Jewish World Review
April 2, 2007
/ 14 Nissan, 5767
Baseball been Berry Berry good to me
March Madness is about to surrender to April gladness. Like a rush of spring cooled, flowered air, baseball is upon us. One of my best and most loyal friends has returned to perk me up after an unusually late and long icy frost.
The 2007 Major League Baseball season is mere hours away.
My lifelong relationship with baseball started for me as a kid in Skokie, a northern burb of Chicago. Growing up in the 50's and 60's, we learned our motor skills outside, in all elements, from dawn until our squinting eyes couldn't see anymore.
We lived sports…
The summer game represented our release from stogy, drab schools, reeking of mold and disinfectant.
The gray, icy slush seeped into dirt and flushed down sewers in mid April.
Sublime fragrance wafted up nostrils then through our lobes from fresh cut grass, just blossomed daffodils and tulips. The sky grew a mesmerizing blue and the leaves and lawns a stunning rich green.
Hypnotized by our biological clocks, we globally positioned to gather our mitts, balls, bats, and caps. Then we lugged them on strong young shoulders, swaying from the weight on our trusty bikes, scrunching our tires side to side, straining up gravel roads.
On to virgin fields of diamonds in the rough! On to battle! On to destiny!
We could never get enough.
We breakfasted on strawberries (abrasions), the kind that splotched red and pink on our outer thighs and knees from sliding on hard dirt and rock, only to crust and be scratched off…to make way for new ones. Barely stopping for lunch, we sucked down sodas and candy.
Our lumber had Nellie Fox, Minnie Minoso, or Ernie Banks burnt in autographs. Louie Aparicio, Kenny Hubbs or Warren Spahn signed our oil soaked mitts.
It was "PLAY BALL" all day long, picking new teams as each game ended, changing the rosters to accommodate new arrivals, replace retirees and to balance out the competition.
Boy did we give the early quitters a hard time.
When it was dark enough that even the bugs seemed tired of sucking our blood, we went home to the only decent meal of the day.
After treating our wounds, we succumbed to hot showers and the cold sheeted beds.
We dreamt about that home run that turned into a long fly out, and the double play that we fielded, pivoted on and launched, only to be dropped by the first baseman. In our imaginations we nailed our four baggers and double plays, just like the big leaguers.
Then we'd start all over the next day.
Those that play like piñatas; shouldn't be surprised by the sticks.
Some days were shortened by our parents taking us to Major League games, one of the accepted excuses to miss our own battles. Most games I attended were at Wrigley Field, then and STILL the home of the Chicago Cubs.
I watched those Cubbies and rooted for them with all my might. Ernie Let's Play 2 Banks, Billy Williams, Moe Drabowski, Lou Trade Me at Your Own Peril Brock, Kenny Hubbs, Ron Santo, Kenny Holtzman, even the Rifleman, Chuck "shoot from the hip" Connors, plus colorful managers like Leo Durocher.
I still remember Jack Brickhouse, legendary Cub TV Announcer, driving by on his way to Wrigley, slowing down just long enough to beam the friendliest smile I'd seen in a long time and to wave his good and gracious cheer. Wow! How did he know I was a Cub fan?
That scene is etched in my mind like it was yesterday, yet happened near 50 years ago.
The Cubs were my team, but sadly, couldn't get it done.
Their last World Championship was 99 years ago. Their last World Series appearance? 1945.
I do wish they could win…just for all the kids I played ball with those early years that remain in Chicago and loyal to the Cubs.
While it's important to win, it's imperative to compete.
I must confess. Geography changed my life.
I've lived in and around the St. Louis area for the last 35 years. OKAY! You don't have to beat it out of me. I'M A CARDINAL FAN…23 year season ticket holder. I've been to Five, (count 'em!) world series and too many playoff games to count right now, just since 1982.
The Redbirds have won ten World Championships, second only to the Yankees. And we all know, the Yanks are the best team money can buy.
The Cardinals almost always manage to put winning teams on the field.
I'll be at Busch Stadium opening night.
I'll be easy to spot.
I'll be the one with the red hat on.
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JWR contributor Dave Weinbaum, originally from Chicago, is a businessman, writer and part-time stand-up comic. He resides in a Midwest red state. Comment by clicking here.
© 2005, Dave Weinbaum