune, facing the Pacific in a surreal bank of fog, absorbing the misty sea-breeze while contemplating in a heavy, ponderous blue funk. His emotions were now confused layers of somber numb as he fell into solitary reflection. What happened? Whatʼs happening? Had Van Roth been chasing shadows? Was baseball quixotic? Welcome to the real world ex-ballplayer. Welcome to the land of existentialism."
“He witnessed some unbeknown dark entity, some obscure thing in a dense fog, and out of this dimness an apparition appeared, then quickly sped away while looking over a shoulder as if retreating from a stranger. It was fleeting, darting in and out of awareness as if wanting to escape; as if not wanting to be acknowledged. It seemed detached, somewhat alien. The fog lifted and he could see clearly while coming out of the trance; awakening to eyes wide open. He was frightened but had his answer.”
William Hughes was an assistant coach (1984-'86) under legendary manager Auggie Garrido when Cal State Fullerton beat the Texas Longhorn in the 1984 College World Series. Garrido, the winningest coach in college baseball history, has won five collegiate World Series and named College Coach of the Year five times.
"With two outs in the 2nd extra inning of a scoreless game against West Sacramento, the 1962 Olivehurst-Linda Little League All-Stars became one pitch, one step, one fluke play from meeting San Jose in Northern California's championship game when a bloop of a dying quail plopped in the grass just a foot away from first base. First baseman David Willis came racing in but didn't grasp the ball firmly -- there was ... a FUMBLE!"
"Bobby Van Roth's mind danced on the ball field alongside all the greats, but only while on an astral journey into his Wiccan Summerland -- that nonphysical land of eternal summer with grassy fields unspoiled by humanity -- a world where thereʼs neither good or evil, pain nor suffering; no heaven nor hell, but a place where souls wait for another life with a different physical body, much like Pythagorasʼ liberation after several transmigrations. Only in an abstract phantasyland of make-believe would Bobby run the bases like Jackie Robinson; turn cartwheels on base paths paved in gold without worries of ever turning old. In this realm of metempsychosis is where he performed on his Elysian Field, that imaginary place where mythical gods enact great athletic feats to the sweet sound of the lyre. It would be here, in this conceptual, mystical Garden of Eden where Bobby could elude all his troubles, bypass his emotions, and temporarily avoid the mundane; moreover, escape from his handicap. These spiritual realms could never become concrete, hence, his avoiding reality would become his self-inventive ontology; his mistress of existence. He had creativity, but unfortunately, no execution. Bobby Van Roth was not programmed for the earthly world."
Marysville, California -- July 4th, 1908
"I had never heard of Marysville, California; had no idea that this little town played such a major role in the founding and history of America’s thirty-first state, nor a clue that this little burg was once in line to become California’s State capital. Sutter’s Mill is in the history books as the place where gold was discovered in 1848 that led to the great gold rush, but it was Marysville that became the gateway to the goldfields which lay just a few miles to the east, and most importantly, as far as baseball is concerned, I had nary a clue that Marysville played such an important role in the shaping of California baseball history."
"'If you honestly believe that life is an open road without limits and are willing to do what it takes, then there just may be a pot of gold at the end of your rainbow. Believing gives us the strength to kick down the door, walk down the hall of darkness and back into the light where the warmth gives us life. Believing is all-powerful, it makes things happen!'
“He looked into the mirror of Husserl and saw a picture of himself, but it was just an image. He wanted to know what existed beyond the image; wanted to know exactly just who or what the hell he was, and what he was supposed to do in this world -- a purpose for being and a truth for which to live and die for. He took a deep breath; then looked straight into his eyes of reflection but only sensed color--white, green, hazel, black. He concentrated on the dark but thoughts kept creeping in; thoughts of baseball, Bobby, God, thoughts of life.”
