You’ll never guess who it is because you’ve probably never heard of him. But Louie Lazar of the New York Times tells us in this wonderful profile from the other day. It’s Rinaldo Ardizoia, who pitched for the Yankees in one game in 1947. He’s still alive — at age 95 — and living in San Francisco.
Ardizoia’s story is fantastic, not because it’s a tale of sports glory. It’s not. He had that one big league game and a decent career in the Pacific Coast League. He made some memories and some friends in baseball along the way. And then, in his 30s, just lived his life with his wife and children and job.
The part of this story that appeals to me is that, unlike every other story you see about some person who lives to 95 or older, it’s not painted as totally rosy and happy and carefree. Oh, there’s nothing tragic here — Ardizoia sounds like he has lived a good and rich life – but Lazar includes the parts where he talks about the important people in his life passing on. About how there are things about young people today he doesn’t care for. About how, at 95, not every day is a good full day and how there is a sense, however happy Ardizoia may be, that things are winding down.
That stuff is usually glossed over in profiles of the elderly. Not because the elderly play that down necessarily. Indeed, almost all older people I’ve talked to mention those who have passed and the mixed feelings that come with growing old quite readily. They’re not afraid of it. It just is. These people lived through World Wars and depressions and worse. They can face up to mortality just fine.
No, it’s usually because the writer, I think, is uncomfortable with it and maybe fears growing old themselves on some level. And, as a result, they paint nearly impossibly rosy and happy pictures of people growing old.
But not Lazar. And, as a result, he tells a wonderful, wonderful story.