Friday, April 3, 2009

ON SPORTS ~ Roots - Part II


Roots, Part II:

where previously Molly had just been moved from NJ to OH in the late 70's after attending her first baseball game at Yankee Stadium

In Ohio I tried to become Dorothy Hammil, spent time riding my bike to the pool with friends, learned about death from my pet hamster & cat, became afraid of lightning, and discovered my little brother buried my favorite doll Dorothy. I like to think of that now as an early exorcism of my Yankee awe back in New Jersey.

My sports memories of Ohio were essentially the Winter Olympics (thus the skating lessons I pathetically embarked upon) and football. I remember my Dad muttering about the Browns. I remember wanting to stay up late (request rejected) to watch the Superbowl and saying a bedtime prayer for the poor Rams to beat the mean Steelers. Turns out no one acted on my prayer. This was the beginning of my empathy for the plight of the underdog. It started with football but has long since carried over to baseball.

I was then dragged to New York – upstate that is. In our lovely suburb of Rochester I was reintroduced to baseball. My best friend’s mother coached the girls’ softball team. I couldn’t catch, throw, hit or run. I failed at qualifying for rover – the silly position between 1st & 2nd. But, having an “in” with the coach (or perhaps because everyone that showed up got to play) I was saved as well from right field and became the catcher. I sucked. But I was having fun learning about this game I had seen played in Yankee Stadium – without the Rover position of course.

I decided that catcher was the most important position on the field – or at least the most active – because I was involved in every pitch. And of course it was the position I played so it felt nice to feel important. I remember watching my brother’s T-Ball game and this one neighborhood kid sat down and started picking weeds and building sand castles at second base during the game. You wouldn’t dare see a catcher do a thing like that.

This was when I found the St. Louis Cardinals. I was a catcher who wore glasses. Well guess what? So did Darrell Porter of the Cards. Being in the Empire State we got to see our share of Mets games and at that time of course the Cards were still their rival in the NL East. This is the first time I remember watching baseball on TV and rooting for a team. I was mesmerized by Willie McGee and Ozzie Smith. And of course, my catcher soul mate, Darrell Porter. He knew what it felt like to wear glasses underneath the catcher’s mask – summer heat causing sweat to make the bridge of your glasses slip down your nose, unable to dry off because of the mask – not to mention the teasing he must have gotten from his teammates. Although I’m pretty sure they didn’t call him four eyes, being a World Series MVP and all.

Of course it helped that the Cards had the cutest uniforms with the pretty redbirds on the bat, the winning records and national success of World Series appearances. That was what got my attention but it really was Darrell Porter that won my heart. I remember him celebrating his team’s Series victory and MVP honors with milk, not champagne – due to something called alcoholism. I was a kid – I thought drinking milk was yet another thing we had in common. As an adult I was very sad to hear he didn’t stick to milk as his beverage of choice and his life got cut short. Later on Tony Pe┼ła was a fine Cards catcher whose career as a player and coach I admire very much – but he didn’t wear glasses under that mask.

It turns out there was a minor league baseball affiliate of the Orioles in Rochester called the Red Wings – with two nobodies named Ripken, Jr. & Boggs. I didn’t see them then – what with the Cards and all. But baseball has a funny way of coming around full circle in my life.

My football interest grew too. I had a Social Sciences teacher that I didn’t particularly care for. And this is why to this day I could care less about the Buffalo Bills (except for when Drew Bledsoe got traded there – I am a Drew girl always). This teacher LOVED the Bills. Since I didn’t like her, I decided the NY FOOTBALL GIANTS should be my team – just to spite her. Spite is not a very sportsmanlike quality, but in later years it served me well in my choice of the Giants.

next week, Part III, where Molly gets moved once again, to CT...

1 comment:

Sandy Nawrot said...

I so love these! I feel like I'm sitting down over a glass of wine and you are telling me your life story! I've never been a huge baseball fan, but growing up in Indiana pretty much requires a following of the Cubbies, so I know all about the underdog thing. We took some family trips to St. Louis and saw some Cardinal games as well, so I was cool with them since I'd seen them!