The boys of October

Published 3:02 pm Tuesday, October 8, 2019

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I’m not bragging, at least not too much, but I can do math or “rithmetic” pretty good in my head. At least for now. One of the reasons is that my first love was baseball and I learned all those statistics like batting averages, runs batted in, wins/losses, and other numbers involved in the game of baseball. There are lots of numbers in baseball.

I realize that my naiveté was at its height when I was young. I thought just about everybody was honest and money was not all that big a deal. Of course, it wasn’t a big deal to our family because we didn’t have enough to make a big deal over it!

I was naïve about baseball, too. Baseball was the national pastime and there were no strikes for money and players stuck with their teams because they loved them. Believe it or not, major league ballplayers, even the best ones, had to find offseason jobs to support their families.

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Yogi Berra, a mainstay of the New York Yankees, sold clothes in Newark after the baseball season was over. In the mid-1950’s, though, Yogi was asked to do a commercial for the Yoo-Hoo soft drink company. It was a popular commercial but he received no pay. Instead they gave him stock in the company. Yoo-Hoo is still a very popular soft drink and Yogi passed on a legacy of millions to his family, but the money didn’t come from baseball.

I mention baseball because October is the month of championship baseball, the playoffs and The World Series. When I was naïve and loved baseball so much, the month of October was very exciting.

I think it was in 1963 when public school tried its best to deny me the pleasure of The World Series. The New York Yankees had won their American League pennant and were facing the Los Angeles Dodgers. The first game pitted the Yankees ace, Whitey Ford, against the best pitcher in baseball at that time, the Dodgers’ Sandy Koufax.

I couldn’t bear missing this game. World Series games were not played at night in those days. It took some rigging, but with a small transistor radio in a pocket and the connecting wire and ear device, I listened as Sandy Koufax struck out the first five Yankees and went on the win the opening game. As far as I can remember, this was my first play-by-play as I let my classmates know.

Even though the University of Georgia was playing football that fall, beloved Vince Dooley was a year away, and the Dawgs couldn’t overcome my love for baseball. Not even close.

Eventually the game became more interested in money. Maybe it always had been that way and I had simply not known, but when the players began to strike for more money, I began to strike my love for baseball. It would take a while, but when the 1994 season was canceled because of the players and owners, I said, “Baseball’s dead to me.”

I still watch it some, but when players make $21 million dollars a year no matter what their performance, it’s not very high on my priority of “likes.”

In reality, all sports have gone the way of money. I see that California has passed a law that college football scholar shipped athletes can now be paid. I guess another favorite of mine is on its way out.

I have heard many, many times, regular people say “No person is worth that much.” I agree, but that also includes lots of other professions. The Bible is true when it says, “The love of money is the root of all evil.”

Still, I remember those past Octobers when baseball was played in the daytime.