Thursday, June 25, 2009

Cancer and Baseball

I grew up in suburban Detroit so sweltering summer days were filled with radio broadcasts of Tiger games. The din seemed a constant wherever you went…past a store front, on a back porch, visiting in the hospital. Windows were open and floor fans placed strategically but mostly, the heat encouraged you to slow down and sit.

Those radio broadcasts were the background music to life, except when you heard a CRACK and/or the swelling of the crowd noise. Then, as though scripted, the talking stopped and in the silence, you waited for the reason. A child on the floor who may not have learned this courtesy might get a gentle toe tap to the seat and a SHHHH!

After the Aha, the talking would begin again, often in mid sentence.
I was a child and didn’t follow too closely, although we must have traveled a lot to see the Minnesota relatives because I DO remember Harlem Killebrew, a name that always made me giggle.

The 60’s were rocky for the Tigers and as air conditioning became common, there was less of the baseball-on-the-radio-all-over-the-place atmosphere. I recall that a guy named Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth’s record for home runs in a single season and that in those pre-steroid-enhanced days, the controversy it caused as Roger had more games to play than did The Babe.

After that, I was busy with The Beatles and boys and, oh yes, school and such so I drifted away from the game. No big loss for either of us. But, in the summer of 1970, when the Red-Haired Boy from Indiana was coming to call, my dad arranged for what he thought would be a visit highlight—the Chrysler Corporation Box Seats, right behind the dug-out at the neck-and-neck battle between the Tigers and Baltimore. Cash! Kalain! Horton!

The seats were cool and, even to the minor fan, a baseball park is a great place for people watching. Alas, my boyfriend had not been following the battle and so did not grasp the coolness of the event. And, of course, I’m sure it was that he was interested in ME, not the Tigers……

Mike’s never been a big fan of televised sports, certainly not baseball. In the middle of Indiana, we don’t have our own Major League team so locals, if they follow, cheer for Cinninati or the Cubs. Even with an across-the-street neighbor who is playing pro, the whole 9 inning sport has not peeked Mike’s interest.
So it was with a bit of amusement that I entered the room to see a baseball game on the big TV.

It was during the weeks that Mike was hurting and healing from his surgery. Pain and pain meds had cast a pall over our room when son-in-law Jeremy hit upon baseball therapy. A home run for cancer treatment.

Jeremy would sit in the easy chair and turn on the game (there is always a game) and they would chat and watch. As neither of them, by their own admittance, knew much about the game, when one would ask a question, like “Why did he do that?” the other would make something up. A common answer was, “Strategy,” with the return, “Oh.”

Sometimes, the explanation was plausible. More often, and certainly as the game drifted into the late hours, the answers would become more and more bizarre. Their back and forth reminded me of middle school slumber parties where at 3:00 AM, everything is funny.

And speaking of funny, as the days progressed, they began to ‘get it.’ They began to follow the game, the teams and players. By the time Jeremy returned to Texas, the hub was hooked.

He has become a Yankees fan. He loves A-Rod and doesn’t care a whit for all the bad press.
And the lingo:
“It’s a walk-off homer.”
“He’s icing the pitcher.”
“Only 3 (4) (5) games out.”

The son-in-law is back and the baseball is on. Our evenings are often filled with cheering, howling, groaning, and discussions of strategy that make sense.

And the coup: next week the boys will drive down to Indy to watch our minor league team in a great, outdoor area. AND at the end of July, Jeremy has snared two tickets, by the dug-out, for the White Sox and the Yankees.

Healing comes in many containers. Perhaps that bad pitcher will stay home.

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