Peanuts and Cracker Jacks

Day 36 of our quarantine. Many folks are still saying this is the End of the World. And Major League Baseball announced a few days ago that they will be pushing back Opening Day even further than originally thought. Some are saying we might not even have baseball this year.

That hurt.

You might think baseball is kind of a waste of time. And hey, you’re probably right. After all, when the word is falling apart, the last thing anyone needs to be losing sleep over is the importance of solid relief pitching.

Then again, a ball game is hard to describe to non-baseball people. It’s difficult to give adequate detail to the symphony of little things happening in a ball park. Like the smells. Or the sounds. Or the excitement you feel when you struggle for six hours just to find an illegal parking spot.

I remember when my old man took me to my first ball game. I must have been five. Maybe six. We were walking through the long parking lot, he was holding my hand. He wore a Phillips 66 ball cap. I don’t know how I remember that.

It was a big stadium. There were huge ramps leading upward to the general admission (crummy) seats, which was all my old man was willing to pay for. He was so tight he had to use WD-40 just to get his wallet out of his pocket.

We sat in the upper decks with the riff raff of society, just like ourselves. The players were so far away that they looked like little fruitflies crawling on ripe pear. I had never felt quite as giddy as I did that day.

You see, you never forget your first glimpse of a ball field. The tight-cut grass, green in the setting sunlight. The geometric chalk lines, red dirt, the sounds of thirty thousand having a conversation at once. Everyone is hungry or thirsty.

A man was selling beer. He had a little hose coming from a keg he wore on his back. My father bought a plastic cup and paid the man an arm and a leg for the beer, then complained about the price between every sip.

The Cardinals were exiting the dugout, moving nonchalant. My father was a notorious Cardinals hater. The Cardinals were wearing their travelling gray uniforms.

My old man was booing them. He was unified with the rest of the crowd, who was also booing. That’s how baseball works. When your tribal members cheer, you cheer. When they boo, you boo. If they were to set fire to the general manager’s BMW, you would provide the matches. There’s something about loyalty between booers.

I grew up hating both the Yankees and the Cardinals. The other teams were okay. They didn’t bother me too bad. I wasn’t worried about what the Dodgers did, I didn’t care about the Sox or the Mets. But the Yanks, and the Gashouse Gang were of the Devil.

It was a good night for a game. I remember this clearly. There is more to a ballgame than the game itself. In fact, the game doesn’t move you half as much as other little factors. Non-baseball fans sometimes fail to understand this.

A ball game is 50 percent weather; 50 percent obnoxious drunk fans who get thrown out of the game by the police. It’s ambience that matters most.

The ambience was perfect that night. It was the quintessential evening. The crowd was wild. The Cards were losing. We couldn’t have been gladder.

In the the eighth inning, a man was selling hotdogs. My old man ordered three. He ate two. I ate one. He griped about the price of all three. Daddy was in the middle of his second hotdog when there was a pop from the bat.


A Cardinal hit a foul. The ball was sailing right to us.

I will never forget what happened next. My father removed his cap and held it up. And it was magic. Time slowed down. The ball plopped right into his hat.

I screamed. Our section screamed. My old man screamed. Our hotdogs and popcorn became casualties of war. My father stood and displayed his white ball to his adoring public. It was the greatest day of my childhood.

And the rest of the game was a blur. We went through the final innings with smiles permanently fixed to our faces.

But my story takes a downward turn. Because when the game was over, there was a boy who had been sitting about three rows down over, wearing a Cardinals hat. His team had been murdered. Before we left, my father handed the ball to the boy and said, “That was a good game, son.”

The kid lit up like a gaslight. And I was crushed. How could my father have given our trophy to a stranger? A CARDINALS FAN? But he did. And he didn’t explain himself.

When we got to the truck, I was pouting. He fired the engine and we waited in a long traffic jam of vehicles which stretched all the way to Timbuktu.

I finally came out with it. “Why’d you give our ball to that boy?”

My father smiled. “You didn’t want that ball, did you? It was hit by a Cardinal.”

