Within a month after the horrific events of 9/11, I wrote a story entitled, “Baseball, Brookline and Giuliani,” There existed then another Rudy Giuliani who resembled the one seen lately aspiring to become the mayor of Kiev in the Ukraine. That Rudy Giuliani was a terrific DA, and then a terrific mayor of New York City. A few weeks after 9/11 he was seen rallying Americans at the World Series, and intoning accurately that, “Baseball has an amazing grip on people. It is a unifying force.” That Rudy was a real unifier, not the divider his alter ego became.
How right Rudy was! America came together in those almost now forgotten days, perhaps for the last time. What is it about baseball that has such force. It can’t really be defined. It has to be experienced. It lies in mysterious regions, like music. One way to approach it is in the telling and retelling of ordinary folks‘ baseball experiences. That is what I tried to do in the story. That is what I tell about in this podcast. Like how “Bunny” Solomon got to catch for his grammar school team when regular catcher, “Wiggy” Wiggins fell out of a tree and broke his wrist. “Bunny” had “a proud moment” when out of the corner of his eye he caught his Dad proudly watching behind the backstop! Like how Pops conductor, Harry Ellis Dickson, would sit with his friend, famed movie star and comedian, Danny Kaye, in the press box at Fenway Park, munching hot dogs and talking baseball. Like how Bob Sperber, longtime innovative Brookline Superintendent of Schools, was given a “Fifty is Nifty” birthday party by his workers, the motif of which, as shown by the Red Sox themed paraphernalia they created, was his love of the Red Sox and dislike of the Yankees of his native city. And what about Broookline folklorist and School Committeeman, Owen Carle, whose hilarious baseball recollections include his grammar school principal, Charles Taylor, giving him a baseball to make a serious point; French philosopher Albert Camus; his violinist mother, Florence Owen Mills; the megaphone toting public address announcer of the lineups for that day’s game at old Braves Field, Eddie O’Brien; his bottle collecting to make a profit with later rabbi, Al Rubin, at the 1936 MLB All-Star Game, which turned out not to be very profitable, and his trip with the the local nine to play the Young Men’s Polish Association of Manchester, NH, where his outfield collision with budding artist Billy Maynard resulted in Billy’s tooth sticking in Owen’s hand. That left the team with only eight players. Who won? Did Billy ever get his tooth back?
As for me, I have many baseball memories, marking the seasons of my life and how my character developed. My words ending that story of a generation ago seem as true now as they were then:
“For sure that grip and that force are being felt all across America every day and every night in these baseball days following the trauma of 9/11, somehow diverting us, helping us to heal the wound, and making us yet again feel whole as a people”
Listen and meet these people.
People, Always People!