THEY ARE BACK – THE BOYS OF SUMMER – GARRY ARMSTRONG

Opening day at Fenway Park used to be my favorite day of my TV news career.

Fenway’s Opening Day in baseball!  I dodged murders, political scandals, and other mayhem for this special day. Baseball’s opening day is a rite of passage.

As a kid in the 1940’s Brooklyn, I’d devoured all the winter sports magazines which included predictions for the upcoming season and thumbnail breakdowns on players, including the “pheenoms,” prospects sure to be the next mega stars.

President Truman would throw out the first pitch for the old Washington Senators. Calvin Griffith’s bedraggled team — first in the heart of the nation, last in the American league.  Unless you were Mickey Vernon or Eddie Yost, there was little to root for as a Senator’s fan.

Cal Griffith and Connie Mack were the last of the patriarchal baseball owners who dated all the way back to the days of Ty Cobb, Cy Young and the “dead ball.”  I remember the grainy black and white images of these elderly men, dressed in turn of the century street clothes, patrolling their dugouts. Connie Mack managed his Philadelphia Athletics. In his white suit and straw hat, he was a throwback to baseball’s infancy.

You always saw Mr. Griffith and Mr. Mack on baseball’s opening day. They were the fabric of baseball.

In those days, I was preoccupied with the fortunes of my beloved Brooklyn Dodgers. Every opening day signaled the beginning of what could be “our year.” A World Series championship. The defeat of our mortal enemies, The New York Yankees.  Jackie Robinson had broken the color barrier the previous year and the Dodgers seemed poised to climb the mountain with young stalwarts like Robinson, Duke Snider, Pee Wee Reese, Gil Hodges, Roy Campanella and a veteran pitching staff. The “Bad Guys”, the Bronx Bombers lined up with Joe DiMaggio, Phil Rizzuto, Yogi Berra, Hank Bauer and an élite roster of all-star pitchers.

I would have to wait until 1955 before I could celebrate a BROOKLYN Dodgers World Championship. It would be the first and last for the faithful as our Bums abandoned us for the glitter and gold of  La La Land.

Fast forward through my love affair with Casey Stengel’s “Amazin’ Mets,” their “Ya gotta believe” World Series victory in 1969, and my transformation to a member of Red Sox nation.


Work relocated me to Boston in 1970. I found myself interviewing untested rookies including Carlton Fisk and Dwight “Dewey” Evans. When my status as a baseball maven was established, I leapfrogged over other TV News reporters in gaining access to players. TV reporters were still regarded with suspicion and a little scorn in many dugouts. Print “beat” reporters abhorred their electronic colleagues as “plastic, empty-headed no-nothings” and refused to share information.

Again, I triumphed with my stats and anecdote-filled repartee. Plus, I  had Polaroid pictures of myself with Mantle, Maris, Snider and other luminaries. I could swap John Wayne stories with Ted Williams, who was suitably impressed. The one-of-a-kind Red Sox icon Johnny Pesky, took a liking to me and would greet me at the Fenway players’ entrance. I’d get the latest clubhouse poop plus insight as to what the front office suits were doing. Johnny Pesky even offered to intervene when I was getting some static from my own suits. This was the backdrop for my assignments as opening day “color” reporter at Fenway Park for almost 31 years.

Ironically, the “Curse of the Bambino” would not be broken until after I retired. 2004. My 3rd year of retirement. That historic comeback of comebacks against the dreaded Yankees left me staring at the television with my mouth open.

This year’s opening day game at Fenway is now in the record books including a 3-run homer from rookie left fielder Andrew Benintendi.  A 5-3 interleague win against the Pittsburgh Pirates was just “okay.” Just okay because the bullpen was shaky. Since then, we are on a winning streak and we should be grateful because this may be as good as it gets. You can never be sure. Half the team has the flu, another chunk seems to need some kind of shoulder surgery. We live in hope, but know how it goes.

We watch. We wait. Our Boys of Summer are back — with great expectations — and one major difference.  There’ll be no more clutch home runs from the retired #34, “Big Papi.” Fenway will be a little quieter. On the field, in the dugout, and in the clubhouse.

So far, so good. Not perfect, but not bad. And it’s just the beginning of a very long season.

13 thoughts on “THEY ARE BACK – THE BOYS OF SUMMER – GARRY ARMSTRONG

      • Funny! – before i read your reply i was thinking about mentioning cricket (Krikket – or Krikeet as some of the old (Yorkshire) masters of the Art would refer to it). It’s intricacies are many strange and varied whose origins are lost in the mists of time (and lousy English weather!)

        It has a very loose association with Garry’s beisbol and is followed strongly on 4 separate continents with the Honour of Number One country in the world rotating between India, England, South Africa and Australia.

        It would take many posts to do this one topic any justice and while i am tempted it would likely be largely unintelligible to most of the bloggiverse and leave them not much the wiser. I’ll let sleeping bats lie. 😉

        love

        Liked by 1 person

        • * Apologies to those of the Carribbean – They were once the masters of the Mystic Art of the Test Match (in the 70’s mostly) and still play a mean one-day and 20/20 version of Krikket. So, that just about makes it 5 continents, with Canada offering a small contribution also. 🙂

          love.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Both Cricket AND Baseball were created from an earlier (British) game called “Round Ball,” which is why they share some characteristics. Garry is a very serious baseball fan. Over the past decade, me too. Like Cricket (here are the similarities), it’s a slow game. It’s NOT like American Football, or Soccer, or Rugby. It’s not as physically brutal. More a mental game. We watch other sports, but baseball is the one we love.

            Liked by 1 person

            • I did not know that! (Round ball origin, not that Garry was a baseball fan!) 😉

              Cricket is trying to move into the 21st century – it now has 3 distinctly different forms: The original 5 day (6 hr + days) form Test Cricket – the ones the purists enjoy(??) that still can end in a draw after 30+ hours of play; One-day matches, as the name suggests and much more likely to have a result at the end of play, lasts about 6-7 hours mostly each side has one innings of 11 batsmen and the super-improved version, Twenty/20 (they actually write it like that!) where a side has 120 balls to hit as many runs as they can and bowlers and fielders have restrictions, minimum of 5 men in the team have to bowl in groups of 6 balls. I think we played a demonstration match at the NY Yankees stadium recently? Those powers that be decided to go for the full cheer-leader dancing, flame-thrower, organ music and theme songs for players entrance on the ground song and dance routine. it is rejuvenating interest amongst the younger crowd and is considered more family friendly than the staid formal version.

              love

              Like

        • lwbut, my maternal Gramps used to tell me stories about playing cricket in his native Barbados. Apparently, they also played cricket aboard ship in the Danish Navy during WW1 or so my Gramps told me. I loved his stories but never understood cricket. Just beisbol. I dreamed of growing up to play centerfield for my first and truest love beisbol team, the Brooklyn Dodgers — the ORIGINAL Boys of Summer. Alas, it was not to be.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Some great cricketers have come from barbados to be sure! I’ll bet you are not alone in dreaming of growing up to be on the Dodgers team, but you might get some consolation from knowing there are also many kids who dreamt of doing what you got to do and interview them and other remarkable humans and show it to the World. 😉

            love.

            Liked by 1 person

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