But he was only joking. So he offered me something a little more concrete.

“Because,” he said. “If it’s in our power to make someone else happy, even just a little bit, it sorta quadruples our own happiness. Don’t ever forget that.”

I never have. And I’ve never forgotten him, either.

I hope baseball comes back someday. Preferably before the world ends.


  1. Sharon Brock - April 21, 2020 10:38 am

    My only professional baseball games were at Wrigley Field in the 1990s. Sammy Sosa and Mark McGuire had just started their steroid fueled “homerun Derby”. Between the strike, the steroids, and the Astros blatantly cheating and getting away with it, baseball has permanently lost my respect. Best hot dogs I ever ate were at Wrigley and I had a great time but I haven’t willingly watched a game since and probably never will.

  2. Tim the Tarheel - April 21, 2020 10:45 am

    Beautiful story and even more beautiful truth.

  3. Cathi Russell - April 21, 2020 11:10 am

    Love both the story & the truth. Your dad had it exactly right! Is it wrong that I read you before anything else & then have ny quiet time??? Thanks Sean!

  4. Phil S. - April 21, 2020 11:37 am

    A great baseball story, Sean. If it was made into a movie, it would rank right up there with “Pride of the Yankees,” “Angels in the Outfield,” “The Natural,” or more recently, “Trouble with the Curve.”
    Like you, I sure hope baseball makes it back this season. We all need America’s Pastime right now. So tired of “Playin’ solitaire till dawn with a deck of fifty-one…”
    P.S. – Your dad was quite a guy!

  5. turtlekid - April 21, 2020 12:00 pm

    Precious Memories, how they linger….

  6. David Feder - April 21, 2020 12:14 pm

    Well, you’ve gone and done it again. He managed to cause this jaded old man to tear up. Not about baseball, of course; we all know that wasn’t the point of your column. Besides, I don’t like baseball one bit. There, I said it. oh, it was OK to play in the schoolyard – in fact I always liked it better than most sports — but watching baseball on TV was like watching grass grow, And the one time I was dragged to a live game was, for me, even worse. Like watching grass grow right after it’s cut and has been stunned into complete inaction. no, what brought a tear to Mayeye I was how truly great a human being your father was and how that must make it all the more painful to try to grasp why he cut his life off the way he did, especially when he had such a great human being–in–the–making with his young son. And here’s something, Sean, that you need to know, especially since you have not been gifted yourself to be a parent. It is something only a parent can know and understand – there are no vicarious ways to learn this or feel this. Your dad knew exactly how gifted, talented, especially his son would be. All the years you spent with him, few and swift though they were, left little clues like breadcrumbs For your parents to see just how special of a person you would be and are.
    Keep writing, Sean. In doing so, you are constantly, persistently tipping the balance of the Universe in the right direction.
    David Feder

  7. Jan - April 21, 2020 12:46 pm

    Beautiful story full of truth and light! What a great lesson from a very special person!

  8. Ala Red Clay Girl - April 21, 2020 1:10 pm

    A truly beautiful story. It is also beautiful when we children reach the point in our lives where we remember more the wonderful people that our parents were rather than the imperfect people that they could be.

  9. Karen Rankin - April 21, 2020 1:11 pm

    Not a baseball fan but a fan of yours… the memories are so precious… the way in which you weave the words is like a symphony… thanks always for sharing. Many blessings.

  10. Curtis Lee Zeitelhack - April 21, 2020 1:13 pm

    I am not a baseball person. I gave up being a baseball person as a result of the 1981 MLB strike. That was the final nail in the coffin for me. Truth is, I was never really much of a fan. Stats were not sacred. I went to occasional Dodger games, but was never a “real” fan.- bleeding Dodger Blue. Like you, I enjoyed the comradery in the stands. I didn’t enjoy the long drive to the ballpark, the traffic jams, the obscenely over-priced concessions (i.e. Beer and Dodger Dogs), obnoxious neighbors getting up in the middle of a play to head for the restrooms – fights over a foul ball – Well. You get the picture. Despite all that junk, games in the ballpark were insanely better than games on TV. Hell, games on the radio were better than either the ballpark or TV. Baseball of the imagination always won. I gave that up too, after both the owners and the players had proved, once again, that they didn’t give two hoots about the fans. I haven’t watched much baseball on TV since 1981 – even the World Series – but I confess that I did watch the 2001 World Series and cheered on the Diamondbacks to victory over the “Hated Yankees”. Funny how you can hate a team, but not it’s players.

