When it was a Game

Posted: Wednesday, July 25, 2007 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
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Aside from worring that the Russians could start a nuclear war at any minute and blow us all to kingdom come, the fifties was a great time to be a kid..especially a kid who loved baseball.
If we weren’t playing the game on some makeshift ball diamond, we were thinking about it.
Back then, most people were either fans of the Yankees or the Dodgers.
My cousin, Grouse and I were Dodger blue through and through.
Whenever we played, he would be number 4, Duke Snider, I was number 14, Gil Hodges..two Dodger greats who went on to the hall of fame.
 
After we got a TV set in 1953, we never missed the Saturday Game of the Week with announcers  Dizzy Dean and Buddy Blatner..sponsored by Falstaff beer. Oh, man, even though I was only a kid, I could imagine how good that stuff must taste when ol’ Diz would pour a foamy glass-full during the live commercials.
Being for the Dodgers, though, usually meant suffering and pain each October when they’d get to the World Series against the Yanks and find a way to lose.
(As I think back, it was good preparation for football heartaches courtesy of the Vikings.)
But 1955 was different. After losing the first two games against those damn Yankees, Brooklyn went on to win the next three and eventually take game seven and the series. Duke hit four homers and Gil also had a homer and several key hits.
It was big stuff for a 9 year old kid, I’ll tell ya.
Out here on the great plains, we weren’t as traumatized as the Dodger fans in Brooklyn when the team moved to Los Angeles two years later.
We just got my aunt Leila to cut out an L.A. logo from white felt and sew it on our blue caps where the “B” had been.
But even lifelong loyalties can be fickle, especially when you have a major league team move essentially in your own backyard as the Senators did when they left Washington DC and came to Minnesota in 1961.
With players like Harmon Killebrew, Bob Allison and Earl Battey, the Twins started winning games..and our hearts..the very next year.
I’ll never forget the first time I got to go to a game at Metropolitan Stadium and how my jaw dropped at the site of that beautiful green field and the letters spelling out TWINS around home plate.
I can still hear the nasally voice of Twins announcer Bob Casey introducing the players; “Now batting, Twins shortstop, Zoilo Versalles..Versalles.” (I’m pretty sure he said “Ver-Sallys)
Or the stadium vendors cry..”Beer here..cold beer here.” (again with the beer)
I had to settle for an “Iiiice cold Coke” and a hot dog.
 
I now have three grandsons who play ball..and play very well, I might add. But I don’t know if they look at the game the same way..with the same reverence..with the same kind of heroes.
 
Years ago, I had the rare opportunity of interviewing baseball legend, Hank Aaron whose home run record will likely be broken any day now by Barry Bonds.
Even then he was concerned about the way the game was heading..with guys more interested in money and personal statistics than team loyalty and the simple joy of just playing.
Recently, Aaron said he was not going to be in attendance when Bonds erased his record and I really don’t blame him. 
I’m not all that interested in seeing it either.
I keep thinking about that motto we learned as kids that seems to no longer apply in some batting circles;
“Cheaters never win and winners never cheat.” 

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