Wouldn’t It Be Nice?

    “Wouldn’t it be nice if we were older?
    Then we wouldn’t have to wait so long…”

Mike Love sang like he meant it.  And like we were back in the 60’s.

Surrounded by the verdant green pasture that was centerfield at Yankee Stadium, the now-near-geriatric Beach Boys belted out their classics.  I sat along the third base line in shallow left field with my girlfriend, Sharon, and my folks.  I think it was the only “rock” concert my parents ever saw.

Earlier in the day I’d been lucky enough to rub elbows with one of the greatest first basemen ever.  Don Mattingly stood in the batting cage and ripped one pitch after another into the blinding afternoon sun.  Being a rookie member of the media, I got my employer to score me a press pass so I could attend the game for free.  It was July 4th, 1989.  Lou Gehrig Day.  The 50th anniversary of his “Luckiest Man in the World” speech.  And I stood at home plate with one of my heroes.

It was a very surreal experience.  I stood where my favorite all-time player had stood a half century before with my favorite current day player.  I’d never experienced anything like it before and I’ve still to have a similar encounter.

But the Bombers weren’t very good back then.  They finished 1989 with a 74-87 record, 14.5 games behind the Jays.  The Tribe and the Tigers were still in the AL East and the Brewers were still in the American League.  Jesse Barfield was the big hitter then, leading the team with 18 home runs.  Now A-Rod hits that many by the end of May.

I stood next to Gehrig’s locker after the game, wondering what it was like when he was lacing up the spikes.  I sat in the dugout and mused about all of the giants who had walked back up those steps for a curtain call.  I reflected on the numerous championships that had been won and lost from that very spot.  And I sat and wondered how long it would be before the pinstripes would again hoist a championship banner.  Turns out it would take them another 7 years.

Nowadays, Sharon is gone and I’m married to Kelly with three children.  I’m a project manager instead of a reporter and Don Mattingly has hung up his spikes for good, it seems.  Instead of sitting in the dugout I sit in my living room and watch SportsCenter, watching my new heroes swing the bat and wonder how long it will take for the new stadium to be honored with a championship pennant.  Next year?    The year after?  What with this broken season still freshly stuck in my craw, I question whether or not if I’ll even see another one.  Will I be too old to enjoy it?  Hope does not spring eternal in the recently disheartened.

Even though the Yankees lost that day back in ’89, for one short moment the world was right.  I’d lived a dream, a dream that, when I was a boy, I believed only a pipe dream.  Now, I hope another championship’s not just another boyhood fantasy.

    “..you know it seems the more we talk about it
    It only makes it worse to live without it
    But let’s talk about it…
    Wouldn’t it be nice?”

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2 comments

  1. Jane Heller

    Really great entry, Stefan. I could hear the Beach Boys singing and smell the hot dogs and picture you standing next to Gehrig’s locker. Since Lou was your hero, I have to ask: What’s your opinion of the movie “Pride of the Yankees?” Do you think Gary Cooper did him justice? All I know is that every single time I watch it, I sob my guts out. I also laughed at the scene with him eating The Babe’s straw hat.

    http://janeheller.mlblogs.com

  2. yankeeblogger

    Jane…
    “Pride of the Yankees” is one of my all-time favorite pictures. Since I never actually saw Gehrig play live (he died 17+ years before I was born), I can only give my educated guess/opinion of Cooper’s performance. I admire Gehrig because of his blue-collared desire to be on the ballfield and his apparent comfort in the Babe’s shadow. Same reasons I like Jeter, I guess. Blue collar players are the best. I’ve studied Gehrig, read a ton of books on him and reviewed film highlights of his career, and I’ll tell you, there are a couple of scenes in that movie where Cooper looks, sounds and acts exactly like the Gehrig I’ve come to know. I’m a weeper, too, and can’t help getting teary-eyed, especially when he finds out about his disease. The straw hat scene is also priceless.
    -stefan

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