Buffalo, NY, where I grew up, wasn’t a huge baseball town. While there were the minor league Bisons, my family never got too excited about the game as we would have had we lived in, say, Brooklyn, with “dem bums.” My brothers were more into other sports, like swimming. Still, I remember a few crisp fall days when the crack of a bat could be heard from a radio set in the window of our house while we raked leaves.
During the 1956 World Series, one of my college professors put away his prepared lecture for the day in order to listen to Don Larsen’s history-making perfect game.
But it wasn’t until the day my eyes lit on a red-haired ex-airman who was filling in at second base for our church team, though, that I decided there was a bit more to the game. I stayed pretty close to the bench that year and even learned how to keep score. That strategy paid off and in time, we ended up almost forming our own team, missing only a shortstop.
Like my own family, our kids weren’t really sold on baseball, although the boys all played a bit of Little League (with Dad coaching) and our daughter Anne actually played in a women’s league after college. Anne was a chip off the old block. She never felt a game was complete unless she finished it bloodied and victorious. I got pretty good at taking care of those long brush burns caused by sliding into second. Pat also continued to play in our city’s “beer league.” He and a couple of buddies were known as the “Tinker to Evers to Chance” of North Tonawanda.
In 1994, we moved to Cleveland for the second time in four years. Our first time around, I’d been introduced to major league ball and how much fun it was to be in the stands on a summer day. There was now a new ballpark called “The Jake” and we were excited about our adopted team, the Cleveland Indians. But alas, our excitement that year was cut short by a general strike in mid-August, just shy of the end of the season.
At the beginning of the next year, people were slow to start coming to The Jake. When our entire family visited Cleveland for a little reunion, we were easily able to snag sixteen tickets in the Upper Deck. It was July 18 and in the bottom of the ninth, the Indians were down 5-2. With two out, Albert Belle stepped to the plate and uncorked a Grand Slam home run. The place went crazy and from then on, tickets became as scarce as hens’ teeth. Occasionally, there were more Indian’s fans in the Detroit Stadium than there were Tiger’s fans. Those were the good old days, when the batting lineup stayed pretty much stable throughout the season. I probably could still recite it by heart, or come close to it.
For Christmas 2001, my son Patrick presented me with a book of haiku-like poetry called “Memories of My Mother and Family.” He knows me well.
A warm summer night
with an old friend at her side,
She cheers the boys of summer
leaving her voice at The Jake.
We’ve had a few lean years, baseball-wise, here in Cleveland, but things do seem to be picking up slightly. A bit of the old magic is in the air as I write this. Keep your fingers crossed, your radio/TV/iPad tuned in and Go Tribe!