Friday, May 27, 2011
Take me out to the Ballgame...My love affair with baseball
The world recently lost one of Baseballs’ all time great players, Harmon Kilebrew. It gave me pause to recall my experiences with the game, my love affair, if you will.
Many would argue that baseball is no longer America’s pastime. I respectfully disagree. Rarely do you hear of baseball players overdosing at clubs, beating up their wives or getting DUI’s. Oh sure, you can consider Pete Rose. Although, you have to respect what he brought to the game prior to all that.
I grew up in Detroit, which has always been a big baseball town. Tiger Stadium was a cathedral dedicated to the game. Baseball was as much a part of my childhood as school or church or breathing. I can remember watching Game of the Week on a Sears Silvertone black and white portable TV. I knew the players names, hometowns, and batting averages from the backs of the baseball cards I collected and traded. My best friend, who lived across the alley had a brother who became a professional baseball player.
I remember sitting on the glider on a hot summer evening with my father in our backyard under the cherry tree. The aroma of freshly cut grass in the air. Neighbors passing by asking, “What’s the score?“ He would have a cold Stroh’s beer and I would have a Faygo Rock & Rye pop. I can still recall the voice of the Detroit Tigers, Ernie Harwell and his partner, George Kell.
Baseball players may not be better educated or exceptional men, but from personal experience, the players I have met have been darn nice guys. One of my sweetest memories happened at Comerica Park after a game. My son wanted an autograph from one of his favorite players, Lance Parrish, who was now a coach for the Tigers. After the game, we went to the designated area in the parking lot and waited for at least an hour. Slowly, the players emerged from the clubhouse. A few put their heads down and made a beeline for their vehicles. My son spotted Lance. There were quiet pleas from the well behaved crowd of “Lance, Lance, please Lance”. Lance Parrish looked tired. He walked over to his vehicle, put down his soda can and wallet and came over to the excited crowd. My son not only got his autograph and also a picture, but he took the time to speak with at least 20 others who were gathered. He was not the only player to do so. There were 5 or 6 others who took a few minutes to appreciate their fans.
Baseball is an “All American” game. Wherever the players are from. Cincinnati or the Dominican Republic. The tiny “T-ball” players or Minor Leaguers. From the singing of the National Anthem to the 7th inning stretch. From the first pitch to the last out. Abner Doubleday would still be delighted to play his game.