Dome Luck

"I'm having a terrible life," said Colin.
The two ladies who heard his lament burst into strangled hoots. Unlike some you might point to, this pair of women were not entirely insensitive to a man's pain. One was even his mother.

But Colin is only 5 years old. Naturally he has more drama than perspective. Even strangers recognize with a single glance that his blue jeans are without patches, that here is a child who swims in pools of affection deeper than a summer trout's. The boy's misery is a wonder.

Convinced that life's struggle is uneven, Colin has hinged his survival upon improvement. (On New Year's Day, he resolved to stick up more for himself and to stop ratting out his older brother, Roarke.) He practices for his upcoming T-ball debut with the dedication of Cal Ripkin.

Colin's combination of anxiety and pluck anchored his nickname, "Knuckles."
On the Arizona Diamondbacks' opening day, Colin pounded his black, Wilson glove with a tiny fist. Again, and yet again, Knuckles slapped leather. He was determined to catch a foul ball.

Instead, the little boy snatched a miracle at the ballyard.
Eight-year-old Roarke, meanwhile, had his own pregame ritual.
He slipped into his Boston Red Sox tee shirt before heading out to Jerry Colangelo's much ballyhooed Bank One Ballpark. Roarke became a convert to the Red Sox nation--the only franchise in professional sports operating under a hex--after watching Roger Clemens pitch for the New England nine.

Though only a third grader, Roarke believed in tradition. It was his old glove, handed down, that "Knuckles" wore.

In the days leading up to the premiere of major-league baseball in Arizona, press coverage, like Sputnik, lost touch with the pull of gravity. Baseball wasn't just a metaphor for life; it became the very plasma of the cosmos, and the Diamondbacks' managing general partner, Jerry Colangelo, was our cosmonaut.

The hoopla was not a surprise. Since the awarding of the franchise three years ago, the pressure had built until baseball became more manic than major league. The sales tax that financed all but a third of the stadium was so controversial that Colangelo's political ally, Mary Rose Wilcox, was shot in her behind by an outraged citizen.

Certainly Knuckles was not the only fellow without perspective.
It was reported on the front page that Colangelo responded to the shooting by installing bulletproof glass in his offices. But if he'd once been the focus of death rays, Colangelo was now timeless, ageless, a titan.

Profiled days before the game in these pages by Deborah Laake, Colangelo dropped his air hose long enough to reveal that he was a CEO who craved the public's affection. He was not the first man to need unqualified love, he was simply one of the few to seek it from journalists.

Laake disclosed that Colangelo personally berated the Pulitzer-prize-winning editorial cartoonist Steve Benson, as well as the morning paper's signature columnist and Pittsburgh Pirates apologist E.J. Montini. Colangelo informed the writer that he had betrayed their mutual Italian heritage by saying negative words about the sports mogul.

Colangelo believed he was Italy.
Laake also discovered that Colangelo had recently attacked Janice Goldstein, a confrontation so off-balance that it made one queasy. Like most fights, its origins were improbable.

People get injured at ballgames.
On March 16, 1992, Oakland Athletics' pitcher Matt Keough was almost killed by a line drive as he sat in the dugout in Scottsdale during spring training. The errant hardball ended the hurler's career. More often than you might imagine, fans also snare foul tips with their skull casings. Think about it: Is there any glove large enough to protect a 5-year-old?

To thwart potential lawsuits, a recent bill at the statehouse exempted team owners from liability.

Janice Goldstein has represented the Arizona Trial Lawyers Association since statehood. If an attorney is discovered inside an ambulance trying to breath life into a corpse, it is her responsibility to explain the barrister's behavior. Of course she lampooned the proposed legislation, labeling it the "Colangelo Protection Act." That's her job.

Goldstein said Colangelo threatened her, telling her, "I have a long memory and I know my enemies." She felt intimidated enough that she reported the bullying to her lawyer. Colangelo denied behaving like Frank Nitti, but what was he thinking when he called Goldstein in the first place?

Because Roarke and Knuckles never discussed Colangelo at recess, they headed to the ballpark with only the game on their minds. They were unaware that all around them, and for years, adults had lost all sense of proportion about baseball.

Once inside the ballpark, the boys were thunderstruck by the new stadium and the opening festivities.

Parachutists descended, fireworks erupted, men rappelled from the highest points of the structural steel to deposit the bases. Willie Mays stood in the outfield and waved to everyone. Film clips replayed the game's most historic moments on the scoreboard's enormous screen; suddenly, the stadium reverberated with that courageous speech of Lou Gehrig's: "I'm the luckiest man on the face of the Earth." Gehrig's words echoed over each other precisely as they had done on July 4, 1939. It gave you a chill.

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