Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The Day I Became A Red Sox Fan



Lately, there have been nothing but filthy dirty lewd vile disgusting licentious pornographic posts here. I know that some of you find that delightful, as do I, but if I ever want this blog to grow up and become a respectable member of society, I can't just write about jelly-filled dildos all the time. So, here's something to get us back on track as a normal God-fearing (or God-loving; take your pick) community of by gosh reg'lar folk. What takes the mind off of sex quicker than anything on the planet? Baseball, of course!

This is a reprint from 2006. It is clean, wholesome, family-oriented, devoid of even the slightest obscenity, and all-together totally unthreatening (except possibly to Yankees fans.) What this means, of course, is that some poor soul will read this, like it a lot, then start exploring the archives, at which point he or she will stumble upon all of the previously-mentioned filth and die from a heart attack. I'm just trying to bring joy to the world in whatever small way I can.

Without any further ado - and I actually mean that this time - here's...

THE DAY I BECAME A RED SOX FAN



I can pinpoint with precision the day I became a Red Sox fan. It was Sunday, July 12th, 1964.

I was seven at the time, and my parents were visiting the home of my Great Uncle Jim. He was a bachelor who shared an apartment in Roslindale (a neighborhood of Boston) with two of my unmarried great aunts, Aunt Loretta and Aunt Pat. I remember many a pleasant day visiting there with my parents.

The apartment building they lived in has since been torn down, much to my chagrin. Looking back, I suppose it was a somewhat strange apartment. For a kid, though, it had all sorts of interesting and mysterious features. I loved the place.

When you went in the front door, you entered a vestibule populated by a love seat and side table, neither of which was ever used by anyone, for anything - but they looked nice. The vestibule led to a long hallway, from which you entered the rooms of the apartment proper on the right. The long wall of this hallway was covered with family photographs, portraits of various Kennedys, and a gigantic depiction of Jesus wearing his crown of thorns, agonized and bleeding. The rooms included three bedrooms; a bathroom (with a magnificent lion's paw tub); a sun porch with stucco walls (where I spent many hours reading while stretched out on a cane couch, most notably The New Yorker Book Of Cartoons and a tearjerker childrens book called, as I remember, So Dear To My Heart, which was about a boy and his pet black lamb); the living room (which had a grand oriental rug and a severe [the only adjective I can think of that fits] couch, with wooden arms and brass studs. It was near impossible to get comfortable on it, not in any way like the overstuffed ones I was used to from my own home or my grandparent's place); a kitchen (where everyone spent the most time, sitting around the table drinking coffee, chainsmoking, and arguing politics, and where my Aunt Loretta always had lemon Jell-O awaiting me in the refrigerator); the dining room (where a box of Candy Cupboard chocolates was an ever-present temptation, and I wasn't one to resist temptation); and a pantry (which was something that astounded me, coming as I did from a home where foods were kept in cabinets and didn't have their own separate living quarters.)

My Great Uncle Jim was an interesting guy. First off, he was stouter than any other man in the family. Perhaps I'd look at him now and think "fat", but as a kid he was just... substantial. A bit jowly, with ever-present glasses and his dark hair combed straight back, he looked a bit like Edward Arnold, who played "Big Jim Taylor" in Mr. Smith Goes To Washington. He had been elected to the office of State Representative in 1945, serving one term in the Massachusetts legislature. He had also been Commissioner Of Public Buildings during some part of the tenure of James Michael Curley, a renowned (or reviled, depending upon which side of the aisle you were on) Mayor of Boston, Governor of Massachusetts, and Congressman. I don't know how my Uncle Jim got on Curley's A-List, but it wasn't surprising. Uncle Jim was a very smart fellow - so far as I know, the only college graduate from his generation on that side of my family - and a hard worker.

Anyway, on this particular day, while my parents and aunts sat in the kitchen, talking about whatever parents and aunts talk about on a summer Sunday, Uncle Jim removed himself from the conversation to go sit in his favorite comfy chair in the living room and watch the Boston Red Sox play a doubleheader against the Washington Senators. I wasn't interested in the conversation, so I tagged along.

The Red Sox and Senators were battling it out to see which team could clinch 9th place before September. The Sox were three years away from the beginning of their rise to glory, the marvelous "Impossible Dream" team of 1967. The starting infield was populated by the likes of Felix Mantilla, Eddie Bressoud and Dick Stuart. Of the regulars that year, Bressoud led the team with a .293 average. Dalton Jones and a young Carl Yastrzemski tied for the team lead in stolen bases with 6, so they obviously didn't have speed to make up for their lack of hitting. The Senators, on the other hand, had such luminaries as Ron Kline, Fred Valentine, Eddie Brinkman and Don Lock on their roster. In 1964, you would have been hard pressed to find a less-appealing doubleheader, but Uncle Jim was a seriously diehard baseball fan.

Anyway, Uncle Jim settled in to watch this thing on his black and white TV, and I settled in next to Uncle Jim, laying by the side of his chair on the oriental rug. Curt Gowdy was calling the action, such as it was.

