The Old Ball Game
The men wore Fedoras, two-piece suits, a white shirt and tie. The few women wore dresses, hose and heels. The boys were groomed in a starched white shirt, pressed pants and hair neatly combed. Sounds like a family getting ready to attend church.
No, it was the attire of a family of three attending a baseball game in the 1940s and '50s.
Hard to believe they weren't decked out in the team jerseys, face paint and hats. They didn't carry team towels, clappers or hoodies if it got cold.
“Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack.” You could get a hot dog and a Coke — maybe a beer for dad. There were not smorgasbords. No Philly cheesesteaks, super nachos, hot wings, sushi, super subs or fried chicken.
You bought a scorecard and everyone knew how to fill it out. “1-3” meant a grounder to the pitcher who threw it to first, not your hours at work. Batting averages, RBIs and ERAs were stats burned in your mind. There were no iPhones to list 20 different stats that don't matter.
Besides, you had your baseball cards at home. You knew every important stat, just like you knew all 50 states and their capitals.
Close plays were always debated. There was no replay, slow motion or super slow motion to validate plays. Yeah, the umps made some bad calls, but they still do today. We just know how bad they are today. There is no mystery or discussion.
Your team was like your family — they stayed with you for years. Yes, they traded but Willie Mays was the Giants, Henry Aaron the Braves, Mickey Mantle the Yankees and Al Kaline the Tigers. Brooks Robinson and Boog Powell played for the Orioles, Bob Gibson and Ken Boyer for the Cardinals. It was written and not to be changed.
You usually knew your baseball history, too. Your dad described in detail how good Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Stan Musial and Bob Feller were. Your grandfather might add Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig or Walter Johnson into the mix. After many years, I've come to the conclusion that anyone — no mater what era — who plays in the Major Leagues is one heck of an athlete.
The game is over, but the best part is yet to come. Will they allow you to walk on the field? For a little boy, the first time I stepped on the field at Yankee Stadium was like a religious experience. The grass was as green as any pasture in Ireland. The softness felt like you had your feet entrenched on a cloud. The infield had that certain crunch that told you were on a special place. The march to left center field was like a pilgrimage. The three monuments stood together — Ruth, Gehrig, Huggins. As you approached, the hair on your arms began to stand up. Look, but don't touch, and that was enough.
I have the Major League television package. I get angry at the Yuma Sun when they don't put complete box scores in the paper. I have too much Yankee paraphernalia. I get amazed at how much a good seat and a day at any baseball park costs. I wish they still sold baseball cards so I could stuff my mouth with bubble gum.
But I love baseball, no matter what generation I'm in.
John Blabe is the former athletic director and football coach at Antelope Union High School. You can reach him at email@example.com.