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.
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