A baseball story by Will Jones
I still gasp with joy when I first glimpse the emerald beauty of a big league baseball field. It is such a reliable payoff after the trip to the park, mingling with the fans in their hometown apparel converging on the turnstiles, walking into the dark corridors that echo with the nearly operatic voices of the vendors hawking programs, searching for level and section, culminating in the thrill of seeing that perfect green vision, taking in all the pre-game spectacle. Baseball: in my family and neighborhood, being a baseball fan was very nearly a law, like growing up Catholic and never talking back to a nun.
In the 50’s and 60’s I attended games at Connie Mack Stadium, a creaky old double bleacher relic with billboards on the left field roof and a wall in right not unlike Fenway Park’s Green Monster. The Phillies were mostly dreadful, and more often than not majestic home runs hit over the roof and into the darkness were hit by opposing players like Hank Aaron or Willie Mays. There was a brief run of success in the mid-sixties, best remembered for an epic collapse in the last ten games of the 1964 season. Forty-eight years later I still remember the pain of that failure. The Phillies were my baseball team. The Phillies had thrown away a chance to play in the World Series.
The seventies and eighties were a dismal time for baseball stadiums. A succession of cookie cutter circles with no character dotted the baseball landscape. Take away the names and the particular locations, and there was almost nothing to distinguish one from the other. Sure there was still Yankee Stadium, the House that Ruth built, and the two old parks, Wrigley and Fenway, that had seen nothing but failure for decades. It wasn’t until the 90’s and the turn of the century that imagination and individuality came back to big league ball parks, now, ironically, frequently cursed with bloodless corporate names.
As I write this, the World Series is set to begin San Francisco and Detroit, two great baseball cities. Avid fans, young and old, are dreaming like children on Christmas Eve about going to the ballpark to watch their teams play, and, hopefully, win. On the immaculate fields new heroes will be born and old heroes will inexplicably fail in ways painful and disturbing to watch. And when the crowd leaves and the lights go out on the emerald brilliance, dreams and memories will linger in the air above the baseball stadium like the ghosts of hopes, teams and players past. Baseball, more than a pastime; it’s a passion.
photo by nerolives & will jones
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