August is a great month for baseball. The winter sports have totally petered out. Football is grinding through a sweltering preseason just hoping no major stars will get injured. And with baseball heating up and embracing the steamy, sunny days and warm, sultry nights, I was ready.
First there were softball playoffs. I’m in two leagues, an over age 60’s league and an over 70’s league. In the 60’s league our team lost in the best of three semi-finals. Although we lost, we did our best and had just as much fun playing as we did celebrating the end of another season with a couple cool ones and great conversation later at Rocky’s Bar.
Our 70′ team lost both ends of a Thursday morning double-header—game two of which was shortened to five innings due to the increasing mid-day heat. We were sure we would have won had we gone the full seven though none of us complained as we retired to the shade of a broad oak tree debating what could have been.
Next came a Friday night trip to Yankee Stadium with my daughter, her boyfriend and her boyfriend’s father. It was a belated Father’s Day present and an absolutely wonderful way to spend a warm summer night. As we watched the game, we swapped stories about the many previous games we attended over the years. Although the Yanks were slumping and got shutout, the Big Ballpark in the Bronx never looked better. And along with our stories, the fan cam scenes of our jubilant and uninhibited fellow Yankee aficionados made the evening memorable and entertaining.
I was back at the Stadium on Sunday with two of my buddies as we celebrated our upcoming seventieth birthdays. This day there was more success on the field though some serious trepidation on line prior to the game. My friend Al, who was in charge of the tickets, had trouble locating them on his smartphone. As my other friend, the none-soon-to-be-septuagenarian Jeff, growled about the ravages of technology, I was of absolutely no help futilely fumbling with my phone looking for the e-tickets I was sure I had somewhere in my troves of undeleted emails. Somehow Al eventually found the tickets, we made it inside and we were treated to an exciting game decided by a late inning rocket of a home run by an unlikely source, the light-hitting Andrew Benintendi. All was right with the world has the Bombers’ losing streak came to an end.
Although baseball’s charms can best be experienced in a warm summer breeze, they can also be enjoyed on the couch in front of the TV in some AC. And that’s how I partook of the pleasures of watching women’s softball and the Little League World Series. Both are fast paced and highly entertaining versions of the national pastime featuring plenty of sensational plays and high drama but without the drawn out starts and stops that slow down the major league game. However, the question remains; when watching the Little League World Series, we know we are watching potential major leaguers but why are we not when watching these extremely athletic and talented women softball players?
I continued my August coach potato routine by watching The Captain, the ESPN documentary about Derek Jeter. As a Yankee fan ya gotta love Jeter and the series is highly entertaining. But Jeter’s entire theme is that, in baseball, winning is everything, and he sure did a lot of it leading the Yankees to five World Championships. But as you have been reading in this post and in my blog, baseball is about a lot more than just winning.
Then on Thursday I attended a minor league game with my three high school buddies. We hadn’t all been together for 20 years. If you haven’t been to a minor league baseball game on a warm summer night, do it! Inexpensive, plenty of tasty food, not too crowded, good quality play. Really, you should try it. I’m serious! And go with family and friends. We spent most of the night reminiscing about the bygone days as we sat at a comfortable concession stand table sipping on beer and soft drinks. And yes, there was a ball game going on in the background. A pretty darn good one as a dramatic ninth inning game-tying double sent us into extra inning. But that was not the point. We had seen thousands of games over the years but this time old friends Tony, Bruce, Neil and I were once again together and that was what mattered.
Finally on the last Friday of the month I enjoyed the last of my August baseball charms. My friend Frank arranged a visit at the home of his friend Cal who has an impressive collection of baseball memorabilia. I know Frank through my father-in-law Herb who passed away at the age of 99 a year ago. Herb and Frank became friends because they were, what else? big baseball fans, and Frank wanted to make sure I got to see Cal’s basement baseball museum. We were not disappointed. Cal had every manner of baseball relics from autographed baseballs and photos, to gloves and bats, to programs, yearbooks and vintage baseball cards. But what was best about Cal’s collection was not so such the individual items but the stories behind them. We listened with rapt attention to Cal’s tales, each more enthralling than the previous one. As our visit came to a close the inevitable question was posed to Cal. “How much is all this worth?” He didn’t hesitate to answer. “I don’t think of my collection in those terms. What is important to me is being able to show these items to baseball fans like you and to tell my stories.”
Although he didn’t actually say it, we knew what he meant. To Cal each item in his collection is priceless.