Friday, September 7, 2007

Musings at 39 - Baseball at 13

When I was 13 years old my father took me to my one, and to date only, major league baseball game. It was the Yankees v White Sox at Yankee Stadium.

The game was probably, by accounts, a sleeper with a score of 2 to 1 Yankees, but I was in heaven. The stadium was massive, the steady muttering of the crowd was hypnotic, the game and the scoreboard and the "charge" organ were everything they were supposed to be. My dad bought me a hot dog and a soda. We never had much money, so I actually recall being so remarkably grateful and impressed with him that night, for splurging on his son, bringing me on an adventure I would never forget.

As the game ended with a quiet non-climactic strikeout (which was as exciting to me as any home run), we began our slow decent from the upper nosebleed tiers of the stadium. As I inched down the stairs with the crowd, talking with my friend Steve, I tried to hang back a bit so my father would not be far behind.

It was then that I was violently, inexorably shoved down eight steps to the platform, kneed solidly square in the back, colliding with Steve and several others before me. As my friend exclaimed, "What are you doing?" I turned to see a massive giant of a man, with mustard stains dripped down his white shirt, his huge double chin englufing his stretched out collar, his navy blue Sox hat cocked back over his greasy mullet. Glaring at me with angry, tired, cold eyes, and having not spilled a drop of the Budweiser in hand.

I saw my father behind him, looking on at me, smiling so as not to let me be scared, but a little frightened himself, an emotion I rarely saw cross his face. We were in the Bronx, and he was fifteen feet away from me. And for a moment it felt like the distance of that entire stadium. I waited at the bottom and stood way clear as Goliath lumbered past me, never taking his eye off me until he did (nor I him). Then my father put his hand on my shoulder, and did not remove it until we were back in the VW bus.

It was that day I learned that, most often, violence does not need a reason.

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