DETROIT – Pat Neshek gave his little boy a baseball name because this was the game that had sustained him for the 32 years of his life. And Gehrig seemed perfect because what could be more wholesome and strong and dignified than Gehrig? When Pat asked his wife Stephanee if they could have a son named for a first baseman her answer was simple.
Of course, she told him.
And now with Gehrig John Neshek gone just a day after birth – his death as public and heartbreaking and hard to explain as his namesake's – the boy's father had one last thing to do in the fog of his worst week. The Oakland Athletics reliever would pitch in a playoff game.
Neshek made the slow walk across the Comerica Park field in the seventh inning of Saturday's Game 1 of the American League Division Series. A TV cameraman trailed behind. Neshek ascended the mound and ran his fingers across the black circular patch on the sleeve of his jersey with the letters "GJN" stitched in white. Then he faced baseball again.
The record will show Neshek made Saturday night look simple. He stifled a Detroit Tigers rally with a ground ball and a strikeout. He got two critical outs that kept Oakland close in a game it would eventually lose. But what the record will not show are the tears that almost trickled from his eyes or the deep, anguished breaths he took as he stood on the field or the way he tapped his chest with his hand.