Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Circumnavigation

An observation from a life-long baseball fan: the baseball season should not end in November. I suppose that the Gods of baseball shall willingly risk the rotator cuff tear attendant to patting themselves on the back over the fact that this year at least it ended before Election Day, which it did not do last year. They should not. There is simply no reason why a season that now begins in the early days of April cannot be concluded before October cedes its place in the calendar's center ring to November. And once the Gods of baseball solve their own scheduling issues, perhaps they can turn their attention to the Lords of hockey and help those idiots conceive a schedule that does not span from Columbus Day to Father's Day.

I cannot name a half-dozen players who are members of this year's World Series champion San Francisco Giants. I shall not therefore risk breaking an ankle trying to hop upon their speeding bandwagon. I also watched scant little of this year's Series. I did however see the bottom of the 9th inning of the clincher - Game Five - on Monday night. I have no good reason for why I was drawn to watch it once I clicked on the game and saw that the Giants were ahead 3-1 and the Rangers were down to their last licks. OK, perhaps a perverse interest in seeing whether any of the home fans displayed behavior that was apathetic, violent or embarrassing, traits that their team's CEO would no doubt be able to spot without hesitation. By the way Mr. Greenberg, where can I purchase my Game 7 tickets?

No, I know it was not the inane rants of Mr. Greenberg that drew me to the TV set on Monday night. It was the thought of my long-deceased father. Dad was old before he should have been - having disregarded his health with a callousness one would normally associate with someone who did not have the biggest brain in the room - and by the time I arrived on the scene his life was mostly played out. He spoke little to me of his youth or of his passions and his loves. I have learned more about him in the three-plus decades since he died than I ever did in the one and one-half decades we inhabited the same house.

Once upon his lifetime, well before I was even a dot on the horizon line, he was passionate about his love for the New York Giants baseball team. I have no recollection of him ever expressing a rooting interest in the San Francisco edition so I know not whether he left his heart at Coogan's Bluff when Horace Stoneham's boys made their great migration west after the 1957 season. I know now what I did not know when he was alive, which was that he did not simply cheer for the Giants when they called New York home. He breathed them in. They helped him feel alive.

And on Monday night, watching the final three outs of the game that would give the Giants their first World Series title since they played in New York in 1954, I thought of Dad. In a Series in which I had no serious rooting interest I found myself pulling for San Francisco. It is a complicated thing - the relationship between fathers and sons. While it may be cyclical as many a son grows up to become a father of a son of his own it may not in fact be timeless. Perhaps sons forget on occasion that before the man we came to know as our father became that man, he was in fact his own man with his own hopes, dreams and aspirations. Not knowing what those were or what became of them is not our fault, of course, but then again perhaps neither is his reticence to discuss them with us his fault. We are similar but we are not the same. Our differences may create room for growth. They may also create distance.

I felt a bit of that distance close on Monday night. When the final Texas batter struck out to end the game, I smiled. I smiled not at the misfortune of the Rangers. I smiled not at the good fortune of the Giants. I smiled at the thought of Dad. And I smiled because it was a thought similar to the one I had in June 1994 when the New York Rangers hockey team I love so much did something they had not done since 1940 when they won the Stanley Cup. In 1994, when the Garden exploded in celebration at the end of Game Seven, I thought of all the train rides and of all the Orange Juliuses and of all the Nedick's hot dogs Dad and I had taken, drank and eaten when I was a boy going to watch the Rangers play in seasons that invariably ended in disappointment. And I thought of Dad somewhere, someplace probably sipping a Manhattan and smiling over the bit of joy that moment brought to him. In my mind's eye Monday night, I conjured up a similar image.

Perhaps last night he was not sitting alone having a celebratory cocktail. After all, it was but two and one-half months ago that Bobby Thomson died. Thomson's legacy in baseball is as the man who struck "The Shot Heard 'Round the World", which won the pennant for the Giants in 1951. Everyone who knows anything about baseball knows that piece of history. While Thomson is associated with the 1951 Giants and while he played for them for more than one-half of his fourteen year big league career, he was not a member of the 1954 World Series-winning team, having been traded to Milwaukee after the 1953 season. He returned to the Giants during the 1957 season, which was of course the final year at the Polo Grounds, before being traded again that winter. For a moment in 1951, Thomson was in the right place at precisely the right time. From that point forward, perhaps not so much.

No man's life is a destination. It is a journey. On Monday night, I could not help but think that an Irishman and a Scotsman enjoyed each other's company while completing that long walk home together......

....Journey completed.

-AK

No comments: