Aisle Of Wit

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Endless summer?

I’m old school enough to be a rabid baseball fan, so 2020 was a particularly unsettling year for me in that regard.  For the first time since 1966, I failed to attend a live professional baseball game in person.  For as much as last year was a challenge for the world and for me personally, it can’t be underestimated how much having the rug pulled out from me when spring training came to a halt on March 12th, 2020 devastated me.

I did what I could to fill the void.  One of the first live sports events ESPN was able to acquire rights to after lockdowns began was the Korean Baseball Organization, whose live games often started between 1 and 2 am pacific.  During many of my sleepless nights during my painful life awakening those games provided a welcome diversion to the endless MeTV reruns my wife otherwise insisted we numb our brains on throughout the rest of the day.  I looked forward to learning about their versions of the Tigers (Kia), Twins (LG) and Giants (Lotte), not to mention the Lions (Samsung), Bears (Doosan) and Eagles (Hanwha).  While my wife slept comfortably in the king size bed I had been evicted from I laid on a lumpy couch, my beloved cat sometimes gracing me with her presence in my lap, and pretended I was part of a world where the sun was still shining, runs and hits still occurred and at least for a couple of hours there were scores to care about.

When the pandemic-shortened season finally started in late July I had already moved on to my safe haven and the beautiful women who ultimately started me on my road to recovery.  I briefly held a production job with a frequent overnight shift, so the games were effectively a soundtrack to my day.  There was rarely a day or night where at least one game was on, and one of the few flaws my most impactful woman had was she claimed to detest baseball (to her credit, she is a passionate football and basketball fan and yes, we did share some wonderful couch potato moments and the most delicious tacos I’ve ever eaten).   It was a truly emotional sprint–my favorite all-time player (Tom Seaver) passed away, my favorite team (the Mets) couldn’t even make the post-season in a year where half the league qualified, and my dad’s favorite team (the Dodgers) went on a record-setting tear to win their first title in 32 years (fun fact: their second in a shortened major league season; the first being the strike-shortened summer of 1981).

When they won the title at “home”–actually in the bubble at the new stadium in Arlington, Texas–Tommy Lasorda was in attendance, being flown in by medivac from a hospital bed to be physically present for the first title the team won since he managed them to their previous two.   I followed that quest with obsessive passion in honor of my dad–he had passed in 2014 and this was their first World Series without him bitching about them.  I grasped at straws to participate.  I ordered Dodger Stadium food from Postmates to watch the games alone.  I tried to find someone to go to the parking lot to watch the post-season (my gorgeous neighbor, herself an infant when Kirk Gibson hit his famous home run, preferred to go with her elderly grandfather.  She did get me a Dodgers mask which I love to wear, so she gets a mulligan.).  I eventually sprung to drive my car around the lot at Christmas time to see a light show and highlights of the series–at least I made it to a stadium during calendar 2020 for something other than a vaccine.

Lasorda died in January, never to know a world where the Dodgers weren’t the World Champs.  So when spring training was finally announced to start on time, you better believe I arranged a trip to Florida around it–my first such junket in 16 years.  F the pandemic–if any fans were going to be allowed in a ballpark, I was determined to be among them.  I saw three games in three days in three cities, never in a crowd of more than 2,000 fans.  I was in and out of parking lots quicker than most Little League games I had attended.  It set the tone for the summer ahead.

I bought tickets to the first Sunday Angels game–it was postponed due to a Covid outbreak among the visiting Minnesota Twins (thanks loads, Andrelton Simmons).  A week later, I went to my first Dodger home game in April, when crowds were still limited to 11,000 or so and the weather was still chilly.  The first game I went to went into extra innings under the “ghost runner” rules, where a runner started at second base at the start of each half-inning.   It was exhilirating.  I immediately ordered tickets for the next homestand.  I had moved on from my model and rediscovered friends and family to go to more games with.  I was hooked again.  Baseball was my dominatrix and I kept asking for more.  And more.

Thanks to looser restrictions I was able to go to more games in more cities.  I had more and more firsts–my first seven-inning doubleheader game, my first game at Truist Field, my first day/night doubleheader (thank you, Alan Sherman).  The Mets didn’t quite make the post-season, but the Dodgers did.  I made it to Game 4 of the NLDS, where they saved their season and beat the Giants.  They beat my favorite Giants pitcher whose surname nearly matches that of the beautiful model, a relationship that has sadly evaporated.   I was happier about him getting knocked out than the Dodgers winning,

When they thrillingly won in San Francisco to extend their season it became incumbent upon me to go to an NLCS game.  And so my friend and I did this week–a beautiful sun-drenched afternoon game vs. the same Atlanta Braves team that I saw beat my Mets in July.  The Braves got out to a lead, and the afternoon dragged on.  It loomed as a loss until the bottom of the eighth, when Cody Bellinger stepped to the plate as the tying run.  Bellinger had had a horrible regular season, injury-riddled and batting .165.  But he was the game decider in Game 5 in San Francisco, and he indeed came through with a home run. The Dodgers took the lead, and once again baseball became a metaphor for my life journey.  Just when you think you’re out of it, you’re capable of pulling yourself up by the bootstraps and thriving.

Last night the Dodgers were faced with a do-or-die game, potentially their last home game of the season.  Chris Taylor, my favorite current Dodger, became last night’s hero.  He’s known as “CT3”, homage to his uniform number as well as the number of positions he can regularly play. I love versatile, productive players for my fantasy leagues –plus I kinda like people named Chris. :).  Last night he hit three home runs and extended the Dodgers’ season for at least one more game.  And if they can repeat what they did in the Arlington, Texas bubble and sweep the Braves in Games 6 and 7 they will return to the World Series, only this time with the chance for me to see a game in person.  And no matter how much it may cost, I’m gonna dig deep, just like Taylor did, and extend my summer.

The odds are against it. The odds have been against me.  Who knows what happens after this weekend?  But as of this writing we’re both still alive.  Thanks, Chris.  Times two.

Until next time…