So it’s gray for the eighth consecutive day and snow is still shaking from the sky, alternating with bursts of wind-blown rain. Still, I’m in no mood to grouse. This is the Season of Hope: The Red Sox start their spring training games on Wednesday.
This could be the year they win all 162. David Ortiz could hit 50 home runs. Beckett, Lester, Lackey and Matzuzaka could all win 20. Dustin Pedroia could go on a mid-20s growth spurt reaching in height what he’s long ago achieved in stature. He could. They could … even though they won’t.
Think way back to that high school dance. Remember the girl, the one across the room with long-legs and long lashes, a hint of color glistening from her lips? You wondered if the gods might lift you, clothe you in grace, and leave you, ever debonair, by her side. Remember that long fly ball coming your way — fast — in Little League? You looked up, legs like jelly, and started back. You knew this could be your moment, the ball you hauled in, bases loaded, final out.
That’s the way it is in spring training.
OK. You didn’t catch the girl or the ball, but for now that’s the past. This is the Season of Dreams.
I never did make it out of Little League. Right field actually, where I could do the least damage. But man, I love this game. That love affair began as a little kid, when the Dodgers were still in Brooklyn.
The hated Yankees wore pinstripes and represented the rich and powerful. The Dodgers were upstarts, the people’s choice. Their stars had personalities and worked hard. Iron man Gil Hodges at first. The Duke in center. An aging but still fiery Jackie Robinson at third. That crafty young lefty, Johnny Podres, on the mound. He and the men in blue beat the Yankees in the 1955 World Series, when I was 6, helped by a game-saving catch by Sandy Amoros in left field. They lost to the Yanks a year later, and then they were gone. Ebbetts field shuttered. Moved to L.A.
But dad and I stayed with our team. We took the train to Philadelphia in a big thunderstorm to watch the LA Dodgers split a double-header with the Phillies. We read about the tall, lean, mean righty, Don Drysdale, as he pitched 56 innings without giving up a run; loved Sandy Koufax, baseball’s greatest Jewish star, who’d ice his arm between mowing down opposition players. Cheered the fleet-footed Maury Wills.
The ’60s brought a Miracle and a change of allegiance. The Mets grew from the antics of Marv Thronberry, the only man to hit a triple but miss first AND second base, to that Amazin’ 1969 World Series when the graceless Ron Swoboda kept making graceful diving catches and a clutch of young pitchers outpitched a brilliant Baltimore staff. I had a new heart throb in the city of my birth.
Back then I had never lived in Boston. I knew nothing of the mythology of Red Sox Nation. But late one October night in 1975, in a one-bedroom Washington D.C. apartment I watched in the wee hours as Carlton Fisk hit it high and deep down the line, willing the ball with body English to stay fair, and Boston, somehow, inexplicably, came from behind to win the sixth game of the World Series in extra innings.
That they lost the next day hardly seemed to matter. My new love affair was in bloom.