Were my skin of a thinner variety, I might have had my feelings hurt by fellow columnist Ramon Presson’s recent installments in which he good-naturedly, and hilariously, poked fun at Major League Baseball and its peculiarities – its slow pace and funny looking uniforms and its numerous rituals and rubrics of which fans of other sports are at times not understanding.
But it is perhaps those very objects of derision that help endear the erstwhile national pastime to those of us who are its devotees. I’ll not give a defense here, and I am completely comfortable with (and accepting of) those who don’t get it.
(If I wanted to take Ramon’s comments personally, it would be his un-American mockery of the seventh-inning stretch and the singing of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” that would sting the most. That is, however, his opinion, and I’m a big believer in the First Amendment, including someone’s right to be misguided. I might add that the stretch now typically includes a stirring rendition of “God Bless America,” so how anyone could find fault with it is beyond me).
But since I’m not taking any of it personally, it doesn’t matter and it’s time to move on.
I would speculate that even some of the most indifferent of baseball observers could not help but become swept up in this year’s World Series, which brought together two longtime hapless ball clubs in one of the best Fall Classics ever.
In case you missed this pertinent information, the Cleveland Indians, from the American League, last played in a World Series in 1997 and last won it in 1948. The dearth of good fortune experienced by the National League’s Chicago Cubs is much more severe. Their last appearance was in 1948 and the last time they won it was in 1908.
Neither the Cubs nor the Indians are among my favorite teams. That distinction goes to the Houston Astros and the Atlanta Braves, in that order, for reasons that have been addressed in previous columns and which I will not today rehash (you’re welcome).
But both of this year’s World Series teams are classic old ones that are easy to pull for when one of my favorites is not playing.
I have visited the ballparks of each – Cleveland’s Progressive Field and Chicago’s Wrigley Field. Both are great venues with great fans, surrounded by local bars and dives that enhance the ballgame experience.
This year my heart went with the Cubs in the NL pennant race and on to the World Series.
That would probably be because of my first visit to Wrigley in 1993 with my family – my wife and me, our 7-year-old son, 4-year-old daughter and 7-month-old son.
We were not exactly rolling in dough, and a vacation to Chicago (on a plane, no less) from Little Rock, where we lived at the time, was about as likely as one to the moon.
As fate would have it, however, a several-day work trip to the Windy City came up for me. It was during a Southwest Airlines promotion called “Friends Fly Free” where you could purchase two tickets for the price of one.
Since my then-employer was paying my fare, I could include my wife for no cost. We were able to buy a ticket for each of our older two for the price of one, and since our youngest was under 2, he went free. My employer also paid for our hotel and rental car.
So we all five flew to Chicago, paying for one plane ticket ourselves. It was in early June and we flew into Midway Airport, arriving at about 11 a.m. with tickets to a Cubs game at 1 p.m. It was so cold with the winds coming off Lake Michigan that we had to change clothes in the car.
I have no memory of driving from Midway to Wrigley, other than we had a mid-size car into which we crammed ourselves, with our youngest still in a car seat. With no cell phone or GPS, I suppose we got a map (imagine that) from the rental car agency.
My oldest was familiar with the Cubs and Wrigley from watching games on cable TV. He was awe struck (as we all were, except perhaps our youngest one), seeing for the first time the classic park and field with its ivy-covered outfield and nearby bleachers he had seen on screen so many times.
He promptly purchased a Cubs hat and a baseball with the Cubs logo, and when we got to our seats, promptly dropped the ball, which rolled beyond retrieval. I replaced it before the tears were off his cheeks.
(Don’t judge me. I allowed him to learn hard lessons in life but in this situation I opted for grace).
So it is the memory of that first trip to Wrigley, with my wife and me taking turns holding a 7-month-old in our arms and holding the hands of and herding around a 4-year-old and 7-year-old shivering in those stands in June and, yes, singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh-inning stretch, that made the Cubs a sentimental favorite for me in this year’s World Series.
And it is probably why, when they were down three games to one and within an eyelash of losing it, I might have offered a prayer on their behalf going into Game 5.
And why, after they took a commanding lead in Game 7, only to have the Indians tie them in the eighth inning, I was pacing the floor in front of the TV with a big old pit in my stomach.
And why, upon the last out for the Indians after the Cubs had retaken and preserved the lead in the 10th, I might or might not have wept as I witnessed the post-game celebration for which Chicago fans had waited oh so long.
And it’s the memories from that trip, and many other baseball trips with my family over the years that might cause me to become the slightest bit defensive over a silly game.
But no, it’s not personal.
Bob McKinney is a longtime Brentwood resident, husband of one, father of three and father-in-law of two. Email him at email@example.com.