ALL THAT GREEN

Baseball’s back. Whether the short season will be completed remains in question. But I’m less inclined to look to baseball’s future than its past for memories bigger than the game.

As a kid, I went to Yankee Stadium with my father Morris. I treasured sharing that time with him. Later I went with my brother-in-law Herb. Always a special thrill: the first sight of the field. All that green! After the game, we walked to the centerfield exit across the outfield. I stood in the same place as my hero, Mickey Mantle. As a teenager, still a sports lover, I saw athletes as people and gave up heroes.

I watched lots of Dodgers and Giants games on TV, at first on our nine-inch screen. My family went to several Giants games at the Polo Grounds. We saw a triple play against the Dodgers. My father took me once to see the Dodgers at Ebbits Field.

I regret rooting for the Yankees, who dominated baseball as Amazon does online retail. Like my Aunt Anne and Uncle Moe, who lived in Brooklyn, I should have been passionate about the underdog Dodgers. “Dem Bums” broke the color line in 1947. In 1955, they finally won the World Series—because they broke the color line.

The Dodgers and Giants fled to California in 1958. I was more into basketball. But when the New York Mets expansion team formed, I abandoned the Yankees. I loved the Mets’ disastrous 40-120 first season in 1962, even attended their second home game ever—April 14, Polo Grounds, 6-2 loss to Pittsburgh. I saw Marvelous Marv Throneberry, a mountain of a man, leg out a triple and be called out for not touching second base. To err is human.

At Fort Sam Houston, Texas, I followed the Houston Astros. I went to the Astrodome and saw the San Francisco Giants with Willie Mays. I attended San Antonio Missions’ minor league games.

Moving to San Francisco in 1974, I rooted for my Bay Area teams. At Candlestick Park, former home of the Giants, box seats ran $6 or $7. Lots available. The Giants stunk. But you stay with your team.

I took the family to Giants games. We saw a triple play. In 1989, I took our oldest, Seth—baseball offered us a strong and needed bond—to game one of the World Series against the Oakland A’s. The Loma Prieta earthquake struck. The upper deck behind third base swayed as if it was part of an amusement park ride. We made it. Life, as I’d learned in the army, is fragile.

I’ve gone to spring training in Phoenix and MLB parks across the country. Baseball unites—at least temporarily—diverse Americans. No small thing.

My love of baseball—all sports—has waned. I do follow sports in the Chronicle and on TV. Watching games on TV involves five minutes of killing time.

Still, I look forward to more sunny afternoons at Oracle Park. When the pandemic ends—and it will—fans, including me, will return to live baseball to bask in the comfort of the familiar and reminisce. We need that.

And for those of us who live in cities—including me, two blocks from the Presidio National Park—we’ll still thrill in immersing ourselves in all that green.

To respond, click on “comments” to the right just below the title of this post. Then go to the response space at the bottom of the post.

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12 Comments


  1. Susan E Shapiro
    Aug 14, 2020

    Thanks for this trip down memory lane. We were a Giants family, but it was my mother who was the fan, not my dad. She had a picture of the Say Hey Kid on her desk…not one of my dad or us kids, but Willie Mays. Go figure. Like you, my loyalty transferred to the Mets, but never lost my love of the Giants. Some things one doesn’t let go of. I miss so much during this pandemic, and baseball is right up there.


    • David
      Aug 14, 2020

      I share NY Giants memories, Susan. I well remember when the Giants won the 1954 World Series, sweeping Cleveland 4-0. Today—as for some time—I find baseball on TV limiting. And games keep getting longer. But at Oracle park, you can look at any place on the field or in the stands—or out to McCovey Cove, the Bay and the East Bay. The game offers relaxation and a communion with the past along with moments of tension and excitement. And you’re not rushing. For me, I speak of day games. Night games at Oracle do get chilly. As to rip-off hot dogs and beer, that’s another story.


