I have nothing profound to say about COVID-19. Others more articulate than I are speaking to fear, the power of prayer, cooperation and so on. Others are noting people pulling knives on one another over toilet paper.
But I miss baseball. The start of each season always spoke to me of hope, especially for a year after my Redsox stumbled and may have been caught cheating. Most of the sports channels are replaying great games from the past. Such memories can sustain us as we await the season that may not happen.
- Bill Mazeroski’s World Series-winning home run in 1960. I hated the Yankees. Still do. And so to see the underdog Pirates upset them, winning game 7 on a dramatic homerun stands out as my greatest baseball memory.
- Having admitted my hatred of the Yankees, the second memory involves a Yankee. In 1961, I traveled to New York to see the Yankees play Cleveland, mainly so that I could see my boyhood hero Jimmy Piersall play. But I also noted that Yankee Roger Maris was closing in on Babe Ruth’s homerun record. And indeed that day I saw Roger hit #56 on his way to 61 (which I also saw on TV).
- Having seen Field of Dreams I had placed seeing a game at Fenway Park on my bucket list. My brother-in-law George actually managed to secure tickets to a September game against the Yankees! What an evening! Rogers Clemens pitched (years before he too got caught up in scandal). But George pointed out to me that this evening third baseman Wade Boggs had a chance to break Lou Gehrig’s record for most consecutive seasons with 200+ hits. But he’d need 4 to do that. Amazingly he got a hit the first three times he batted. When he came up a fourth time, everyone knew what was at stake. Wade hit a line drive that glanced off the top of the center fielder’s glove and ended up at second base. The crowd waited to see the score keeper’s call and erupted into a great ovation when the green Hit light lit up.
- The Steal. That night in 2004 I thought “Skunked again by the Damn Yankees as they were up 3 games to 0 in the AL playoffs. I almost went to bed after the eighth inning but decided to be loyal. In the bottom of the ninth, Dave Roberts stole second, the Redsox tied the game, went on to win 4 in a row and then won the Series.
There are others. But I also have to add that perhaps my warmest baseball memories are right here in El Paso. The ballpark was Dudley Field, an intimate park where many future stars passed through playing for the Double A Diablos. I spent many a pleasant summer night there with friends and, most especially, my kids. The announcer Paul Strelzin added a particular flavor to proceedings by encouraging fans to wave a tissue at an opposing pitcher leaving the game. He would intone “The bases are FOD. Full of Diablos” as he would also play the great song “We Will Rock You” with fans pounding on their seats. Somehow those games capture most for me the joy of baseball. Memories of the Dudley Dome will have to sustain me until we hear a cry of “Play ball!”