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A fatherless white boy, who shares with an old black man an enthusiasm for the Brooklyn Dodgers and first baseman, Jackie Robinson, takes a ball autographed by Jackie to his elderly ...
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A fatherless white boy, who shares with an old black man an enthusiasm for the Brooklyn Dodgers and first baseman, Jackie Robinson, takes a ball autographed by Jackie to his elderly friend's death bed.
Listen. When I was a kid, I was crazy. Nuttier than a fruitcake. Madder than a hatter. Out of my head. You see, I had this obsession. This hang-up. It was all that mattered to me.
I was in love with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
"So what's so funny about that?" you might say. "So I'm in love with the Boston Celtics." Or the Miami Dolphins. Or the Los Angeles Rams. Or the New York Rangers. Or the Chicago Black Hawks.
Take it from me, whatever it is you're in love with -- it's not the same thing. Suppose on May 18, 1947, you had asked me, "Who did the Dodgers play on August 4, 1945?" I would have answered, "The Braves."
But that's not all. I could go on. "They lost a doubleheader in Boston. But it wasn't a real double-header.
The first game took only twelve minutes -- it was the end of a game which had been suspended June 17 on account of the Sunday curfew and the Braves won 4-1.
"The Braves won the regular contest too, 1-0. Bill Lee pitched for the Braves, Vic Lombardi for the Dodgers. Maybe Lombardi did lose but he pitched a terrific game. It was that dumb umpire's fault he lost, anyway. What was his name, that dumb umpire? Oh, yeah -- George Magerkurth -- dumb George Magerkurth. Lombardi walked Dick Culler in the first. Phil,Masi came up next. Culler was suddenly trapped far off base, and the Braves' coach called, 'Balk.' Real fast, Lombardi threw the ball to Augie Galan at first base who threw it to Eddie Stanky at second. Magerkurth pointed to second base. Stanky and all the others thought this meant that hewas calling a balk. Culler trotted to second, Stanky didn't tag him, and then the dumb umpire said he hadn't called a balk! Stanky and Leo Durocher really blew their stacks, but Magerkurth didn't throw them out of the ball game. He must have. felt guilty about what he'd done. That proves he made a mistake, don't you think...? Culler advanced tothird on Masi's long fly to Dixie Walker and scored on Ducky Medwick's long hit, also to Dixie. That was the ball game, right there in the first inning, though no one knew it then..."
If you didn't stop me, I'd go on. I'd give you the whole game in just that way -- like a playback of Red Barber's broadcast over WHN. But it wasn't a playback. I wasn't secretly memorizing tapes up in my bedroom. There weren't any tapes. There weren't any tape recorders. All I had was every record book money could buy and a portable radio my rich aunt had given me for my birthday. Battery-operated, it was a great big thing that I used to lug with me everywhere during the season. Except to school. They wouldn't let me bring it to school. After all, it wasn't like I could hide it, the way kids can hide transistors today. You kids, you know how lucky you are? I used to have to miss the World Series. I had to read about it in the paper. Can you imagine that? I hope they feel sorry now, those teachers, for the way they messed me up.
Anyway, I could give you the whole game, play by play, for any day during the whole period I had been hooked on the Brooklyn Dodgers. Just like that. Without looking at any books or papers or anything. I remembered it, like you might remember Christmas day, 1973, when they gave you your own portable color TV. Or March 3, 1971, the day you finally beat up the big kid who'd stolen your pack of twelve different-colored magic markers.
I didn't remember those games because I had some kind of super memory or something. I couldn't remember if the Japanese had surrendered to the Americans on August 4, 1945. I couldn't remember if my grandmother had come to visit us that day. I couldn't remember if I'd had my favorite meal for supper. I couldn't remember anything that had actually happened to me. I could only remember those games.
That's not normal. That's sick. But that's how it was.
I didn't seem sick. I mean, I got promoted each June and played baseball in the schoolyard with the other guys. Of course, I was this real scrungy kid, about half the size of all the others, so I got picked last for the teams, but there was no malice in that and I didn't really mind. Not too much.
Only one guy ever really knew just how nuts I was. Since no one else really knew how much I loved the Brooklyn Dodgers, no one ever thought I was sick. No one ever took me to a psychiatrist, or anything like that. Not even to a regular doctor. Except once, in 1951, when the Dodgers got in a play-off with the Giants for the pennant, and I developed this tic. My left eye kept twitching all the time. My mother took, me to the doctor then and he asked what was I nervous about. My mother, who was a pretty shrewd number even though I didn't tell her much, said, "The National League pennant race," so the doctor gave me some belladonna and said to come back if I still had the twitch after the World Series. I didn't, so I never had to go back.Eventually, I grew out of it of course. I mean, I'm much older now. I go about my business just like anybody else. I'm not locked up in some nut house or anything like that, so I must have grown out of it...Thank You, Jackie Robinson. Copyright © by Barbara Cohen. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Posted May 24, 2003
Posted March 7, 2011
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