Gilmore was long gone before Malamud stopped dreaming, leveled so CBS could have more space for parking and storage but not replaced until the network built a studio there last year. I suppose there is a natural progression to that, but I still like the way the lights went out on Wrigley Field better. For a while Walter O'Malley contemplated having the Dodgers play there, an idea he eventually scotched because of inadequate parking (unless, of course, you believe the story that he was offended by a whorehouse across the street). In any event the Dodgers ended up in the Coliseum, and Wrigley Field was without a team until the American League expanded in '61 to embrace a collection of rejects, crazies and wayfaring strangers who called themselves the Angels. They were only passing through, but before they closed the door behind them, their part-time first baseman hit the last home run in Wrigley Field's history. His name was Steve Bilko.
By 1966 Wrigley, too, was a memory, leveled for a community center honoring a city councilman who lived to be 90 and spent the last years of his life getting fleeced by a gold-digging girlfriend less than half his age. Just one more bittersweet touch, you might call it; one more metaphor for a city built on the young devouring the old.
But my supply of cynicism runs low when I think about the Stars and the Angels. If you judge by baseball's merciless yardstick, they never measured up to the Dodgers, but it was the Bilkos and Kellehers and Mauchs who showed me how wonderful the game could be, and I would never forget them. They were with me every time I went to see the big leaguers play that first season in the Coliseum, just as they were that fall, when my parents told me we were moving to Salt Lake City. It was the beginning of a troubled time for me—three junior high schools in three years to compound all the usual turbulence and insecurity of adolescence. But Salt Lake was where the Stars had moved. Though they were known as the Bees now, there was no disguising Carlos Bernier in leftfield. And somehow, as I moved through my strange new world, trying to figure out who I was and who my friends were, that made everything all right.