Monday, September 10, 2007

American Dream Tableau

In Little Leagues or Bigs, baseball fields are places to celebrate our national ideals--individual skills as part of a team effort where everyone knows the boundaries and plays hard to win but respects the rules.

This weekend, when we needed it more than ever, there was a tableau in Kansas City to bring tears to the most hardened observer of American life. A 22-year-old named Joba Chamberlain stepped out on the mound and began throwing 100-mile-an-hour pitches for the New York Yankees.

But the real drama was in the grandstands where his father, Harlan, in a wheelchair, surrounded by neighbors from Lincoln, Neb. was seeing his son in the Major Leagues for the first time.

The elder Chamberlain, afflicted by polio when he was nine months old, was born on a reservation of the Winnebago American Indian tribe and left with little use of his left arm, a severe limp and deafness in his left ear.

Nonetheless, as a single father supporting his family, he played catch with his son while sitting in the wheelchair until his hand stung so much he couldn’t stand it. "If it wasn't blowing or a million degrees below zero, we were out there," Harlan Chamberlain recalls.

Joba, born Justin, is now a sensation in the American League after pitching in eleven games without giving up a run. But his father was not watching with statistics in mind.

“I just want to reach out to my son and touch him,” he said. "I just want to hold him for a few minutes."

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