A story I’ve wanted to tell for a long time

Brock

I first had an inkling of the recent story that I wrote for ChicagoSideSports when I read Mitchell Nathanson’s The People’s History of Baseball in 2011. Much like Howard Zinn’s work for history in general, Nathanson challenged the traditional “Baseball as America” narrative in many ways.

I realized, as I was reading the book, that much of what I believed about the sport I have always loved was simply not true. I believed them because I wanted to believe them, or the people who see baseball as the for-profit industry that it is had told to to me that way.

One of Nathanson’s contentions was that race sometimes played a role in the trades that were made between teams. I made a mental note of this, and a few weeks later, as I was paging through a coffee table book titled–ironically enough–Baseball as America, I found a statement that I would have totally missed, had I not read Nathanson’s book. But after reading his book, it made perfect sense. I wrote something about that realization in this space, but painted in general terms, because I didn’t yet know the full story.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Lou Brock trade, which happened in June of 1964. The recent 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show demonstrates how we, as a society, love our anniversaries. 48 years after the Brock trade doesn’t feel like the right time to talk about the trade, but 50 seems just right. And any year after 50, well, it will be old news by then. It’s old news now, but a small window to revisit what happened has opened up, and I took the opportunity to walk through it.

I decided to research the Cubs in the years leading up to 1964, in terms of African American players on their roster. And what I found was intriguing. The Cubs embraced integration rather slowly at first, but by the start of 1964 they had more black players (and there’s a reason why I use that term) than they ever had before. And that’s exactly the reason why the trade happened the way that it did.

I love living in Chicago, but race is never far from the surface in this city. It fact, it’s rarely off of the surface in the first place. So finding a racial angle for this trade really shouldn’t be surprising. Disappointing, yes, but not surprising. And by pointing out what that angle is, I hope that the generations of baseball fans who accepted incompetence on the Cubs’ part as the reason for the trade will at least consider it to be something more than that.

The term “revisionist history” came to my mind several times as I was writing this piece. I realized that people have been conditioned, literally from the day after the trade was made, to believe certain things. And people won’t cast aside these beliefs, just because somebody like me says something to the contrary. But at the same time, history is not a static thing, by any measure. Society changes over time, and new evidence comes to light, and a different interpretation inevitably arises as a result.

If anyone takes a new understanding of what happened away from this piece, I will be very pleased. And if anyone else determines that I’m full of crap, and what they’ve always believed is still the truth, I can live with that, too. And–the most likely of all results–if 99% and more of all humanity does not have their life impacted by this story, that’s just fine, too. At least I’ll have added a new perspective to an old story. And isn’t that what history is all about?

Taking down the Cardinals, for a change

CubsWin

Last year, the Cubs played a weekend series in St. Louis where they scored one run, in the second inning of the Friday game, and that was it. I sent out a tweet saying that it was the worst series I had seen in more than 35 years as a Cubs fan. It was brutal to watch it.

So this year, when the Cubs take the first of a three-game weekend series with the Cardinals in St. Louis, I felt the need to celebrate a little bit, at the Cardinals’ expense. Here’s the piece. And if they want to win one or both of the remaining games this weekend, I think we’ll see another piece, as well.

Link to a post on ThroughTheFenceBaseball

WrigleyScoreboard

The first half of the baseball season came to a close on Sunday night. Actually, it’s just a bit more than 50 percent through the season, but psychologically it’s halfway over. In truth, it’s been over since the middle of April, but schedules have to be honored and rituals have to be adhered to. So shall it be from now through the end of September, and possibly into October if the playoffs are compelling enough. I’m pretty sure they will be, too.

The Cubs had a chance to take a series from the Cardinals and head into the All-Star break with some momentum. But, fittingly enough, their bullpen gave it away on Sunday night, and now there’s a few off days coming up. In the meantime, I’ll be happy to write about things other than this team that’s been frustrating me for decades now. And then, come the weekend, I’ll be back at it again, telling the world of my miseries. Such is life, at least for me. And I’m not complaining, either. At least not for a few days, anyway.

Requiem for a Sosa jersey

SosaJersey

It seems like a long time ago, but I can remember exactly when I got my first Cubs jersey, in June of 1998. It was a birthday gift, upon the occasion of turning a round number somewhere between 21 and 50 (but much closer to 21). The decision of which player’s name and number to have on the back of the jersey came down to two: Kerry Wood’s number 34, and Sammy Sosa’s number 21.

