BASEBALL AND A NATION IN DISARRAY – GARRY ARMSTRONG

I’ve been travelling down Memory Lane recently, far from the madding crowd of reality. The stark reality of the January 6th hearings, reality that resembles the madness of movies like “Seven Days In May”, “The Parallax View” and “The Manchurian Candidate” have been riveting.

The Supreme Court and its “Roe V Wade” decision has streets across our nation rumbling in disarray not seen since Watergate, the Vietnam War protests, and Civil Rights marches in the deep south where hangman’s nooses framed beloved family ice cream parlors.

This is no country for old people, or those seeking
reason, sanity, and justice.

So, through treasured old books, I retreat to my personal safehouse, baseball. The baseball of my youth personified by the “Boys of Summer,” the fabled Brooklyn Dodgers of the 1940s and 50s. A time of youthful innocence when my attention wasn’t focused on the Cold War but on baseball heroes like Duke, Jackie, PeeWee, Campy, and Gil.

Ebbets Field

Fireflies lit summer nights as I listened to the radio and Vin Scully’s incomparable accounts of Dodger victories and defeats. The games, in vivid radio color, lulled me into dreams of when I would take my place wearing Dodger Blue while the Ebbets Field faithful cheered my heroic plays. There was no place for political angst in the mind of that baseball-happy boy. Trying to recapture that innocence is no easy feat for an 80-year-old retiree. Reality bites hard these days.

Baseball was my retreat from reality as a young man dipping his toes into becoming a network newswriter, editor, and producer in the mid and late 1960s. Through those mind-numbing days and nights, I covered most of the major stories of the decade which changed our nation and world. Work gave me a front row seat to Watergate, Civil Rights, political assassinations, our first man on the moon (no relation), and Woodstock.

1969 Mets victory

Baseball had its place in the real world too. I got a front row seat to watching the New York Mets complete their improbable victory season. The once stumbling, inept Mets morphed from a local joke to international darlings, cocktail chit-chat for those who couldn’t tell the difference between Spiro Agnew and Choo Choo Coleman.

“Ya Gotta Believe!” was the mantra from Met’s reliever Tug McGraw (Tim’s father) and was embraced across the sporting world.

Gil Hodges, former Dodgers star and Mets manager, had difficulty maintaining his “quiet man” image. As skipper of “The Amazins,” Gil Hodges could have run for the presidency. All things considered, that wouldn’t have been as crazy an idea as it seemed “back then.”

The big day – VICTORY!

The Mets’ success enabled me to enjoy great gulps of mental champagne and blot out for hours the dire events of the real world. Baseball came to my rescue. Amidst the chaotic world of network news, we could pause to echo “How ’bout those Mets!” Time for a laugh and a cheer before doubling back to the crisis of the hour.

Even legendary news commentator Paul “And, now for the rest of the story” Harvey succumbed to Mets mania. Harvey handed me a script that read like a Casey Stengel PR release. Baseball softened the hardest of hearts in 1969, a year that became a time capsule.

Fast forward to a new century and a newly-minted AARP-age TV newsman still chasing stories in Boston and throughout New England. The endless stories of murders, blizzards, floods, fires, and political corruption had me taking a hard look at my “fire in the belly” early career. The excitement was becoming depression. I’d made too many visits for responses from those who’d lost loved ones to “senseless” violence. I felt ethically soiled by my glamorous job. The bitter taste in my mouth was relieved by baseball. This time it was the Boston Red Sox, still chasing a world series championship after more than eight decades of heartbreak.

2004. It was my third year of retirement. I was following the news. The news biz gets gets into your blood, even after your “on the air” days are long over. The breaking news stories had everyone reaching for their aspirin or sniffin’ glue. They made me feel especially helpless. In the past, I could dive into my “newsman” alter ego and talk directly to the newsmakers. If that seems to contradict my other complaints, yes — but that’s the nature of the business.

The Red Sox came to my rescue.

I should’ve had Sinatra singing “It Was A Very Good Year” as we watched the Red Sox pull off their historic comeback from the jaws of defeat against long-time rival Yankees. I heard Tug McGraw’s “Ya Gotta Believe” floating in the air as Fenway’s boys of summer turned a three-loss disaster into a bucket of gold at the end of the rainbow.

And then …

It was high drama as the Red Sox took the pennant from the Yankees — tears of joy after decades of frustration. I became simultaneously an astounded senior citizen and an ever-optimistic young fan. I was stunned as the Red Sox first lost three, then turned around and won four straight against the Yankees. And then, they swept the Cardinals to win their first World Series since 1918, thus ending “the curse” which began when Babe Ruth was traded from Boston to the Yankees.

