26 October 2007

Take me out to the ballgame

Katie Casey was baseball mad,
Had the fever and had it bad.
Just to root for the hometown crew
Ev'ry sou, Katie blew.
On a Saturday her young beau
Called to see if she'd like to go
To see a show, but Miss Katie said
"No, I'll tell you what you can do;"

Take me out to the ball game
Take me out to the crowd.
By me some peanuts and Cracker Jack,
I don't care if I never get back.
Let me root, root, root for the home team,
If they don't win it's a shame.
For it's one, two, three strikes you're out
At the old ball game.

Katie Casey saw all the games.
Knew the players by their first names,
Told the umpire he was wrong,
All along, good and strong.
When the score was just two to two,
Katie Casey knew what to do,
Just to cheer up the boys she knew,
She made the gang sing this song:

Take me out to the ball game.
Take me out to the crowd.
Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack,
I don't care if I never get back.
Let me root, root, root for the home team.
If they don't win it's a shame.
For it's one, two, three strikes you're out
At the old ball game.

There's no better time of year than the opening of baseball's playoffs, unless of course we're talking 'bout the week that players report to the training camps in Florida and Arizona and the first slap of ball on glove or crack on a wood bat is heard 'round the land. Today's opening day all over again. Eight teams insteand of 30. Five series and whole boatload of games that matter. So it's root, root, root for the home team. The question becomes: Who's my home town team?

The Cubs are in the playoffs for the first time in years. My very first ball games were at Wrigley Field. My mom took me out of 1st and 2nd grade classrooms early a couple of times to watch Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, Don Kessinger, Fergie Jenkins...the fabled 1969 team that collapsed in the final week allowing the Miracle Mets their run at history.

From Chicago, we moved north of Boston for Carlton Fisk's rookie year. Yaz, George Scott, rookies Fred Lynn and Jim Rice, Rico Petrocelli - my all time favorite baseball player name - and El Tiante played the greatest World Series ever against my mom's hometown Big Red Machine - Rose, Foster, Bench, Concepcion - in 1975. That series, along with the 1978 one game playoff disaster with Bucky F'n Dent and the Yankees, cemented my lifelong allegiance to Red Sox nation, and tied me indelibly to the long history of suffering Soxdom. Later, the Mrs and I lived in Boston and could see the lights of Fenway through the apartment windows when Bill Buckner's glove failed us in the 1986 World Series. Though we now have 2004 to crow about, the legacy of inevitable frustration and disaster remain strong.

And yes, these Red Sox hung on to snatch the East Division title from the damn Yankees' 12 year stranglehold on the pennant.

After a short two year stay in Jersey from where I attended my only World Series game (1976 Game 4 Yankees win over Mom's Reds) and my only opening day (1977 Yankees with Catfish Hunter as the free-agent starting pitcher), the family moved over to the Philly 'burbs for my high school years. The Phillies of the late '70s with Steve Carlton, Mike Schmidt, Greg Luzinski and Larry Bowa made their runs at a World Series title, their first coming the year I graduated high school...1980. And this year, thanks to a monumental late-season collapse by them very same Miracle Mets, the Phillies took over first place with 2 days left in the season, and now stand as the NL East Division champs!

So a dream post-season for me. The Phillies. The Cubs. The Sox. I'll be riding with the Sox for my championship dreams, but I've got all three hats in the closet depending on who's playing on any given night. I'm concerned about another Sox-Yankees AL championship series...the Sox have not played well against the MF Yankees the last half of this season, and Manny, Schilling, Wake and Youk all are banged up. Here's hoping the Injuns can take the Yankees out in the first round to clear the Sox' path to the Series.

Go Sox! (or Cubs, or Phils)

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