I knew very little about baseball, so I asked Uncle Jim all sorts of idiotic and (to a knowledgeable fan) exasperating questions. Questions like, "How come when the guy catches a ball on the ground it's not an out like when it's in the air? Isn't that harder?" and "If the guy with the bat gets to first base before the other guy catches his fly hit, is he safe?".

Uncle Jim answered all of my questions, patiently and thoroughly. Meanwhile, the Sox split the doubleheader with the Senators. Over the course of the five or six hours we sat in front of the TV watching, I became hooked. I have lived and died with the fortunes of the Red Sox since then, and even had a secondary rooting interest in the Senators, until they deserted Washington for Texas in the 1970's.

The Red Sox radio and TV theme song lives on in my head to this day...

You're just in time for the ballgame
You're just in time for excitement and fun
WHDH has reserved your place
So glad you could make it; So glad you could come
Here's Curt Gowdy standing by
The voice of the Red Sox; A real nice guy...


I also learned a number of commercial jingles which will never leave my memory. For instance...

Schaeffer is the one beer to have when you're having more than one!

and

Atlantic keeps your car on the go, go, go
So keep on the go with Atlantic!


I could probably dredge up a couple more jingles of defunct products, but MY WIFE will read this and then say to me, as she often does when I reel off something utterly obscure and useless, "So, Jim, what are your cousin's names?", and I'll mumble obscenities and leave the room, disgraced.

My Uncle Jim died in 1969, at the age of 72. When he was 21, the Red Sox had won the World Series. He never saw them win another one. Thanks to him and his patience on that day in 1964, I had the incomparable thrill of enjoying the Sox big win in 2004. I've also played ball myself for over forty years now, which I probably wouldn't have done if I hadn't become such a big fan of the game then. All in all, some of the most spectacularly enjoyable wasted hours of my life I owe to him and his patience on that long-ago Sunday.

Thanks, Uncle Jim.

Soon, with more better stuff.


26 comments:

Shrinky said...

Reading your intro, I prepared myself to adopt the glazed look and suffer through (I am nothing if not loyal). Shame on me, I should have known better, you'd never deliver a bum post! You are a born story-teller Jim, this is not really about baseball, it's about seeing the world through a seven-year-olds eyes, and of experiencing the warmth and security of his extended loving family.

A beautifully written piece!

Chris@Maugeritaville said...

Nice work, with the caveat that given the subject matter it's only going to be so credible.

Your talk of "jingles" brought back my WPIX days vis a vis the Yankees.

"And now comes Miller Time, when you've got the time to celebrate something special . . ."

I also have a related blog-tandem idea to run by you, but I'll do that via e-mail.

Suldog said...

Shrinky - Thank you! Praise like yours is why I write these things. Spot-on, I might add, in your assessment of it not being a sporting post.

Chris - I knew, being a Yankees fan, you'd be able to garner only a limited amount of pleasure from this, so I accept your praise along with the caveat.

Blog-tandem idea? I'm almost positive it will be somewhat lacking in pain despite the probability of it having something to do with the Yankees. Please, do write me.

Michelle H. said...

A great post. I do so love this one. It's not just about baseball, but about the learning and patience between the old fans and the new.

Desmond Jones said...

Aw man, Sully. . .

I came late to Tiger fan-dom (altho all the boys in my grade school knew, at least in theory, how to do Rocky Colavito's 'stretching exercise'). It was '65 before I was an everyday fan. And of course, '68 was like going to Heaven. And even tho I was a grown-up by then, '84 was pretty cool, too. . .

Funny - I remember that Dalton Jones used to absolutely KILL the Tigers; hit something like .450 lifetime against 'em, until they finally gave up and traded for him, after which, his career was essentially over, since he didn't get to see Tiger pitching anymore. . .

And the very first time I went live-and-in-person to old Tiger Stadium, in '67, they were playing the Senators. . .

I could go on and on and on with this, but. . .

Anyway, thanks for this. . .

Ragtop Day said...

I remember that Shaeffer beer ad - I can still sing it in fact!

I became a rabid (as opposed to casual) Red Sox fan during the 1975 World Series against the Reds. I was 12. I kept a scrapbook of every article and photo that ran in the Boston Globe and sure do wish I had it today.

Thanks for sharing this memory!

Buck said...

Regardless of what YOUR WIFE thinks of your memory... I'm most impressed. But it's your ability to couple the memories with superlative writing that is MOST impressive. Well done, again!

Jazz said...

Baseball takes the mine off sex? Who knew.


Oh, oh, oh!!! Word verification is expos. I kid you not!

Seems like it's all about baseball indeed.

Ananda girl said...

I became one as the friend of a family of Red Sox fanatics... it was infectious. That was in 1971. I was already a softball babe.

Great story, Suldog. I love the family and the apartment most especially, Great Uncle Jim... for whom you are named perhaps? Thanks for sharing these memories.

Still, you will always be the only man to show me a dildo.

lime said...

bless uncle jim for taking the time to explain and teach. we all start in a state of ignorance. lovely how he opened the wonder of the game to you.

