Fields of Dreams

April 1, 2021

Photo Credit: Carol Madigan

   When I was a boy, in the weeks leading up to Opening Day, I’d read my Chicago White Sox yearbook over breakfast every morning. My baseball heroes growing up were not Mickey Mantle or Roger Maris but Luis Aparicio and Nellie Fox, two players many of you might never have  heard of.

outside Wrigley Field

   For reasons never explained (nor questioned for that matter) I could get all White Sox radio broadcasts on my little rocket radio even way down there in Chalmette, LA. Once, when I was 12, we made a family vacation to Chicago, where I’d been born. I was gobsmacked to learn that both White Sox and Cubs games were broadcast on TV! My parents wanted to take me to the Museum of Science and Industry, the Brookfield Zoo and Lakeshore Drive. “But the Sox are on TV!” I’m sure I must have protested.

   In 1959 the White Sox won the American League pennant and would play the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series. All my friends who’d been Yankees fans all season now became Dodgers fans. That should have taught me something about my choice of friends back then, but I wouldn’t finally learn the lesson until T***p was elected in 2016. The Sox lost in six games, with my mother providing game summaries when I got home from school, the World Series being played during the day in those days.

   I don’t know why baseball is the one constant that has marked my time in this life. Not family, not religion, not dreams, not career – nothing links my boyhood to my manhood to my old age, even, the way baseball has.

   My family and I lived in Chicago from 1993 to 1995, and I was able to enjoy games at both Wrigley Field and the new Comiskey Park with them, until a ruinous strike almost killed the game for me. Happily, that was only a temporary estrangement.

   In 2005 the White Sox won the World Series, finally blotting out the stain of the infamous Black Sox scandal of the 1919 Series. Two of my children were living in Chicago by then, and I was able to celebrate vicariously through them. And then the Cubs ended a century plus-year drought in 2016, putting the city’s North and South sides in the modern record books.

  Around 2006 I began subscribing to cable TV’s Extra Innings, and then recently to MLB.TV. Televised baseball is now the moving wallpaper of my life, and there are certain days when there are continuous games going from ten in the morning until ten at night (here on west coast time). The TV is on all day and night with the sound off, and it functions more or less like an aquarium when baseball is on.

   I don’t know why baseball is the one constant that has marked my time in this life. Not family, not religion, not dreams, not career – nothing links my boyhood to my manhood to my old age, even, the way baseball has. On the other hand, neither do I dip myself “in magic waters,” nor do I have to brush thick memories away from my face. It does not remind me “of all that was once good and could be again.”

   All I know for sure is that this will be my 65th or so Opening Day that I’ll be able to listen to or watch. I’ve come to greet each one less with a sense of “this is our year,” and simply just of one more chance to “walk out to the bleachers, and sit in shirt-sleeves on a perfect afternoon.” Or more likely, to look up from a book I’m reading in time to see the rhythm and rhyme of a 6-4-3 double play turned to perfection.

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