Summer time. It always reminds me of baseball, the great American past time.
“I see great things in baseball. It’s our game – the American game.” ~ Walt Whitman
I fondly remember summer evenings as a kid. A curtain of darkness had finally descended. After a humid and hot sunny day, we flung open windows in the house to catch a breath of fresh, cooler nighttime air. The steady droning whir of electric fans in the windows helped circulate the air. No air conditioning at our house.
I can picture my Mom and I settled on the front porch swing, swaying gently back and forth, greeted with a concert of crickets chirping their summer aria. Sometimes we chatted; sometimes we just continued swinging, without words, in a steady rhythm, listening to the creak of swing chains.
Illumination from the living room lamp streaked across the porch and often the sound of either the radio or the television seeped through the screen door. Dad would be listening to the baseball game if it was at home or watching it on television if it was away.
My Dad wasn’t a big sports aficionado but he did follow our favorite baseball team, the Pittsburgh Pirates. I was just a youngster at the time, but I distinctly remember hearing the roar of the crowd and the excited yelling of the announcer on Dad’s radio when Bill Mazeroski hit the game winning home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to clinch the World Series title for the Pirates in 1960.
I’ve never forgotten that moment in time or how much fun a good baseball game can be. Often times, we would play our own games just for fun in my parents’ huge yard. Even my Mom would take a turn at bat. We continued that summer tradition when hubby, our kids and I came home for summertime visits. I imagine my kids still have fond memories of playing ball with their grandparents in that yard.
Of course, the real excitement comes from standing in a crowded baseball stadium. Joining in as the crowd sings the Star Spangled Banner in unison sparks our patriotism. We clap and whistle with enthusiasm when the umpire cries, “Play ball!” We blast out “take me out to the ball game” at the top of our lungs when the stadium organist plays that song. And we never get tired of it.
We chow down on ball park hot dogs and nice cold drinks, cheer and clap, sometimes boo, and hope to see our favored team be the victors. When a rousing fireworks display concludes the evening that just caps off nicely the American experience of attending a baseball game.
Over the years, I’ve witnessed the distinct crack of the bat as that small white ball with red stitching sails through the air at countless baseball games. As a kid I remember watching the Pirates at the old Forbes Field and then at Three Rivers Stadium. Both of those baseball stadiums exist only in memories and PNC Stadium now shines in their place. It makes me proud to say I’ve seen the Jolly Roger (Pirates flag) raised in all three venues.
Taking a walk down baseball memory lane the other day, I attempted to guess how many baseball games I’ve seen. In addition to Pirates games, I often attended my neighbor friend’s Little League ball games when we were kids and our church softball games too.
As an adult, I’ve been to other Major League Baseball games: when our family lived in the Kansas City ‘burbs, we attended Royals games; while living in Oregon, we traveled to Seattle to watch the Mariners; and we even took in a Cincinnati Reds game in that city once.
In addition, we enjoyed the minor league Portland Rockies games, and when we first moved back here to our home state, we attended an international tournament that’s held locally every summer and watched young fellows from other countries play ball.
Our son began playing baseball as a first grader in Little League. He worked his way up through Coast teams, Farm teams, the ‘Minors’ and the ‘Majors,’ then Junior and Senior Leagues and played high school ball for a while. And the trophies are still lined up on shelves in his old bedroom to prove it.
So I think it’s safe to say I’ve witnessed hundreds of baseball games over the years and I’ve enjoyed every single one of them.
Perhaps our summer plans should include driving on down to PNC Park to watch our hometown team, the Pirates; they’re on fire this season! If I’m lucky, it might be a beautiful summer evening and if I close my eyes, I may still be able to hear the game coming from Dad’s radio.
“Baseball was, is and always will be to me the best game in the world.” ~ Babe Ruth
P.S. Check out this Bucco Ballad on youtube if you’re a Pittsburgh Pirates fan!