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Friday, 11 February 2011

Some Wishes Really Do Come True

By Ernest Leichter

I love sports, especially baseball, because the results are so unpredictable. Sports is the great equalizer.

The greatest hitter in baseball will fail 67 percent of the time. The best team will lose 40 percent of its games. Wealth, education and personality are meaningless once the game starts.

A team spending millions more than their opponents will not be able to buy a victory. They must go out on the field and produce. An athlete with a PhD can’t write a winning textbook that guarantees a pennant. A player who is a brilliant orator can’t talk his way to a win.

Victory has to be earned on the field with physical talent and teamwork.

I have no physical talent, but by pretending I’m a member of the San Francisco Giants’ extended family, I have lived vicariously through the Giant players. In other words, I’m a loyal fan win or lose.

While in college at Berkeley in the summer of 1957, two friends and I went to New York on what we considered a dream vacation. We didn’t go to visit the Metropolitan Museum or the United Nations. The sole purpose of the trip was to attend as many baseball games as humanly possible.

We had never seen a major league baseball game before. Major League baseball, at that time, was played entirely in the eastern part of the United States.

There were three major league teams in the greater New York area: the New York Giants, the New York Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers. It was a thrill for three 20-year-olds to see the three greatest players on the planet - Willie Mays, Jackie Robinson and Mickey Mantle - in their prime.

Besides, in New York, unlike California, it was legal to drink at 18. During those two weeks in New York, we were in baseball and alcohol heaven. Little did we know that the very next year the Giants would be moving to San Francisco and the Dodgers would be relocating in Los Angeles.

In the early days of major league baseball in San Francisco, we had very good teams. Led by three future Hall-of-Famers, Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Juan Marichal, I had no doubt that our first World Championship would come quickly.

As expected, in 1962, the Giants made it into the World Series after only four years. They played the New York Yankees. The Series was tied after six games. In the fatal seventh game, the Yankees had a 1-0 lead in the ninth inning. The Giants got men on second and third base with two outs. Willy McCovey was up.

He hit a line drive toward right field. It seemed like Bobby Richardson, the Yankee second baseman jumped 10 feet in the air and caught the ball in the web of his glove. Series over! Giants lose.

I wasn’t worried. I was sure that the San Francisco would win it all the next year. Forty-eight years later I was still waiting for the Giants to capture their first World Series.

During those years we had learned to hold The Beatles’ hand and walk with Neil Armstrong on the moon. A new generation had been taught to unlearn the English language through abbreviating messages by email, Twitter, texting and Facebook. Cell phones had proved that, while driving, we could talk to someone with one hand on the phone while crashing into another car with the other hand on the wheel.

Personally, in that period, I had married, divorced and remarried. My son, born in 1965, was already graying at the temples. He had two sons of his own. I was now a grandfather with nine grandchildren.

It’s not that the Giants hadn’t come close. They actually got into two other World Series. In 1989, they played Oakland in the Bay Bridge Series. Oakland beat the Giants four games to none, and an earthquake beat the Bay Bridge by a magnitude of 6.9.

The great Barry Bonds led the Giants into another World Series against the Los Angeles Angels in 2002. The Giants had a 5-0 lead in the seventh inning of the sixth game. If they held the lead, they would have won the championship.

By that time, I had become accustomed to the Giants snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Naturally, they lost that game and went on to lose the Series.

In November 2010 when the moment arrived, I was so unprepared for the event that it took me two months to realize that it actually happened.

A ragtag group of players who nobody gave a chance had accomplished something that Barry Bonds and Willie Mays couldn’t. They actually brought a World Championship to the city of San Francisco. My long nightmare was finally over.


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post

Comments

I really never thought of sports as being a great equalizer, but you opened my eyes.

Your story is extremely well written, Ernest,and grabbed me to the end. I loved your expressions "grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory" and " Cell phones had proved that, while driving, we could talk to someone with one hand on the phone while crashing into another car with the other hand on the wheel."

Well written with humor and style. Thanks for an entertaining read.

Ernest,

I know exactly how you feel about the Giants snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

My Phillies have been doing the same thing for years but lately they are better.

Over the years I have lost a lot of weight on what I call the Phillies diet.

You only eat when the Phillies win!

Great story....

Thanks, Ernie, for a fun trip with your well written history of baseball. Perfect timing, too. See today's sport section on Barry Bonds.

Thanks for a great story. I can relate it since I was raised in a "football crazy" home.

I admire your writing style and humor. I'm about the least sports-minded person you can imagine, but I did enjoy your humor and wordsmithing. (Spell Check just insisted I made up that word.)

Intriguing comments about the "democracy" of sports. This post is "Sports Illustrated" caliber writing.

Thanks for your thoughts.

Great story! I remember that last out of the 1962 World Series. We were at recess, but luckily, one of the kids had a radio. I'm a Yankee fan, so I was elated.

Loved every word, you write like a sportscaster, never missed a beat..I remember that Series, I won the pool and gained a husband..The $300 was a major thing, my salary was $95 a week and I had 2 kids (l2 & l4 to support, though I was 21, the big sister..The husband not so much..Life rolls on and I survived, producing a baby in l964, another in l965 and another in l967, I guess we lost our stride in l966.. The husband ran off, but the 3 little Yankee fans have blossomed into wonderful adults producing 6 little Yankee fans..Another case of things work out...Always knew Giant fans growing up in nyc, and was happy to still be in touch with them for your big Giant victory..Again, write more..thanks..Mary

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