Kerry Wood was still a rookie, but he had caught the attention of the baseball world with his 20-strikeout performance against the Houston Astros the previous month. He followed it up with thirteen more Ks in his next outing, and the sky truly seemed to be the limit for what he could accomplish. All double-entendres aside, sporting a Wood jersey seemed like a chance to get in on the ground floor of something truly special.

And then there was Sammy Sosa. He had come over from the White Sox in 1992, before shifting over to right field and making Andre Dawson expendable. I loved Dawson, more than any other Cubs player before or since, but Sammy had more upside than the Hawk did in the early 1990s. He was consistently a 35-40 home runs and 100+ RBI player, and his star was definitely on the rise.

So I had to weigh the hot young rookie against the proven veteran in making my decision. There was also an element of the offensive star who was going to be in the lineup every day, against the pitcher who only took to the mound once or twice a week. I could still wear the Wood jersey if he wasn’t pitching that day, but I was reasonably certain that Sosa—who had played in all 162 games in the 1997 season—would be in the lineup whenever I found myself in the stands at Wrigley Field.

In the end, I decided that Sosa’s 21 trumped Wood’s 34. And I was instantly validated in the decision, when Sosa joined Mark McGwire in the chase for Roger Maris’ home run record. It was a summer that none of us who love baseball will ever forget, as Sammy and Big Mac put the focus back onto baseball in a way that it had not been since before the 1994 players’ strike. Baseball was on everybody’s minds, and Sammy’s hops and kisses to the camera and curtain calls at Wrigley Field were a central part of that experience.

When I went to the Field of Dreams movie site during the summer of 1998, I wore my Sosa jersey and a Cubs hat. A young boy of perhaps four or five came up to me, starry-eyed, and asked me if I played for the Cubs. I smiled at him and said, in my best TV commercial delivery, “only on this field, kid.” And I made a point of doing the tap-your-heart, touch-your-lips, blow-a-kiss, make-the-peace-sign gesture that was to become Sammy’s shtick for many years after that. The assembled baseball pilgrims ate it up, just like we all did back then.

Over the years Sammy grew into a baseball phenomenon, and I wore my Sosa jersey all over the place. I wore it out to Coors Field, and saw Sammy hit a homer in the Rocky Mountain air in 1999. A few weeks later, I wore it on my first and only visit to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, where artifacts from the previous year’s home run chase were on display. I wore it to a Mets game in Shea Stadium, and a game against the White Sox at what was then New Comiskey Park. I wore it among the mob of Cubs fans who made Turner Field in Atlanta into Wrigley Field South during the 2003 playoffs. I wore it to work on the day of the Game Six meltdown against the Marlins, and had it on while all of that eighth-inning unpleasantness was unfolding that evening. I wore it as I watched Game Seven the following night, hoping against hope to have it on when the Cubs won the pennant. But it was not to be.

Through it all, I kept wearing my Sosa jersey. Whenever I went to a Cubs game, the jersey went along for the ride. And then, on the final day of the 2004 season, everything changed. Sammy left Wrigley Field in a huff, and his reign as the top dog in the Cubs’ clubhouse was suddenly over. He was traded to the Orioles the following spring, and never again set foot on a baseball field in Chicago, on either side of town.

After seven glorious seasons, my Sosa jersey wasn’t so grand anymore. It wasn’t like Ryne Sandberg’s 23 jersey, or Ron Santo’s number 10, or a hundred other permutations that can be seen inside Wrigley Field, and up and down Clark Street on game day. No, Sammy had become a pariah, and wearing a pariah’s jersey isn’t such a good idea. Still, it was the only jersey that I had, so I had to suck it up and move on.

For the first couple of seasons post-Sosa, the Cubs went into a tailspin and my interest in going to Cubs games waned as a result. Rock bottom came in 2006 when, for the first—and so far, the only—time, I sat out an entire season at Wrigley Field. The Sosa jersey hung on a hanger, banished to the the furthest depths of my closet. I had decided to carry on with my life.

And then the number 21 started coming back. First Jason Marquis wore it, and then Milton Bradley and then, in 2010, Tyler Colvin began mashing homers while wearing number 21. Finally, there was a 21 worth crowing about, a little bit.

