Like Proust's madeleine, the box scores at Retrosheet.org encompass little worlds; to sift through them stirs a baseball fan's memories. Anyone who keeps ticket stubs stashed in a dresser drawer or score books stacked in an attic can pass an afternoon this way, meandering through history to find that Cincinnati's Big Red Machine beat the Houston Astros on July 1, 1975, at Riverfront Stadium when Joe Morgan singled home Pete Rose in the bottom of the 15th.
In the middle of the course, over that flying mile, Mickey Thompson’s speed was about equal to the muzzle velocity of a bullet fired from a lightly loaded small-caliber pistol: 406.60 miles per hour. This was September 9, 1960, on the Bonneville Salt Flats. He became the fastest man in the world that day, the first American to go over 400 mph, the fastest racer ever on land. Unofficially, at least. Because to earn the world land speed record, the car has to make two passes.
FIRST race of the year, the 500 at Daytona, I'm standing next to Nascar dad for the anthem. Takes off his sunglasses, holds his hand over his heart. He's a big man, 40's, 6-foot-3, a gut-sprung 225, biker leather head to toe and a beard on him like ZZ Rasputin. Comes to the end of our national song, 250,000 people shouting and applauding, flags snapping everywhere, and a sound rumbles low up out of the ovation and comes down out of the sky and breaks out of the clouds like a thunderclap.