Thursday, June 09, 2005
I love baseball. There's nothing better than baseball. There's nothing more beautiful than a Ted Williams swing. I've long forgotten lots of things, but I remember a lot of baseball. I remember playing little league ball and trying out for pitcher. The coach told my dad I couldn't hit the broadside of a barn. I practiced anyway, and in a game where it was down to me and another, less coordinated kid, I got the call. I did not disappoint. In fact, I made the regular rotation for the rest of the year. My organized playing days ended the next season as a catcher.
The days of dawning the stirrup socks were over but the games continued. A game of cupball was played every time my cousins and I gathered at our grandparents' house. A wadded up paper cup, or a ball of tinfoil, and your hand was all that was needed for yet another romp around the yard after blasting that makeshift ball across the street. As we got older, the cupball was traded for whiffleball. The bat and the ball were different, but the love was the same. A bat, a ball, some bases, cousins and friends - for the love of the game.
Then, there were the baseball heroes - Johnny Bench, George Brett, Nolan Ryan (the California Angels vintage), Pete Rose. I remember sending letters to the players addressed simply to the name of the stadium and the city they played asking for an autographed picture. Some answered (Nolan Ryan, Johnny Bench), some didn't (Pete Rose). I still have those 5x7 pics in the basement. The Saturday game of the week. This week in baseball with Mel Allen. I remember when Thurman Munson died in his plane crash. I watched the Monday Night Baseball game after his death when the Yankees played. I cried when they showed the scoreboard tribute. I was a catcher too. Maybe I could die unexpectedly.
My first professional baseball game was at Arlington Stadium to see the Texas Rangers and the Kansas City Royals. My cousin, uncle, dad and I went. The game went into extra innings. We left in the top of the 15th. While we were walking in the parking lot, the Rangers won in the bottom of the 15th on a homerun. I've been to many games since. I was lucky enough to be at the game when Mark McGwire hit his 500th career HR with my nephews. I showed them how to keep score and they framed their tickets with our scorecard. I recently got to see the Red Sox play the Cardinals and my daughter started asking questions about the game and how its played. My little boy has a room painted like Fenway Park and goes around talking about "the stinking Yankees." My PaPa and I used to sit around and talk about baseball. I remember him telling me all about the old Yankees players. He used to love to talk about what a drunkard Mickey Mantle was. My dad and cousins and I all still play in a fantasy baseball league. We probably don't agree on much, be we all love baseball. There's a red cloth thread that connects us all, from our grandfather who's no longer with us, all the way to our kids. It looks a lot like the laces on a baseball.
Isn't baseball great?