A lot of nonsense has been written about baseball and this is my contribution.
I learned to watch the game and played catch with my father who is, in fact, English and schooled in the mysteries of cricket and soccer but who became a devoted American sports fan after immigrating to the US in 1952. Fresh from “Austerity Britain” he followed his sister who had married an American serviceman in World War II. So my English father ended up in German Milwaukee watching American sports.
Back then, there were no sports bars or cable TV or internet providers to keep him in touch with teams he’d followed in the United Kingdom. The newspapers did not even give the scores for foreign sporting events outside of the Olympics. European travel was expensive and he did not see England again for twenty-five years. So he went native and adopted American sports and the local National League club, the (then) Milwaukee Braves, became his first American team.
He courted my mom at Braves games—back when a day at the ballpark was cheap date but you still put on a jacket and tie to sit in the stands. By the time I was in my teens, the Braves had been succeeded by the Brewers and no one dressed up to go to the ballpark. But the food was the same, though more expensive. We still sang the national anthem before the first pitch and “take me out to the ballgame” during the seventh inning stretch. I began going to games regularly with my dad the year after my mom died. He often told me I looked a lot like my mother and this always occurred to him at the ballpark. I think it reminded him of his days of taking her out to the ballgame.
Years have passed, my father is retired in Atlanta where he could root for the former Milwaukee Braves but still largely prefers the Brewers. Once again, it’s only April but for the Brewers it might as well be September. I have raised two boys and my younger son, Edward, has become the bigger sports fan. He could root for one of the local teams—even the hated Yankees—but has chosen the honored tradition of rooting for his dad’s team. When we go to games it’s all about being there win-or-loose with my son. And if they don’t win it’s a shame.
I watched Edward play little league for a few years and now he has promised to come into New York some evening while I play with the Cambridge softball team. I am no star. I am barely a Pluto. But at Cambridge we play for fun and the joy of the game. And practice makes adequate.
After an afternoon pitching a softball, recently, Edward told me he would only come watch me if he didn’t have to admit our relationship.
I, of course, still remember his first little league hit. In a move I’ve seen repeated dozens of times by other kids achieving this milestone he safely reached first base, then immediately began looking for me in the stands to see my reaction. I gave him thumbs up and an affirming nod. He gave me his biggest smile.
However embarrassed he may be at my level of play, when I get a hit with the Cambridge team, if he’s there, I’m going to be looking for him. He’ll take a picture of me on his cell-phone and send it to his grandfather in Atlanta.
Spring is here. Thumbs up and an affirming nod.