THE NEWBERG REPORT — JULY 25, 2006
Seven years ago, our family roster was a lot different. We had no kids yet. Grandma Flo was still around, as was Uncle Bernie. So was Pete.
The Rangers were coming off two playoff seasons in three years, and were 10 weeks away from making it three of four. Pudge and Juando and Raffy and Aaron Sele were the heart of that 1999 team, Rusty and John Wetteland and Jeff Zimmerman its soul.
And now all seven of them are gone, each in a measurably different place.
They’re not really gone.
Right now, that’s how I feel about my father-in-law. He’s gone. But not really.
Pete passed away yesterday morning, following a courageous, challenging battle with cancer. He died peacefully, with his daughters at his side. He spent his final days with his children and his grandchildren, the equivalent for Pete, whose love of baseball was certainly strong enough to earn my admiration very early on, of a sellout crowd.
I’ve known Pete for 16 years. In that time, he redefined himself (though I knew him only one way) with the type of courage, character, and heart that his Astros showed last summer, when they defied the odds and reached the playoffs. Last fall brought the franchise’s first World Series, and Pete’s, too. Days after his first cancer surgery, he was in the ballpark, experiencing the Fall Classic at Minute Maid Park.
Before long, Craig Biggio will be gone, as will Roger Clemens and Jeff Bagwell.
But not really.
I halfway expect to get an email from Pete this morning, with him making a prediction about tonight’s Clemens start at home, and pointing out that he bets Adam Eaton’s Rangers debut will be unusually short since the Yankees are so disciplined at the plate and will probably be especially so tonight, knowing that Eaton will be limited by a pitch count.
I already miss Pete, but there’s a level of comfort in knowing his discomfort has passed.
And I take additional comfort in the fact, one that I’m completely certain of, that while this baseball analogy is clunky and forced, maybe even crass, I know a few people will understand, and maybe even appreciate it. Pete is one of them.
It will be Pete’s and my corny, awkward, clichéd baseball exchange to share. It’s not the first, and I don’t think it will be the last. Because while he’s gone, I don’t feel like he’s really gone.
We used to privately get a kick out of the fact that, at some point during a momentous family occasion, Pete would almost invariably salute the event with the following words, as if he were gracing us with the passage for the first time — every time:
May your troubles be as light as the sea spray.
May your life sail in a well founded vessel.
Full sails in a sea of love,
As deep and strong as the blue ocean.
You always offered those words to celebrate a certain time in the lives of those you loved, Pete. Today they comfort us, and with those very words we pay our deepest respects to you, and gain strength from all the good times we shared.