Sunday, 31 March
|Justin Slays His Dragon|
Good Morning Justin…
It’s Spring and I’m beginning to think baseball, once again. Today I was thinking all the way back to the 1960 World Series. Fifty years ago these games were played in the daytime. The Fall Classic brought work to a standstill, at least at our school. I was in the sixth grade and a television was wheeled into the classroom for us to watch. It was game seven with the score tied at nine going into the bottom of the ninth. The Pittsburgh Pirates were coming to bat against the perennial favorites, the hated New York Yankees. The Bronx Bombers was a powerhouse team of all-stars, including Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris and Yogi Berra. Yankee fans were so accustomed to being reigning world champions that they looked upon winning as their birthright. The fact that the lowly Pirates managed to fight their way to this tie in game seven went way beyond anyone’s expectation of them. They were a team of no names. You’d gladly trade most any Pirate baseball card for most anyone, somewhere else. They were a bunch of guys reserved for the bottom of most any rubber band wrapped deck of bubblegum cards. From this depth of anonymity was first to bat, Bill Mazeroski. Who the heck is Mazeroski? Looking ahead in the line up I came to realize it wouldn't get any better than this. We’re doomed. Of course, the name Bill Mazeroski has been forever burned into my memory because of what happened next. Mazeroski solidly cracks his pitch over the left field wall for a walk off, series winning home run. The classroom broke out in a pandemonium of cheers and of chairs being knocked over as boys erupted from their carefully assigned seats. There was no instant replay in those days but we could savor the stunned looks of the ancient Casey Stengel and his crew of pin-stripped matinee idols. Time to hang up the cleats, pick up your final paycheck as you leave the building, and go into cold storage until the first thaw of Spring training come next year.
I sincerely felt at the time that this historic World Series moment was one of the greatest of my short life. It would be decades before I would feel its equal in sports. Maybe I never have.
One guaranteed annual thrill for me came in June with the last day of school and three full months of summer vacation ahead of me. That was twelve weeks where every Wednesday was the equal of a Saturday and Sunday night didn’t mean homework to be done in time for school the following Monday morning. It was 84 days where you could assume each having 16 waking hours and being able to stay up as late as I pleased most every night. That comes to 1,344 consecutive conscious hours uninterrupted by a single classroom lecture on anything from verb conjugation to a host of algebraic properties to inane poetry on the metamorphosis of a butterfly. If you limit yourself to 10 hours of television viewing a week it would take you over two and a half years to watch 1,344 hours of television. Thinking in these terms you can see why I felt Summer Vacation was almost forever. There was no equal to summer. I was in my natural element.
The final countdown of days before Fall classes resumed was a time of mind games I played to soften the letdown of returning to regularly scheduled classes. One week remaining became the equivalent of Spring Break. Three days became a weekend with an attached holiday. The final Sunday night was pretty depressing but, at least, there was no homework due. I suppose I could say that once I arrived for the first school day I was heartened by the renewal of friendships with classmates and invigorated by the challenge of a new academic year. If you want to believe that, go ahead. It’s probably a harmless mythology. I will say, though, that the first day was never as dreadful as I anticipated. Day one always had a certain charming novelty about it. Even day two might seem OK. It was the endless days of forced march learning that followed, quickly turning into weeks, then months. Each hour of each day I tried to go as long as I possibly could before having to look at the clock. Only seven minutes. It felt easily like twelve. Fortunately there were always girls to watch. They kept me going. Patty in the forth grade. Roberta in the fifth and sixth. Shirley in the seventh, later Diane, and so on.
So how has life turned out for me since? I would have to say that I barely crawled across the finish line at sixty-two and immediately applied for whatever retirement was due me. I make ends meet. And, indeed, I am again in my natural element. Every Wednesday once more feels like Saturday and Sunday night has no particular meaning, what so ever.