Put meaning aside for a moment, and think about the tenuous relationship you have with the momentary interactions regarding your immediate surroundings.
For the memory of happy experience you wait longingly even as you perceive, in all manner of inputs, treasured events unfolding. You try to rescue that immediate feeling, already a delicate thought, from the desperate, insatiable hands of infinity. You reach out and try to grasp the fast-escaping experience inside yourself and then suddenly outside of your body and receding, dissipating, fast, and more nebulous, less understandable, the precisely measured image of You, in A Place and occupying A Moment, fading, leaving now, never to return but in the hazy slightest. It's over, almost always over, except in the cases when it is soon to be Reasonably Expected, or on the off-chance you are lucky enough to catch an event, and all possibilities tied within, during the stage of Happening. But that stage, surely, is not to be interrupted. Acknowledging the poignancy of a moment at the moment is breaking the fourth wall; best to let it slide, don't speak up, and hope for the best in the resultant memory of yourself and those beside you.
A wedding attended. A first kiss. A national park visited. Even a fantastic day at work, or a picturesque afternoon. A great ballgame. An intentional walk. The transience of any of these things, especially as the years pass, becomes overbearing. The foggy illusion or shadow of a pleasant memory, at worst; the near-tangible parts, at best, sorely throbbing for lack of immediate and intensely accurate re-creation. And often in these matters your fear of permanent betrayal by the brain, once realized, becomes the standard processing procedure for such wispy information. More fear: the good that happened may not have been as real as promised, the keeping of the supposed memory not worth the lie. The relative permanence of negative neural pathways, codified by insecurity, adds little and takes life.
It's natural to become bitter at these images, these thoughts. You had that glimpse of everything, together, and though other pleasant events will come to pass almost certainly, and maybe even frequently, those, too, will escape without dramatic pause or sentiment, the world leaving you behind again and again and again.
We should have more say in the direction of our memory. There should be more full experience. Always, there should be more, everything satisfying and complete, no stray thoughts to taint a perfectly good future reminiscence. Yet, besides various trusted sources we have come to rely upon almost instinctively, there is no more to what happened than what we've told ourselves already, however reinforced by outsiders. And there's nothing we can do but trust everyone else completely, despite those around us having very little stake in our perceived memory, let alone our sanity.
Jeff Keppinger was walked intentionally at approximately 11:35pm on Friday, June 28, 2013. We know this. Trust me.
The 28th of June was a shitshow from the start. Any summer Friday in Chicago is more hectic than enjoyable before 6 pm, but this particular day had extra promise. The Blackhawks had, four nights prior, sealed a Stanley Cup victory; the parade and Grant Park rally was held in the late morning of that Friday. Booze wasn't technically allowed, but I would be personally disappointed if 70% of that crowd were not wearing a Red Badge of Liquid Courage. The festivities went well, but the city center happened to be almost completely shut down all day; two million hooky-players, boozing while wearing red sweaters under the summer sun, can do that.
So the White Sox had a bit of competition in shitshowmanship on June 28th, and historically, too. A few blocks from the Blackhawks festivities on that day, Wayne Field III was declared not guilty by reason of insanity for breaking into Kenny Williams' house a year-and-a-half previous to enjoy some lobster and steal a World Series ring. Exactly 16 years before the 28th, Mike Tyson bit off Evander Holyfield's ear during a boxing match. Four years before that, GG Allin had finally died of a heroin overdose. Allin's death was 79 years to the day separated from the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which set off World War One, the events of which killed millions and still resonate today. Utterly gracious with accepting the task at hand, our 2013 Chicago White Sox did their best to comply with their role in the painful turns of history, slotting Jeff Keppinger as the designated hitter, batting sixth, in game one of the longest doubleheader featuring two nine-inning games in Major League Baseball history.
It gets worse.
The contests in question were a straight pair of games, White Sox vs. Indians at Comiskey, in which 46 runs were scored over the course of 7 hours and 53 minutes. Since we're in the future, we know that the Sox went 2-17 versus the hated Tribe in 2013, helping the latter limp into a one-game playoff, which they thankfully lost. For some reason the first game on the 28th started at 4:10 pm. Alex Rios showed up to work 6 and ½ hours early, thinking the first game was at 1:10, like a human; I am still saddened for his sake. Perhaps because of his early showing, he sat out the second game, despite the fact that Konerko was sidelined due to having six injections in his back earlier that day. Jeff Keppinger, the reason for your attention at the moment, collected three hits in the game, including a solo shot in the first inning. Indians starter Trevor Bauer lasted two-thirds of an inning. Since this is WSB13 all over our hands, Cleveland won the game. I was at work, and checked into the gamethread in the top of the fourth inning. At 6:01. A bit later, BuehrleMan referenced a doubleheader against the Twins in 2007 that he had the pleasure of attending, the scores of which were 20-14 Twins, followed by 12-0 Twins. June 28th would give BM a run for his money. In the Great Debate of Least Pleasurable Teams, these two twin bills encapsulate their respective seasons quite well. The final score of game one? 19-10, Indians. Oh, and Casper Wells pitched the 9th.
God cried at the completion of the first game (who knows why?), which ended at 8:12, forcing a 25-minute rain delay before the start of game two. Attendance for the nightcap is listed at 28,628, in contrast to the hilariously-archived game-one attendance of "0" on Baseball-Reference, but there could not have been more than 10,000 people surrounding the second game. There were a ton of bugs out, too, by the looks of it. Not a "ten-cent midge night" in Cleveland by any stretch of reality, but one could not be faulted for the reminder of a swarm of locusts nonetheless. It was also the night before the annual SSS meet-up, which featured the first AL opponent and the first loss for those that usually meet up; the Sox were clearly trying to send a message. By now you can see where this is going, if the image isn't seared into your brain already: from the ESPN recap: "...the marathon came to an end after Swisher delivered a crushing blow."
