by | Mar 4, 1990 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

Grandpa. What’s this?”

“Looks like a scrapbook.”

“Yeah, but what’s this word on the front . . . ‘baseball’?”

“Oh. That. It’s a very sad story. Something my generation used to love. It’s no longer with us.”

“Did it die of a heart attack?”

“Sort of. Put it away.”

“Look at this man here. Why does he have that thing on his hand? And how come his mouth is all swelled up?”

“That thing is a glove. He used it to catch a ball. And his mouth is filled with tobacco, which he chewed for a few hours, then spit out, usually on the shoes of a sports writer.”


“I’m not sure.”

“Where did they play this game? In the ClimaDrome on the moon?”

“No. They played it right here on Earth. In stadiums filled with green grass and organ music and the smell of hot dogs.”

“Which team had the lasers?”

“There were no lasers. Believe it or not, thousands of people used to sit in the sunshine just to root for their heroes. Fathers used to take their sons. Grandfathers used to take their grandkids. If they got lucky, a player would hit the ball to where they were sitting and the ball would land in their beverage cup.”

“And then they’d sue him, right?”

“Uh, no. That’s a recent phenomenon.” Plenty of heroes

“Oooh. Look. This man is being mobbed.”

“That’s Don Larsen. He pitched a perfect game in the World Series.”

“And this poor man.”

“That’s Hank Aaron. He’d just hit a home run to set the all-time record.”

“That’s bad, right? So they attack him?”

“No. They’re happy.”

“I don’t get it.”

“Well, it was a funny game. Put it aw–

“Who’s this? He looks so sad.”

“Mickey Owen. Dropped the third strike and lost the championship. Heh-heh. Three strikes and you’re out. Except that time.”

“And this man. He looks wild!”

“That’s Kirk Gibson, leaping after he hit his second home run in the 1984 Series.”

“Needs a shave.”

“Always did.”

“How much did a ticket cost? Four thousand dollars, like at Gravity Bowl?”

“No. In fact, once upon a time, you could even sneak into the bleachers, free. Especially during spring training.”

“What’s that?”

“Something that disappeared years ago. You went to Florida for it. Every March. Sat with the sun on your shoulder and mustard on your shirt, listening to the gentle roar of the crowd. A lot of us even kept score.”

“With a personal computer?”

“With a pencil.” Plenty of villains

“Hey. Who’s this funny-looking guy?”

“George Steinbrenner. Actually, he was a creature from another planet. His spaceship broke down and we were stuck with him.”

“And these guys?”

“Donald Fehr and Chuck O’Connor. They were monsters disguised as a human beings. See how their mouths are always open? They breathed poison into the air.”

“Were they the ones who gave baseball the heart attack?”

“Sort of. See, after a while, the fun of the game wasn’t enough for the players and the men who owned the teams. All they wanted was money, even though they had enough to buy and sell Donald Trump.”

“You mean former President Trump?”

“Don’t remind me. Anyhow, lawyers got involved. Businessmen took over. It was strike, come back, strike. One day, for the umpteenth time, the players and owners walked away in a huff. They stayed home, playing with their limos and beach houses.”


“And when they finally came back, nobody cared anymore. Everyone was cynical. Grandfathers stopped taking grandsons to games. Teenagers found other things to do, like watching MTV.”


“A lunatic asylum, with guitars.”


“And in time, the game died. The ballparks closed and were torn down. People who wanted sports paid to see Celebrity Wrestling and Ninja Warrior Challenge. Nobody wore those old caps, or the knickers. Nobody leapt over the fence for a fly ball. Nobody slid into home plate. Nobody sang that song, how did it go? Buy me the peanuts and crumblejack . . . ”


“I can’t remember the stupid words . . . “

“Grandpa . . . Hey, Grandpa.”


“Are you . . . crying?”

“Hmph. . . . Don’t be foolish. I just wish I could remember the words to that damn song. It used to be fun to sing it. It really did.”


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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