Since it’s that time of year I feel it is fitting to write about the Fall Baseball Classic. This is not a scoop on whether the Yankees or the Phillies will take this year’s World Series nor do I wish to rehash the playoffs. Instead, I would like to share an incredible memory from childhood, the time my dad brought me to Game 6 of the 1986 World Series.
If you’re a baseball fan you can recall the drama of that particular game. Redsox fans were sure they had it in the bag with their Rocket on the mound, and quite frankly, the Mets were floundering on the field and at the plate.
The whole complexion of the game changed on a routine-hit-grounder, through the legs of Bill Buckner, (a lifetime .300 hitter) who would unfortunately be known as a goat for the rest of his ballplaying life.
As unbelievable a game as it was there’s a part of my memory that trumps the whole game and the 56,000 crazy Mets’ fans waving foam thumbs, blaring horns, screaming their voice boxes into laryngitis. The most amazing thing about that night was that my dad and I rebuilt a bond that was slowing slipping away.
We didn’t have a ticket for the game. Okay, so you’ve probably bought a scalped ticket at some point in your life: rock concert, charity ball, maybe a football game. This is not that story. We didn’t have tickets and we didn’t buy any. Got me so far? We didn’t sneak in either. My dad simply flashed an usher his fireman’s badge, and the old timer let us pass the gate. It was the greatest magic trick I had ever witnessed, and my dad’s full hazel eyes gleamed with triumph. When I think of it now it’s like a gateway to the past, his beaming joy that moment we made our way in the stadium must have been the same joy he’d experienced going to a ballgame with his dad. But, maybe that’s even a lame comparison because he set a new spark for us, kept us from drifting apart, at least for the magical night.
I think it’s worth mentioning that I was a 12-year-old twerp, who’d been passed the solipsist’s gene from some distant relation. On the twerp-scale, I ranked in the highest percentiles for complaining, whining, nagging, and demanding. “Get me popcorn, get me a soda, get me another hotdog.” I’ve never been a true fan. I love the game of baseball, but I’m the consummate analyst and sometimes prefer reviewing scorecards then actually watching games. I’m not sure what that says about me, but it is what it is.
My dad had to slap the scorecard shut just so I wouldn’t miss a homerun. He must have felt the lost grip he’d had on me. I had already drifted into a pre-teen haze replete with non-stop gaga over pop music, girls, and the mother of all pipedreams that I’d trod the wet dirt of Shea Stadium’s infield, as their future star third baseman. This last point, this hope was one he shared with me, but that too was slowly ebbing as I found less time to take practice swings.
None of this was going to ruin the night. Dad held his badge in high esteem. He was a member of a grand brotherhood, men from a bygone generation willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for their country, their community, their sons. When I saw my dad pull out the last of his bills from his wallet, to get me another dog and Coke, I caught glimpse of his badge, shining in the moonlight. I noticed the right side was dented. It reminded me of his helmet which was partially melted from the excruciating heat of the fires he fought.
His badge poked out of his wallet like a Crackerjack prize. I asked him if I could hold it, and the expression on my dad’s face was pure pride. He put it in my hand. It was surprisingly warm and it made my fingers smell like a thousand nickels. It was unvarnished, plenty of nicks by the ladder company number, but when a bit of moonlight kissed the brass it glowed like a piece of King Tut’s tomb.
We watched the game, huddled in our pullovers, hands stuffed in pockets with a gentle whisk of wind blowing the wisps of hair behind our caps. For a brief moment we were invincible.