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Alex Rodriguez Is Back, For Better Or Worse

New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez watches from the dugout during an intrasquad game at a spring training baseball workout Monday in Tampa, Fla.
Lynne Sladky
New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez watches from the dugout during an intrasquad game at a spring training baseball workout Monday in Tampa, Fla.

One of the very best old-time sports columnists was named Jimmy Cannon. He wrote after Hemingway, tough-guy style, and Jimmy had a lot of original devices, too. One was an occasional column he'd do in what I called the second person impersonal. For example, my favorite was about an aging hitting star when he was in a slump. Cannon began: "Your name is Stan Musial and all your bats are broken."

Now, that's how you start a column. And so, in honor of Jimmy Cannon: Your name is Alex Rodriguez, and nobody likes you.

Your teammates could just never put up with you, A-Rod; the media thought you were a phony, and eventually everybody knew you were a liar. Even the Yankee fans have no more need for you, Old-Rod, because you're nearing 40, a gonna-be has-been, if you're not already an already-been, a drag on the pinstripe payroll — even if it was the Yankees who were the nitwits who gave you the contract.

It should've been so easy, Alexander Emmanuel Rodriguez. You were blessed with great talent, good looks, and eventually you were awash in beautiful women and more money than your everyday Russian oligarch. You even had that neat new nickname with the capital letter and the first syllable last name — like J-Lo — before they became imitated and cliched for dime-a-dozen mortals.

But who knew that even a fairy-tale prince could be so insecure as to start taking a magic elixir? Some fairy tales can last a lifetime, but even fairy-tale princes have to grow old. You missed that part, Alex.

We had some time together once. A TV interview. You wanted it, because you had a couple of points you wanted to make. Fair enough. You were late, but then a lot of sports stars are, but it was outdoors, so the crew had to change the lighting, and so we had to sit, the two of us, and try small talk. The producer helped out. He stepped in and told A-Rod I had a new baseball novel out.

A-Rod didn't ask what it was about or anything natural like that. He just announced that he too was a writer, had a children's book out, and then he told me all about it. It would've been like me telling him, in detail, how I'd scratched out an infield hit in a JV high school game. When the lighting was set, he answered the two questions he'd wanted to answer, then left.

He thought he'd knocked it out of the park, impressed everyone, but the crew just laughed at how he couldn't shut up about writing his children's book.

Your name is A-Rod and you just never did get it.

And now there never was a fairy tale, either.

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Frank Deford died on Sunday, May 28, at his home in Florida. Remembrances of Frank's life and work can be found in All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and on NPR.org.