The young man briefly considered going to the game but decided he wasn't interested. It would be a hassle to get tickets, drive into Boston, fight the crowds. He hadn't been to a major league game in years. There are things in life you have to move on from, he'd decided, and baseball was one.
The day after the game, he did not think he'd even bother reading about it. But he did end up glancing at the sports page. He did begin to read - about the crowds, the ritual, the beginning of spring; about the greenness of the diamond, the vendors of peanuts, the smell of cigars. He read about fathers, and about sons, and that is what began to bring it back.His own father had introduced the young man to this world. They would take the Outer Drive from their house in Chicago, along the lake, turning west toward the great cathedral, Comiskey Park, home of the White Sox; home of Nellie Fox of second base fame, whose cheek always bulged with an enormous wad of tobacco, so the young man, too, would fill his own jaw with six pieces of Bazooka bubblegum so his cheek would bulge, as well.
That, he was convinced, would make him a better snag-ger of ground balls, a key skill for his own future; he had every intention of growing up to be Nellie Fox.
The parking lots were littered with junk and glass, and the neighborhoods around the great cathedral were not good neighborhoods, but the young man was never afraid there; this was baseball, a unifier of all races and classes.
Then they were inside, swept by crowds along the concrete ramps, stopping to buy conelike cartons of popcorn which, when finished, could be turned around and used as bullhorns. "Go Louie," the young man would shout through his carton, referring of course to Little Louie, of shortstop fame, whom the young man planned to be when he grew up if he could not be Nellie Fox.
"Kluszewski," the young man would shout next; Ted Kluszewski, of first base fame, who had arms like Arnold Schwarzenegger before Schwarzenegger touched his first barbell, and the young man vowed to have arms like that himself.
Then he would take out his Wilson baseball mitt, pound its palm, and he would pray. "Please Lord," he would say silently, "I'll do anything you say forever if you just let Minnie Minoso tip one foul ball toward me tonight."
Usually, his seat was way back beneath the upper deck, behind first base, and it would have taken Houdini to put a ball there. But every pitch, he was ready to leap 6 feet high, making a once-in-a-lifetime circus catch, which would instantly convince Al Lopez, the manager, to call him to the field and give him a career contract as the team's new star left-fielder.
Then his father would light an Antonio Cleopatra cigar, which would often go out by the second inning, but the old man would keep chewing on it anyway, especially when the Sox were at bat. And the parade of food would start - peanuts and hot dogs and Cokes watered down by vendors trying to stretch their supply. The young man would sample everything. Baseball was also about eating.
The vendor reminded the young man of Smokey Burgess, the Sox pinch-hitter who had an enormous pot belly himself, which meant he could barely run, but it didn't matter, since all he ever did was either hit a home run or strike out.
And the innings would go by, and his father would light another cigar, and another, and he rarely felt as close to the old man as he did during these visits to the great cathedral.
The young man never did grow up to be Nellie Fox. Soon, in his adulthood, he decided baseball was no longer relevant.
But he's not so sure anymore. Now the young man has a daughter. Perhaps, when she's old enough to hold a mitt, it will be time to take her north to Boston to discover a new cathedral. And an old part of himself.