Boys of October

This is a reprint from 2006.

As a wise man once said, “There’s no crying in Baseball!” Hope may spring eternal, but fall brings out the best and worst of the baseball fan. From the ivy-covered walls of Wrigley Field to the Green Monster of Fenway Park, from the ghosts of the Bronx Bombers to the left coast palm trees Dodger Stadium, from Canada to Caracas, come the echos of the ages: “Just wait ’till next year!”

I went to my first game at Tiger Stadium some 30 odd years ago. They lost, as I recall, to the A’s I think. I do know I’ve had a particular distaste for Reggie Jackson, and by association his later teamates the Yankees, for as long as I can remember.

Moving about the country, I’ve paid less and more attention to the (US) National Pastime. During college at Illinois, I cemented a love for the luckless Chicago Cubs. Taking the train & El to Wrigley or braving the on-street parking (usually up near the cemetary), win or loose Wrigley was a glorius afternoon of beer, brats and baseball. Putting the lights up dimmed my enthusiasm, and I do miss Harry Carey‘s antics from the broadcast booth, but it took a move to demote the Cubs to 2nd in the National League.

The Denver Zephyrs played minor league ball at Mile High Stadium, until the momentus advent of the Colorado Rockies. I went to the last game the Zephyrs played. They went out in an autumn blaze of glory. I couldn’t get tix for the Rockies until a week into their inagural season, but I can still remember the sights and sounds of that game like it was the day before yesterday.

So I still cheer for the Cubs, unless they’re playing the Rockies. Or the Tigers. Or the Twins.

I grew up in Fargo, just up I-94 from the Twin Cities. We would get back to see family in Michigan now and then, but never during baseball season. I resisted becoming a Twins fan then. Now back in Minnesota fully trained to tune in baseball on the AM radio, summer’s the Twinkies or satellite country crapola. So this season (2006) I sorta started paying attention to these bumblers of the American League. I took my boy up to a game or two. I really cheered loudly when the Twins whup’d the Yankees, and sort of started to cheer them on in their chase for the pennent.

Unless the Twins were playing the Tigers. Then I kept my American League loyalties clear, go Tigers go.

I have no special love or attraction to the City of Detroit, the greater metropolitan area, or the late great state of Michigan. It is my blood. It is where all of my ancestors ended up by intention or accident since 1840 or so. It is big and bad and heaped with more troubles than this child could wrap his wits around.

Even so, Michigan still has the Tigers. They traded my old Tiger Stadium for generic Comerica Park, and perhaps one day I will make it to a game there. I’ve visited generic parks, like Minneapolis’ Humphrey “homerdome” (good riddance!), Dodger Stadium, or new Comiskey whatever corporate trademark they’ve sold that for. I’ve visited many grand old parks like Old Comiskey and Wrigley, and many grand new parks built and loved in the old style, such as Jacobs Field and of course, the Rockies’ beautiful brick Coors Field.

When I hear, say, Take Me Out to the Ball Game, I don’t just hear Doc Watson playing a familiar tune. I hear Take Me Out to the Ball Game. I hear 150 years of American (and now international) history, the voices of our fathers and brothers and mothers and sons cheering on for hope against hope. I hear the National Anthem, smell peanuts and stale beer, popcorn and overdone footlong hot dogs. I hear John Fogerty wailing Centerfield. I hear Casey At The Bat and Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio and A Dying Cub Fan’s Last Request. I hear the promise of youth in The Greatest and the memories of Abbot & Costello on an old casette tape over and over, Who’s On First.

The Tigers may win the World Series (they didn’t). They may give it away to those slugs from St. Louis (they did, in 5 games). Major League Baseball may prosper or not, I currently have other issues with the greater gods of baseball. None the less, my loyalties remain to the grand old game.


“Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd.
Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack,
I don’t care if I never get back,
Let me root, root, root for the home team,
If they don’t win it’s a shame.
For it’s one, two, three strikes, you’re out,
At the old ball game.”

Thanks Jack Norworth. Thank you baseball.


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