i called my dad last week. he was born in 1939 so that puts him over 80. he told me he’d been attending a lot of funerals.
funeral hopping i thought to myself, not wanting to make light of death…..memories immediately aroused from my teenage years, of “pool hopping,” as we called it, trespassing into backyards, one after the other and slipping quietly into pools at night.
And then there was baseball stadium hopping. we lived in Milwaukee. we were lucky because in addition to county stadium we were only 90 miles north of Chicago, two teams Chicago, one national, one american, in the pre-interleague days.
In the early 90’s, a Milwaukee bar called the Why Not Two set up a field trip to Chicago, to see the Cubs. I forget how much it cost, but there was a barrel of beer in the back of the bus. I was drunk by the time we reached Wrigley so I don’t remember much, but it was a double header against the Astros.
for some reason which still bothers me I never went to a game at Comiskey Park, never went to see the White Sox and my favorite player Harold Baines. but i did get to see him when the Sox came to play in Milwaukee and i took some pictures of him warming up in the outfield.
more stadiums….my senior year of high school, I entered a contest in the back of Baseball Digest, to win tickets to the 1988 all-star game in Cincinnati and i won, but i soon found out that I had failed to notice one minor detail when filling out the contest entrance form. It was a contest to win the right to “buy” tickets not get free tickets, no big deal, right? Well, thankfully my dad thought so and he splurged which as it turned out wasn’t too much money….around 40 bucks a ticket in the upper deck at Riverfront stadium. I remember three things about the town and game…..firstly, Skyline Chili which is apparently unique to Cincy tasted good……secondly, one of the motel maid’s name was Wanda. My dad loves talking to strangers….and lastly was Jose Canseco hitting upper deck moon shots in batting practice.
but back to that phone conversation with my dad. I asked how he was doing and he said, “I’m kind of in a funk.”
When my dad is in a funk, it’s not because he’s been listening to George Clinton and the P-Funk all-stars. It’s because he’s depressed.”
I figured it was because of all those funerals he’s been going to. boy was I wrong. He said it was because the Brewers traded Josh Hader, arguably the best closer in all of baseball over the last four seasons.
How powerful is baseball! To cause an elderly man to slip into a depression. It didn’t help matters that after the controversial trade, the Brewers lost five out of six games. They were swept by the Pirates and lost two out of three to the Reds, both teams playing well below .500 and to make my dad’s mental state even worse – a few of the losses were caused by bullpen implosions.
My dad’s depression got me thinking about baseball as more than a sport and I got to be careful here, to not slip into over-the-top shmaltziness, but I can’t resist, mostly because i have no ritual or rituals that i follow, no holy rosary around my wrist, no mezuzah on my door post, no red dot on my forehead and so i turn to baseball and wonder…..
…..we’ve debunked the Abner Doubleday creation story and settled on a medley of bat and ball games as an origin…town ball, cricket, I forget the others. But there’s also Russian Lapta to consider not to mention pre-Neolithic revolution days when club and spheroid games were no doubt played when members of the tribe were not hunting and gathering.
There’s also the rites of winter trade talk, opening day, the all-star game and World Series. There’s the rituals of pepper, long toss, around the horn, batting practice, infield practice……a pilgrimage to cooperstown, the amulet magic talisman hobby of baseball card collecting, bards in the booth and legends, from Babe Ruth’s raucous, grateful crowning to a reluctant king in Roger Maris and that seems to cover the gambit of splendour to shame, the ancient masks we all wear. did i mention Mario Mendoza?
There is math in Batting Average and more recently, WAR.
There is science in launch angles and the physics of a pitched ball.
I could go on and on, but we all know and that’s why we love baseball…..
And the good news. The Brewers rebounded. They swept the Rays in a short, two game series and then tied up their series with the division leading Cards, but then on Sunday, the rubber match, the bullpen imploded again, the newly acquired Taylor Rogers (in the Hader deal) allowing four runs in the 8th inning. Albert Pujols hit two home runs. I wonder if he’s the oldest player to do that?
I suspect my dad’s transformed from feeling depressed to being fed up. I’ll call him tonight and remind him that there are still 49 games to be played.