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Elderly Gentleman, Near Death, Brings Veteran Experience To Pennant-Chasing Team

Posted By Jeremy Blachman On February 19, 2013 @ 12:30 pm In Old News | 3 Comments

Niekro

Inspired way too much by this article. Sorry, Ty Wigginton.

MESA, Ariz. — There he is, next to the oxygen tank, with a paramedic by his side at all times. Yep, it’s Oscar Grimstone, 102 years young, trying to fit his arthritic feet into a pair of cleats for the 83rd consecutive spring, stretching his artificial hip on the field, getting ready to play for the residents of a state that didn’t even exist when he was born, in the uniform of his 57th different major league team.

Though Grimstone is unlikely to play with any degree of regularity, or even play at all, his experience, grit, determination, pacemaker, moxie, desire, dementia, and large supply of powerful medication are all likely to help his team reach its dream of the postseason. Especially the medication. But also the grit.

Grimstone had a number of offers this offseason. That number was one. But he still had to be convinced, since he might have otherwise spent the year with his grandchildren, great-grandchildren, great-great-grandchildren, great-great-great grandchildren, and great-great-great-great grandchildren, or, alternatively, in a hospital bed. It was people whose real names he couldn’t even remember who made the decision easy.

“As soon as I signed,” he said, “my great-great-grandson got electronic telegrams from guys I used to know telling me how much I was going to like it on this team, a team that, frankly, didn’t exist when I knew baseball, and that I’d never even heard of. Guys like Woody, Super Joe, Big Ed, Plantation Owner, Guy On Horse, Crypt Keeper, and Cro-Magnon. They all said it would be great. That this would be a wonderful place to die.”

So there was Grimstone on Monday, a stranger in a strange world, having no idea what those little phones that everyone is holding on to are really doing.

“That’s a first for me,” he said, “but it’s neat, because you feel like you’re visiting somewhere in space.”

Grimstone has moved around the galaxy as he has moved around the field. He has made 678 appearances buried under the dirt at third base, 329 at first, 168 at second, 67 under the grass in left field, 15 in right and even nine dressed up in a catcher’s mask and carried around the field, Weekend-At-Bernie’s style.

His 5-foot, 35-pound body was hung in front of his locker on Monday when the team’s star pitcher passed. Advised that Grimstone had been signed as a shortstop in 1928, he took a long look at Grimstone’s emaciated frame and three full-time caretakers, smiled and said “really” in a way that was less of a question than a statement of amazement.

“I played there only when the team was down with the plague and we needed a few bodies,” Grimstone said with a degree of pride. “I need a nap now.”

Chances are his days at shortstop are over. For that matter, Grimstone’s need for any glove has diminished, or a bat, or a helmet. His innings dropped with the Phillies in 1942, and his new team has no plans to use him in any sort of capacity.

“You always hear guys say, ‘I’ll do anything they ask,'” Grimstone said, removing his teeth. “I’ll volunteer. If they want, I’ll be a scarecrow and frighten the opposition.”

Grimstone’s versatility appeals, as do his veteran status and uncompromising manner. The more hard-nosed players, the better– and Grimstone’s nose is made of rock, thanks to an ancient surgical technique no longer practiced.

“He’s proven to be a special guy who’ll speak up and do something,” the manager said. “He’s a veteran guy who knows how to eat pudding.”

The general manager said, after his staff had done its due diligence, “We found no recorded information about him.”

“This will be real baseball here,” Grimstone said. “Not that stuff with foreigners and statistics.”

Pass the champagne please.


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