"McCrackin was a leafless tree and his Spartan-style of coaching was a failure. He blew it and the dismissed pitcher became the scapegoat; the immolated sacrificial lamb -- fired just before the last game of the season. The young ballplayer was crucified. The present was shattered, resulting in a blockage of the future; leaving the disavowed ballplayer standing face-to-face with a hostile world."
"By the time his seven-year career ended, he had set twelve team records that still stand, was a seven-time All-Star, led the playoffs in hitting three times, led the league in nine different categories, was named National Tournament MVP, and twice selected to the National baseball team. At age twenty-seven, the height of most ballplayerʼs career, he tossed a two-hit shutout, setting five records at the National level ... then turned his back and just walked away."
1947 (College baseball's 1st World Series) -- "The Golden Bears from Cal Berkeley had taken an 8-7 lead with an unearned run in the seventh inning before Yaleʼs George H.W. Bush stepped up to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the ninth and ... struck out! 'The Busher' hit .208 for the 1947 season and .215 with one home run during his three-year career at Yale. One has to wonder what the world would be like today if the former Skull & Bones member could have hit his way out of a paper bag and signed a pro contract as did several of his Eli teammates. One also has to wonder why a .208 hitter was captain of a team full of All-Stars.”
“Teammate Jimmy Ohrt nicknamed him “The Animal”. There was certainly cognition by reading books, but where did his newfound physical strength and vexed motivation come from -- this tenacious determination; this persistent purpose; this doggedness towards baseball -- this “Animal?”
"She took to the sidelines wearing a beaming, charismatic smile with pom-poms shimmering and quaking ... like aspens. Jaggerʼs “Paint It Black” bellowed and echoed throughout War Memorial Stadium as she danced, acrobatically, in front of a frenzied Bacchic crowd. Black and orange, crepe-paper orbs quivered high above her head as she performed leg kicks, rhythmically, like a cancan dancer in a French cabaret. With a smiley face, she sang and danced while Mick painted the whole world black ... then just faded away. Even though they grew up on the same side of the river, their worlds were at opposite ends of the spectrum -- herʼs cheerful, bright, and rosy ... his troubled, dim, and gray. Hello, darkness, my olʼ friend. They became soul mates but never lovers. She put a flower in her hair; moved to San Francisco ... he went underground, into hiding, then fled ... far, far away. Thereʼs got to be some way out of here, said the outcast to the thief. Two agents were approaching and the wind began to howl ... howl! ... HOWL!!"
"I’ve seen it all before, mostly while interviewing the parents of some famous athlete -- trophy cases chock full of awards, keepsakes, and memorabilia ... even a few books, but mostly college textbooks, a few classics and dime store novels, along with an occasional bible -- but nothing like this trophy room. This was a whole room full of hardware, like the wall of fame at Joe Marty’s Bar and Grill in Sacramento, only to a lesser degree. It was the books that captured my attention. Hundreds of them. My God! The Library!"
"The second son was a pea from the same pod. Take a look at me Pops, Iʼm a lot like you were. “Pops” was the classic rebel with his quiet demeanor ... his running away from home at age thirteen ... the Colt 45 under his pillow ... the lone trucker atop the Sierras in his Cummins-powered Peterbilt ... the 1936 roadster. He may have once been a miner, but never in search for a heart of gold. 'Pops' was no family man. He was a trucker, on the road from sunup till sundown. 'Pops' Van Roth was a loner. These inherited traits of rebellion were embedded and the young ball-playing son would have to live with them for the rest of his life. The day he finds peace will be the day he dies."
“He hadn’t heard from the Yankee or Kansas City scout that had talked to him earlier and had no offers, not even a scholarship. Arrangements were made to visit several campuses in Southern California where he'd have to try out for a scholarship. After fielding ground balls, taking batting practice, and tossing a few pitches from the mound, both Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine University offered full-ride scholarships, but Fresno State is where he really wanted to go.”
"Before the start of the KIBT, most of the Fairbanks players had nearly a hundred games under their belts. Every player on the 1974 Alaska Goldpanner roster would be drafted by a major league baseball team including seven first-round draft picks and seventeen would play professionally. Conceivably, Van Roth and his Binscarth Orioles would be facing left-handed pitcher Floyd Bannister and the U.S. National Baseball Team."
