Saturday, December 15, 2007

Say It Ain't So, Somebody

I expect versions of that headline have appeared throughout the country following the Mitchell Report, naming names of steroid users in Major League Baseball. Retired Democratic Senator from Maine and broker of peace between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland, George Mitchell is a devout baseball fan, previously mentioned as a candidate for the job of Commissioner of baseball. A dozen former members of the Atlanta Braves were named but none currently playing for Atlanta. Maybe there is a corollation with won-lost records. Roger Clemens, on his way to the Cooperstown Hall of Fame, was named. Others have had troublesome pasts, like John Rocker, who once played for the Braves. The history of baseball is not scandal free. Shoeless Joe Jackson of the Chicago White Sox is still banned from the Hall of Fame because of the 1919 World Series gambling fix known as the “Black Sox Scandal” and source of the quote from an impressionable kid who said, “Say it ain’t so, Joe.”

Major league baseball set all-time attendance records last season, even with players puffed up like Pit Bull Dogs and dispositions to match. Still, I have not watched a baseball All-Star Game or World Series in several years. When I was in the hospital in 2006, newly deaf, baseball games were just about all I could enjoy on the television in my room, because I did not need to hear anything to understand what was happening. When I was a kid, baseball was the center of my universe. My Daddy took me to watch the Atlanta Crackers every Wednesday night and Sunday afternoon home game they played in Ponce de Leon Ballpark, now site only of a Home Depot and across the street from an Atlanta City Hall Annex. My baseball card collection included rookie year Hank Aaron, Eddie Matthews, Mickey Mantle, Ernie Banks, et al, because these were the current players of my childhood. My mother threw away the collection when I went into the U.S. Army.

As a pre-teen, I read biographies of Lou Gehrig, “The Iron Horse,” Babe Ruth, “The Sultan of the Swat,” and Ty Cobb, “The Georgia Peach.” I read every book written under the name of Jackson Scholtz, a series of baseball novels, ROOKIE SENSATION, SOUTHPAW FLYHAWK, KEYSTONE KID, all with the same plot, which was also the plot of THE NATURAL by Bernard Malamud, who added some literary touches amd mixed his baseball with bookies, beautiful broads, and bullets. Baseball made me a reader. Reading made me itch where only a writer can scratch.

At age 11, I hung out with my buddy Luther most of the time near the corner of Tenth Street and Peachtree, because this neighborhood is where we lived, went to school, and delivered newspaper routes. One day as we straddled our bicycles stopped on the sidewalk, two grown men staggered up to us. When they got close, we could smell whiskey. “Hey, kid. You got a light?” one of them asked. We knew this could be a trick question, one grown ups used to incriminate you. Matches meant cigarettes.

“No, sir.”

“Do you know who I am, kid? I’m the sluggin’ center fielder for the Atlanta Crackers.” He pushed the sleeve of his shirt up to his armpit and flexed his bicep. “Kid, do you know what the queer said when the prison warden asked him did he have any last request before they fried him in the electric chair?... I’d like to blow that fuse over there.” The two grown men laughed. I had seen the center fielder for the Atlanta Crackers play many times and admired his graceful chase after fly balls. I knew he would never be staggering down Peachtree Street.

Copyright 2007 by William C. Cotter

1 comment:

Tina said...

I used to be a big fan of the Braves, but they keep losing all my favorites to other teams. Being a Braves fan these days is not much fun.


Hit Counter
Boden Clothes