Sunday, October 19, 2014

Wild Card

I once read that kids find a way to connect with their fathers by pursuing their dad's interests instead of their own.  I'm not sure if that is always true but it certainly was in my case.  A mild interest in the Cubs that was fueled by a trip to Wrigley Field when I was about ten and the deal was struck. 

Dad's team became my team.

We would arrive early enough to watch batting practice with a picnic lunch in tow.  Mom and Dad would get a beer or two from one of the vendors to wash down the ham sandwiches, and my sisters and I would get peanuts and cotton candy.

I dove head first into my new obsession, clipping newspaper and magazine articles for a scrapbook I kept.  I made a rug with the Cubs logo for my bedroom.  When I was in high school my mom got tickets to a luncheon for Cubs fans and I got my picture taken with Fergie Jenkins.  I once saw Ernie Banks on the streets of Chicago and ran back to my office so I could call Mom and tell her.

My interest in baseball ebbed and flowed over the years depending on how busy my life became.  When I met Mark I made him watch the World Series with me and explained everything my Dad had taught me.  The strategy, the signals, the base runners.  He grew up on hockey and so this was new turf to him. He loved it, or maybe he tolerated it and loved me more.

Sitting at home on the couch one can almost smell the crisp, autumn air of a World Series game that makes the sound of the ball pop when it hits the glove of the catcher, or the crack of the bat as though it is across the street instead of thousands of miles away.

And then there's Vin Scully.  The play-by-play announcer that has made a career of putting poetry to baseball.

This year the Kansas City Royals are going to the World Series.  In a wild card and playoff series that often went past midnight, this bleary-eyed city woke to win after win and collectively said the morning after, "Did that really happen?" 

Kansas City is also home to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and it is a cultural gem.  When I went I happened to be following the current director and was right on his heels as he gave a tour to two women.   He was a wealth of knowledge about a time long gone when there was a white league and a Negro league, and never the two should meet until Jackie Robinson came along.

Vintage photos of the Negro League games show crowds in their finest apparel.  Most games were on Sunday afternoons and so fans would walk from church with their picnic baskets and then sit in the stands to cheer for the Kansas City Monarchs.

In a football season that has started with more violence than most of us can stomach, this team has been the antidote.  The MVP smiling while clutching his trophy and then beaming when he was cradling his newborn son.  They are our gentleman players - the Sunday-after-church kind that seem grateful enough to tip their caps and thank their moms.

My dad used to run training sessions for lineman at Commonwealth Edison in Chicago.  One team knew how much Dad loved the Cubs and bought him a coffee cup with the names of all the bullpen pitchers on it.  "You have it, Kath," Dad said.  "You love them as much as me."

That's what I drink my coffee from each morning, and though it traces back to 1969 and seen better days, my love of the game has the best days ahead of me this year. 

While an entire city cheers the Royals on it almost seems a certainty that the spirit of those dads who rooted for the Monarchs or the Cubs, the ones who patiently taught the intricacies of the national pastime to their eager kids, will be right beside us.

So close in fact that it wouldn't seem the least bit odd to say aloud after a diving catch in the outfield, "Can you believe this game, Dad?"

1 comment:

  1. Love, love, love. I've had similar--yet so different--thoughts rolling around in my head for the past week. So glad you shared yours. xo