  2. Carolyn Perlstein
    Aug 14, 2020

    In fact, you were with me when we saw that triple play. I looked up from reading my Richmond Review to see that amazing sight. Even I knew it was something special. As I recall it felt like the entire stadium took a giant breath and then let out a joint cheer. But in telling this story, I’ve also met people who hate the fact that, I a non-baseball fan, should get to see a wonder-of-the-world play like that. None the less, I will always remember that play and realizing in an instant that I was seeing something absolutely beyond belief.


    • David
      Aug 14, 2020

      All true, my non-sports-loving wife. As anyone will tell you, luck is part of sports. I believe I’ve witnessed three triple plays. Never a no-hitter though.


  3. Claudia Long
    Aug 14, 2020

    “To Err is human, to forgive is a Mets fan!”
    I was at a Mets game when the great NY blackout of 1977 took place. I had taken my mother to her first game ever –I won the tickets as the fifth caller on the radio– and fortunately my dad was with us. When the lights went out, my mother said, “ah, intermission.” Then the players drove their cars onto the field and played catch in the headlights. Once the organ–running on a generator–started playing patriotic songs we knew it was time to leave!
    And when the Giants were playing the A’s in 1989, I was on the 34th floor of a San Francisco office building, having my maternity-leave going away party. I was elebenty-billion months pregnant. The TV in the conference room had the game on. It went blank. I said, ‘oh good, I didn’t want the game on during my party!’ Made it home without going into labor, six house later.
    My husband took our daughter to watch Ricky Henderson break the stolen bases record. What my daughter remembers is Ricky’s mother coming out onto the field to hug him.
    My son’s little league team got to jog around the bases once.
    Baseball, the fabric of our lives is incomplete without it!


    • David
      Aug 14, 2020

      Many memories, Claudia. My father had them—including seeing a pitcher from his high school—the old DeWitt Clinton in Manhattan—strike out Commerce’s Lou Gehrig three times. That’s what he said. The pitcher? Didn’t remember.


  4. David Sperber
    Aug 14, 2020

    Grew up in Boro Park. Hated the Yankees. My twin loved them. How did that happen. I was taking a private Hebrew lesson when Jonny Podres beat beat the yankees in game 7 1955. Broke my heart that I learned about it second hand. My teacher couldn’t have cared less about baseball. I swore off Jewishness till CSI.Now I have my jewishness and baseball, even if its virtual.


    • David
      Aug 14, 2020

      Jews and baseball go hand in hand, David. Jewish immigrants took to baseball when they arrived so they could be real Americans. And Jews are still playing in MLB: Joc Pederson (Dodgers), Kevin Pillar (Red Sox), Ryan Braun (Brewers), Ryan Lavarnway (Toronto or Boston), Richard Bleier (Marlins—IL), Robert Stock (just sent to alternate site by someone), Rowdy Tellez (Blue Jays) and others. Gabe Kapler managing the Giants. Oh—at PS 174, World Series games (daytime then) were shown on TV in the auditorium.


  5. Jim Shay
    Aug 14, 2020

    Fond memories of watching Duke Snyder homer in LA in 1960. My dad went a little nuts!


    • David
      Aug 15, 2020

      Saw Duke Snider (with an “i”) in Brooklyn, Jim. Big arguments in New York in the 50s—who was the best centerfielder—Mantle, Mays or Snider.


  6. Marty Weiner
    Aug 18, 2020

    Hi David,
    Loved your Baseball memories. Among my fondest is Orioles beating the Dodgers in the fourth and final game of the 1966 World Series. I was at the game because we lived in Baltimore. Also Karen and I saw Sandy Koufax pitch on a hot summer evening in Cincinnati at the old ball park. He mowed down the opposition. Note: My rabbinic studies and service took me to both cities over the years.
    Best,
    Marty
    What about a virtual coffee chat around 3:30 pm some day next week.


    • David
      Aug 18, 2020

      Great memories, Marty, and yes about the chat. I’ll email.

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