July 20, 2008

New York Baseball in Your Dreams

April 19,2008
By Rose Marie Dunphy

A lot has changed in baseball today. Joe Torre's in Los Angeles, Joe Girardi's back in pinstripes, and both Shea and Yankee stadiums are coming down. For added shock, it's been 50 years since the Dodgers broke every heart in Brooklyn by moving away.

But the love for the game and the memories remain.Years ago at the breakfast table, my son discussed the Mets lineup of each new season as if he controlled the roster. My ears perked up. I was there, too, kicking up the dirt near home plate, picking up the bat and swinging it.

I thought I'd lost that by growing up, a mother busy with four children. But no, my eyes displayed his sparkle, my voice matched his lilt. Baseball was in the air, as it was when I was young.

In winter we brightened quiet hours by turning on the VCR and reliving the great baseball moments of 1986. Like game six of the playoffs between the Mets and the Astros, where every lead was never enough, and game six of the World Series, when Mookie Wilson's hit slipped through Billy Buckner's legs. The fans were as exhausted as the players. Best of all, the Mets won the title.

We spent many summers with the Amazing Mets. At the ballpark, we leaned forward in the 9th inning of a scoreless game with the winning run on base. At home, I lounged on the easy chair in the den, my son sprawled on the brown rug beneath my feet. We cheered. We shouted. We told the players what to do.

There was plenty of time to talk between pitches. I recalled "the magic pillow" I used to sit on to bring good luck to the Dodgers. He said he'd major in business when he grew up, with Fordham, Manhattan or NYU as possible college choices. Quietly we accepted a future that we couldn't see, along with batting averages and runs scored.

All this was reminiscent of a time when I was the child sprawled on the rug and the occupant in the easy chair was my father. We were in our Brooklyn living room then, as dens were nonexistent. When the Dodgers played, my father and I saw them on a 12-inch black-and-white RCA set, with a Victrola below it and cabinet doors that closed when not in use.

How he loved those Brooklyn Dodgers! I can still see my father, beer in hand, shout in a strong Brooklyn accent, "C'mon youse bums!" It was nothing short of genuine affection that he felt.

How he hated and feared those New York Giants and Yankees! When the Dodgers played against them, The Brooklyn Eagle ran front-page declarations of war. The year my father talked about most was 1955, when the Dodgers won the Series after so many "wait 'til next year" dreams.The stadium then was Ebbets Field. Small compared to Shea, but every inch a ballpark - 297 feet down the line to the 40-foot rightfield wall that Carl Furillo owned.

My father and I had plenty of time to talk between pitches. He'd tell me childhood stories - how the teacher he hated got promoted with him three years in a row, how he could buy jelly doughnuts for a penny apiece. I told him I'd like to be a doctor someday. We quietly accepted a future we couldn't see, along with batting averages and runs scored.

Seasons have a way of revolving. Duke, Pee Wee, Gil Hodges and Campy closed Ebbets Field. Jose, Johan, Wright, Beltran and Delgado will shut Shea. I became my father. My son became me.

In generations to come, I hope a scene exists where my son sits on the easy chair while his child lies sprawled on the rug. They'll talk of themselves, their dreams and quietly accept a future they cannot see, along with batting averages and runs scored.

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