I went to a wedding reception over the weekend and saw a few kids I sort of knew in high school. It wasn’t really awkward, as we had never been close, or really even friends, but both sides did sort of look the other one up and down and make judgments, I’m sure. I know I did.
This experience got me thinking in a sort of Dazed and Confused vein: If you could decide when your life peaked, at one point or another, when would it be? Would you get it over with in junior high? Or would your life be a mighty crescendo, building to when you robbed a bank at age 84 or when your band opened for a bigger band at the 9:30 Club or Arlene’s Grocery and you got your name in the music listings of The Village Voice? Most likely, you would not choose to have it happen in high school, or just after. It’s almost too cliché.
But what about Roger Salkeld? A pre-Moneyball fireballer out of Saugus High School in California, being a first-round draft pick was not meant to be a cap on his stunning high school feats, it was meant to be the rumble of a bass line announcing his arrival and your departure—back to the bench, back to the dugout, back to the minors, back to your homes, back into the night—all with one thought: Salkeld is here and we can’t remember what it was like without him.
What would’ve been more accurate would’ve been for the Score photographer to get a nice closeup of his pitching arm (and the Score copywriter could’ve written about the many ways it could get hurt), as it’s the reason Salkeld only won ten games over his short career.
Roger, what I’m trying to say is that while you may have peaked in high school and had a lousy career, you didn’t get the short end of the stick: You ended up with a handful of optimistic baseball cards. Take heart in that tonight when you howl at the moon.