I pulled my Sosa jersey out of mothballs and decided that it could be repurposed on Colvin’s behalf. I set about snipping the letters off the back of the jersey, which I didn’t realize would be such a time-consuming chore. By the time I had removed the first “S” from Sosa, I realized that the red dye had bled through onto the white jersey beneath. Even if I removed all the other letters, a phantom “SOSA” would still remain. I was stuck with Sammy, whether I liked it or not.

Later that summer, my father and I attended a Cubs-Cardinals game on a miserably hot day in St. Louis (Q: What’s the only thing more unbearable than July in St. Louis? A: August in St. Louis). Whenever and wherever the Cubs and the Cardinals get together, the fans have to represent their team. There was no way I was going to St. Louis without all the Cubs gear I could find, which included my old Sosa jersey. But I had hatched out a plan before I went.

I took some gray duct tape and covered up the spot where the phantom “S” still remained, and left the “O” in place. I covered up the second “S” and the “A” in OSA, and then covered over the gray tape with blue tape to spell out “COLVIN.” My father shook his head at the sight of my makeshift Colvin tribute–which is on full display in the picture above–but I was pleased to be supporting the Cubs’ cause. The tape only lasted a few minutes in the brutal St. Louis humidity, but it’s the thought that counts.

During the 2011 season, when the Cubs played in Fenway Park for the first time since the 1918 World Series, I was fortunate enough to be in attendance at the Friday night game. And again, I had nothing else to wear besides my old Cubs jersey. Boston fans told me, on more than one occasion, that “OSA sucks” but I took it all in stride. I was happy to be there that day, even though the Cubs got smoked on the field. that evening

The final public appearance of the Sosa jersey came during a Cubs-Cardinals game with my Dad and one of my brothers last September at Wrigley Field. Cardinals fans were out in force, predictably, and so I again felt the need to reply in kind. It was a cold, rainy day, and I wore my jersey beneath a blue zippered jacket, which accomplished two things: it allowed me to show my support for the boys in blue, while also covering up the name and number of the Cubs’ he-who-must-not-be-named.

A new Cubs jersey found its way under our tree last Christmas, and I was a happy guy when I opened it up. Now it’s out with the old, and in with the new, even if the new version doesn’t have a name and number on the back. This could end up being the final Cubs jersey I’ll ever have, and the lesson of the Sosa jersey is that the names on the back will come and go, but the name on the front of the jersey is the one that matters most.

A Halloween reminder

It’s Halloween night in Chicago. Earlier in the evening, I was at the house of some friends of long standing. They’re possibly the best people that I know, and we were spending some time together, along with our kids and with some other families, on about the most special night of the year for kids. When else can you dress up in a costume, walk around from door to door, and get candy from complete strangers? When you’re a kid, it’s a day that you look forward to all year long.

The weather was good, and many kids were out, chasing after sweet things while they still had the chance. The candy bowl was being taxed again and again, by superheroes and princesses and all manner of imagination come to life.

The first Halloween costume I can remember was a football player when I was about four or five years old. I wore a little football jersey, carried a toy football around, and had some burnt cork smeared under my eyes to make me look like a player. I thought it was the greatest thing in the world, even without the candy. I had other costumes over the years, but I never forgot how much fun it was to be a kid at Halloween.

The candy had dropped to dangerously low levels, and it was still relatively early in the evening. There was no let-up in the stream of kids that could be expected. Action had to be taken, so I hopped in my car, drove to the nearest Dollar Tree store, and did an adult version of trick-or-treating. In other words, money changed hands and I had what was needed to keep the kids coming by the house.

On my way to the checkout, as I sometimes do in Dollar Tree stores, I picked up an assortment of thirty baseball cards inside a small plastic bag. Every bag has at least one story that could be told, if I can recognize it and then find the time to tell it. And tonight’s bag was no different. In fact, it was actually about the best one I’ve come across so far. This is a story that must be told this evening. What better way is there to spend the final hour of Halloween?

I was flipping through the cards, looking for something interesting, when I came to a card of Darryl Kile. And not just any Darryl Kile card, but one that shows him delivering a pitch in Wrigley Field. I always keep an eye out for cards that include Wrigley field shots, and you’d be surprised at how many of these cards there are. Or maybe not, given the beauty of Wrigley’s ivy and brick interior. Wrigley Field for baseball cards seems to be like the fake backgrounds that are used in photographers’ studios. Anything you put in front of it has a decent chance of looking good.

