An MMO Fan Shot by J Doubleday
“Ray. People will come, Ray. They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they’re doing it. They’ll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. “Of course, we won’t mind if you look around”, you’ll say, “It’s only $20 per person.”
“They’ll pass over the money without even thinking about it: for it is money they have and peace they lack. And they’ll walk out to the bleachers; sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon. They’ll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they’ll watch the game and it’ll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters.”
“The memories will be so thick they’ll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good and that could be again. Oh…people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.”
I can recite this quote verbatim. If you are reading this, I suspect you can, too. I keep a baseball in my car so I can grip it; feel it; trace my finger across those red laces like I am petting a favorite dog. Most of all I like to smell it, because perhaps unlike every other sport, baseball excites all your senses. The smell of fresh cut grass and old leather, the sound of the crack of a hickory or ash bat, the crunch you sense when your foot touches the warning track, the feel of peanut shells beneath your shoes.
My personal love affair with baseball was organic. I grew up in Manhattan the son of a Dodger fan mother from Brooklyn and a Giants fan father from the upper west side. It was in my DNA to root for the national league, back in the days when that meant something. My team was the Mets from whom I learned dignity in defeat, and heights of joy I could not possibly have foreseen. Yet I grew to love more than just my Mets, I loved the game, the history, the rules – everything about it.
And speaking of dignity, as a kid I used to write letters to Monte Irvin, the NY Giant great, when he worked at the Commissioners Office. Monte always wrote back. Imagine that a minute – a Hall of Fame ballplayer from my father’s favorite team corresponding by mail with a 12 year old. Kindness. Respect. Dignity. Sportsmanship. That’s what I learned from baseball.
I spent my childhood summers at a camp in the West Virginia mountains. Most nights were filled with listening to Marty Brennaman calling the games of the magnificent Cincinnati Reds teams of the 70s – The Big Red Machine, they called them. Other nights we picked up Jack Buck and the Cardinals on our AM transistor radios, or Harry Carey and the Cubs, or if the sky was particularly crisp, we could hear the silky voice of Vin Scully and the Dodgers.
Through these men I learned to love the entire game of baseball, not just the magical corner it occupies in New York. Midwest baseball captures the heart of its fans in a different way. The players are more a part of the community they play in than they are in New York. At least the way it is now. Who could forget Willie Mays playing stickball on the streets of a Harlem. That wouldn’t happen today. But it might still happen in, say, Kansas City.
So here we are, a couple of weeks shy of another spring training. The trucks are loaded for Florida and Arizona and most teams are putting the final touches on their rosters. Baseball is back, and not a moment too soon.
People will come, Ray. They will most definitely come.
About the Author – I am a former columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, the Herald de Paris, and numerous magazines. I once worked in a professional baseball front office. I have been a Mets fan my entire life, and remember watching the 1969 World Series ticker tape parade at age 5.
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This Fan Shot was contributed by MMO community member and die-hard Mets fan J Doubleday. Have something you want to say about the Mets? Send your article to GetMetsmerized@aol.com or use this Contact Form. Or ask us about becoming a regular contributor.