Maestro's Musings: The Comeback Kid
Michael Jordan was widely regarded as the greatest basketball player on earth—perhaps the greatest in history—when he left the NBA in mid-career. After a one-season hiatus to play minor-league baseball, the bright lights of roundball stardom beckoned irresistibly, and MJ’s triumphant return to the Chicago Bulls resulted in three more championship rings and the cementing of his reputation for generations to come. Other attempted comebacks have been less successful.
After leaving the presidency in 1909, Teddy Roosevelt decided to run again in 1912. Spurned by the Republican party organization, he formed the Bull Moose party, campaigned vigorously, and received but 27 percent of the vote (losing....hide your head in shame...to a college professor with the unlikely name of Woodrow).
Back in the sports world, the 41-year-old “Say Hey” Willie Mays, widely considered the second greatest baseball player in history, returned to New York where he started his career, this time as a member of the lowly but lovable Mets. He batted a paltry .238, with 14 home runs and 44 runs batted in, and retired after playing fewer than a full season of games. Say goodbye, Willie.
The first greatest baseball player, Babe Ruth, had a similarly ignominious return. He began his career as a stellar pitcher with unheard of home-run power for the Boston Red Sox. His rights were sold to New York, where his oversized personality...and girth...earned him a singular honor: a candy bar named for him. (Mar-kandy bar, anyone?) Nearing the end of his playing career, the 40-year-old Ruth was sold back to Boston—this time to the Braves—where he played in only 28 games, hitting an un-Ruthian .181.
Out in Hollywood, Don Adams played Agent 86 in the much beloved Get Smart TV series that ran for five seasons during the 1960’s. This I know because my 10-year-old has become addicted, and his parents have allowed him to watch all 138 episodes over and over and over and over and over. Please don’t report this to Child Protective Services. Adams recreated the character in an ill-fated 1995 version, which ran for all of—would you believe—7 episodes.
And of course who among us can forget their profound disappointment at the Milli Vanilli comeback tour, or how miserably “Porky’s II” failed to capture the magic of the original.
Nonetheless, I proudly announce my return to the Maestro’s Musings column. Like a moth to flame, like a lemming to the sea, I shall proceed apace. Care to join me?
Markand Thakar is the Charles A. & Carolyn M. Russell Music Director, Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra; music director, Baltimore Chamber Orchestra; principal conductor, Duluth Festival Opera; co-director of graduate conducting, Peabody Conservatory.