Darryl Kile pitched in the majors for many years. He went from the Astros to the Colorado Rockies, and then on to the St. Louis Cardinals, where he became their ace pitcher and a leader in their clubhouse. He was an All-Star and a 20-game winner. His future in St. Louis looked very bright, indeed.

Darryl Kile was scheduled to start a game for the Cardinals in Wrigley Field against the Cubs in June of 2002. But he suffered a heart attack and died in his sleep in a hotel room in Chicago, a little more than ten years ago. This had happened just a week after the Cardinals had also lost their long time radio announcer, Jack Buck. Such a devastating 1-2 punch is something I’ve never experienced as a Cubs fan, and I’m sure that Cardinals fans still remember it today.

Nearly ten years had gone by between when the picture on the front of the card was taken (in August of 1991) and the sudden, completely unexpected death of Darryl Kile, again in Chicago. And another ten years have passed since that day, when Joe Girardi told the gathering of Cardinals and Cubs fans that the day’s scheduled game would not be played.

So two decades after Darryl Kile delivered a pitch in Wrigley Field, which was captured on film and put onto the front of a 1993 baseball card, the image emerged from a plastic bag and into my hands, on a Halloween night in Chicago. There’s really no way that this could have been an accident. Darryl Kile was a professional athlete, presumably in excellent physical condition, and he died of a heart attack at age 33. I can’t explain it, but I am going to take something away from it.

I never met Darryl Kile, but his Halloween baseball card reminds me, and I will in turn remind you, that life is very short. We’d like for it to go on for a long time, but it doesn’t always work out that way. I’ve written about death many times in this space, because it makes me appreciate life just that much more.

So as Halloween draws to a close, I’m happy to still be on the good side of the divide between the living and the dead. And I hope that you, dear reader, will take a moment to be appreciative of this, as well.

Blue: It’s a color so cruel

I borrowed the title to this post from a song on the Fine Young Cannibals’ debut album from 1985. How I wish they had recorded more than just the two albums they did. And if you haven’t ever heard anything they did besides “She Drives me Crazy” and “Good Thing,” do yourself a favor and seek this one out. It’s worth the trouble.

I was listening to this CD on the way to work today, when one track buried in the middle of the track list came to my attention. “Blue” was a reference to Margaret Thatcher and her government in the UK, so I have no illusions that the band wrote this song with baseball in mind. But as a Cubs fan–who is once again on the outside looking in at baseball’s postseason–I gave their song an entirely different meaning.

The great thing about art is it can mean different things to different people, and one’s own interpretation is always the right one. Roland Gift thought he was singing about his hometown of Birmingham, and what Margaret Thatcher’s government was doing to it. But to me, in a car on a highway outside of Chicago, he was referencing the Cubs and all of their failures over the years.

There is never a good month for being a Cubs fan. April and May are OK because the baseball season is back, and June and July are nice when the beer is flowing and the sun is shining down on Wrigley Field, but August and September are rarely what a fan wants them to be. And October, quite simply, is the worst month of all.

Having to watch as all of the other teams in baseball make good memories for their fans is one thing. Today, for example, is the 35th anniversary of Reggie Jackson and his three home runs in the 1977 World Series. Yankees fans must have more good October memories than everybody else put together.

But the Red Sox have something, the Dodgers have something, the Cardinals have memories as fresh as this week, and every team in baseball has something to hang their hats on at this time of the year. And what do we Cubs fan have? Bupkus. Actually, bupkus suggests there are no October memories at all. I do have some October memories, but all of them are ultimately bad ones. So whatever the word for less-than-bupkus is, that’s what there is for the Cubs in October.

1984, 1989, 1998, 2003, 2007, and 2008 are the only post-season baseball that the Cubs have participated in. And unless you’re past 70 years old (and I can’t imagine anyone at that age reading my blog), you haven’t got any more October memories than I do.

Every one of those years started off with “Yeah, we’re in the playoffs and this will be the year, at last!” And every one of them has ended in defeat, before getting to the World Series and that fancy trophy that the Cubs have never played for, let alone hoisted for themselves. And the other 30+ years where the team has missed the playoffs? Usually, the end of the season can’t come soon enough

After October ends, and a champion is crowned, there’s three months that go by without any baseball at all. There’s speculation about free agent signings and all of that, but no games on the field to consider. It’s like being on crutches, to keep weight off of the sprained or broken ankle and give it time to heal. November through January serve that same purpose, at least when it comes to baseball.

