Thursday, November 03, 2016

Baseball is Simply a Magical Game

Maybe it has to do with the fact that when I was a kid growing up in Reynolds Georgia, it was the only game in town.  At least it was the only organized game in town.  We played basketball in our backyards with the wood backboards and half torn nets and later played in an organized way in junior high school but it was baseball that captured our hearts and our time during those carefree dog days of the summers of our youth.  When I was 8 years old, my buddies and I were playing baseball in an organized league with kids that were as old as 12 years old and all ages in between.  To a person, that Little League Baseball program in Reynolds would produce some of our fondest memories in life.   It was in those days that we learned the fundamentals of the game - like how to throw and catch a baseball, how to make sure the ball is in front of you on a ground ball hit to you, how to get a jump on a fly ball or how to throw in front of the runner from the outfield, when to take a pitch and how to not cry when you got hit by a pitch while at the plate.  I could go on and on. 
But mostly we learned how to be a part of a team and how important each person is to a team. I think we learned how to be part of something bigger than ourselves.  Maybe that idea is the string that pulls at my baseball heart.

Maybe my love for the game came from downtown Reynolds at Windham’s Dime Store where my buddies and I would gather to buy baseball cards anytime we had an extra coin or two in our pockets - the cards with the thin sweet smelling slice of bubble gum that came in the package.  It was by collecting and trading and studying the backs of those cards that names like Aaron, Mays, Mantle, Maris, Koufax, Robinson, Drysdale and Banks became very familiar to us.
Or maybe it was the Saturday game of the week when on a clear day we could get up to three channels on our television sets.   When sweaty little boys would come in from the baseball diamond after those Saturday morning games in our dirty uniforms and sit on the floor glued to the TV hanging on every colorful word of Dizzy Dean and Pee Wee Reese.  It was during those Saturday afternoons when the pictures on those baseball cards came alive and the statistics on the back made sense and the players became our heroes.

Or maybe it was walking out of the school building when I was 8 years old and realizing my Grandfather was in his Buick “funeral home car” waiting on my brother and me to take us to see the minor league Macon Peaches and a young player on that team by the name of Pete Rose.
Or maybe it was when the World Series was the major sporting event of the year and the games were played in the afternoon and the teachers would bring a TV on a rolling stand in the classroom so we could all watch the game.

Or maybe it was when the Milwaukee Braves moved to Atlanta and I found myself sitting in the stands watching my baseball card heroes play right in front of me. Or maybe it was a little later, when my mom would put us out at Atlanta Stadium a couple of hours before a Double Header and leave us – and we would spend all day running all over that stadium taking in every sound and sight while spending our last dollar on peanuts and Cracker Jacks and really not caring if we ever got back.
Or maybe it was those untold numbers of nights lying in the bed listening to Milo and Ernie on a radio that would be clear one minute and then full of static the next - but being captivated by the words they painted clearly seen with my mind’s eye.  Or maybe it was hearing my mother jump up and down and scream when the Braves won their division for the first time – and getting in the car with her as she drove up and down the streets late at night honking the horn.

Or maybe it was Ted Turner and his Superstation when the Braves were all of a sudden on TV every night and old people and young alike across the country became Braves fans and lived and died on every fly ball and every Texas leaguer that found a place to fall.  Or maybe it was the WGN Superstation and Harry Caray singing “Take Me Out to the Ballpark” at every 7th inning stretch at Wrigley Field with those ivy covered walls  or his big glasses and his “Holy Cow” as the hapless Cubs found another way to lose as they tried to free themselves from the Billy Goat Curse.
Or maybe it was later when I was in college and a few of my buddies and I would drive over to Atlanta from Athens to have an intimate look at a game when the Braves were not good and it would not be unusual for the attendance to be a thousand - or less - and you could hear every word the players said on the field. Or maybe it was the Braves home opener on a cool night in 1974 against the Dodgers, when I was standing on my seat in the outfield after Hammerin’ Hank Aaron hit home run number 715 and broke Babe Ruth’s record.  Or maybe it was when I was sitting on the second row on the first base side at the first game of the 1991 World Series in Atlanta pinching myself to make sure it was real. Or maybe it was when I was sitting in the stands in 1992 when Syd Bream slid into home on a walk off hit by Francisco Cabrera in the National League Championship Series to take the Braves to its second consecutive World Series.

Or maybe it was those late night calls after I was married with kids and was a practicing undertaker in full swing.  Each time I was awakened suddenly after being dead to the world, thinking another poor soul had met their Maker - only to find it was my Mama excitingly asking if I saw how that game ended. Those West Coast games really wore me out.

Or maybe it was a few years ago when I took my youngest son away from his own family to Cooperstown for a few days and told him stories about some of the old timers we met who were signing autographs on the streets.  Or the walk through that incredible museum where I pointed out to him memorabilia on display there of the heroes of my childhood.  Or maybe it was sitting on those lawn chairs that Sunday afternoon as our Braves' Bobby Cox, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddox were inducted into the shrine of all shrines of all sports. Or maybe it was the realization that week that my son moved from being an Atlanta Braves fan to a baseball fan.
Oh yes.  There is a difference.

Or maybe it was in the early morning hours of this morning when I think I felt Harry Caray move in his grave and I had to wipe tears from my eyes as the 108 year old World Series drought for the Chicago Cubs ended in Cleveland Ohio as the Cubs defeated the Indians 8-7 in 10 innings…. and the Curse of the Billy Goat was forever removed.
For me, the game of baseball has been and will forever be my favorite sport.

Baseball is simply a magical game.  If you are a baseball fan, the 2016 World Series was a magical series. And last night was a magical night.
I think we need a little magic in our great country these days. The kind of magic that promotes teamwork, friendships, high fives and neck hugs - and the kind that reminds us we all have a real  opportunity to be a positive  part of something bigger than ourselves.


Anonymous said...

Awesome Bruce!!

Cheryl said...

Wow! I love this. God has blessed you with the talent of writing (and speaking). Thanks for sharing it.

Steve said...

Great read! Everybody knows the names: Hank, Willie, Sandy, Roberto. My Hall of Fame would include the names: Hubert, Willie, Pat, W.T.