In his new autobiography, “The Closer,” Rivera writes about how much affection he has for his former teammate, but adds, “This guy has so much talent I don’t know where to start… There is no doubt that he is a Hall-of-Fame caliber (player). It’s just a question of whether he finds the drive you need to get there. I don’t think Robby burns to be the best… You don’t see that red-hot passion in him that you see in most elite players.”
As for his favorite second baseman, Rivera says Red Sox Dustin Pedroia is “at the top of the list” of players he admires, adding: “Nobody plays harder, gives more, wants to win more. He comes at you hard for twenty-seven outs. It’s a special thing to see.”
He later writes, “If I have to win one game, I’d have a hard time taking anybody over Dustin Pedroia as my second baseman.”
It is a touching story. Mike, who we called “Getty,” was my best friend in middle school. We collected comics, records, and pined for someone to take us to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show at the 8th Street Playhouse. Getty did not care about sports. At all.
My mother once took a group of us to Yankee Stadium for my birthday to see the Angels because Reggie Jackson was my favorite player. We sat in the bleachers. Mike made a placard at home and brought it with him. It read: Reggie Sucks. During batting practice, Reggie shagged flies near us and Getty waved the placard and yelled at him. At one point, Reggie turned in our direction, grabbed his crotch and spit on the ground. Getty whooped and laughed, his mission accomplished.
He was a political kid. Both of Getty’s parents were social workers and so he came by his left-leaning attitudes naturally. (I remember him railing about something once when we were in high school. We were in the car with his father, who was a funny guy, and his dad said, “Michael, you are the only socialist I know with a bank card.”) By the time we were upperclassmen in high school, Mike had gone through the Clash and the Sex Pistols and was listening to the Dead Kennedys and Jello Biafra. He was the only guy we knew who was into the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Fishbone and Bad Brains.
His senior quote came from a Chili Peppers song: Don’t be a slave/No one can tell you/You’ve got to be afraid.
Getty was an angry kid (then again, so was I). He couldn’t wait to get to college. We had a falling out by then and I didn’t talk to him again for more than twenty years. But because we still had some of the same interests, I ran into him periodically: at a rest stop in New Jersey in 1994 or ’95 on the way home from a Mumia Abu Jamal demonstration in Philadelphia; at Fat Beats, a hip hop record store in the village; in ’96, on the night the Yankees won the Whirled Serious, at a De La Soul/Fishbone concert at Roseland; on the subway platform of the Carroll Street station in Brooklyn. I approached him at the rest stop after the Mumia Abu Jamal rally and startled him. It was clear that he didn’t want to reconnect so the other times I saw him–“Getty Sightings”–I left him alone.
I was surprised, then, when he reached out to me about five or six years ago. We exchanged e-mails and whatever hard feelings that might have existed were gone. We didn’t see each other but touched base every now and then. Mike had become a baseball fan through his wife who was–and is–nuts for the Mets. I thought that was amusing coming from a guy who loved to ridicule overpaid, conceited jocks.
Mike suffered with Crohn’s and he died too young. Go figure that baseball would provide distraction and comfort for him. His encounter with R.A. Dickey was moving. You know, when we were kids, Getty laughed in the movie theater at the end of Terms of Endearment when everyone else sobbed. During The Breakfast Club when the kids bared their souls and the theater was quiet, Getty cackled. He was allergic to sentiment. But after R.A. Dickey called him on the phone, Mike cried. And I think he’d very much appreciate Coffey’s article.
Yet another reason to pull for Mr. Dickey who sounds like some kind of mensch.