Sunday, April 12, 2009

Adenhart Added To List Of Angels' Tragedies

Jim Adenhart took the mound on Thursday. But he didn’t throw a pitch. Maybe he threw a fit—and you could hardly blame him.

Adenhart was in the stands Wednesday night at Angel Stadium, watching his 22-year-old son Nick make his season debut, starting for the Los Angeles Angels against the Oakland A’s.

Nick did pretty well; six strong innings. It was the first time he made an Opening Day roster.

Six hours after confounding the A’s, Nick Adenhart went dancing with some friends at a club. On the way home, the vehicle Adenhart was traveling in as a passenger was broadsided at an intersection, by a drunk driver. He died in surgery a short while later.

So the day after that, Nick’s dad, a retired Secret Service agent, strode onto the mound and reflected. The stadium was empty. Wearing a red Angels sweatshirt, Jim Adenhart was seen covering his eyes briefly with one hand.

Why do these things keep happening to the Angels?

1968. Pitcher Minnie Rojas is paralyzed for life in a car accident that claims the lives of two of his three children.

1972. Infielder Chico Ruiz was killed in a single-car accident, just a few weeks before spring training with his new team, the Kansas City Royals. Ruiz played 1970-71 with the Angels.

1977. Infielder Mike Miley, also killed in a car accident, at age 23.

1978. Outfielder Lyman Bostock, hours after a game in Chicago, was killed in a drive-by shooting when he had the misfortune of being in the backseat of a car that was fired upon, in Gary, Ind.

1989. Former pitcher Donnie Moore shot and killed himself, three years after giving up a crucial home run in the playoffs that cost his team a series victory. Moore blamed himself for the loss.

1992. Twelve Angels players and manager Buck Rodgers were injured (Rodgers suffered a broken ribs and knee and elbow injuries and had to take a leave of absence) when their team bus crashed on the New Jersey Turnpike.

2009. Nick Adenhart, 22, among three killed in a hit-and-run by a drunk driver, who fled on foot but who was caught about thirty minutes later.

“Curse” is a strong word, and overused. It smacks of voodoo and karma and other things of the unexplained.

We toss it around carelessly, when we talk about sports.

The Lions are “cursed”, folks say, thanks to some alleged words casually said by quarterback Bobby Layne after being traded in 1958. Not true, but you wouldn’t know it.

The Chicago Cubs are “cursed”, thanks to a local tavern owner, who was prevented from bringing his pet goat into the 1945 World Series and who displayed his anger by casting a curse on the franchise. Billy Sianis was mad, for sure, and his words have indeed been verified.

But, look—do ordinary people have the power to levy curses on anyone, let alone entire sports franchises?

Could I, for example, in a fit of anger at a restaurant, stand in the parking lot, shake my fist at the place, and say, “I hereby curse this restaurant from ever turning a profit ever again!”?

I’d be scared to death if we lived in a world where that’s all it took to turn all of us into potential victims of verbal voodoo dolls.

Get cut off in traffic? Curse the boob in the other car.

Someone taking too long at the ATM in front of you? Curse them.

So what makes Layne and Sianis so special? How did they manage to assume the power of some sort of god or idol?

Answer: they’re not. And they didn’t.

The Lions haven’t won a championship since Layne’s trade, and the Cubs haven’t been back to the World Series since Sianis’s tirade because of poor personnel decisions, bad management, bad coaching, and the simple competitive nature of professional sports, which only crowns one winner per year anyway. Ninety-nine percent of the teams aren’t going to win in any given year.

The Angels have suffered more than their share of tragedies, it would appear. But they are not cursed. Why would they be? Who would have done it to them?

Funny, but I didn’t hear any talk of a curse when the Angels won the 2002 World Series, coming back from a 3-2 series deficit to upend the San Francisco Giants.

Adenhart’s death, if anything, proves there’s a curse of greater proportions than some silly sports thing.

The curse of drunk driving. Now there’s something to truly wring your hands about.

Or how about the curse of all these mass shootings that have been plaguing the country lately?

The curse of unemployment. The curse of war.

And on and on.

Nick Adenhart: 1986-2009

So no one cursed the Angels. Bobby Layne didn’t curse the Lions. Billy Sianis didn’t curse the Cubs.


Still, I feel for the Angels organization. There really have been too many of these sad incidents for one franchise. But it’s just bad luck, plain and simple.

Jim Adenhart, in his role with the Secret Service, was part of the force whose charge was to keep the most important man in the world safe and sound.

Lord knows how many people have cursed the President of the United States.

In our 233-year history as a nation, we’ve lost four presidents to assassination.

I’d say the Secret Service does a pretty good job.

All those years protecting the president, yet Jim Adenhart was powerless to keep his kid from getting killed by a drunk on the road.

I wonder if that was among the things he thought about when he took the mound in an empty Angel Stadium, wearing his son’s team‘s colors.

Probably came to him in that moment when he covered his eyes with his hand.

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