Boredom found me channel surfing recently, nothing new there, when suddenly I was confronted by a rush of warmth and nostalgia that I hadn’t known in a while, it felt oh so good. On the screen in front of me graying men in uniforms meant for younger, fitter men were standing on a field of the greenest grass.
They all laughed, greeting one another as long lost friends will, enthusiastically, warmly, loudly. The amplified sounds of the obligatory stadium organ intruding on the scene with each new introduction. Bright sunshine, blue sky enveloped the scene. There’s something here that makes me linger.
Sitting back, I placed the usually glued to my right hand remote control down, and settled in for what turned out to be a very enjoyable trip down memory lane. The best part of which was, this ride would be completely free of charge. The only thing taxed would be my memory. But it turned out to be in fine working order for those two hours.
It was grander than any amusement park ride. It was a journey back through time, back to those innocent days when excitement was easily found, totally free of technology and reality.
It shouldn’t matter where you were raised or what team you chose to make your own, the memories that baseball, in the warmer days of summer evoke are ones that should be cherished and passed on, legacies waiting to move from generation to generation. From father to son, from grandfather to grandson, and yes ladies from mom’s to daughters. Our own human, sometimes fallible version of instant replay.
How many of us can recall within seconds where we were when a guy named Dent did what he did to the Sox back in ’78? Or when Fisk wrapped his shot around the left field foul pole off of Clay Carroll in ’75? How about the Spaceman, Bill Lee scrapping with Nettles at home plate anyone? That miraculous curse breaking championship season sparked by the comeback in the ’04 playoff against the hated team from New York? It doesn’t take much to recall? Right?
Close our eyes for just a few seconds, try to remember the first time you stepped out the tunnel and saw your first major league field. The sights, the sounds, the smells, the colors are almost visceral. it’s a warm day, a slight wind comes out of left field. The organist is doing his or her best to keep up with the latest popular tunes.
Now, open your eyes…ah, there you are. Remember the wonderment, the awe at the size of the field. How could anyone hit a ball that far? That scoreboard you’d only seen on T.V. is huge! Home to first looked like it was a mile apart. The bases are so white, the chalk lines looked line snow. You gazed around to find the broadcast booth hoping to catch a glimpse of the face behind the voice that came out of your radio. The flags snapping in the wind? Would the ball be easy to hit out today?
Your dad looks down at you, he points to a part of the field whispering , ” that’s where the Babe stood, that’s where The Splinter put the ball.” You look up in amazement wondering, dreaming perhaps the same dream most young men dare to dream. ” I’m gonna be out there one day” you tell him, he looks down at you and nods.
Remember that crazed fan shouting at the top of his lungs at the umpire, imploring him him to open his eyes? Standing , taking your frayed worn home team cap off to cover your heart just like the adults were doing, making sure to stand tall and proud like you were told. Checking everything going on around you. filing it all away, hoping to be back again tomorrow.
You listened intently as the people around you, some dressed in full home team colors, spoke in terms of reverence of players past and present. ” Yaz would have had it.” ” Pesky was a tough little s.o.b.” We don’t talk about the Ruth thing here son”.
How about the first time you bit into one of those dirty water dogs, or got mustard all over yourself trying to open those annoying little white packets? Better yet, stomping on those little white packets to get that mustard all over some unsuspecting fan close by, come on, if it wasn’t you I’m sure one of your buddies did it. Bat Day? Old Timer’s day? Real double headers?
When you finally came of age, or maybe not, the taste of that first ice cold beer on a hot July evening? Soon, games with friends became dates with the lady of your dreams. You did your best to impress her with your knowledge of the home team’s history and stat’s, when all you could think about was something totally unrelated to baseball.
Okay. Now your with me, let’s keep going, moving along to perhaps the most important times. That young lady of your dreams becomes the other part of you, to borrow an expression, ” your better half”. The stories and traditions passed on to you now become your’s to pass to another generation. Sure, you want that little bundle of joy to root for the same home team, but if they don’t it’s okay, but you do your best to sway them.
The stories Uncle Johnny or dad told you about the “good ole days”, those golden days of baseball become a parental responsibility. You take them seriously. Like antiquated cherished family heirlooms you pass them on with all the emphasis and embellishment with which they were relayed to you.You watch as the eye’s widen, the already anticipated questions pour out, and you answer them with authority, with time worn wisdom.
It shouldn’t matter what team you root for, what city you come from, or what team you absolutely loathe. The love of the game, with all it’s current imperfections, the $12 beers, the $40 parking ,even today’s nonsensical replay rules and nine o’clock game start times is what truly matters.
For many of us baseball was a way of life when we were young, we lived and breathed with the home team. We traded baseball cards, and never gave away our favorite players. With all the distractions modern life throws our way, baseball remains one constant. But as with any love affair sometimes we take it for granted, we overlook it , we forget what it has given us. That’s a shame.
So, recently I found myself channel surfing because I was bored. Nothing new there, but for this one particular day anyway I was reacquainted with an old love of mine. Graying men in uniforms that didn’t fit strode onto the green grass, some limping, some using canes. They mingled with the young ones talking trade craft. Names of the baseball immortals were called, some of them didn’t answer, but you knew their spirit was close. It was a sight to behold, it renewed me.It brought out those warmest of memories that hide in the recesses of a mind. Thank you baseball…..