Ron Darling On Turning 50: Please, No Party
When Ron Darling made his first start for the New York Mets on September 6, 1983 (a well-pitched 2-0 loss to the Phillies), he became the first Yale University alum in 23 years to reach the major leagues. His 13-year tenure also included stints in Montreal and Oakland, a Gold Glove Award in 1989 and, of course, a World Series ring from the Mets' last championship in 1986. In 2006 Darling returned to the Mets as part of the Gary (Cohen), Keith (Hernandez) & Ron television broadcast team and won a "Best Sports Analyst" Emmy. Darling will be on the air for all three games of this weekend's Subway Series and on August 19th, 15 years to the day of his release from the major leagues, he will celebrate his 50th birthday. As part of an ongoing book project, Voice contributor Rob Trucks has been interviewing 49-year-olds as they near their half-century birthdays, asking them to reflect on the milestone. What follows are Darling's thoughts on reaching 50...
The big day itself
I've had to stop at least four different [people], from my wife to my mother to brothers, who are trying to set up a 50th birthday party. And I'm lucky. I have the excuse that I work in the summer. I tell everybody that I really don't want to do anything, and the more I say, 'No,' the more I question that maybe there is some significance to this. Maybe turning 50 is more significant than I think. If I'm saying, 'No,' to everybody, then it has to be something different in my mind.
I think the countdown started, for me, two seasons ago, because Gary Cohen turned 50. And his wife got T-shirts and [it] was really sweet how big of a deal she made about it, and how excited he was that she had made a big deal about it, and that was the first time I was like, 'Wow. They're spending a lot of time on this. They're very happy about this event that's happening.' And I know for myself, my own personality that I certainly wouldn't want to spend it like that. I don't want the hoopla. Like I told my kids about 10 years ago -- they're 23 and 16 -- I said, 'You know what? Let's just have dinner together. You guys don't have to get anything for my birthday.' Well, they listened. They never get anything for my birthday (laughs).
We'll see what happens this year. For a lot of people it's a real significant time. I guess it is for me, too. Maybe when the season's over. For baseball players -- I'm not one anymore, but I live the life of a baseball player still -- a lot of times you say, 'Well, as soon as November comes, I'll make sure I celebrate that.' And that'll probably be what it is for me.
Looking back at a life's milestones
My oldest son was born six weeks premature, so we almost lost him a couple of times. And the best day was taking him home, back to New York from Florida. That was by far the best day. You have this little thing, and he was lying all yellow like babies that are born early . . . And bringing him home was the best day of my life.
35 is when I retired [from baseball] and for the next five years I felt old because I had gone, in a young man's sport, from someone who was really good to someone who wasn't very good anymore, so from 35 to 40 baseball left me with a feeling that I was an older person because I was too old for the game.
Every ballplayer I know does the same thing: they go to the golf course. They take vacations. July 4th becomes a day you can celebrate. So I did what every ballplayer did, and it was boring. Incredibly boring. It was like, 'I don't know how long I can do this.' Having fun sucks, you know what I mean? (laughs) I mean, doing nothing, after a while, sucks. It really does.
Then around 40 I was rejuvenated...