As many Bay Booming men, I am, and have always been, a baseball fan. So it’s with keen interest that each October, I turn my attention to the grand old game’s final seasonal hurrah, the World Series.
Certainly that event now happens much deeper in October than it once did in my childhood in the late 1950s and ‘60s, back in a time when the post-season consisted of no playoff rounds, just a best-of-seven slug-it-out affair between the winners of each league.
Now for me, it’s impossible to think of the World Series as a sports show-stopping event during my St. Charles days without also thinking of the sports landscape back then and the vastly different look of that terrain today. While the almighty football has pushed aside most other sports, in the early ‘60s, baseball was still king, nationally, significantly more popular than any other sport.
Since there was no regular season play between the two leagues, those World Series matchups were much ballyhooed affairs for us St. Charles Redwings.
With the first night World Series still a long way off, not occurring until I matriculated to Miami University and was beginning my junior year in 1971, that meant 10 years before, there was day baseball during the week, prompting the rarest of treats for us. It was a treat that came along far less often than, say, penny marches for the missions when I was supplied with a quarter’s worth of coppers by my mother, who trusted the pennies would find the bottom of the can as we marched to music around the classroom rather than finding the bottom of the till at The Equity off Allentown Road in exchange for a pack of Necco Wafers and a Sugar Daddy.
Yes, an even better treat was when a cart with a TV was wheeled into our classroom to watch a half-hour or so of an event deemed historic. Now, you might also wonder what else we were allowed to watch besides the few innings of the World Series that we were granted before it was time to return to trying to solve an enigma that, for me, was the beginning of my mathematical horrors that have extended throughout my life, those story problems, often about two guys who left two different cities on two trains traveling at two different speeds and trying to ascertain when they would be arriving at a third city’s depot.
Well, I do recall watching on an early May day in ’61 Alan Shepherd, one of the original Right Stuff Mercury Seven astronauts, take his suborbital 15-minute ride while a classroom full of St. Charles fifth-graders clutched their rosaries and prayed.
If you’re wondering about the JFK assassination in ’63, no TV was wheeled in to watch the aftermath of our first Roman Catholic president’s final trip that would end in internment at Arlington National Cemetery. I think the powers to be felt that immensity of that sorrow was just too great. When our World Series half-hour or so was over and it was time to return to the rigors of academia, I had a backup plan to continue to check in on the game, one that employed one of the technological anchors of my youth, the transistor radio.
I’d gotten one as a gift, so I took one of my mom’s old hardback “Reader’s Digest” condensed anthologies that came in the mail and engaged in some subterfuge.
At a time in my life before I would appreciate books based on their joyful-reading merits, I covered the hardback with one of those standard powder-blue book covers, took a razor blade and cut a compartment in the center pages that would house the radio and, with the volume down very low, I could then periodically put my ear to the book and listen to a few pitches at a time.
Of course, to do so too long at any one time would invite an investigatory desk visit from a Sister of Charity. And, of course, that did happen, since I was too stupid to listen in smaller increments of time. Additionally, our nuns, whose lives were dedicated to God’s work, the most important part of which was to rid us miscreants of our criminalities, knew the shape of our every textbook. In other words, they knew a ringer when they saw one!
So, each year when the World Series comes around, there are those remembrances of a few school-day innings in black-and-white and some stolen transistor audio moments that came from deep within a book I never intended to read.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News and Our Generation’s Magazine, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.