Who’d Have “Thunk” It?
Approaching Memorial Day finds the Baltimore Orioles in first place in the American League. And at the same moment the Washington Nationals cling atop the National League, in their see-saw battle with the Atlanta Braves. I’m checking the standings daily, some hours more frequently.
Brought up with the New Orleans Pelicans that never won a pennant, I thought the Army transfer to Fort Myer might bring more satisfaction to the fan in me. I landed instead in the era that earned the saying: “Washington, first in war, first in peace, but last in the American League.”
Every spring I hoped and prayed the Senators’ annual early win-streak might endure through the World Series. But by Memorial Day their star was plummeting over Georgia Avenue. Calvin and Natalie Griffith became friends; she gave me an embroidered Confederate flag to recognize our common Southern heritage. Thanks to Cal, I always sat close to the field. Then, he moved lock, stock and Natalie to Minneapolis.
Going along was Harmon Killebrew. When he hit his first home run, I was in old Griffith Stadium, standing and cheering with the crowd. I remember a much bigger player, Frank Howard. He was in Washington’s “expansion” team that came on the block and staged games at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium. That manifestation of the Senators vamoosed to Texas, cutting the American League link in D.C. forever.
But that was after the Pelicans totally disappeared in1960 – the year John Kennedy won the presidential election over Richard Nixon. I watched their debate that October in a motel built on the destroyed original stadium on Carrollton Avenue. Telling of the experience, I always added I slept where New Orleans baseball teams slept before me. Before the Pelicans vanished in a Little Rock businessman’s pocket, the baseball club went through a couple of venues. (The Saints are a completely different story: football has always been hysterically popular in the South.)
On a personal note, my first child was born on October 3, 1951, at nearly the exact moment the Giants’ Bobby Thomson walloped the winning home run in the National League playoffs. His baseball fanatic mother was ecstatic when she was wheeled from the Walter Reed delivery room. She had learned of the swat from a delivery medic, nurse or doctor. Instead of being worn-out from the two-day pains she suffered in labor, the first thing out her mouth: “How about the Giants?” I can only imagine what Patricia Moore Meachum would have to say on this Memorial Day. (Her heart took her out of life seven years ago.)
By the way, watching a 1938 Pelicans game taken in company with attorney Larry Merrigan, he suggested a boarding school that led to spending seven years in Holy Cross College. Otherwise, my life would have turned out vastly differently. Even though nobody could classify me as a fan, like many older Americans, baseball had much to do with shaping my fate – and in several ways.
To find both major league teams that I’ve followed loitering around the tops of their divisions doesn’t tickle me to death. Not quite. Still my grin could be mistaken for Alice’s grinning Cheshire Cat.
If this is only a fairy tale, don’t wake me up.