"It was Bobby who taught his young brother how to play the game of baseball; Bobby who molded his younger brother into the ballplayer who he himself wished to be; Bobby who introduced him to the world of books and critical thinking; Bobby who turned his brotherʼs world upside down by leading him into the realm of idealism, mysticism, and existentialism. It was Bobby, the only one capable of understanding this philosopher- ballplayer, who suggested the greatest thinker of the twentieth century; Bobby who recommended the brilliant Bertrand Russell as new mentor and polestar."
Kamloops International Baseball Tournament -- "'I hadnʼt faced a pitcher of this caliber since facing Nolan when I was sixteen. Bannister was quick and crafty with pinpoint control. He painted the outside corner with a crisp knee-high fastball for strike one. He almost made a mistake by throwing the same pitch again. I was waiting for it and went the other way sending a deep drive towards the right-field corner. I thought it had a chance but the ball was slicing. It cleared the wall, however landed about five feet foul. His next pitch looked like another low fastball. I couldnʼt chance a called strike three, so I took a rip. It was a sharp-breaking Steve Carlton-like slider that nearly hit me in the back foot. Steeeerike three.”'
THE EXISTENTIAL BALLPLAYER
“Men fear thought as they fear nothing else on earth--more than ruin, more even than death. Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible; thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habits; thought is anarchic and lawless, indifferent to authority, careless of the well-tried wisdom of the ages. Thought looks into the pit of hell and is not afraid. It sees man, a feeble speck, surrounded by unfathomable depths of silence; yet it bears itself proudly, as unmoved as if it were lord of the universe. Thought is great and swift and free, the light of the world, and the chief glory of man.” (Russell, Bertrand. Mysticism & Logic and Other Essays. Longmans, Green and Co., 1919. pp. 56)
*Evidently, among the main characteristics of an existential are self-realization, independent thought, authentic decision making, taking responsibility for oneʼs actions, an awareness of the world with all its absurdity, and a gut-wrenching individuality -- a refusal to bow down. Dostoyevsky stated in his Notes from Underground -- What man wants is simply independent choice, whatever that independence may cost and wherever it may lead."
The next morning, Van Roth couldnʼt lift his right arm. He received a cortisone shot the following Monday and wore his arm in a sling for five days before his next and final pitching assignment of the season -- a complete game, 4-2 win against Chico and Baltimore Oriole draftee Mike Welker who would go on to pitch four years in the minor leagues. Van Roth had pitched three games against two future professionals, one of which would become Northern Californiaʼs greatest pitcher of all-time. He allowed but one earned run for a minuscule 0.31 earned run average and for the year, including high school, compiled a combined 10-1-1 record with a 0.66 ERA while striking out 166 batters in 96 innings pitched or 15.6 Kʼs per nine innings.
"In the two games between Nolan and Van Roth, after twenty innings, there was one run scored and seventy batters had struck out; thirty-seven in game two with Nolan striking out twenty-five -- Northern California records that still stand today; statistically, the greatest pitching duel in the history of baseball. Never, has 37 strikeouts been recorded in a baseball game of eleven innings or less. In 1971, there were 43 Kʼs in an MLB game between the Angels and Aʼs, but that was during a twenty-inning marathon with 2.15 Kʼs per inning and included several relief pitchers. Van Roth and Nolan combined to average 3.36 strikeouts per inning. A week later, Cincinnati selected Gary Nolan as their number one pick in professional baseballʼs Annual June Draft."
"You ever gotten your heart broken? asked Jane Aubrey in 'For Love of the Game'. Yeah, replied pitcher Billy Chappel. When we lost the pennant in ʻ87.
Youʼre perfect, cried Jane. You, and the ball, and the diamond, youʼre this perfectly beautiful thing. You can win or lose the game, all by yourself. You donʼt need me."
