hitting. Around the batting cage were the faces of the New York press, and
those of some Boston writers I had gotten to know through the years. One of the
Boston writers told me that moments earlier, in the clubhouse, Carl Yastrzemski
had confided that he was "damned scared." A New York broadcaster, who
was there only for the pleasure of it, said to me somewhat confidentially,
"This is a gala occasion."
Always, when I
think of baseball games that have been played, I see them as if they had taken
place in the light of day. I have spent a lot of time mentally reshuffling
two-hitters and leaping catches that occurred at 10 or 11 in the evening, so
that they return to me grandly in afternoon sunshine. The fact that baseball is
part of my daily procedure, like getting up for work or eating lunch, inspires
me to conjure up sunlight for its illumination.
minutes before the 2:30 start, I realized as I looked around the park that in
all my years of journeying to Fenway, on all the summer afternoons spent
peacefully in the many corners of the stadium, I had never experienced a day of
such clarity, of such gentleness. Fluffy cirrus clouds appeared to have arrived
by appointment. The temperature of 68� was unaccompanied by even the slightest
trace of wind, which made the day seem 10� warmer than it was. For such a
majestic encounter there had been provided, despite a less-than-optimistic
forecast the night before, a shimmering neutral Monday, as if God, recognizing
the moment, had made some hasty last-minute adjustments. It was the afternoon
of my imagination, the handpicked sunlit hours during which my perpetual
baseball game had always been played.
After a while I
made my way up to the press room, which is on the roof of the stadium, behind
the press box and the three enclosed rows of seats that stretch down both foul
lines. They had been desirable seats to me as a child, because they allowed
easy access to foul balls. One had only to lurk in the doorway of one of those
roof boxes and await the inevitable. Other lurkers in other doorways were the
competition—kids my age, ready to spring into action.
We were off.
Under or over a green railing (now red). Across the roof to the brick wall. A
slide, a leap, a grapple. A major league baseball in your pocket; if not this
time, the next. You always had a shot at getting one on that roof. If I
competed 50 times, and surely that is a conservative guess, I emerged from my
adolescence with at least 15 souvenirs—and one chipped tooth (the railing).
the press room, I looked around for a moment. I could see myself outside
doorway 25-27 wearing a Red Sox cap. Oh, how quiet it had been when I raced
across the top of Fenway Park—just those other feet and the whistling wind
shooing me ever so gradually through the years to this very afternoon, to this
very press room that I had aspired to for so long, to the tepid piece of ham
and half a ring of pineapple that I would be served, to the unexpected sight of
Phil Rizzuto making his way toward my table.
huckleberry," he said to me with a smile. "I heard what you
before, on my radio program in New York, I had spoken harshly of Rizzuto's
announcing. "He is shrill," I had said, which is true. He roots in an
unfair and unacceptable way for the Yankees," which is true.
you," Rizzuto repeated, extending his hand. "You got a nice calm show.
I like it," he continued, surprising me.