"If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could better judge what we do, and how to do it."
- Abraham Lincoln, June 17, 1858, upon being named as candidate for U.S. Senator in Springfield, Ill.
If the world seems to exist in its rotating time due to a filial function involving our national pastime it is only exceptionally so as we are a nation blessed with the generational inheritances that sentimental fathers pass down to their uncoordinated sons. For those who have looked out over the sunlit afternoon grass while your father solemnly pointed farther out to what appeared to be giant tombstones sprouting in centerfield on a summer day in the Bronx or who have cherished that moment of private invocation now forever fixed and forever sacred when with two gloves and a ball your father and you stood never closer tossing that ball back and forth while the whole world tumbled in awe, or for those who have never experienced such, I hope your young days were rare for other friezes and moments of glad grace but for just now I seek to evoke the summerdays when fathers spoke baseball with their sons. ( I like to imagine that after a particularly strenuous day drilling
|Father and son. Dressed for the game.|
Sorry, I thought that was a bat.
|All that man can achieve with a script|
|Tuning up for the "Long Cheer" at Yale|
And its always fathers and sons in this schema-never mothers and daughters hanging out in the backyard tossing the ball back and forth or going to the ballpark together sharing their summer afternoons with a thousand other baseball fans rooting for the home team and enjoying a hot dog and pretzel and preserving this memory for a lifetime - never- because the world would surely stop rotating at such a circumstance because it never was supposed to be about moms and daughters, right? I mean its the father-son axis upon which the baseball world whirls, right? Thats practically biblical in its foundation and dare we say it, faith? ( I really can't make too much of a hard case for this if at all as my mom and grandma were both ardent Brooklyn Dodger fans and yes they probably spent more time together at Ebbets Field than my father and his and-more to the point- my father and I)
|What a resume|
It is in the stories apocryphal or not that are passed down, the comments made between innings or between tosses or between swings that we begin to realize that there was a whole other baseball world that your father was part of before you were even born. I discovered this one day not while laying out a ballfield in the middle of an Iowan cornfield but while coming upon an old volume of Gulliver's Travels, which was mandatory reading back in my old man's public school days (the only required reading I can remember was a story called "Riki Tiki Tavi" and for the life of me I cannot remember the author let alone if I ever finished reading it. As it happened by father went on to Stuyvesant and your obedient blogger managed -one might as well say - a one-way ticket to Balookaville). Written in his neatly printed hand-almost calligraphic ( and this too was a result of a public education system that somehow lifted the teaching of penmanship to a level of advanced calculus)- on the end pages and margins of Swift's great satire, throughout the entire book, in pencilled postings were full line scores and attendant box scores of the 1944-1945 Chicago White Sox and prominently batting third in the line-up was my father- his name exquisitely written in between Tony Cuccinello and sometimes a guy named Moses.
Speaking of fathers and sons, the catcher on that White Sox team was a guy named Mike Tresh who, for all you boomers who came of baseball-consciousness in the late 50's and early 60's, was the father of New York Yankee phee-nom, Tom Tresh, rookie of the year in 1962.
Now in my non-playing retirement years ( my wife stopped playing catch with me long ago - I kept throwing at her ankles) I can just barely recall conversations with my father- snippets really, what the savvy media heads would call sound-bytes and in my case a remembrance of complete sentences is not even a possibility. And thats a crime, 'cause my old man could be quite articulate when he wanted to be-only he wasn't very conversational in his final decades and the only memories I have with him during these times were when we would talk "sports": Did you watch the game today? Are you still betting at Hialeah? What do you think the Giants will do this year? I always remembered him as a great fan and in my smaller baseball universe he was probably the most knowledgeable person I knew.One of the last conversations I ever had with him went like this:
Me: "Dad, I think I asked you this once before, but I just want to make sure." Dad: "Ok...what?" Me: "Mays or DiMaggio?" Dad: "Mays."
That was it. There wasn't anymore. I think Bob Costas had a similar conversation with his dad but with a different answer. Bob and I are the same age. He's still working.
