Musical Notes of My Summers

“Love is the most important thing in the world, but baseball is pretty good, too.”  

Yogi Berra

My relationship with baseball began on a hot summer day in the cool, dark living room of my grandparent’s home in upstate New York.

When I walked through the room and Gramp patted the seat beside him on the couch, I sat. I can still feel his warmth beside me, I feel my body lean towards his mass that depressed the cushions so much more than my tiny frame. My breath exhaled as rare feelings of peace and safety settled in.  I would have sat right there forever, watching the paint peel, to feel all that.

Luckily for me he was watching the television across the room where the Mighty, Mighty Mets had resurrected the love of baseball in an old man whose heart had been broken by the Dodgers.  From Channel 9 in New York City an announcer I can’t name, but whose voice I can still hear, would exuberantly tell us what was happening on the small screen far across the room.

I was an introverted, terrified kid, the oldest of five children, I was rarely alone and always wanting to be. I escaped whenever possible and could be found in the woods, up a tree, or wading in a brook.  I was probably an unrecognized tomboy.  I was forced to wash dishes when I would have preferred to mow the grass, but I don’t know that I was aware of gender roles.  My grandfather let me mow his grass, trim his hedges and water his garden.  Because I wanted to, he let me be more than a girl. And he invited me to learn a boy’s game before I was old enough to know what a rare gift that was.

The closest a girl in 1966 upstate NY got to sports was kickball in the street, and only if she was seen as an asset due to very long legs. I didn’t question the rule and was not encouraged to bend it.  I never touched a baseball, or any related equipment.  I wasn’t even curious.  For this I have no explanation. I never touched a baseball, but I learned its life story.

To this day I can conjure the scenes in my head, the small gray and black figures running around the gray field on the television screen. It was easier to be mesmerized by the raw game back then without the distraction of uniform colors, or the easily read names and numbers on jersey backs. Gramp may have felt differently, but my childish mind was fascinated with every play without regard for the competition.  I hear Gramp’s voice explaining plays that he thought I was seeing on the screen.  I would never let him know I missed something. And week after week, year after year, I slowly learned the game of baseball. From home-runs at age 9 to the suicide squeeze much later, I was a fascinated pupil and my grandfather’s delight in teaching me became a bonus on top of experiencing the game I came to love every moment of.

For hours on end it was just me and Gramp and Nolan Ryan and Tug McGraw and Jerry Koosman and Tom Seaver.   It was special. It still is, and it is still a deep-seated feeling of peace and nostalgia that comes with the sound of a baseball game, any baseball game. Gramp’s deep steady voice, often pausing to let the base runner slide into home, or listen to the announcer talking a ball out of the park, was the greatest treasure of my childhood. The sounds of a baseball hitting a bat, a glove, were the musical notes of my summers.

Sometimes, on a hot summer day when I hear the sounds of a baseball game, I can imagine the small screen of little men and smell peppermint Chiclets chewing gum. I can feel a warm breeze blowing through the open windows and hear the Blue-jays screeching in the maple tree out back.  I can hear Gramp’s voice softly call, “that’s outta here.”  And I smile as my little girl heart swells with the priceless gift of the ever combined love for the man and the game.


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