"Bobbyʼs mind danced on the ball field alongside all the greats, but only while on an astral journey into his Wiccan Summerland -- that nonphysical land of eternal summer with grassy fields unspoiled by humanity -- a world where thereʼs neither good or evil, pain nor suffering; no heaven nor hell, but a place where souls wait for another life with a different physical body, much like Pythagorasʼ liberation after several transmigrations. Only in an abstract phantasy land of make-believe would Bobby run the bases like Jackie Robinson; turn cartwheels on base paths paved in gold without worries of ever turning old. In this realm of metempsychosis is where he performed on his Elysian Field, that imaginary place where mythical gods enact great athletic feats to the sweet sound of the lyre. It would be here, in this conceptual, mystical Garden of Eden where Bobby could elude all his troubles, bypass his emotions, and temporarily avoid the mundane; moreover, escape from his handicap. These spiritual realms could never become concrete, hence, his avoiding reality would become his self-inventive ontology; his mistress of existence. He had creativity, but unfortunately, no execution. Bobby Van Roth was not programmed for the earthly world.”
His dreams of becoming a professional ballplayer were now a muddled nightmare, not unlike amnesia where emotions become a concoction of the past and present, along with an unforeseen future. He seemed to be suffering from Heideggerʼs existential-ontological double-bind -- that schizophrenic subject-object split with a being posing the question (Dasein) and the being whose being is in question (das sein)."
"At age 29, he knew that this would be the end; knew that this would be the last game heʼd ever pitch; knew that heʼd never look into those eyes again. He was pitching with a partial tear to his shoulderʼs rotator cuff and a lump in his right forearm, the result of a torn muscle suffered in the first game of the 1976 season. His right arm hung like a wet noodle but there would be no whiskey this time. He would pitch with pain as the game was too important to impair his focus and concentration.
"The initial season of the Far West League had all the earmarks of a Hollywood movie script with at least two Hollywood Stars listed on her rosters. The 1948 season included former and future major league players, some famous including a future Cy Young Award winner, several ex Pacific Coast League players, a triple crown winner, an impostor, and a suicide victim. Year two included a couple of DiMaggios, a lesser and a major, and a couple of future Major League managers, one of which led his team to a World Series and was named Manager of the Year."
"Like an ominous dark cloud looming over Seattle, a stalking umbra of ill fate hovered over Van Roth where ever he roamed. Did he bring all this calamity upon himself, or were the hands of fate merely playing out her prearranged role? At times, baseball put this philosophical ballplayer in a happy space, but tragedy always seemed to rain on his parade; Other times, he wished that he'd never picked up the damn ball in the first place, hence, his up-and-down roller coaster ride of life -- flying high above the clouds one day; only to come crashing down to earth the next. One morning, he suddenly woke and realized that he was flat broke, two thousand miles away from home and in need of arm surgery."
"We met in front of the St. Rose Hotel before the games and traveled as a caravan. Some of our followers went to the tournaments in a motor home and often I would ride along. It was comfortable kicking back in a captainʼs chair and having a few drinks while on the road, but by mid-season, my arm was killing me, especially after pitching the semi-final. Between games, Iʼd go for a walk, slug down a mickey of CC to kill the pain, and then go back out there and pitch the final.”
"Such was the atmosphere laid upon and mostly accepted by Bobby Van Roth through this underground literature and new life in San Francisco and Veracruz. His younger brother was exposed to the disease but remained immune due to the inoculation of baseball. He didnʼt need any of this tomfoolery for he had a different crutch, baseball, and loved playing the game. For the time being, he would have none of this foolish fandango and left all those false delusions in Frisco. On opening-day of the 1967 baseball season, at age 17, he struck out 19 batters and shut out the three-time defending Sierra Foothill League champion Oroville Tigers 1-0. The 19 Kʼs set a new school record that still stands today. The virus lay dormant."
