Two Kid Pitchers Arrive in New York this Week and I’m Reminded of Ragtime – the Broadway Musical

Did you ever see the Broadway show Ragtime? I was lucky enough to see it on Broadway at the end of the 1990’s. Maybe you saw a touring production of it elsewhere. Ragtime is a musical adapted from the novel of the same name – Ragtime which was written by E. L. Doctorow in 1975.

The musical theatrical production of Ragtime has a book by Terence McNally, lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, and the music was composed by Stephen Flaherty. I saw the show just the one time, and I’ve never forgotten it.

Ragtime tells the story of three groups in the United States and is set very early in the 1900’s. It was a time of great energy. The automobile had been invented – and the most notable members of that era were Henry Ford, J.P. Morgan, Booker T. Washington, Evelyn Nesbitt (the girl on the red velvet swing), Stanford White ( Mesbitt’s lover and the murdered New York architect), Harry K Thaw (Thaw’s killer), Emma Goldman (the anarchist), Admiral Perry, and the magician Harry Houdini. 

To set everything in its proper place, the murder of Stanford White was called The Crime of the Century. It was 1906, and the century still had 94 years to go.

The groups included African-Americans living in Harlem, and represented by Coalhouse Walker Jr, a successful musician.

In Harlem, men and women of color forgot their troubles and danced and reveled to the music of  Coalhouse Walker, Jr. This was a music that was theirs and no one else's.

In Harlem, men and women of color forgot their
troubles and danced and reveled to the music of
Coalhouse Walker, Jr. This was a music that was theirs
and no one else’s.

The second group was the suburbanites living in New Rochelle, New York where, as the lyrics from the song Ragtime tell us: ‘The days were gently tinted – lavender, pink, lemon, and lime. Ladies with parasols. Fellows with tennis balls. There were gazebos and no negroes’. They were represented by Mother, the matriarch of an upper class white family.

The third group was the immigrants from Eastern Europe. They resided in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. They were represented by Tateh, a Jewish immigrant from Latvia.

In Latvia, a man dreamed of a new life for his little girl. It would be a long journey, a terrible one. He could not lose her as he had her mother.  His name was Tateh. He never spoke of his wife. The Little Girl was all he had now. Together, they would escape.

In Latvia, a man dreamed of a new life for his little girl.
It would be a long journey, a terrible one.
He could not lose her as he had her mother.
His name was Tateh. He never spoke of his wife.
The Little Girl was all he had now.
Together, they would escape.

Yes, not unexpectedly, and quite soon in the production, all of these disparate and separate people would intersect in and near the melting pot of New York City.

Anyway, after the opening prologue, we find ourselves at sea, figuratively of course. On one ship, Father was on his way to Europe and then on to the North Pole with Admiral Perry – the noted Arctic explorer and adventurer.

The other ship was a rag ship, so-called because such ships were not in the best condition, and were generally filled to the gunwales with immigrants hoping for a better life in New York, many of whom would end up in the rag trade – or as we know it today – the clothing business.

The songs Goodbye My Love and Journey On are sung as the ships pass in the night on their fated journeys. From the lyrics:

Two ships passing
In the kinship
Of the darkness

One going from

One coming to

…America

Two men meeting
At the moment
Of a journey.
For a moment,
In the darkness,
We’re the same…

We’re two ships passing
At a distance,
Through the darkness,

One going from

One coming to

…America

Strangers sharing
The beginnings
Of a journey

[Father] I salute you

[Tateh] God be with you

[Mother] I will miss you

In the darkness
of the dawn – Journey On!

All of which is a preamble. I’m not going to further discuss either the music, the book, the film or the impact of Ragtime – other than to say that my own grandparents made such a perilous journey, on a similar ship, so I feel a kinship.

But really, this post is about the arrival of two pitchers – one for the New York Yankees – 21-year-old Luis Severino from Sabana Del Mar in the Dominican Republic, and one for the Boston Red Sox – 23-year-old Henry Owens from Huntington Beach, California.

They were each called up to the major leagues this week and they each made their Major League Baseball (MLB) debuts. Owens pitched on Tuesday, and Severino pitched last night, which was Wednesday.

While neither traveled by ship, and neither’s journey could be considered either long or perilous, each arrived in New York this week. What was at stake – only their future careers and hopes to become a success while pitching for a Major League Baseball club. It is quite likely that Severino sat in the Yankees dugout on Tuesday night and watched as Owens took the mound for the 1st time in a major league uniform in a MLB stadium. For the record, Yankees Stadium is as grand a stage to begin your career as any Broadway stage. So it was not  a night that we would ever think these young men would be free of nervous butterflies or actually quaking in their spikes. But even if they were only somewhat scared or completely terrified, they still had to go out and pitch the game.

