Giamatti (2)In the fall of 1978, I arrived at Yale to a class welcome by the then new president of Yale, A. Bartlett Giamatti.

Bart talked funny.
He couldn't help it. He'd read too much Dante.

During his Welcome Address To The Incoming Class of 1982, he compared his own summer of 1978 to ours, filled with uncertainty about arriving at Yale: for us, as freshman; for him, as the new president, a freshman of sorts.

But he didn't say it that way. He said, during the summer,

"The worm
of apprehension
bit deep
in the bud
of anticipation."

I recall we applauded the line. It was perfect. The phrase washed over us with delight, the intellectual joy of realizing that, yes, in fact, we had arrived at a special place, where words are discretely chosen, arguments are deeper, authenticity is pursued.

And we all knew — we felt it in our bones — how the worm would not let that bud alone.

Bart and Me
Bart eventually advanced his career toward his true love. More than Yale, baseball. He left Yale to become president of the National League and eventually Commissioner of Baseball.

As President of the National League, Bart courageously banned Pete Rose from baseball. It's a long story that many might remember: the popular player, called "Charlie Hustle" for his grit and determination, was destined for the Hall of Fame, but gambled on baseball. So Bart banned him. I don't think Mr. Rose was even allowed to come watch a game, except at home on his television.

Still now, decades later, Pete Rose remains the only living human who is ineligible for induction into the Hall of Fame. I think he needs to die first. And even then?

At the All-Star Break that summer, 1988, The New York Times asked sports fans, "Who are the league M.V.P.'s at this stage?" I responded briefly with this published letter. (When I didn't hear from Mr. Giamatti, I sent him the clipping from the newspaper. He responded with this keepsake.)

Bart was soon elevated to Commissioner of Baseball. Back then The Commissioner was a position of courage, an independent power, staring down both players and owners, as an advocate for neither, rather as a single-minded defender of the Integrity Of The Game Of Baseball. After Bart died, his lawyer and long-time friend Fay Vincent (and chief investigator of Pete Rose) became the eighth Commission of Baseball. Mr. Vincent expelled George Steinbrenner, who was later reinstated.

Unless the current Commissioner — coincidentally known as "Bud," as in "the bud of anticipation" — wishes to write me a letter and set me straight, I believe the Commissioner now serves the owners.

Great Reading
One of the best essays ever written is about baseball, by Bart Giamatti. You don't have to love baseball to love this essay, this writer — and his son, the actor Paul Giamatti. (Here is "The Green Fields of the Mind.")

But This Isn't About Baseball.
This is about the worm of apprehension, biting deep into the bud of anticipation. 

New Bud, Same Worm
Tomorrow morning, we drive our elder child to college in New York City.

We were supposed to leave this morning.

But the Hurricane Irene rages toward Manhattan, expected to arrive at the original college drop-off time.

Our family is already worm-bit. Now, we hope for the best for all in the path of Irene.

And we wait for a chance to leave apprehension behind, shake off the worm, and get to the future.

All my life, I have thought of his immortal phrase: "The worm of apprehension bit deep in the bud of anticipation."

Now, I see it from another perspective.