Alex George and my terrible formative years.
Alex George was signed by the Athletics during their first season in Kansas City out of a local Jesuit high school. All of his Major League appearances took place before his 17th birthday — making him the second youngest non-pitcher to debut in MLB since 1944, and also the youngest player to ever play for the Athletics. He struck out in his first Major League plate appearance against relief pitcher Al Papai of the Chicago White Sox, but four days later, on September 20, playing as the A’s starting shortstop, he collected his only big league hit, a bunt single off Duke Maas of the Detroit Tigers. George had bunted his way to his only major league hit and would end his “career” with one hit in ten at bats for a measly .100 average.
Although Mr. George will go down in history as a minor foot-note, his achievement, the act of an obviously desperate ball club, got me thinking about my own life at the age of 16. My dereliction had started a few years earlier in junior high, and by the time high school came around I was barely attending classes. I would stop by my friend Manuel’s house in the morning, and after smoking some grass and watching a few videos, we would usually decide that skateboarding all day sounded infinitely better than going to school and getting your ass kicked for wearing punk rock garb. As Steve Martin would say about his sister’s son in the movie Parenthood, ” that’s one messed up kid.”
I’ve found that most archetypical “rejects” usually fall into one of two paths: there are the ones that are naturally artistic, read outstandingly bad literature (me) and eventually learn through a series of vicissitudes that change is inevitable and sometimes vital. I eventually went to art school, achieved an M.F.A., traveled the world and now live a quiet, normal life (Well, normal if you consider someone who is childless in their late 30’s “normal.”) The other end of the spectrum is jail, drugs and even death. I have seen some friends go down these paths and even lost a few because of their choices. Sometimes I’ll be sitting around, watching a movie or doing some other domesticated time -killer when it suddenly hits me: it’s a miracle that I’m even alive. I imagine some of the same things were going through Mr. George’s mind as he was running to first on that bunt base hit. The under-dog just fighting for survival…..and as soon as these thoughts enter my head, they leave swiftly. Another thought enters– What the hell am I going to have for lunch? I take another sip of beer and decide to take a nap.