No doubt Henry Owns was nervous. He would yield a run on two hits and a walk in the opening stanza. He struck out Jacoby Ellsbury to open the game. Chris Young then reached base on an infield single. Alex Rodriguez then walked. Mark Teixeira then lined a single to centerfield which scored Young. That caught Owen’s attention and he was able to right his ship which appeared to be floundering without further damage. He stranded both Rodriguez and Teixeira as he got MCann to fly out to centerfield, then got Beltran to pop out.

The Score was 1 zip at that point. Following a single by Yankee third baseman Chase Headley, to open the second inning, Owens would then set down the next 12 Yankees in a row. In the top of the 5th inning, Boston plated two runs, so by the time the Yankees came up in the bottom of the sixth, they trailed 2-1.  Owens started the bottom of the sixth and gave up two quick hits. Boston Manager John Farrell, then decided to pull Owens out of the game. However, the preventative cure failed. Relief pitcher Robbie Ray came in and was greeted by three straight hits. By the time the inning concluded, the Yanks led 4-2 and three of those runs were charged to Owens.

Boston would score a single run in the top of the 7th. But the Yankees exploded for 9 runs in the bottom of the 7th, and the lead increased to 13-3. Boston would not recover from such a huge deficit. So Henry Owens, in his first appearance, ended with him being charged with three earned runs as well as the Loss of the game.

In summary, Owens went five-plus innings, allowing five hits and three runs, all earned. He walked one, struck out five, and threw 59 of his 96 pitches for strikes.

His journey has included stops in the Red Sox organization in places like Pawtucket, Rhode Island, Portland, Maine, Salem, Virginia, and Greenville, South Carolina. But for a SoCal  boy, to reach the major leagues and make his debut in a baseball palace like New York’s Yankee Stadium, this must have been a thrilling experience. Despite the loss, this was considered an excellent debut.

Though it is too early for any of us to be able to make a determination about Henry Owens, he looks like he will do well pitching the major leagues.

His next outing will be in Detroit vs the Tigers this coming Sunday.

Luis Severino’s journey began back in 2012 when he was signed by the New York Yankees and given a bonus of $225,000. Not bad money for an 18-year-old to get his hands on. Severino would play in the Dominican Summer League then he would proceed to make his way through the Yankees organization. His minor league stops would include, Charleston, South Carolina, Tampa, Florida, Trenton, New Jersey, and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in Pennsylvania.  He was considered the most prized jewel of all their prospects by the Yankee brass.

Recently, at least before his call up to the Yankees, it wasn’t so much that the Yankees PR machine hyped the hell out of this kid. Rather, it wasn’t what they did to promote his value – instead it was what they refused to do that made the news. The Yankees simply refused to trade him, or include him in any deal they might have wanted to make to improve their somewhat tattered pitching staff. One from a list of such luminaries as Johnny Cueto, Cole Hamels, or David Price may have been wearing the Yankee pinstriped uniform today if the Yankees had decided to trade Severino.

But they didn’t. Instead they kept him.

He made his debut last night, and as the lyrics of the song  On Broadway state:

They say the neon lights are bright… on Broadway.

Severino not only made his debut at Yankee Stadium, but the game was televised nationally by ESPN. So how did Severino do? Well, he lost the game, but he pitched brilliantly as he yielded just two hits, and gave no walks while striking out seven batters. But he did make two mistakes – one to Alejandro De Aza who smashed a double off the wall in right center field following a fielding error. So the first run crossed the plate.

The second run crossed when fellow Dominican, David Ortiz, crushed a dead-center Severino fast ball, depositing it very deep into the Rightfield grandstand. And that was enough to defeat the Yankees and Severino. The final tally was 2-1 Red Sox.  Severino pitched 5 innings and he excited the crowd.

Yankee GM Brian Cashman had stated that he wouldn’t trade Severino in any deal proposed to him. And that Severino would be called up and put into the rotation. Well that day has come and gone. Expectations are quite high for this youngster.

Will he be up to the challenge? No one knows at this point, but Severino’s next start will be most likely be next Tuesday vs the Cleveland Indians.

So for Henry Owens and Luis Severino it seems appropriate to wish them all the best.  So to Henry and Luis – Journey On.

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