Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Last Day of Winter

Today's the last day of winter. So says the chalkboard easel outside the Toasted Owl. You find things out walking around Northampton. I still haven't felt the click though. That scent of Spring, like an opiate, that makes me want to take chances again...in college days, to put the speakers facing out the window of Butterfield and bathe the Umass Central Dorms with Houses of the Holy. Now it's warm nights with friends you don't even know watching the Sox at the Owl. Screaming and hugging. The World Series Trophy made a stop at the Owl in 2005. I'm not even a huge fan. I am not a citzen of the "Red Sox Nation." But I can get into a game. So many more women are Sox fans these days. Not passive fans either. They're talking stats and injuries. Two of my three sisters, Emily and Sarah, could probably work for the team in some capacity. Emily's son is named Theo. Yes. Amy and I, well, we get it but we couldn't possibly make that kind of commitment. My dad calls it his soap opera.

I used to take my Rawlings Fastback baseball glove, the Stan Bahnsen signature edition with a finger hole, to Memorial Stadium with my dad maybe twice a year to see the Orioles. He declared opening day an official holiday from his job as an English professor at Washington College. He would tell his students there would be no class that day, as would two other professors, Bob Day and Norman James. He'd let me play hooky too. They did it on the sly but one year they ended up in a photo on the cover of the Baltimore Sun in an "interview with the fans" story. The school's president saw them, reprimanded them, and as I recall, docked their pay. The incident is now part of the college's folklore.

I took my glove to the games so I could snag a foul ball. An impossible dream, but I wanted to be ready. I was a fan back then, big time. I can still name the 1972 Orioles and their numbers. This was before Camden Yard. The Colts were still in Baltimore back then too. Both teams used Memorial Stadium and this time of year you could still see the fading lime grid of the football season beneath the diamond and outfield. I never caught a ball, but back then I could go down to the Orioles dug out and someone would always come out and sign autographs over the wall. I got signatures from Jim Palmer, Brooks Robinson (my hero, #5, with "B.Robinson" on his jersey due to Frank's presence on the team those days), and Eddie Watt, a reliever, who my dad and I sent a congrats telegram to one night when he saved a game. The crab cakes at Memorial were delicious!

My family moved from Maryland to Mass. in 1976. (That December, a single-engine plane crashed into the stands behind home plate!) I had gone through the emotions of leaving the Orioles and was ready to be a Red Sox fan. It was the Fred Lynn, Jim Rice, Yaz years and I loved watching them on the old Channel 38. But then I discovered pot and concerts and girls and after that I was done. Years later, for old times sake, my dad and I went to Fenway. Clemens was pitching against the Twins. At one point he threw a fastball in there and CRACK - a line drive along the first base line came right at us. I stood up and, without the assistance of Mr. Bahnsen's mitt, took it in the chest. It dropped in front of me. I reached down into the flailing hands of other fans that would take it from it's chosen one and plucked it out, thrusting it up in the air, victorious. I have it on my desk at work right now of you ever want to come by and visit the ball.

Sometimes you get what you want long after you stop wanting it. Or forgetting that you want it.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

nicely done, Jim...baseball and Spring arrive.....
poignant
perfect tone for March and forever.
Blessings
Bapu

~PR Blake said...

That reminds me, not only have I been waiting since 1975 for my foul ball but Fred Lynn still hasn't replied to my dinner invitation.

p.s. Spring has sprung here in the south, had the AC on in the car on the way home today. You're more than welcome to come down, sit on the big swing in the back yard and read my 1975 Fenway Program. (Fred Lynn and Jim Rice on the cover.)

Stan B. said...

I want my glove back.

Corin, Jim's intern from 1989 said...

That's beautiful, Jim.