You can browse endlessly on the internet machine seeking for all kinds of references and citations and quotes and images and stories about the shared experience that baseball has given fathers and sons. I have come across personal websites and blogposts of sons writing about going to ballgames with their dads or playing catch and in the intimacy of such memories it seems all other encounters during the interlude of being there with your father seem to fade-its just the father and son and the hazy background of the event itself. I can see those monuments on the horizon but the shouting multitudes and attendant noise are muted out and only replaced by the sound of my father's presence. One of those bloggers, a guy named Ian Gotts expressed this eloquently writing in (on?) his blog post, "Baseball fathers and sons":
"Show me a boy who doesn’t remember playing catch with his Dad on the weekends, or better, on those precious summer nights when Dad would rush home from his job, shake off his work clothes, put on a T-shirt that was always a little too small, grab a mitt, and head into the backyard before the final rays faded away. Show me a boy who didn’t stare in awe at how far his Dad could hit or throw a baseball – no matter bad an athlete his Dad was, and for that shining moment Dad was transformed into a man of unimaginable ability and strength. Only baseball has that magic."
Magic, why not?
I could imagine Doubleday himself, tossing the ball to his kid on the banks of Otsego Lake in Cooperstown if only he and his lovely wife, Mary, had had children AND if only Major-General Abner had lived in Cooperstown. He may have had an uncle near by. Ah, but such is the stuff of legends. How Abner Doubleday ever made it to Cooperstown is a fine yarn in itself and even if they did not have kids of their own I can more readily imagine Abner and Mary having a catch astride the ramparts of Fort Sumter during that fateful winter of 1860. Mary was there with her husband when the Civil War began.
|The General and his bride (Baseball's first couple?)|
("… In this weak little fort I suppose President Buchanan and Secretary Floyd intend the Southern Confederacy to be cemented with the blood of this brave little garrison.")was intended for her sister and somehow was picked up by several "union" newspapers including the New York Evening Post whose editor was William Cullen Bryant- a noted liberal and abolitionist and Lincoln supporter who- for those keeping score- was the person who introduced Lincoln just before his big speech ("LET US HAVE FAITH THAT RIGHT MAKES MIGHT, AND IN THAT FAITH, LET US, TO THE END, DARE TO DO OUR DUTY AS WE UNDERSTAND IT.") at the Cooper Union in New York City that may have cinched his nomination and the ensuing election. I wonder if that old gray poet/editor ever made a visit to Astoria in Queens? 31st Avenue?
|Madame B., deciphering the hidden secrets of yesterday's box-scores|
General Abner was a trip as the kids say. That field in Cooperstown might as well be named for Madame Blavatsky who personally named Doubleday in 1878 as head of the Theosophical Society in her absence while she went off to India for a year with George, Paul, John and Ringo. Talk about the myths we live by: America, notwithstanding David Brooks, in a sense, is built on myth. We fans kvell on myth. The Doubleday myth is well-known. The general is even described in biographical and historical postings as the "mythical inventor" of baseball. But close your eyes and you can almost see him fungoing them out to Helena in the green mythical probings behind the theosophists' library(uh?). He is a part of the story we tell about our national pastime. His myth is the reason there is a Hall of Fame in beautiful Cooperstown. He himself is not in the Hall. The guy didn't invent baseball after all ( he did invent a certain type of cable car trolley that is still used in San Francisco, however) but he lived a full and interesting life and he is part of the "magical" stories we tell regarding baseball (One of them has the ubiquitous Abner in possession of one General Santa Ana's (remember The Alamo?) wooden legs sometime after the Mexican War ( the one Trump hasn't started yet) and using it as a baseball bat.) And if you ever visit Mr. Cooper's town ( now there's yet another father-son story to tell) you will see fathers and sons having a catch by the field that is named after him. Mr. Cooper's son by the way was James Fenimore Cooper whose hard to read novels had some sort of affect on our Madame B. herself, to such an extent that the story goes, she ventured up to Canada to find some good-looking shaman or palm reader or something and instead of finding her enlightenment was actually mugged -probably by a drunken hockey fan and so returned to New York.
to win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children,
to leave the world a better place,
and the affection of children,
to leave the world a better place,
Dan J : Here's what you don't understand ,these people believe there has to be some payback for what was done in the past... even though it wasn't done to them by us...we should experience what their fathers did at the hands of our fathers so everything can be even. That's evil.... sins of the father crap.
Paul S : Many things have been done. Laws passed. programs etc. Every group has had to deal with prejudice. Itaians. Irish, Polish, Jews, Asians, etc. They all suffered and overcame. Many strugle to this day. When will the rest take resposibility and stop blaming ev eryone else?