Keppinger was having himself a pretty good day, however, dovetailing perfectly with the least enjoyable day of White Sox fandom in recent memory. On top of his game one exploits, game two featured him starting at first base for the third time in the 2013 season, and batting fourth. Besides the intentional walk, GOK hit two solid singles; the first loaded the bases, the second plated a run. After the IBB, he went on to hit an RBI triple on a slicing fly ball that got past a sliding Drew Stubbs. He also made a nifty play at first, taking away a single from Michael Brantley, and was the receiving end of a successful pick-off by Jesse Crain, nailing Mark Reynolds. It's fair to say Keppy was playing professional baseball on June 28th.
Really, though, to the meat of the issue: Bottom six, just before 11:36 pm, according to Anohito's comment in the gamethread. The Sox added a couple runs in the inning to make it 5-4 Cleveland, while running the pitch count to 109, chasing Carlos Carrasco. Rich Hill replaced him, promptly giving up a two-run single to Adam Dunn, who came back from an 0-2 count to shoot a curveball on the outside corner up the middle, improving his record to 3 for 19 vs. the lefty Hill. 6-5 Good Guys. After missing outside to Keppinger for 1-0, Hill sends a wild pitch inside, advancing Dunn to 2nd. That's when Francona calls for the unthinkable. He gives the sign: four fingers up, tucked-under thumb. Some fans actually booed when Santana held his glove way outside; remember that a good bunch of them were already at the eight-hours-at-the-ballpark mark. Keppy, the consummate professional, adopts a semblance of his fucking batting stance for the 2-0 and 3-0 pitches. Then he jogs to first. And that was that. History, in the most literal sense.
[No one in this photo knows what the hell is going on. "Booooooooo."]
Morel, pinch hitting for Gillaspie, drew a four-pitch unintentional walk immediately following the GOK IBB, as the Sox batted around. Though Keppinger doesn't score after his base-on-balls, it's fair to say the Indians were beatable on June 28th.
But we know what happened later. The final was 9-8, Indians, on a four-run meltdown by Reed, including the FNS solo homer. If the game were in Cleveland, the Sox could have exited the field, having failed miserably as a team, no big deal. Too easy; there's more pain to be had. Vinnie Pestano struck out the side in the bottom half of the ninth, interrupted only by a four-pitch walk to Casper Wells. In like a bobcat, maybe. Out like an eviscerated, half-burned lamb as it's dragged through the town square and hung from a bridge. Highlights at 10.
I've had a difficult time writing this piece because I've been dwelling on "meaning" and "experience." I've tried to meld the two together. I've tried keeping them completely separate. I suppose, ultimately, I just want to write on how utterly meaningless, and concurrently terrible, quintessential, and disheartening this singular event was in terms of baseball on the south side in 2013. In all the gravity of the word disheartening, in the richness of the in-game experience, the GOK IBB stands solid, alone, Keppy as the Emperor, clothed in the respectability of an intentional walk.
Pardon me for dwelling on meaning so much. As a fan it can be difficult to control emotions, even six months later. I get all worked up, at least when the Sox don't inspire insipid numbness. This should be about the experience of baseball. The meaning that I recently attempted to inject into what records show was an intentional walk by and to Jeff Keppinger is false; the only meaning available in regarding such a situation is the walk itself, the experience of Jeff Himself and of the viewer, the fan, the reader, the archivist. I provide no reflection, and for that I am sorry. If you are able to live in the experience itself, if you are able to take an intentional walk as GOK, then you have your meaning and certainly don't need it ascribed by some asshole outsider. If that level of empathy is commonplace to your worldview, you may stop reading now.
I have my meaning as related to the intentional walk, but it's not what I had hoped for. This work is far from what I remember envisioning. I wonder why I wrote down one little tidbit, a simple idea, and then watched the same video from the bottom of the sixth over and over. I wonder why I've spent hours writing this... thing. I wonder why Keppy took an intentional free pass, such an improbable event, on the same day shared by other demoralizing and improbable baseball events. I realize that Francona made the right call, and not just based on results, yet the improbability was still the attraction. I wanted more, and still do. I know that these individual actions, and even the bigger picture, don't point or connect to life-changing patterns or themes. This exercise is pointless, perhaps, but then again why do we do or watch anything, but to have a memory of something sweet, elusive, pure? There's that constant want.
While it may be impossible for one to remember where they were exactly during the night of June 28th, 2013, around 11:35 pm, well, that's not to say that given moments don't demand importance. In general retrospect it's often the seemingly unimportant parcels of time that end up cultivating real change. But that might not be the point. A reader should not stay on the lookout for such moments, trivial or not, in order to spare themselves from mind-bending boredom and instability. Give over your want for meaning, sure, but also find different meaning in new experience. That our memory is so terribly imperfect, while not irrelevant, should not be the deciding factor. Collect all six million specific memories. Sift through the bullshit, such as the one conveniently researchable event of which I have no specific recollection that I happen to be imparting on you, the existence of which I use to implore you to respect the details, as I float through games more likely to spend yet a few more seconds talking on GOK's stance rather than his stats. Yes, pay attention to this, all of it.
Though short-term memory, hesitantly flippant, decides on its own that which it leaves behind, the same dependable passage of time allows pain to dissipate, disappointment to subside. We can thank the limits of our memory in many a case; perhaps to that credit we can continue to be entertained by Jeff Keppinger and remain fans of White Sox Baseball, ever in search of the right recollections, those elusive sustaining memories that keep us coming back.