Sunday, October 28, 2012
The San Francisco Giants have just won the World Series. They deserved it. What a final game! The Dodgers will be back next year. Some may wonder why, when I live 90 miles from San Francisco, I continue to root for the Dodgers. Here’s why:
Ten is the perfect age for baseball. Any younger and you lack the attention span for a 9 inning game. At ten you may not have all the nuance of the game down, but you know the rules, you’ve had a chance to play a year or two of tee-ball, and you believe you know everything about the game because you have memorized the stats on the back of all your baseball cards. Ten is young enough to still have larger-than-life heroes. It is young enough to still imagine yourself standing at home plate in the bottom of the ninth with the bases loaded and hear the crowd cheer as you take you plastic bat and launch a wiffle ball over the back yard fence.
I was ten in 1988. Coincidentally, the last year in which the Dodgers won the world series. Dad had been a Dodgers fan sense, as a freshman in college in 1966, he tuned in Vin Scully while driving to Cal Poly and became a fan for life. During the whole of the 1988 season, we had watch the Dodgers on television, but with the sound off and Vin’s Irish tenor coming through the radio making the game come alive in a way the TV image just never could. 1988 was the year I started collecting baseball cards. The year I traded my neighbor one of my Jose Canseco cards for some pitcher from the Dodger’s named Orel Hershiser.
The post season seemed to go on forever that year. The Dodgers were a long-shot, especially facing the Oakland A’s Bash Brothers, Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire. All the predictions came true when Canseco hit a grand slam in the first inning of game one. By the bottom of the ninth, the Dodgers are still down by a run and find themselves with their last out with a man on first.
“And look who’s coming up to bat…” Vin said as Kirk Gibson, suffering from a pulled groin limped up to home plate. It was the longest of longshots and dad and I both knew it. He swung at the first pitch with half an effort and a grimace, then proceeded to work the count full. Down to their last strike, Gibson hits a 3-2 backdoor slider over the right field fence. I was jumping in front to the TV and dad, who watched baseball, politics and life always with commentary and opinion but also with the calm reserve necessary to survive life as a High School shop teacher, sprung from his chair grabbed me by the shoulders and jumped around in front of the TV with me.
The Dodgers went on to win the series in five games. I remember nothing about the other four.
There is no good time to lose your parent to death, but 56 is still much too young. Dad died of cancer in 2003. He was honored with a memorial service at in the football stadium of Atascadero High School; the school he had graduated from in 1966; the school he taught at for 28 years. Except for a few seasons as an assistant wrestling coach and two as the JV soccer coach while I was in high school, dad did not coach a sport. But, when he died, the athletic director told us it took 13 people to replace him. He ran the scoreboard for football, basketball, and volleyball, counted the ticket sales and made the deposits after the football games, and helped out with numerous other sports as well. But his favorite was to score and announce Baseball games.
Dad loved baseball, and his closest friend was the varsity baseball coach. After every home game Mr. Greenman would call, and he and dad would go over the game play by play using their score books. My dad, as I have said, was a dedicated Dodgers fan, and Mr. Greenman was just as dedicated to the Giants. They shared both the love of the game and the intense rivalry form thier respective teams.
During the memorial service, Mr. Greenman stepped onto the field and up to the podium wearing his Atascadero Greyhound baseball jersey and a Dodgers baseball cap. He said that the most fitting way he knew to show how much dad meant to him was to wear the colors of my dad favorite team and the Giants biggest rivals.
Somewhere in Northern California tonight there is a ten year old celebrating a clutch hit by Marcos Scutero with his dad. A child who has learned something deeply human about his parent because of an amazing baseball game. That child will grow up, and move to New York or Chicago or possibly even LA. But from tonight forward he will be a Giants’ fan for life. There will be something about tonight that will be felt so deeply that neither any amount of time nor any amount of geography will ever dislodge it.
Congratulations to the World Champion San Francisco Giant. Go Dodgers!