And then in February Spring Training begins, and the cycle repeats itself all over again. It’s as if the previous year’s disappointment has been packed up and put with all of the other years of failure. After all these years as a Cubs fan, I know this drill all too well.

The next two weeks will be tough, especially as the Cardinals continue to play well. I don’t root against them, or any other team, but I also can’t help envying them to some extent.

How does it feel to watch a baseball game involving my team, being played on or after October 18? Maybe I’ll know the answer to that some day but for now, all I can do is lament my team’s color and the matching feelings that it always gives me in October.

UPDATE: The picture of the blue Wrigley Field above either comes from 1962 or 1965, on the basis on when the Dodgers were in town on the days listed on the marquee. I never knew it had been blue before, but I like it, actually. It’s more in keeping with the team’s colors than the Cardinals red is.

There’s no perfect word

Last night’s baseball game between the Cardinals and the Nationals defies an easy description. It was a comeback for the ages, and an affirmation that no sport–no human endeavor, really–can surpass baseball for sheer drama. People will snicker at such a suggestion, but I don’t care. Nothing outside the realm of life and death could have been more compelling than the game that was played last night.

I wrote a piece for TTFB where I tried to take an angle that nobody else would, and I think I may have done that. The old baseball cards above relate to that story.

There will be lots of words applied to last night’s game, and to the playoffs as a whole. They’ll all be fitting, but none are really up to the task of describing what happened. Searching for that one word is a satisfying challenge, all by itself. Perhaps one day I’ll find it, and write about it when I do. But for now, this is the best I can do: Wow!

Approaching perfect

How often does anything truly perfect come along? I would suggest that perfection is an ideal, more than it can ever be a reality. The perfect day, in my mind, would involve being at a baseball game, preferably at Wrigley Field. I found myself there on a Friday afternoon, along with my father and my younger brother. So far, so good.

There was work going on at the office on a Friday, but that old saying about how a lousy day at the beach still beats a great day at work is exponentially more true of a day at the ballpark. Even a rainy, cold, gray day like the one that we had.

Wrigley Field is the ballpark that every new stadium is constructed  towards. Nobody will ever say “build me the next Coors Field,” even though it is a lovely ballpark in its own right. No, every park hopes to recreate Wrigley Field in some way. And even if they come reasonably close it will be a grounds for some celebration. But the blueprint for a baseball stadium is, and shall always remain, at the corner of Clark and Addison streets in Chicago.

Our panoramic view of the field, the scoreboard, the ivy on the outfield wall, and the scene as a whole, had one vertical imperfection. It would have been possible, I suppose, to see that as a problem. But again, perfection isn’t possible. The pole was something to be taken into account as the game unfolded, but it wasn’t enough to take away from the day itself. Not even close.

To top all this off, the Cubs won the game, and provided a moment of incredible drama and joy by tying the game up in the bottom of the ninth inning. The game of baseball had decided to reveal itself not in a lopsided blowout, but in a close game with a dramatic finish over the team that I’d rather beat before any other team. That just couldn’t have been any better than it was.

So to recap: Family, baseball, Wrigley Field, drama, and victory, all in the same place. The rainy weather and a large pole were there, too, but on the whole I couldn’t ask for anything more than what I got. In fact, it was about as close to perfect as I could ever hope to find.

Going beyond special

Baseball is very important to me, and has been for as long as I can remember. My guess is that by holding onto the game as I have since early childhood, I remind myself of who I am and where I come from. And yesterday’s experience was a very potent affirmation of this.

My Dad paid for three tickets so that he and I and my youngest brother could attend a Cubs-Cardinals game at Wrigley Field yesterday. The tickets were purchased back in March, and September seemed like a long way away back then. But the time passed by, and eventually the day arrived and we went to the game. Taking a Friday off work is always nice, but going to a baseball game with your dad and your brother is about as good as it gets.

The competition between the Cubs and the Cardinals something that you’d have to be from the Midwest to understand.But it’s very real, and it goes back all the way to 1892. Every year, Cardinals fans come north to cheer for their team, and Cubs fans return the favor by traveling south to see their team. Anyone who appreciates baseball, but hasn’t experienced the divided loyalty in the stands of a Cubs-Cardinals game, hasn’t got a full picture of what baseball can be.

