I’m definitely my father’s daughter when it comes to baseball.
Since it was such an integral part of his life, it was inevitable that it become ingrained in me, because I liked being with him. And most of his spare time was spent at baseball diamonds around the Jersey Shore, coaching Little League and Babe Ruth League kids with big dreams. I liked tagging along, the feel of the warm sunshine and the smell of the grass on a mild summer evening. Even then, at the tender age of 10 or so, when I still looked like one of the boys, but with longer hair, I had a sense of it being a special, fleeting time.
When my late dad wasn’t on the field, he was in front of the TV, watching baseball and yelling at everyone on the screen. The players for being “hot dogs” — i.e. “show-offs”; the managers for what he perceived as mismanagement; and the commentators — especially the commentators, for running their mouths. “They just like to hear themselves talk,” he would say, dismissing their droning as so much background noise. And it really irked him when he’d notice something with his eagle eye and comment about it and then, seconds later, the commentators would echo him. “That’s what I just said,” he’d snarl back.
This wasn’t anger so much as passion. And envy. Because after I grew up and became a journalist, my father confided he’d always wished he could have been a sportswriter after serving in World War II. Instead, he followed in his father’s and father-in-law’s footsteps: He became a dry cleaner. He had a family to support, and it was the path of least resistance. Shame. I think he would have been really something.
The compromise was that we all followed baseball, including my late mom, who really didn’t care, but wanted dad to enjoy himself. As long as I could remember, we’d root for the New York Mets. New York, because that’s where my folks were from. And the Mets because … well, they were the underdog. Not like the Yankees, who were perceived as being spoiled rich brats, and so were their fans. And for some reason, you couldn’t be fans of both.
Mind you, this was in the early 1960s, when the Mets were atrocious. If they won a game, it was really something. And when they won the World Series in 1969, the fans were shell-shocked.
As I got older, and the grand old stadiums were torn down and replaced by stadiums named for corporations and not people, I lost interest.
I’m telling you all this because the other day, I was just starting to explore San Diego on foot.
I started out from the place I’m renting in Little Italy.
Then I found out a game was about to start. I suddenly hungered to see baseball. No matter that it was the Padres playing the Colorado Rockies, and I had no idea who any of them were, or how they were doing in the standings.
It was something familiar, from 3,000 miles and a lifetime away. The players were immaterial, because I knew the mechanics of the game by heart. So I became a Padres fan for a few hours, because when in San Diego …
It was great mingling with baseball fans on another coast. I didn’t stay for the whole game; but that was fine. I got a taste of Hebrew National. And The Great American Pastime. I was home again for a bit; my dad at my side.