Back in the late 1940s, the Boston Braves had two excellent starting pitchers — Warren Spahn and Johnny Sain — and a host of other guys collectively dismissible as Joe Lunchmeat. The logical question arose as to whether such a lack of depth at pitching would allow the team to be competitive. After all, any given pitcher can start only once every four or five games.
The question was answered by a mischievous Boston Post editor named Gerald V. Hern, who was, like me, a joyful practitioner of doggerel. Hern famously argued that the Braves would be fine so long as they had a little luck. He wrote:
First we’ll use Spahn
Then we’ll use Sain.
Then, an off day
Followed by rain.
Back will come Spahn
followed by Sain
By two days of rain.
I thought of this poem a few weeks ago when I realized that my beloved Yankees were in an even more dire situation than the Braves had been. Because of injuries, they had only one good starting pitcher left — Japanese phenom Masahiro Tanaka — followed by their own Lunchmeat army. So, I posted the following homage on Twitter:
First, it’s Tanaka,
Then some rain,
Then for a shocka,
Rain once again,
Then some hail,
Then some snow,
Tanaka can go.
Wonder where I am taking his column? You wouldn’t if you follow sports. Something remarkable happened on the very night of the very day my poem hit Twitter. Tanaka took the mound in Cleveland and blew out his elbow. On the day I am writing this, grim-faced Yankee executives have placed their ace pitcher on the disabled list for an indefinite period of time.
What I am trying to say is, the Weingarten Jinx lives, if in slightly altered form.
Readers of this column know that time and again over the last several years, luminaries have suffered grave misfortune — okay, death — within mere days of my having written about them. It started with Ted Kennedy, then Tim Russert, then Andy Rooney, then Gabriel García Márquez. Killed them all. In another case, I didn’t actually kill a living person, I killed a living legend. Topps decided to terminate Bazooka Joe days after I joked in this space about the eye-patched king of the groaners.
In one sense, this new development is good. Maybe my mojo is losing its lethal edge. But it’s still destructive, clearly. I’m praying that Tanaka will be fine. Still, this does all get me thinking in productive ways. After all, by now word of my powers must have spread.
There must be a lot of celebrities, particularly those of a certain age, who might, you know, be hearing footsteps. Perhaps I might give them a call. It would go something like this:
Me: Joan Rivers?
Me: Ms. Rivers, this is Gene Weingarten. Have you heard of me?
Joan: My God, what do you want with me?
Me: Nothing much. It’s just that I’ve been feeling a few Joan Rivers jokes coming on. …
Joan: Forget them, and I will send you $47,000.
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