Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The great American pastime

With the World Series suspended because of rain (I heard that on the Today show this morning), I've been remembering my baseball past. As a teenager, I lived and died with the Minnesota Twins. My best friend and I were passionate followers of the game--my poor parents had to listen to games late into the night during the summer because I hated to close my bedroom door at night...they learned to sleep through a lot of things. When I went off to college, I discovered basketball and hockey, baseball became a part of my past.

I've always enjoyed reading about baseball. Starting in high school with the naughty Ball Four by Jim Bouton which made me look at the New York Yankees with new and somewhat suspicious eyes. My favorite baseball books are all about one team: the Brooklyn Dodgers of the 1950s. I wish I could have seen them play.

The first book was The boys of summer by Roger Kahn, a sportswriter of some repute. He wrote so lovingly of his Dodgers: Jackie Robinson, Duke Snyder, Gil Hodges, PeeWee Reese and, my favorite, Roy Campanella. They became so real to me and I could almost taste the popcorn, feel the breeze blowing across the field, sense the excitement of the crowd as they cheered for "dem bums" every frustrating year without a World Series pennant.

Many years later, Kahn wrote Memories of summer: when baseball was an art and writing about it a game: a memoir. The book is about his lifetime involvement with baseball as a fan, a copyboy and, eventually, a sportswriter. I most remember the fond description of his dad who introduced him to baseball and took him to see many games over the years.

Finally, there is Wait until next year by Doris Kearns Goodwin, the noted historian. She grew up fanatically devoted to the Dodgers, as was every other child and adult in her world. I laughed until I cried when she wrote of going to confession and asking the priest for forgiveness for wishing bodily harm on the opposing team (I think it was a Yankee pitcher she wished a broken arm on). She is still a devoted baseball fan but has switched her allegiance to the Boston Red Sox.

Now, I'm a fair weather baseball fan, only cheering on the Twins when they are pennant- or World Series-bound but I still love to curl up with a good baseball book.

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