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Must-click link: Johnny Damon seems lost without baseball

Jul 25, 2014, 9:34 AM EST

damon ap AP

Some athletes take to retirement well. It’s just a new phase of their life when the old one is over. Others don’t. They were born to play baseball — and do what ballplayers do off-the-field as well — and don’t know how to function when the game has ended for them.

Pat Jordan’s fantastic story about Johnny Damon reveals Damon to be part of the latter group. It’s a sad read, actually. Drawn from both Jordan’s interview with Damon and stuff from Damon’s autobiography, it paints a portrait of a man who is still reeling from no longer being a major league baseball player and, perhaps, in denial about the need to find out how to live the next 40 or 50 years of his life. Here’s how Jordan describes that generically:

The game has always been an escape from real life for ballplayers, which is why so many dread leaving the game. The game offers a kind of constant certitude; wins and losses are fathomable in a way that real life’s problems aren’t. Real life’s problems aren’t clearly defined and don’t ever seem to get resolved. They linger, frustratingly. After baseball, nothing in real life will ever be as completely, simply and viscerally gratifying.

And his story about Damon reveals that he fits that mold pretty exactly.

Johnny Damon was a great, great ballplayer. Quite underrated, actually. He’s a borderline Hall of Famer, though he won’t get much consideration. Unfortunately, he just doesn’t appear to know how to it into civilian life.

  1. spursareold - Jul 25, 2014 at 9:42 AM

    “We’re all told at some point in time that we can no longer play the children’s game, we just don’t… don’t know when that’s gonna be. Some of us are told at eighteen, some of us are told at forty, but we’re all told.”

    – Moneyball

  2. stoutfiles - Jul 25, 2014 at 9:43 AM

    “Johnny Damon was a great, great ballplayer.”

    http://www.sbnation.com/2012/9/5/3239592/that-guy-the-weak-armed-outfielder-who-takes-300-years-to-get-a-ball

  3. SocraticGadfly - Jul 25, 2014 at 9:54 AM

    Borderline HOFer, or borderline of borderline? That’s why he wants back in the show; he thinks he still has a shot at 3K hits, which he thinks will guarantee Cooperstown.

    Well, it wouldn’t, and he would have no shot at it, if he were hired by some team.

  4. Michael Pellman - Jul 25, 2014 at 10:04 AM

    Loved him with the Sox, hated him as a Yankee. In the words of my daughter, “Let it go, let it go”

    • apkyletexas - Jul 25, 2014 at 6:53 PM

      From the article: “He liked to “party” after games with his teammates, drink booze, smoke pot. He collected women as if they too were toys.”

      Soooo basically – just another Boston hero. Kind of like how Pittsburgh had their hero Roberto Clemente, dying while delivering earthquake relief supplies to Nicaragua…

      • Reflex - Jul 25, 2014 at 11:48 PM

        “Soooo basically – just another professional athlete.”

        Fixed that for you. No charge this time.

      • apkyletexas - Jul 26, 2014 at 2:30 AM

        Must seem that way when you live in Boston.

  5. smoochytherhino - Jul 25, 2014 at 10:07 AM

    Seems to me that getting in to coaching is the way for these guys to stay around the game. It must be a huge life adjustment after baseball. To go from all that traveling, competition, attention and adulation to a life of retirement has got to be jarring.

    I don’t know if he’s got coaching in him, and he may be one of those former players that doesn’t want to climb the ranks (though that seems less necessary these days), but I think that can provide the closest thing to the player experience, and he should go for it.

    For the record, the guy is not nearly a hall of famer, but was a very good player to be sure. If he had stayed long enough with one team, he’d definitely deserve a retired number somewhere.

    • spursareold - Jul 25, 2014 at 10:11 AM

      No team would allow their coaches to party with the players, something JD would definitely want to do.

      • chip56 - Jul 25, 2014 at 10:26 AM

        I’m not sure Damon would want to manage and deal with the media on that level – but Jason Giambi does and ultimately I wonder if the partying reputation will hold him back too.

  6. trbmb - Jul 25, 2014 at 10:11 AM

    I really liked Johnny Damon as a ballplayer. He was a very good player. He was not great, or great, great. Not quite that good.

  7. SocraticGadfly - Jul 25, 2014 at 10:16 AM

    Looks like the Johnny Damon Fan Club and its thumbs-down clickers is visiting already.

  8. zzalapski - Jul 25, 2014 at 10:20 AM

    a painting that mimicked Leonardo da Vinci’s “Last Supper” — Damon takes the part of Christ, and his Red Sox teammates are the 12 disciples. (In Boston, Damon’s teammates and fans used to chant, “WWJDD. What Would Johnny Damon Do?”)

    A-Rod’s centaur self-portrait was deservedly mockable, but at least he didn’t go this far.

  9. chip56 - Jul 25, 2014 at 10:24 AM

    I wouldn’t say he seems lost. Bitter that he didn’t go out on his own terms for sure, maybe still holding out a little glimmer of hope for that phone call – but I don’t think lost.

    • raysfan1 - Jul 25, 2014 at 11:21 AM

      Yeah, not lost as in depressed anyway. Definitely bitter and not adjusting well though.

  10. nomoreliesfortoday - Jul 25, 2014 at 10:35 AM

    So exactly how does he seem lost without baseball? I couldn’t find that little bit of relevant information in the blurb.

