I am a lifelong baseball fan. When October rolls around, I can smell baseball in the wind, I can hear it in the rustling autumn leaves.It’s World Series time again! The Red Sox are not playing in it, but that doesn’t mean we can’t cheer from the sidelines. It’s been a long time since either contending team had a Big Win.
Even though our team isn’t in it, it has been an interesting season.
Last year’s last place Sox made the first round of this year’s playoffs. How did they do that? How do you take a losing team and become an (erratically) successful team in one year? Two years ago, they went from world champions to last place in a season, so I suppose the magic goes both ways. They achieved the leap both times without major lineup changes or anything weird happening with owners.
Improved esprit de corps? Better coaching? Something in the water? Wanting to give Big Papi a great send-off? But, I digress.
Go Cleveland! Go Cubs!
Spectator sports give all of us less talented lovers of the game a chance to participate, if not on the field, at least in the recliner. We all yearn for our personal “walk-off home run” at the big game. These days, it might be a really great night out at our favorite Sushi bar … or a little spare money to spend on something frivolous. Maybe a new lens for one of the cameras?
Mind you, we are not unhappy. Life continues to be engaging, entertaining, amusing, satisfying. Fun.
We’ve had to adjust. Find different ways to have a good time. We aren’t going to be partying all night (did we ever enjoy that, really?). Or taking long road trips. Life is not picking on us personally. Everyone has to adapt. We change. Our world changes. Unless you want to be one of the people who sits around grumbling about the “good old days” and how nothing is as like it used to be, we need to find things to enjoy and new ways to do them. It requires an effort of will to make it happen … and maybe a bit of creative thinking.
Meanwhile, back in the stadium, the grand game — America’s Pastime — is being played out for our great enjoyment. The leaves may be falling from the trees (it was a spectacular display this Autumn), and to top it off, like the cherry on top of the banana split, we get our October classic … which could possibly run into November (but most likely, won’t).
Okay, all of these philosophical meanderings are prologue to the Frank Capra-resque World Series which begins tonight. The long-suffering Chicago Cubs versus the blue-collar Cleveland Indians. It’s Gary Cooper against Henry Fonda. Plenty of heroes and no villains except maybe the umps. It’s the sons of Tinker to Evers to Chance taking on the ghosts of Bob Feller, Al Rosen, Larry Doby and Vic Wertz.
I was collecting my first baseball cards when the Indians last won the World Series in 1948. My maternal Grandfather had just turned 21 when the Cubs won their last World Series in 1908. I still remember the stories he shared with me about those long ago Cubbies when I was still wearing short pants.
In those days, we wondered if our beloved Brooklyn Dodgers would ever beat the dreaded Yankees in the World Series. Thus began a lifetime of always rooting for the underdog. Angst has ever been a part of my DNA while rooting for my teams. So often defeat has been snatched from the veritable jaws of victory.
I felt nearer my God to thee when my hero Duke Snider and Brooklyn’s Boys of Summer finally defeated the damn Yankees for the 1955 World Series. Apple-faced southpaw Johnny Podres was the unlikely pitching hero.
Forty-nine years later, I stared in disbelief at the television as the Boston Red Sox won their first World Series after 87 jinxed years. It was the icing on the cake after a historic comeback in the American League Championship Series against the Yankees, finally exorcising the curse of the Bambino.
I recall describing my love of baseball to Teddy Ballgame, the legendary Ted Williams. Williams didn’t usually spend time with the media. But Teddy and I shared a link to John Wayne who I’d met and with whom I’d shared stories about legends. Duke admired Boston’s #9 and Williams liked Wayne’s no-nonsense screen heroes.
The movie “Field of Dreams” comes closest to capturing my love affair with baseball. Beyond your favorite team, there’s the love of the game, its complex drama and generations of heroes.
It doesn’t take a Hoyt Wilhelm-Tim Wakefield knuckleball to understand why baseball is a religion for some of us, especially in this year of political upheaval. The Cubs-Indians World Series will be a breath of fresh air from the toxic world of Orange Head and his minions.
See you at the park. Let’s play ball!