One of the New York tabloids had the headline:
“Hell has frozen over!”

As our nation twists in a darkening political wind, my mind is again focused on our boys of summer. Ya gotta believe!



Categories: Baseball, Boston Red Sox, fairness, Gallery, Garry Armstrong, justice, News, protests, story, Television

Tags: , , , , , , ,

11 replies

  1. I so love reading your words! I am not a baseball fan (daddy loved it & I always felt left out), but your words wrap around my soul and take me home. There is a warmth, a breath of serenity, a sense of familiarity, a oneness in your prose. There is a bond each word builds and tightens, a connection that makes my heart smile; it just feels hugged!

    Keep writing, I find myself twinkling back in each word!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I keep telling him the same thing. Maybe he’ll believe YOU since he never believes me 😀

      Liked by 1 person

    • Janelle, THANK YOU! THANK YOU!

      I was wondering if my piece had touched any folks among family and friends.

      Baseball was always a bond in our family. Your Dad and Grandpa took me to my first games at Ebbets Field in the late 40’s where my life long love affair with baseball began.

      Ebbets — was, indeed, a field of dreams away from our real world which I was very slowly beginning to understand. Your Dad – My Uncle Herbie and Grandpa were very patient in explaining why Jackie Robinson was more than just a good ballplayer. History lessons were also taught in that old Brooklyn ball park.

      Like

  2. That was a riveting read Mr. Garry. We’ve lived through all those horrifying episodes in our past and thought “Surely it will NEVER get worse.” It’s a fool that thinks such things. It can always get worse. It has. I get discouraged beyond belief, not only that the world I grew up and was tolerably happy enough in has vanished and some alien place has taken over. Oddball weather, a plague, stupidity all around and worse in the leaders all around. Nobody cares a fig for anything but money any more. I loved that thought you shared “This is no country for old people, nor those seeking reason, sanity and justice.” It’s sadly true now, even in America, where again a lot of us thought “It can’t get any worse.” Well it did and now what do we do? At least those in the winters of our lives can hope for death, a thing that is inevitable even when all reason and sanity is lost. Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Melanie, thanks for that GREAT response. I was thinking of the “Surely, it will NEVER get worse line” but forgot as I wrote my piece. I/we here usually think of that line in response to Mel Brooks – art imitating life repose – the grave robbing scene in “Young Frankenstein”. EYE-gore to Dr. FRONkenstein, “Surely, it can’t get any worse”. Of course, the heavens open up and they’re almost drowned by heavy rainfall.

      We always laugh at that scene. But we cannot laugh at the real life version of political and social rainfall that threaten our lives and the future of generations to come.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Garry, I am glad to know that baseball brings you so much pleasure. I have been watching the supreme court rulings all the way from over here in South Africa with great dismay. The overturning of Roe v Wade was bad enough but now the ruling on the regulation of carbon pollution has come as another massive blow to progress in the area of clean power.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The news is SO depressing I’m afraid to watch it. I’m pretty sure we’ll work something out, but I have no idea what, but something. The people — MANY people all over the country — are absolutely FURIOUS. It’s hard to do anything about the court — except ignore them, which has been done in the past. They don’t have any enforcement. Basically, you follow what they say because they ARE the Supreme Court, but if you don’t? They can’t come and get you in the night They don’t have the power to even issue a warrant.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Roberta, these are beyond dire times. If you have any sense of history and hope for justice, it’s hard to cope with events presented with each new day. I inadvertently omitted gun control legislation and the NRA fanatics who drink the Kool-Aid of 2nd amendment rights. If those AR-15 enthusiasts could get a personal, closeup look of a child’s body riddled with bullets, they might change their tune. It leaves you with nightmares. Trust me from from personal encounters that were part of my job. Someone – a network reporter on the job in the Ukraine – has suggested the suits allow news crews to air graphic video of victims to REALLY bring home the horror of war and gun violence.

      I think there are many people who cannot wrap their heads around the significance of the Roe V Wade or Carbon Pollution rulings. I realize I cannot tell my Wife “I know how you feel” when discussing Roe V Wade. No amount of journalistic experience gives me – as a guy – that right.

      I suggest a rerun of “The Star Chamber” for some Scotus apologists.

      Too much, too soon?

      Liked by 1 person

      • HI Garry, I am with you 100% on all of these points. It is painful to watch this from afar. The USA leads everyone, everywhere, and right now it is rather scary to see where we are all headed. R v W is completely insane and makes no sense. What will be next? Very worrying.

        Liked by 1 person

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