    • dsaverno - Jul 25, 2014 at 10:52 AM

      that green line in the blurb, it links to an actual story. You know, the story that Craig gave his opinion on in his blog post. Don’t be so lazy.

  11. pete2112 - Jul 25, 2014 at 10:39 AM

    I would say Chuck Knoblauch has Johnny beat for being lost without baseball.

    • SocraticGadfly - Jul 25, 2014 at 2:00 PM

      “Beat” and “Knoblauch”? Intentional?

  12. birdman6824 - Jul 25, 2014 at 10:42 AM

    Interesting story, but I had to look up the references to Game of Thrones. Since I’m too cheap to pay for HBO, I have no idea what Drogo looks like, and I guess a castle of Westoros could be described as well by many existing castles It seems a writer of his caliber should not have throw in unrelated popular references to make his point.

    P.S. Get off my lawn !

    • tfbuckfutter - Jul 25, 2014 at 10:57 AM

      You should watch Game of Thrones.

      It’s quite good.

      • historiophiliac - Jul 25, 2014 at 11:34 AM

        Boooo!!!!!

    • pftfan - Jul 25, 2014 at 11:39 AM

      Drogo was that dude who killed Apollo Creed!

      • cogitobaseballergosum - Jul 25, 2014 at 4:26 PM

        Frodo’s papa.

  13. tfbuckfutter - Jul 25, 2014 at 10:43 AM

    I mean this as an observation, not a slam….but he never really seemed particularly bright to me. I may have always been thrown off by his voice and speech pattern, I don’t know, and I’m aware it’s my impression and I could be completely off base. But he did seem very child-like.

    But because of that, I really don’t find it hard to believe that he’s not able to manage a grown up life in the real world.

    • pete2112 - Jul 25, 2014 at 10:46 AM

      I think you could apply this sentiment to a lot of baseball players.

      • tfbuckfutter - Jul 25, 2014 at 10:52 AM

        Probably.

        But, like I said, I noticed it specifically when Johnny would speak. Almost like he was borderline disabled. But I don’t know if that’s just because of what seemed like a slight speech impediment or what.

      • pete2112 - Jul 25, 2014 at 10:59 AM

        I know what you’re talking about. I could never put my finger on what it was that he did, but there was something odd about his speech. Although it could have been nerves.

    • blacksables - Jul 25, 2014 at 11:29 AM

      Damon was a quiet child, largely on account of a fluency disorder. “My thoughts just raced ahead of my tongue,” says Damon of his problem then.[when?] “I’d sing songs as therapy, and I got better, but I still just kept quiet most of the time.”[4] – from Wikipedia

      Fluency is a speech language pathology term that means the smoothness or flow with which sounds, syllables, words and phrases are joined together when speaking quickly.[1] “Fluency disorders” is used as a collective term for cluttering and stuttering. Both disorders have breaks in the fluidity of speech, and both have the fluency breakdown of repetition of parts of speech. Fluency disorders are most often complex in nature and they tend to occur more often in boys than in girls.[2]

      Does that help?

      • tfbuckfutter - Jul 25, 2014 at 11:53 AM

        Interesting.

        Thanks.

  14. pinkfloydprism - Jul 25, 2014 at 11:09 AM

    I make my kids help out here. When we are on the deck, I make them get our margaritas…

    Really?

  15. historiophiliac - Jul 25, 2014 at 11:43 AM

    Really? Women = toys? Sigh.

    • historiophiliac - Jul 25, 2014 at 12:36 PM

      Ok, maybe my objection to the article got eaten somehow — I don’t think I used bad words, but I’m not typing the whole thing again. I just want to note that this article is SEXIST and I’m angry that you all would promote it.

      • zzalapski - Jul 25, 2014 at 12:58 PM

        That’s Jordan’s interpretation of Damon’s viewpoint, based on Damon’s past actions with women. That’s not necessarily how Jordan himself thinks about women.

      • historiophiliac - Jul 25, 2014 at 1:04 PM

        He did not have to use the tone he took to make his point. He shames Damon for his parenting but not for the way he treats women. Why? Also, he doesn’t *have* to use that trope to make his point about Damon being immature. He *chooses* that. That’s entirely his own doing. He can make the same point without it. And, if Damon were female, it wouldn’t at all be talked about like that.

      • zzalapski - Jul 25, 2014 at 1:20 PM

        http://www.patjordanstories.com/contact.asp

      • historiophiliac - Jul 25, 2014 at 1:22 PM

        Thanks. I might just. I tweeted to Craig & @SportsonEarth about it. I’ll have to find time tonight to break it down.

  16. johnlink00 - Jul 25, 2014 at 11:44 AM

    Craig only thinks Damon is a borderline HOFer because he once played for the Yankees.

  17. Wesley Clark - Jul 25, 2014 at 11:54 AM

    That was an odd, if not slightly depressing, read. I grew up in Central Florida and remember Damon as a high school player and when he was drafted. It doesn’t seem that long ago, but as they say, father time is undefeated. For all the professional success he has had, adjustment to post-playing life appears to be really difficult for him. The author paints a story where Johnny, even when he is speaking, is aloof. Some people need the day to day grind of knowing exactly what is expected of them. Hope he can figure it all out because that phone with the call back to the majors isn’t coming and he seems like a genuinely lost soul without baseball.

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