Life begins anew.
Opening Day of the 2014 Baseball season.
(Sorry, I’m a purist by heart and games played outside the contiguous forty-eight states – much less on the other side of the International Date Line – count as nothing else but stats.)
It’s a day my wife used to dread. She’s not an enthusiast of the game. She’s gone to Minor League games with me and sat through them patiently (“When will this be over?” “Who the hell knows?”) and has actually started to ask me questions during the game when we’re watching them on TV. I mean, good questions that involve what the players are doing and what the manager might be thinking, not just why they keep grabbing their crotches and spitting.
She even sat with me through a few entire games when I was watching the Sawx take the Series from the Cards last year.
I don’t think she can fully comprehend how much that meant to me.
She not merely hated baseball for years, she hated the idea of it. She hated the game, the season, the passion that I hold in my heart for the game and everything it stands for. She hated having me sucked into the vortex for an interminable period of the year, of my life year after year, to the detriment of what she perceived to be everything else I had to encounter and face in the real world.
“That’s all you think about is baseball. Baseball, baseball, base- …. Nothing else matters. That’s all you think about, talk about, worry about, pay attention to. You don’t even want to leave the house if a game is on. Baseball.
“It’s more important to you than anything. More important than work, than doing stuff around the house, than showering, than washing your clothes, than visiting with me, more important than eating.
“Watching some stupid game is more important to you than SEX!!!!!”
“Uh, Liz honey, I get to ‘watch some stupid game’ one-hundred sixty-two times in six months, no matter how much my team sucks… one-hundred sixty-two times in six months and half the time they’re not playing at home … and I’m guaranteed on that one-hundred sixty-two times ’cause if the entire team has a headache or ‘isn’t in the mood’, they’ll make up for it another day, maybe do it TWICE in one day! And if we’re lucky, I get to do it an extra nineteen times after that the following month!!!
“And it costs me less to do watch ‘those stupid games’ on-line than it does to get you a nice Valentine’s Day present and a fancy dinner at Applebees.
“And I don’t even watch all hundred-sixty-two, but if I want to, they’re there and ready to play… OKAY?”
After that heartfelt exchange (might have been years later before I actually found the words and the honesty to share them) I think I was finally able to explain, and Liz finally came to understand, that baseball is the last vestige of pure, unadulterated, unfettered, unencumbered, exhilarating, joyful innocence in my otherwise sardonic, curmudgeonly life.
It was the heart and soul of my youth. It was the sweetest, most exuberant memories. The times I spent playing Whiffle Ball or “First and Short” straight through the day with my friend Brad Morse. The hours I spent listening to Mel Allen and Red Barber and Phil Rizzuto calling a game on the radio, either while Brad and I were playing or on the transistor radio I kept under my pillow at night for the games in the western time zones.
It was the thrill of going to a game at The House That Ruth Built, and on the way out after the game, heading to the exit closest to the subway station that would start taking us home to Jersey, to actually be standing on the hallowed ground where only minutes before Mickey Mantle had been ruling over center field.
It was the stuff of dreams, the kind of dreams that only seem to live in your youth.
The stuff of dreams that can follow you into your adult and even senior years.
Some of the most devoted of us had to wait eighty-six years for the ultimate dream to come true.
When I was barely fifty-three years old, it was the Resurrection found in Game Seven of the 2004 ALCS and the flow of tears watching Keith Foulke flip the ball to Doug Mientkiewicz for the final epic, historic, liberating out of the 2004 World Series … and it was like I was seven years old again.
There was nothing but pure, unshakable, unwavering, earth-shaking joy in my little corner of Mudville that carried me on its shoulders for a week afterwards. All other joy in my life was magnified, all the problems made insignificant.
Baseball has always been about hopes and dreams, about heroes and villains, about “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat”. About waking up for each new day, about living for the next one.
It’s been about life, and it’s been bigger than Life itself.
Baseball been about The Boys of Summer and about the eternal youth within those of us who love and worship the game.
And we get to live the life again for the next six months starting today.
Even if it happens one-hundred sixty-two times each half year, even if you do if for thirty-eight years, it’s not going to be something entirely different each time, more so if (like me) you’ve played every single game at home.
Even the Kama Sutra can’t offer that kind of variety.
As a matter of fact, after a couple of dozen times, you’re pretty much gonna know exactly what to expect and how it’s going to end up.
Never know what’s gonna happen this inning.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Keep in mind that this comes from a proud citizen of Red Sox Nation:
this is a historic year we have in front of us, the final year of a twenty year history dating back to May 29, 1995, so there is something I need to acknowledge.
Thank you Captain, for all the years
you have exemplified the beauty, the soul
and the essence of the game we love.
It has been nothing less than a privilege
being witness to your artistry, your commitment,
your leadership and your passion.