Tuesday, July 5, 2011


Day 8 of what will become a random series of recollections about a recent trip to New York City, Boston, MA and the wilds of the Maine’s “Down East” coast.

IN 1960, a classmate’s dad decided his farm supply store needed bigger quarters. So at about 5th and Cherry Streets in Chico, Jack Vanilla had a huge building constructed out concrete slabs. The slabs were poured flat on the ground, as I recall, and then tilted into place. We see this all the time, now, but back then it was something to behold. “This is going to last a hundred years,” classmate Cheryl said with pride as the thing rose from flat to vertical.

WHICH GETS ME TO YANKEE STADIUM. We visited baseball’s “home office” even though the Yanks were out of town. My first impression was how much this new building resembled Vanilla’s Farm Store. Large concrete panels tower skyward. To be sure, the architects used glass and space to create deep concourses and open interiors. I’m sure it’s a wonderful venue to watch some ball, but I couldn’t get past how sterile the place looked.

We did visit the team outlet but elected not to take the stadium tour, which would have afforded an entirely different emotion. I know I would have been speechless in Monument Park. And I do very much appreciate that the Yankees always tip their corporate caps to their heritage of great stars as witnessed by the banners adorning the exterior walks of the yard.

THE NEXT DAY, WE RODE THE “D LINE” out to Flushing. The Mets were in town and this would be our chance to watch an inter-league game at their new stadium called Citi Field. This yard is constructed with a nod toward Ebbetts Field, the hallowed grounds upon which the Dodgers played in Brooklyn before coming west in 1957.

1969.  "Amazin'."
As a senior in high school, I had the privilege of taking Civics class. This is not where they teach you how to tune up a Honda, but rather where they teach you about how to tune up government. My teacher was a fellow named Ken Miller. Big deal, right? It was. Before getting his certificate to teach, Ken Miller roomed with Tug McGraw when both were in the Mets farm system. The year was 1969. I’d been a Mets fan since I’d read Jimmy Breslin’s tome Can’t Anybody Here Play this Game? – a comical look at the loveable losers the Mets had always been. I figured I was a bit of a loser myself, so the fit seemed right.

On this day, the Mets looked not too far removed from the team that everybody loved to watch fail. An exception was Jose Reyes. He made three sparkling plays ranging far to his right at shortstop to snag sharply hit ground balls and then fire absolute missiles over to first base to nail the speedy runners: all in the same inning. (This happened while I was in line trying to buy a beer, which more or less substantiates my loser-ness of yore.)

The Mets didn’t seem to have their heart into this inter-league game against the Angels. We toured the stadium a bit and found styling cues from history pushed to the background. Again the preponderance of exposed concrete had me thinking about the feed store. We left before the seventh.

THEN WE ATTENDED THE CHURCH OF BASEBALL in one of baseball’s only remaining cathedrals. Notwithstanding the DH rule*, the great thing about baseball is its tradition. And with tradition, history can go back as far as history goes back.

Fenway Park breathes history. A half a week into our east coast swing, this would be the first day of five consecutive where the existence of the sun was based only upon faith.

And today's game would be delayed due to showers sweeping across the area. Still, this was Fenway. Babe Ruth pitched here. Ted Williams roamed the outfield, as did Yaz. The greats played here, and their echoes can still be heard.

We walked from Yawkey Avenue, beneath the seats – some still enameled wood set in cast metal frames – to our space just beneath the upper deck. The cleats of those who went before clattered and scraped across the timeworn concrete. I walked in their footsteps.

And as the heavens rained, not once or twice, but three times, I stood in front of my antique seat, beer in hand, with one of those dopey ear-to-ear grins that could only be belied by the tears in my eyes and the tightness in my throat.

History can happen anywhere at any time. But it will happen here again. Perhaps today.

We waited out the rain.


* There are those who suggest that God considers many of man’s acts and proclivities abominations. Has anyone ever asked God about not having the pitcher come to the plate and hit?

© 2011
Church of the Open Road Press


  1. You are the brilliant fellow I've come to know as a fellow fan of our
    wonderful game of inches & split seconds. I had just told "Scotty" about
    reading up on your east coast trip, with exceptional interest about you and
    the wife's great day at Fenway. You made me shiver with chills, then I too
    simply broke down as I read of the tears welling up in your eyes as you
    gazed at the "One & Only GREEN MONSTER". Man , you are absolutely right
    about the special feeling which comes over one when you stand upon holy
    ground in a place with such rich history, countless thrills and endless
    memories for so many that have come before us.

    Dave, you are absolutely right in saying that while in a ballpark, you may
    well, in fact, witness history. I've seen McCovey's last base hit of his H
    of F career and with my lovely daughter, Jason Schmidt tie an all time
    Giants record for strikeouts in a game(16), tying him with the legendary
    Christy Mathewson. I can still hear the roar of 43K crazed fans as the ninth
    inning began, Schmidt with 13 K'S and he proceeded to whiff the side.
    Electricity and it wasn't just static, coarsed thru that stadium . My little
    girl about 5 , standing in her stadium chair with real tears running down
    her little cheeks as she bellowed " He did it, He did it " !! ( A Matt
    Williams walk-off 3 run jack). It was in that moment I swear to GOD , I knew
    I had something special with her which you simply cannot teach. Then , by a
    quirk of shitty fate (9/11/01) our game tickets were pushed back for a week
    or so when the season was temporarily suspended as the nation got back on
    its feet, we were in the stands when Bonds blasted #'s 72 & 73 for the
    all-time record.

    Did the game ever get played that you attended? Fenway is such an awesome
    place. My youngest son and I went for a three game series against the Bronx
    Bombers in July of '05. Did you happen to see our names carved into the
    dugout roof of the Red Sox ? The only time I became a vandal and got away
    with it. Me and so many which came before my act...

    Son & I fly into Boston and get to our Hotel ( The Commonwealth ) which can
    be seen on the immediate horizon just over the left-center field wall and
    beyond Yawkey, arriving at 1:00 am or so. Although we had a confirmation #,
    hotel is full and there are NO ROOMS AVAILABLE. I become rather pissed and
    begin to rant a bit when the night manager comes from the back room and just
    like that , we are on the elevator going to the top floor Penthouse which we
    have been told rents for over $5K a night. They told us that the cast of the
    motion picture "Fever Pitch" including Drew Barrymore & Jimmy Fallon had
    just had a huge cast party there a few nights prior. Remember that movie
    about the Sox winning the World Serious as Scotty would say ? Anyway, we
    stayed 2 of 3 nights in the Penthouse and celebrated by drinking their $8
    waters and sodas found in one of many fridges .

    The point being, seems as though every trip along life's way to the old
    ballyard is an opportunity for a handful of great new memories which simply
    cannot be matched anywhere else than in the near vicinity of those "Sacred
    White Lines". Thanks for sharing your trip and story Dave and for the
    opportunity to relive a few of my own. Lastly, anytime at a ballfield when
    the Anthem plays, I get the "CHILLS" I have no control over it and its
    happened my entire life. One of two things: My daddy was a very patriotic
    man and a little edge of that I inherited or as a youngster, we always lined
    up along the baseline for a rendition of Francis Scott Keyes? Writings to be
    sung by hopefully, a full breasted women of color whom possessed one hell of
    a set of Lungs and was capable of nailing every single note throughout the
    banner. Take care and continue to enjoy your retirement.


  2. Lance: Thanks for the kind comments and for sharing those great memories.

    I purposely left out of my post who the Sox were playing (the Padres) and the outcome (Sox lost) because it really didn't matter.

    What mattered was Fenway.

    I still get chills and its been nearly two weeks...