As sometimes happens on a late September afternoon in Chicago, yesterday was rainy and cold. Our seats were out of the rain, but we watched the umbrellas come out and the ponchos go on and off, as the rains came and went. But it never rained hard enough to stop the game. It’s late in the season, and the chance to make up a rained out game later on are all but gone, so these games are going to be played. And I’m glad that it was.

We had a great view, except for a support beam that seemed to be placed with the sole  purpose of obscuring the pitcher and the batter at the same time. Once it was adjusted to, it wasn’t a problem, but I do think that the only way that U.S. Cellular Field and all of the other new parks in baseball have improved upon Wrigley is that they don’t have support beams blocking anyone’s view. In every other measure, though, Wrigley Field is the best ballpark I’ve ever been in, or ever will be.

So the game’s oldest rivalry was being played out on its finest stage. The weather wasn’t ideal, but everything else was. The Cubs are trying to avoid 100 losses for the year, and the Cardinals are trying to get back into the playoffs and defend their title. So the game had more meaning on the Cardinals side than it did on the Cubs’. And, for the first 8 and a half innings, I treated it as such. The game was great, but there’s nothing to play for, so who cares if the Cardinals win or the Cubs win?

The seventh inning stretch was fun, with the “root, root, root” line drawing the same competition  between the fans on both sides that it always does. And both sides could probably claim victory on this front, too. Cardinals fans will say they were louder than the home team’s fans, and Cubs fans will claim to have out shouted those visitors. May that part of the game never be any different than it is.

It came to the ninth inning, and the Cardinals brought in a closer to finish the Cubs out. The Cubs were behind by two runs, and I asked my dad if he wanted to go. I’ve seen this ending far too many times, where the other team puts down the Cubs in order and the game ends on a sour note. But he asked, rhetorically, why leave before the game was over? And he was right about that. The importance of getting that last out is something the Cardinals taught to the Rangers, and all the rest of the world, last year in the World Series. So we decided to stay.

The Cubs put a runner on base, but they also made two outs. The game came down to Darwin Barney, the Cubs’ second baseman. The Cardinals fans came to their feet, sensing a victory that would put them one step closer to making the playoffs. As if to counter their advantage, the Cubs fans got to their feet as well.

The Cardinals fans started chanting “Lets go, Cardinals!” and, as a matter of principle, I and the rest of the Cubs’ fans countered by saying “Cub-bies” as they were saying “Cardinals.” They had the upper hand, do doubt about it, but it was still our house, and I felt duty bound to remind them of this.

The count ran to 1-2 on Barney and, like the Rangers in Game six of last year’s World Series, the Cardinals needed just one more strike to win the game. I pulled out my cellphone, which on its last legs as the battery was flashing red, and took a picture of what I thought would be the winning pitch for the Cardinals.

Barney made contact with the pitch, and the ball headed out toward left field. The wind had been blowing in all day, and Barney isn’t a slugger by any means, so it seemed like a fly ball that would end the game. And then something remarkable happened: the ball carried into the bleachers. The game wasn’t over. The Cardinals hadn’t won, after all.

The sheer exuberance of the moment was more than I was ready for. I threw my hands into the air, yelled as loud as I could, and ran down to start high-fiving people I didn’t know. It was just like the Cardinals in the World Series, where  the Cubs crawled out from a two-out, two-strike, ninth inning hole to stave off defeat. It wasn’t the World Series, but it didn’t feel like an ordinary game, either.

Barney’s home run didn’t actually win the game, but it did tie it up. And the game went into extra innings, where the Cubs prevailed in the eleventh. It would have been a shame for the Cubs to come back like that and not win, and I was thrilled when they pulled out the victory. The Cubs had been spoilers, and that had never felt so good to me as it did in that moment.

So the wonder of baseball has been proven once again. I would have remembered the game fondly no matter what the final outcome was, because spending a day at the ballpark with my family is a special thing (and running into an old friend from grade school and high school was an added surprise, too). But throw in a dramatic turn of events, which then led to an unexpected victory for my team, and the day went well beyond being special.

Family, baseball, and winning on the same day. What more can anyone ask for? Sunshine, I suppose. But that would make me greedy, wouldn’t it?