As baseball’s “dog days” are upon us, I find myself carefully checking the pennant races, the TV games’ schedule and reading more baseball columns. I’m on high alert.
I think baseball and religion have similar imprints on a mind when the mind has been brainwashed as a child. I often wonder how my life would have been different if my father had been a sports-hating atheist.
But, good or bad, my pop and his pop loved baseball and especially the Chicago White Sox. My grandfather was a fan of the infamous 1919 Black Sox. They broke his heart, but he was still pulling for the White Sox during his last and my first 12 years on earth.
Playing catch with your dad is what a young boy does. As a young lad I also played catch with my buddy across the street…every day, every week, during the season from April through September. Here’s Johnny G. and me, right before a big Little League game.
Later in life, I also played catch with my son.
Later in life, he played catch with his son.
During each session of playing catch is where the baseball talk takes place. The “trading-off” of information learned that day in the newspaper or the radio. We would talk (father/son or friend/friend) about hitting streaks, strikeout records, home runs and our predictions for who would win the Series. This was a yearly experience during my childhood and my son’s childhood. We loved baseball. We still love baseball.
I have tried to give up this time-consuming sport for the past 30 years. I thought it would be easy moving 2500 miles from my White Sox. I would go from rabid fan to nonchalant fan to rabid fan. Every time I moved (Midwest to Southern California and Southern California to Northern California) I would find myself switching team-allegiance like a man dumping wives. The local fish-wraps would snare me with their sports columnists talking up the local team and the local TV outlet showing me all their games.
I sound like I’m bitter about “still” following baseball. Maybe I am, but I still follow baseball.
Steroids! What a horrible thing; it was just plain cheating, but I still follow baseball.
My baseball memories are precious. I sat on my grandpa’s knee and listened to his stories of Shoeless Joe Jackson. I sat on my father’s knee and listened to his stories of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. My son sat on my knee and heard me talk about watching Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Minnie Minoso and Nellie Fox.
There is a strange pull the game has always exerted on my mind. I don’t have time for it yet I need it.
I notice one thing has changed in my regimen. The sports pages used to be the first thing I read; now they are the last.
Could it be genetic? My 97-year-old mom still sits home alone watching the pathetic Cubbies. I guess scientists will one day find the baseball gene alongside the God-gene.