When I was still in the gas station renovation business, I got a call from a project manager for a petro company. He wanted to meet at a defunct station they’d taken over from some independent gone tits up.
I met him there. He was younger than I — though I was still quite young — and more earnest about his job than I was, which is saying something. The place was gone to seed, the bowsprit of the triangular canopy rusting overhead, the blockhouse building looking a more like Paul Bunyan’s buttsprung ottoman than a concrete block bunker. The glass in the overhead doors was painted white –the winding sheet of commerce –and the concrete and pavement was spidered to bits.
The fellow asked me if I’d ever been there before. I told him I’d been there on the day it opened in 1967 but never since. He laughed and thought I was joking, but I wasn’t. I lived about five miles from there for sixteen years, and remembered the day it was opened quite clearly. I kept the remembrance to myself.
My father liked the baseball game. He was a Braves fan, when they were still in Boston, and then a Sox fan. I think he actually loved the Braves, but considered the Red Sox a kind of mail-order bride he couldn’t afford to return. I think it’s because his father took him to Braves games.
- First we’ll use Spahn
- then we’ll use Sain
- Then an off day
- followed by rain
- Back will come Spahn
- followed by Sain
- And followed
- we hope
- by two days of rain.
My father worked at a bank, and they lent money to all the ballplayers –well, all the profligate and deadbeat ones, anyway — and he was often tasked with trying to collect it. We used to go to Fenway Park from time to time, though it was pretty far away, and we’d sit directly behind the catcher, maybe ten rows back. The tickets were always free. Nobody went to Red Sox games back then. They’d stunk for decades.
The park was dirty and run down, and so were the players. I’ve never understood people that say Fenway Park is beautiful. It looks like Joe Stalin designed it and inebriated people that didn’t like Boston very much built it. Some people have a problem with all the advertising all over it now, but believe me, back in the day it was unremittingly green and it was much, much uglier, because you could really see it. The advertising is like planting vines on an ugly overpass. It helps a little.
The overhead doors at the gas station were open that warm day we went to the opening. There were strings of triangle flags snapping smartly in the breeze, the place was a new penny, and there were a half-dozen or so Red Sox players sitting at card tables in the open doorways. They dutifully autographed 8-1/2 by 11 black and white photos of themselves and smiled, at least until my dad and I showed up and then they smiled at me and then got kind of straight-lipped for my dad, and haltingly offered, without being asked, that the restaurant wasn’t doing so good right now Buddy but they’d catch up on their loan pretty quick, you betcha. He was off duty and didn’t care but such is life.
I think I remember Jerry Adair, maybe, Rico Petrocelli and George Scott, and forget who else. Lord knows what happened to the promo pictures. I had ten billion dollars-worth of baseball cards back then, and they’re gone, too. No one kept such things. Pro athletes were able to earn a living without working so they were exotic, but that’s about it. In my youth only little children and the odd addled adult would plaster their lives with the memorabilia of an athletic team. Baseball cards and autographs were fun, and so, worthless. You can’t be both.
But my Dad — he loved the baseball game. My mind drifts back to the game wafting out of the crummy AM transistor radio on a lazy summer afternoon while my father mowed the nasty brown patch of grass he kept in front of our house. We’d sit together occasionally for a short moment in the shade of the big pine on cheap lawnchairs made from aluminum tubing and nasty fibrous strapping that cut into your legs.
Ken Coleman’s voice would wash over us, the polyglot names of the batters would come in their turn, and Dad would wordlessly give me a sip of his beer right from the cold, steel can.
I wonder if my own sons will ever remember anything so fondly about me as that.