Death of Neil Armstrong and baseball: An American story

When Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon it was a moment in Amerian history filled with the pride of an entire nation at what we do best. This is a story about that moment. Photo: Neil Armstrong steps on the moon NASA

CHARLOTTE, August 27, 2012 — What does Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon and baseball have in common?

With all the negativity swirling about the current political campaigns, not to mention the wars and shootings in recent weeks, Neil Armstrong’s story is one that is typically American: a story about national pride and spirit that defines our country. It is about who we are and what we do best.

In the late 1950s, the Russians sent a satellite into space called Sputnik. That moment signaled a race to the heavens between the United States and the Soviet Union that would intensify over the next decade.

The international competition grew even stronger when President John F. Kennedy claimed that we would put a man on the moon by the end of 60s. The gauntlet had been thrown. The gloves were off. It was the ultimate quest to see which nation would become the first to step on a heavenly body other than our own.

Alan Shepherd became the first American into space. John Glenn was the first American to orbit the earth. Then, on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong became not only the first American, but also the first person, to walk on the moon.

Eleven astronauts followed. All of them Americans. No other nation has ever accomplished that task. Kennedy’s dream and America’s challenge had become a reality.

Other than the awareness throughout the United States that, if successful, sometime during the afternoon of July 20th an American spacecraft would land on the surface of the moon, it was a day like any other day.

It was a Sunday. People went to church. Others played golf. Families gathered for weekly reunions at lunch. And there was a full schedule of major league baseball games all across the country.

In Atlanta, the Braves were playing the San Diego Padres. It was a typical Sunday afternoon for the Braves with a modest crowd of a little more than 12,000 fans rooting for their team that was then in the thick of the pennant race.

Atlanta scored a run in the first inning, which, as it turned out, was all they would need even though they added three more in the third before building up a 10-0 heading into the eighth inning.

It was the sort of game that only a Braves fan, or a die-hard baseball lover, could enjoy. The drama had long since abated and the only thing in doubt was whether Braves pitcher, Pat Jarvis, would get a complete game shutout.

After the first hour of the ball game, the scoreboards around Atlanta Stadium became more interesting to watch than the game. Throughout the afternoon, messages kept flashing across the electronic message boards providing regular updates about the progress of Apollo 11.

“One hour until touchdown,” they would say.

Then, “Thirty minutes before landing.”

“Fifteen minutes.”

Then five and, finally, at 4:17 in the afternoon Eastern Time, the message flashed, “The Eagle has landed!”

The game was in the top of the eighth inning. The Padres were at bat and Pat Jarvis was still on the mound. He picked up the resin bag, stepped to the rubber and began his wind-up as usual. Suddenly 12,000-plus people spontaneously rose to their feet with a cheer that sounded like 100,000 instead.

Then something truly serendipitous happened. Something that cannot be scripted or planned. Something that comes from the heart and erupts in your soul. Something that is unforgettable and lives within you forever.

Jarvis had just brought his leg to his waist as he readied his pitch to the San Diego hitter. And then he stopped. He heard the roar, and he knew what had happened. There was no doubt.

Without hesitation, the Braves pitcher ceased his motion, put his leg down and turned toward the American flag in center field. He removed his cap and placed it over his heart. Jarvis’ teammates on the field spontaneously did the same thing, and the Padres came out of their dugout to stand in a moment of national unity.

There was no pre-game notification. No planning. No bands waiting for a ceremony. This was completely unrehearsed and natural. Suddenly the organist played God Bless America and the small, but vocal, crowd and the players sang in unison.

Approximately six hours later, Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon with “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

But it was that brief moment of pride during the course of an ordinary baseball game that made an extraordinary event remains forever etched in your heart.

For this was a story about a country unlike any other. This was not about waving a foam finger in the air and boasting of being number one. This was not bluster. This was deeper. It was about success. It was about American spirit and what can be accomplished when we utilize our resources to achieve.

This was about a country that went shooting for the stars. It was about the first man to make a small step toward that goal. And now, Neil Armstrong has gone beyond…to walk in the heavens

Peabod is Bob Taylor, owner of Taylored Media Services in Charlotte, NC. He played professional baseball for four years and was a sportscaster for 14 years at WBTV, the CBS affiliate in Charlotte. Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club, which creates, and escorts customized tours to Switzerland, France and Italy for groups of 12 or more. Inquiries for groups can be made at Peabod@aol.com Taylored Media has produced marketing videos for British Rail, Rail Europe, Switzerland Tourism, the Swedish Travel & Tourism Council, the Finnish Tourist Board, the Swiss Travel System and Japan Railways Group among others. As author of The Century Club book, Peabod is now attempting to travel to 100 countries or more during his lifetime. To date he has visited 69 countries. Suggest someplace new for Bob to visit; if you want to know where he has been, check his list on Facebook. Bob plans to write a sequel to his book when he reaches his goal of 100 countries.


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Bob Taylor

Bob Taylor has been travel writer for more than three decades. Following a career as an award winning sports producer/anchor, Taylor’s media production business produced marketing presentations for Switzerland Tourism, Rail Europe, the Finnish Tourist Board, Japan Railways Group, the Swedish Travel & Tourism Council and the Swiss Travel System among others. He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com) and his goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.

 

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