Friday, August 01, 2014

The Greatest of All Games

Vin Scully once said that his thermometer for his baseball fever is a goose bump.  If that is true, my youngest son and I had a really high fever this past weekend in Cooperstown at the Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Weekend.

When I was growing up in the early sixties in Reynolds GA,  baseball was the only game I knew.  Basketball would come later and I would spend much more time playing that game later – but at the beginning – it was baseball.

It was truly the only game in town.  We were fortunate that a group of parents thought enough about the kids in the community to organize a league.  There was no such thing as a recreation department.  The parents organized it.  The local business owners and farmers financed it.  And off we went playing baseball.

We learned the game of baseball.  We learned about catching fly balls and ground balls.  We learned how to bunt and when to hit and run.  We learned to pitch and when to take a pitch when the pitcher was behind in the count. 

In the process, we learned a lot about life. We learned the importance of investing in kids.  We learned how to listen and how to be coachable.  We learned what it was like to be overwhelmed.  We learned about the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. 

Real lessons.  Important lessons.  Life lessons.

On Saturday afternoon, it was the Game of the Week on television with Dizzy Dean and Pee Wee Reese.   The Yankees were on  TV every Saturday I think.  Our heroes were guys by the name of Mantle, Maris, Berra, Kaline, Koufax,  Banks, Mays, Aaron, Ford … and the list goes on.

We traded baseball cards.  Actually we were serious about trading baseball cards.  Some players were “hard to get” and others were seemingly in every package.  Because we read the back of the cards, we knew about almost every player in the league.  We knew their batting averages, homerun totals, RBI totals and, if a pitcher – his earned run average and number of wins and losses.

The image of each player was permanently inscribed in our heads …. and in our hearts. And we can still see those images that were on those cards today.

I have always had respect and love for the game of baseball.  Maybe it’s because it connects me to a wonderful childhood.

This past weekend, Luke and I did a lot of talking about baseball.  Almost every display we saw and every old timer we met brought back a flood of memories that I had not thought about in years.  I constantly shared my memories with my son.  We met Maury Wills and I explained he was the first player to steal 100 bases in a season.  I hadn’t thought about Denny McClain in years but was able to quickly remember he was the last pitcher to win 30 games in a season.  And I explained to Luke that I saw Pete Rose play at Luther Williams Field in Macon, GA with my grandfather when I was about 8 years old.  And the stories went on and on all weekend.

And so did my connection to my past.  And to my son.   The game of baseball has a way of taking you back and connecting dots... and daddys and sons.

Luke said an interesting thing to me when we were on the plane returning to Atlanta.  He said thoughtfully, “I went to Cooperstown a Braves fan.  I’m leaving a baseball fan.”

Hopefully one day Luke will be able to take his son to Cooperstown.  Luke will be able to relay some of the baseball stories to Hines that he heard this weekend.  And maybe he will even be able to create some mental pictures for Hines of an unforgettable trip he and his dad took in the summer of 2014.

Baseball is the greatest of all games.

Roger Hornsby said it best:  People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball.  I'll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring. 

Check out this 12 minute video of our unforgettable weekend.



Anonymous said...

WOW!! A trip of a lifetime for both of you. Thanks for sharing. Hope one day Pate and I can make this trip.

Anonymous said...

WOW. A long way from the ball park on Liberty Street, but that stirs memories like it was yesterday.

James said...

awesome bruce. couldn't have been more perfect a gift for you and luke. james d ;-)