It was so difficult to get into a rhythm for the Phillies' Milestone Loss No. 9,970 last night because ESPN spent its second day instructing America that one day's worth of mourning the dead Josh Hancock is not enough.
Leave it to ESPN to determine a grief-management timetable.
Let's see if the Winter X Games Network is as sensitive when the autopsy findings are made public on Thurs. or Fri.
The Hancock car-crash hit PhillieTown especially hard because because, for the second time since last Oct., the all-time Phillies' pitching staff lost "one of their own."
First, Cory Lidle ... now Josh Hancock.
What a terrible decade this has been for ex-Phillie pitchers crashing their vehicles into objects which seemingly came from out of nowhere.
NYC high-rises ... tow trucks ...
Everybody has his/her own way of grieving over the loss of Hancock. It's a personal matter, no matter how much ESPN wants to fluff it up into a matter of national prominence.
Some of us opt for the candlelight vigil ... others will opt for the clasping of hands and the signing of hymns.
Tonight, a weepy nation saw Hancock's #32 uniform top (baseball players wear a "uniform" ... not a jersey ... get it right, Grief-Stricken America) on a hanger in the Cardinals dugout.
It does seem doubtful that "Hancock #32" will be retired immediately as Darryl Kile's #57 was when he died in his sleep five years ago. For one thing, most Redbird fans will always remember #32 as the number worn by Steve Carlton and then Joe Magrane.
Y'know ... back in the day before sabermaticians invented the OPS.
Some of us spent tonight worried less about the Phillies' Milestone Loss #9,970 and concerned ourselves with sittin' 'round the campfire and sharing unforgettable tales of when Hancock wore #50 for the Phillies.
We shed tears of joy when we remembered that first game that Josh Hancock pitched for the Phillies in early Sept. '03.
Acquired from the Bosox the previous December (for Jeremy Giambi, who'd hit 12 hGH HRs in only 156 hGH ABs for the '02 Flailin' Phils), Hancock was summoned from the bullpen in the 8th inning to protect an 18-4 lead against the Bravos -- a lead which had been punctuated when Jason Michaels hit a grand slam off of Jung Bong to make the score, 18-2.
Hancock, however, gave up one run in his one inning of work, so, gambling degenerates who had the Phillies giving 14, well ... they took a hit.
Your unforgettable final: 18-5.
In a similar vein, most of us will never forget the final game that Josh Hancock started for the Phillies. It was one of those "spot" starts in early June '04 ... and the Bravos roughed up the kid.
Ex-Phillie Julio Franco (who was only 56 years old back then) touched up 'Cockie (if that's what anyone called him) for a grand salami in the first inning ... and then Cockie allowed singles to three of the first four batters he faced in the second inning.
The Bravos had a golden opportunity to expand their lead to beyond 6-0, but Cockie came through and fanned Andruw Jones and the aforementioned Franco.
After that, Josh Hancock made two reief appearances at the end of July -- and then he was dealt to Cincy for Todd Jones.
And, Larry Bowa was fired two days before the end of the season.
Way to get the manager fired, Cockie.
(Yoo, too, Jonesy)
Nobody knows if the Phillies have any plans to wear a "50" patch on their sleeves to match the "VUK" patch they're already wearing for the late John Vukovich.
Maybe the Phillies are playing the waiting game, like so many of the rest of us.
After all ... nobody knows if Josh Hancock rammed headfirst into that flat-bed truck because he was in a rush to get home from working late at the homeless shelter ... or because he was zipping home to get some shut-eye before rising early for a 6 a.m. Bible study ... or because he was answering a text msg. ... or because he might've had some boooooooze in his bloodstream.
Hopefully, the answer will come soon so that America's anguish will abate -- the pain which comes from La Russa attempting to string together semi-lucid, mostly-unintelligible sentences.
Some of us are going to hold off on the flowery "Josh was swell, just a regular guy" prose until that autopsy is made public. If it turns out that he was drunk/distracted/whatever (which seems probable, given the late-night/early-morning hour), we will channel our emotions into the appropriate administrations of rage and cynicism.
Until then, it might be time to turn to Ecclesiates for comfort and wisdom.
While Ecclesiastes can't match Eckstein in terms of World Series rings won, Ecclesiastes seemed to have his shit together here in Chapter 9, Verse 3:
"This is the evil in everything that happens under the sun: The same destiny overtakes all. The hearts of men, moreover, are full of evil and there is madness in their hearts while they live, and afterward when they join the dead ..."
Ecclesiastes 9:5 -- "For the living know that they will die but the dead know nothing; they have no further record, and even the memory of them is forgotten ..."