Saturday, July 31, 2010

Appreciation #1: Baseball

I can easily recall my earliest memory of fascination with the game of baseball and the start of my becoming a lifelong fan of the N.Y. Yankees. It was either 1965 or '66 and I was 9 or 10 years old at the time. Absolutely no one in my family watched baseball or expressed any interest in it at all.

We were visiting my grandpa Kondler in Newark, NJ and he was watching a Yankees game on TV. As far as I can remember, he always had sports on whenever I came over and I know that this was where I watched the first AFL-NFL Championship game (later to become known as the Super Bowl.) On this particular day, it was an early season game in what was to be one of a string of dismal seasons for the Yanks. The pitcher was Whitey Ford and he let a pitch go that came rocketing back directly at his face. Somehow at the last possible instant, he got his glove up and caught the ball that would have killed or disfigured him, the force of the liner so intense that his glove shot back, knocking the cap off of his head.

Don't ask me why but from that instant, I was hooked.

I read everything in the library that had ever been written about the Yankees and received "A's" on every book report that I turned in. As all of the games were televised (for free!), I watched as often as possible those dreadful, awful teams of the late 60's and early 70's. My schoolwork would be affected during trips to the west coast as I sneaked my transistor radio under my pillow and lay on the ear piece, dozing in and out of sleep during games that didn't end until 1 a.m.

One of the best memories I have of time spent with my mother was getting out of college late in 1978 and watching the Yanks-Red Sox game on TV at home with her. I think I dented the parlor floor from pounding it when Bucky Dent hit that three-run homer.

Baseball played a significant part in my getting married as my ex-wife and I shared a deep and intense love of the game and the Yankees. I will always be thankful to her for taking me to my first home opener as a birthday present.

I laugh when I think back on the countless hours that my friends and I spent rolling dice and later hitting "enter" on computer keyboards as we replayed seasons with games such as Strat-o-Matic and ASG baseball. The leagues we created led to friendships around the country, a few that live on even today after three decades.

Baseball has brought me some of the greatest joys of my life and I am appreciative of the "National Pastime" beyond measure. I could fill a book with all of the things that I've experienced around the "grand old game" and after sharing a few memories here, I think I shall.

There will be many other "Appreciations" to be shared here but I had to thank my dear old friend "in the lead off spot."