It has been said by so many American men that it is nearly a cliché. Had it not been for baseball my father and I would not have had anything at all to talk about. In my case because of baseball we had a lot to talk about. At least until Alzheimer’s Disease took away all his interest in the game. Then the complexity of what was happening in a game in front of him was beyond his grasp. This, I know, was frustrating for him. He refused to watch at all during his last years. Even worse from my point of view, he no longer had any interest in reminiscing about the games he had seen in his life.
One has to look on the bright side. We had baseball for many years. My parents started hauling me to the minor league park in my hometown as soon as I could walk. The team was a farm club of what were then the Milwaukee Braves. All of the infrequent trips we took incorporated visits to major league parks. I have a vague recollection as a little guy of old Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis primarily because we sat in bleachers high up in the air. Looking down to the ground underneath those bleachers terrified me. Later, we were at Milwaukee’s County Stadium when Warren Spahn won his 300th game against the Cubs.
On the farm there were countless radios, one in every shed and barn. Many times three or four would be going at the same time so that when work took one from one building to the other, the game was already tuned in. My father would have preferred to listen to the Cardinals broadcast, but our reception of KMOX was marginal. Our reception of WGN was exceptional. Therefore, it was Jack Brickhouse and the Cubs. Or Jack Quinlan, who was killed in a tragic automobile collision in 1965. Later, Vince Lloyd and Lou Boudreau.
The main tractors were fitted out with special tractor radios mounted on the fender. These tractors had no cabs. The radios were capable of playing at a volume that allowed them to be heard over the roar of the tractor in the field. A deafening affair that was. You could hear the broadcast from the house echoing across the field above the noise of the tractor engine.
In my adult life I usually purchased season tickets to the local minor league club and caught a major league game when I could, usually sneaking off to the ballpark at night during some business trip. Boston. Chicago. Kansas City. New York. Detroit. I admit that I probably imposed baseball on my own daughters somewhat against their wills, hauling them to the minor league park constantly when they were little. I hope I did not completely ruin the game for them.
In 1984 there was a young law student working as a summer intern at my law firm. A good baseball man and a White Sox fan when it was difficult being a White Sox fan. We took off together on a lark in early May to Chicago to take in a White Sox game at old Comiskey Park. As it turned out we attended what I believe is still the longest game by time in American League history. The White Sox and Brewers.
The game lasted eight hours and six minutes. Twenty-five innings. It started on the evening of May 8 and ended on the evening of May 9 before the regularly scheduled game that night. Tom Seaver got the win for the White Sox when he finished the long game. He then started the regularly scheduled game on May 9 and got that win, too. Two wins in one night. It was that long game that brought home for me Roger Angell’s dictum that one of the beautiful aspects of baseball is the theoretical potential for any particular game to last forever.
When I left the United States and came to Mexico, I left the game behind. It might have been different had I settled in a Mexican city with a team where baseball is still big. Soccer dominates where I live. The only slender thread still connecting me with the game was my own glove, which I brought with me. A 1975 Catfish Hunter model, well maintained. And a carton of new balls, which I promptly gave away to Mexican kids.
And so it was an interesting feeling to ride the subway out to Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia on Monday night with those Phillies fans for a sold out game with the Dodgers. A real homecoming even though this was a park to which I had never been. I told La Mexicana on the way out to be prepared. This game might be the baseball game that lasts the rest of our lives. She was amazed at the idea.
Others of our colleagues for the evening can be seen here.