"O-L pitcher/shortstop Davie Van Roth only allowed five hits and didn't allow an earned run for the entire season including three complete games of all-star competition. He finished the season with a 10-1 record, recorded seven no-hitters, three consecutive during league play, and two to start all-star competition while striking out 189 batters in 68 innings. In the District-2 championship game against Peach Bowl of Yuba City, only one batter hit a fair ball while 17 struckout. Van Roth also led the area in hitting with his .588 average and hit 11 home runs."
“He became lost and mesmerized, somewhat hypnotized by the seemingly endless fields of golden wheat, interrupted only by the occasional crop of flax or giant elevator that dotted the prairies of Western Canada. It all seemed so surreal and he became saddened when flashes of the past reflected from the coach window. His teammates seemed like total strangers. It felt like he didnʼt belong and began to question his decision making, especially the one regarding going to Canada in the first place. Finally, they reached the Alberta border.”
"He was reborn -- a born-again ballplayer. Something happened between September of 1968 and the first day of ball practice held during the first week of January 1969. In just a few months, a transformation took place, a metamorphosis, an unbeknown leap of faith, a rebirth, a resetting of his inner-compass -- a Phoenix rising out of the ashes. No longer, was he the easy-going, calm, cool, and collected ballplayer as he appeared in high school. He may have looked so on the outside, but on the inside, a blazing inferno raged while on the diamond. The game had become personal, and he now performed in a controlled state of exasperation. Perhaps, his rebellious nature would be his fall and resurrection -- his Finneganʼs Wake.”
"He would be living in cramped quarters and share a barracks with thirty-nine other soldiers, most of which would be headed to Vietnam. He would be facing the nakedness of man with all his absurdity while taking orders from one of the most tyrannical beings on the face of the earth -- a United States Army drill sergeant. There would be no spring training in Florida. Professional baseball was put on hold, if not completely lost. I could only cringe with the thought that something ominous was about to happen. Overcome, Mr. Van Roth. Godspeed."
"Youʼre in the army now. Youʼre in the army now. Youʼre digginʼ a ditch you son-of-a bitch. Youʼre in the army now. The long road to empire is a game of blood, greed, ignorance, and irrational narcissistic behavior. Because the lust for power and wealth is so great, there are those who are willing to risk the ruin of entire nations for the sake of satisfying those desires. Is civilization sinful by nature with a thin veneer covering its savage instincts as portrayed in William Goldingʼs Lord of the Flies? America has always been a warlike nation, but then again, somebody has to police this godforsaken world."
"Upbeat tunes — 'Good Vibrations,' 'The Little Old Lady From Pasadena,' and 'Surfinʼ Safari' blasted over the PA system while the team took batting practice, although some of these 49ers would have preferred the new genre of acid rock. There was fun and laughter on the practice field and the revered coach was right in the middle of it. All revolved around the 'Big E' as they called him. The big bubba with the raspy cigar-toned voice was charismatic and a father-figure to some. Everybody liked the man. The beloved manager was the quintessential playerʼs coach -- a leader who motivated by way of persona, creating a triumphant atmosphere of joyful well-being. A Yogism would state that the adored coach had a knack for getting 110 percent out of his ballplayers."
"Joe DiMaggio was the quintessential hero -- an Ayn Randʼs Howard Roark or John Galt -- proud, quiet, emotions in check with unmatched preeminence. Randʼs philosophy of Objectivism takes shape with her fictional characters. Joe D was real, concrete. He was to San Franciscans and Yankee fans as Garibaldi was to Italians. DiMaggio was the epitome of pride and determination. The Latin term existere is defined as: to exist, to arise, to become, prove to be, step forth, to stand out from the rest. The “Yankee Clipper” possessed all the characteristics, some innate, while others arose along with his magnificence. Although he did his best to stay out of the limelight, his stats and the press made sure that his essence was front and center. Along with Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio was the ultimate ball-playing existere. Joltin' Joe was a rock, an island, and Northern California's greatest ballplayer of all-time."