Opening Day!

By J. D. Pendry

Are you a fan of the great American Pastime?  Have you ever used black tape from your Dad’s toolbox to put the baseball back together then go out and have a game with it?  When there was only one bat?  When you came in from the field, if you had a mitt you dropped it at your position for the next kid to use?  Your cleats were high top black sneakers?  Your uniform worn jeans and a tee-shirt?  You had a stack of baseball cards in the back pocket of your jeans and a jaw full of bubblegum?  Maybe even yesterday’s bubblegum?  Recall how proud you were when you made the team?  In the days when you actually had to make the team?  How proud you were on game day to don your little league Yankee uniform?  And wear your cap all the time?  Except at the dinner table?  The times when life was just a fun place to be?

I played baseball until my age exceeded my talent.  In my early Army days, I played men’s fast pitch and slow pitch softball.  It was fun, but not quite the same when the thud of the bat replaced the crack of the bat.  Still, on the softball field I was a little kid except that maybe the bubble gum was replaced by a chew and there were knee pads under my pants.

I followed my son from tee-ball days to high school.  Life permitting, I was there every season from spring until fall.  Those were special, unforgettable times.  The difference between my son and me?  He was the gifted athlete to my Pete Rose.  He had natural ability and there was nothing natural about my abilities.  When he went off to college, I found myself sitting in the bleachers watching the team he helped win a championship practice.  I had rather severe withdrawal symptoms.  The kind where you wonder what you are going to do from March to October.

As a youngster growing up in West Virginia, I was a Reds fan although I don’t recall a single player from the team.  I was also a Yankees fan, as was every other kid.  We all knew Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris and Whitey Ford and would trade a whole pack of cards including the bubblegum for one of theirs.  When I was barely a teenager, we moved to Chicago.  The Cubs games were on television every afternoon and if I was home, I watched.  When I learned how to get on the Clark Street bus and make my way to Wrigley field, I’d go to a game if could come up with the price of a ticket.  Sometimes, in the spring before school was out, I’d be in the stands for the afternoon game rather than my classes.  The great thing is in those days all the Cubs games were afternoon games because there were no lights at Wrigley.

Just mentioning 1969 still brings on a little nausea.  The Cubs were rolling in 69.  They were so hot and certain of the National League pennant, they recorded a song, “hey, hey holy mackerel the Chicago Cubs are on the way.”  Oh, I remember Kessinger to Beckert to Banks, the battery of Fergie Jenkins and Randy Hundley, sweet swinging Billy Williams and a big smiling Ernie Banks saying “let’s play three today.”  I remember watching on television when Jack Brickhouse and his signature “Hey, Hey!” when Ernie hit number 500.  In 1969, the Cubs lost out to the Mets and I have never forgiven the Mets.

Yesterday was opening day.  With the blessing of today’s technology and a streaming subscription, I can watch every Cubs game if Suzie-Q allows it.  Last night the Cubs bats pounded the Texas Rangers and Cubs fans in Texas were flying the W.  Sometimes it is just great to get lost in the moment and let the annoying stuff pass you by.  Baseball.  It still is the great American Pastime.

© 2019 J. D Pendry, J. D. Pendry’s American Journal, All Rights Reserved.

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