It was about four o’clock in the afternoon on October 3rd, 1951. My family had recently purchased an old Zenith black and white TV, which I frequently commandeered to watch western movies and cartoons, but not today. My grandmother had control over the television. I heard her screaming and yelling with joy. Bobby Thompson had just crushed a Ralph Branca pitch into the left field seats at the Polo Grounds for a 3-run homer and the New York Giants had just won the National League pennant by defeating their nemesis, the Brooklyn Dodgers, by a score of 5-4 in the deciding game of a 3-game playoff. Russ Hodges called the “Shot heard ‘round the World” and I was hooked on baseball at the ripe old age of 10.
Over the next 60 years, after the last out of the World Series in October, I counted the days until Opening Day started the next season on or about the first day of April. Through my teenage years, my college days, my service in Viet Nam and later in life as a teacher, businessman, Congressman and U.S. Senator and especially now in retirement, it was the same old “heart pounding excitement.” I was still a kid and Spring training was almost over and the season was about to begin. Whether it was my college exams, a business deal, some pending legislation, a national or international incident or even a personal crisis, I could take refuge from it all with baseball.
Don’t give me that old nonsense about it being “just a game” and that I need to” focus on what is important.”
It just does not get any better than studying the statistics over the years of Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Stan Musial, Ted Williams, Randy Johnson, Bob Gibson or Pete Rose. You do not need a psychiatrist to escape from the world’s problems, if you can recite the batting averages and home runs of your favorite hitters or the strikeouts and wins of the best pitchers in the game. What can be more important than your team getting to the World Series after a long exhausting 162 game schedule and two rounds of playoffs?
So here is my challenge to all of you poor wretched souls who know not the ecstasy of victory or the agony of defeat of your favorite team. Try it! This week is Opening Day.
Take a respite from the controversial political issues. Try to tune out the talking heads on television and radio. Try to forget about (for just a few hours) Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, the horrible earthquake in Japan, crime, media bias, and disputes with your spouse and become a kid again. Remember what happens to Charlie Sheen or Britney Spears is not as important as how many home runs are hit on Opening Day!
Watch your favorite team play this week. The problems will still be here when the game is over and you never know—you might be in a better frame of mind to confront them.