Expat From Hell said...

Being a Dodger fan, I have little understanding of baseball on the "other" coast. Except for maybe Reggie Jackson's hip into Steve Sax' throw to first...
However, I will add the song imprinted on my 8-year-old memory forever:

"I'm from Milwaukee, and I ought to know,
We all drink BLATZ BEER, wherever we go.
Smoother, fresher,
more filling, that's clear,
BLATZ is Milwaukee's finest beer!"

Suldog said...

Michelle - Yeah. I recall this story any time one of my nephews or nieces asks me to explain something, and then I am, perhaps, a bit more patient than I might otherwise have been.

Desmond - Dalton Jones was to the Tigers what Danny Cater was to the Red Sox. Killed us, but as soon as we traded for him (for freakin' SPARKY LYLE!) he became a .235 hitter.

Suldog said...

Ragtop - You know, My Mom had saved the newspapers from when the Sox won the pennant in '67, and I had them stowed away up until I moved from Dorchester in 1994. At that point, we were trying to toss anything not extremely necessary. I now consider those newspapers extremely necessary, but it's too late :-)

Suldog said...

Buck - You are a true gentleman. Thank you for the kind words, as always.

Jazz - Best word veri EVER.

Ananda - "... you will always be the only man to show me a dildo."

I don't know if that's a good thing or a shame.

Suldog said...

Lime - As with Buck, you're a true gentleman, except you're the kind who's a lady which is even better.

Expat - I ought to do a post of nothing but the advertising jingles we all recall from our childhoods. Amazing the stuff that imprints itself on our memories at that age.

Elizabeth Bradley said...

Shrinky said exactly what I was thinking. I'm ripping her off, lock, stock, and barrel.

Stu said...

beautiful, beautiful, beautiful...

Jeni said...

Oh, the things you mention and the memories they trigger too! The commercials -I never would have thought of those jingles but when you mentioned them, I could feel the smile indicating you'd struck a chord.
As i think back to childhood, I can see, in my mind's eye now, my Grandpa, sitting by the big radiator in our sunporch -radio perched on the radiator and him, leaning into the speaker with a hand cupped around his ear -supposedly all this enabled him to hear the play-by-play over all the static with the radio reception. He followed the Pirates as well as the Philadelphia Athletics -religiously! Back then, I'm sure I didn't know what position this or that player had on the teams, but I knew the names of many players as well as names of coaches of several teams then too. Can't remember them now -but when I see your baseball posts and mention of many older players, I recognize those names from my childhood then. And all of it really makes me feel good! (I don't know the names of any current players in the sport of baseball nowadays. How times do change us though, huh?)

Desmond Jones said...

Oh, and I remember -

"Mabel! (*whistle*)

Black Label!

The beer with more,
The beer with more,
The beer with more

Life in the flavor!"

And, was 'Brewster the Goebel Rooster' purely a Michigan phenomenon, or did those ads air in other areas?

Hilary said...

You painted such a warm, family setting. A loving, patient uncle and his curious and eager nephew. He had to know he was passing along the love of the game. I can't relate to the sport, but I sure do get the sentiment.

And that Scheafer jingle came alive in my head as I read it. :)

Moannie said...

Darlin' Suldog. This post has been on my sidebar for a couple of days because I thought, oh no! Baseball, I won't understand a word. But like Shrinky, I should have known better and I apologise.First of all you had me in tears, I admit...the description of your childhood; how wonderful to have been so loved, to have been so safe in that family. Then to the description of your introduction to the Red Sox and the reason for your enduring love of the game.
In fact, Shrinky says it all for me.

Jenn said...

Aw, Uncle Jim was grooming one of the best kinds of fans in sports history - a Red Sox fan. What great memories of watching the double header together.

Funny, I used to sit with my Grampa and watch and my Gramma always made lime jello :-)

Oh & speaking of Sox & Senators...yeah what do you think about all that?

The Things We Carried said...

This post made me smile. You always talk me into thinking I love baseball at the end of these kind of stories!

Thanks fr dropping by. I am afraid my current post is about a tea party. Not so sure I can talk you into enjoying those :)!

Carolina said...

Reading this post I saw your family sitting around that kitchentable and you and your uncle in front of the television. Gave me quite a warm feeling. Although, even if I read sentences like 'Meanwhile, the Sox split the doubleheader with the Senators' twice or more, I still don't understand what it means. And yet I could be related to one of the Senators players you mentioned. My last name being Brinkman.

Anyhoo, loved your story, looking forward to reading the disgusting stories I've missed ;-)

Theresa said...

This is a very endearing post. Although I can't give it the praise it deserves (at least out loud), lest Chris read this and label me a traitor to his beloved Yankees.

"Winston tastes good like a cigarette should."

Jackie said...

As I read the questions you asked your Uncle Jim when you were a boy, it caused me to pause and ask myself whether I have been patient enough in my lifetime...have I unknowingly ignored a question...one that was important to someone...child or adult. I appreciate this blog...it reminds me to take time...for everyone. You thanked your Uncle Jim. I thank you....
J.