Robert Haydon Jones
and Matthew Levine

Matthew Levine
“By Last Light”
Inspiration piece

Last Game
By Robert Haydon Jones

Jimmy O’Hara lived in Connecticut and like most people in the state, he battled Winter tooth and nail until around Ash Wednesday– when suddenly there was Spring — right around the corner!

For decades Jimmy reveled in the surprise. He had survived Winter. He would celebrate St Patrick’s and Easter. He would appear again on the baseball fields. He had been a player and then a Manager, and for the past 29 years, an Umpire.

His last game had been behind the plate in the Fall League. It had been a crisp, well-pitched game. The Home Team was down 2 going into the final inning. The first two batters grounded out. Then after a bloop single and a walk, a line drive to left center rolled all the way to the fence. The relay was slow coming in and the kid scored the winning run standing up.

The happy victors ran past Jimmy and congratulated the home run hitter. It was a perfect game to go out on. So, Jimmy decided right then to retire. He told Rudy, his field ump, this was his last game. Rudy was surprised. He asked Jimmy if he was sure. He told Jimmy he had gotten all his calls right. That he had a great game.

Jimmy was sure. He was going to be 82 in February. His three sons from his first marriage (all real good ball players in their time) were constantly on him to quit umpiring before he shocked a kid forever by croaking on the field. Anne, his wife, had understood how important it was to Jimmy for him to keep on umping, but when Jimmy came home and told her he was done, she said she was glad. She said she was glad he would never shock a high school kid forever by croaking on the field.

Jimmy knew that he might be lured back, so he gave his new, expensive facemask to Pete Goddard, an umpire in his late 60’s and like Jimmy, a former Marine. Jimmy then put all his gear in a big carton. The plan was for Pete Goddard to offer chest protectors, shin guards, jackets, trousers and jerseys to the new umpires as they reported for training. Hell, he even had padded shoes for any umps that happened to be his size.

But as Fall ran into Winter, Jimmy realized he had made a stupid mistake. He was grieving for baseball like he had lost a buddy. Baseball had been a safe space for Jimmy for 75 years. Now suddenly it was gone. Losing his refuge unleashed pain
Jimmy had not felt for a long, long time. It really hurt.

Then Anne got sick. That had never been part of Jimmy’s plan. His wife had always been the strong one. But Jimmy turned out to be a good companion.
He even kept out of the way when the real nurses came and did their thing.

But Anne got worse. She had to be admitted to the big teaching hospital so they could figure out what was wrong. It turned out Anne needed surgery for a hernia. She had a tough recovery. She came home finally and gradually got a little better. But Anne couldn’t exercise much anymore. She had bad tremors in her hands that would never go away. The Doctors told Jimmy he should go real easy on the travel.

All of a sudden, they were old.

Anne still calls most of the shots.

Jimmy does almost all of the shopping. In early March, Jimmy planted three Oak trees and a Weeping Cherry. In early June they hope to travel to visit their son in San Francisco for a Family Celebration of Anne’s 80th birthday.

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  1. Posted March 18, 2020 at 5:04 am | #

    This is a classic!

  2. Posted March 19, 2020 at 4:32 pm | #

    It’s Ok. You’ve umped enough. Plenty of roses still to smell.

  3. Posted March 19, 2020 at 7:46 pm | #

    So proud of you Robert! You just got better and better. This is beautiful valedictory writing. Now begin your own memoir if you feel the need, the itch. Share all the rest of your amazing stories…..Cheers Pal. Well done.

  4. Posted March 19, 2020 at 7:59 pm | #

    As an old Marine myself–and a baseball nut, I’ll miss Jimmy, and of course R.H.J.!! His pen is very special, and he too is a Marine, so that combination has been wonderful for years. Now that doesn’t mean that Robert will drop his pen, and ride off into retirement from creating such wonderful stuff! Once a Marine always a Marine–once a writer always a writer! I salute you, R.H.J.–Happy Days–Jack Orth

  5. Posted March 21, 2020 at 11:34 am | #

    One might say “another victim of aging falls by the wayside” but not this guy, he has proven over and over again how resilient he is and will soon be back with a lot of life to live!!

  6. Posted March 23, 2020 at 6:50 pm | #

    An 80-year-old umpire? Wonders never cease! Proud of you!

  7. Posted March 24, 2020 at 11:34 am | #

    We all get old, even Bob, and he brings it home with all its truth, and still leaves us old guys feeling not too bad about it.

  8. Posted April 3, 2020 at 7:37 am | #

    There is a hurt to this story. A base sad. Grief. A love thing said goodbye to. A time when sayings like, “this too shall pass,” just won’t work. Because it’s the passing that’s the thing.The finality of it. You nailed it, Jones. And always — great artwork Mathew.

  9. Posted January 31, 2021 at 9:00 am | #

    Hey… there’s no crying in baseball!

    Alas Jimmy has come back down to Earth. As long as Anne still calls the shots, all will be well with the weeping cherry