THE economy is in the toilet, unemployment is off the charts and there are two presidential candidates that I don’t think know much about derivatives or their bastard cousin, credit default swaps.
That being said, I went looking to bury my head in a distraction. In October there’s no better way to do the ostrich thing than at a baseball game.
Baseball has been on my mind lately because of the looming destruction of Yankee Stadium. That grand old place in the Bronx was where my father, myself, and my brother and sisters would experience an American distraction together.
As Yogi Berra said, they can tear it down but my memories of the place will never be destroyed. Memories of walking past the endless marble steps of the U.S. courthouse to get to the stadium. Of that splash of green that hits the eye like a fluorescent Warhol at the end of the upper deck tunnel. Of talking baseball minutia with other grandstanders whom I had never met until that day.
My dad liked doubleheaders. In between games, I’d find my way down to the Yankee Stadium Museum and lift up the phones that played the famous calls: Lou Gehrig’s farewell; Don Larsen’s perfect game during the 1956 World Series; Mickey Mantle’s 500th homer. Chills would run up my back and tickle the sweat beads there as I listened to the scratchy recordings.
“We usually sat in the upper grandstands. Dad liked that the best. We’d be under the overhang,” wrote my older sister, Loretta, who lives in Upstate New York. “Mom would make us like 10 ham and cheese sandwiches and a soda in a big bag. Then, Dad would buy us an ice cream or something special.”
I was born the year the referendum allowing construction of Dodger Stadium at Chavez Ravine passed — 50 years ago in April. Dodger fans have memories there, as I do of Yankee Stadium, that could fill a lifetime.
What sears baseball memories into the brain is not nine guys playing a game in baggy pants, but rather, a family connecting through baseball’s timeline. Since they’ve been playing this game for more than 100 years, each generation of fans can connect through the timeless game. When my dad would tell me about sneaking into the Polo Grounds, it reminded me of a friend of my wife’s who told me Thursday night she would get into Yankee Stadium by climbing through an 18-inch gap between the subway platform and the House That Ruth Built.
Since 1979, I’ve become an Angels fan (it started while I was attending UC Irvine and Cal State Fullerton) and have had my share of bonding moments at Angel Stadium. My wife and I would take our sons and sit out on the picnic tables in center field. Our oldest, Matt, 18, grew up liking former Angel great Tim Salmon. As a toddler, he cried during the homerun fireworks, I’ll always remind him.
As I got busy with marriage, work and starting a family, baseball took a back seat. Funny, once I became a father it became more important. It became more than a distraction. Being a baseball fan meant extending a family connection.
My younger sister, Grace, who lives in Kansas with her husband and family, will never forget our baseball moment. On Oct. 14 1976, we watched Chris Chambliss smack a walk-off homerun into the seats of Yankee Stadium, sending our Yanks to their first World Series in our lifetime.
On Wednesday night, I went looking for some distraction but that turned to numbing reality. There would be no joy in Anaheim that night. The Angels had lost.
As I write this, I’m waiting for my younger son, Andy, 16, to meet me here at work so together we could see Game 2 of the Angels-Red Sox playoffs Friday night. Win or lose, joy or disappointment, we’ll be making a new memory.