  11. Sylvia from Florida - April 21, 2020 1:37 pm

    Absolutely loved this as I do all your writings.

  12. jstephenw - April 21, 2020 2:37 pm

    Damn Sean, did not see the end coming. Great piece, especially in our current COVID-19 nightmare. Your dad was right. Be safe. Hey to Jamie.

  13. Paul Click - April 21, 2020 2:46 pm

    In Acts 28 we find a beautiful picture of an eternal truth! Each one of us has the power to reach out to someone today, and make their life better, and make them smile!!! In the story, Paul has just survived shipwreck, it was raining and getting cold. Nothing better in the world to make you smile, in a situation like this, than a roaring fire!
    What’s in your hand? What are you going to do with it, today? Who are you gonna make smile!
    We love you all, and yours!!!
    Acts 28:1-10, Colossians 4:2-6
    Baseball, from the sandlot to the majors, is a wonderful venue to get’er done! Play ball!!

  14. Joe Patterson - April 21, 2020 2:58 pm

    Thanks again keep writing you are one of us

  15. Bob Brenner - April 21, 2020 3:16 pm

    I’m 73 years old and today’s column really brings back the memories I was born in Cincinnati and therefore always a Red Legs fan. I could recite the players names by heart and their positions. As a kid we would play “Wiffle Ball” in the yard of my home in Ft. Lauderdale and each have our team and set the lineup. For me it was always the Cincinnati Red Legs. I have six children, 5 boys and 1 girl
    (our best athlete). I took our boys to an Atlanta Braves game one time and mentioned that the pitcher Steve Avery was coming to bat and to watch him hit, I said he could hit a home run anytime and before I could finish my statement we heard the crack of the bat for a solo home run and instantly I became a “Rock Star”! Thank goodness they had ATM machines because I ran out of cash buying rounds of cokes or frozen fruit drinks, popcorn, Cracker Jacks and hotdogs. The cost was steep but the memories have lasted forever. They still think I’m the smartest baseball fan ever. Thanks Steve Avery for the memories.

    P.S. They beat the Cardinals. 😊

  16. Jess - April 21, 2020 3:29 pm

    I was an adult when I went to my first professional baseball game. What impressed me was the sound of the ball hitting the catcher’s mitt during the pitcher’s warm-up; it sounded like a rifle shot. I was shocked by how loud it was. I don’t recall anything else about that game. Eventually I went to another baseball game. It might have been the Giants versus the Braves. During his warm-up pitches, the Giants’ pitcher threw a number of pitches from the mound, then he threw some pitches while standing behind the mound, and finally he threw a number of pitches from BEHIND SECOND BASE! I’d watched baseball games on TV, but I had never seen a pitcher warm-up by throwing pitches from anywhere but the pitcher’s mound.

  17. John - April 21, 2020 3:31 pm

    Sean, I almost couldn’t make it through this story. Your constantly referring to your father (dad) as “the old man” makes me cringe. To me that shows a lack of respect. Maybe you are still sore about the baseball given away. I called my dad “old man” one time and nearly got my ears boxed off.

  18. Mary Irwin - April 21, 2020 3:43 pm

    😊 nice ending…😊

  19. Glenda Hinkle - April 21, 2020 3:47 pm

    Your Dad was a good man and he loved you. That’s all that matters. You have suffered from his demons that took him away but you need to always know that him leaving you had nothing to do with how much he loved you. He just, unfortunately, made a permanent decision over a temporary problem. And, if he could have stopped himself, he would have. He did not want you to suffer.

  20. Linda Moon - April 21, 2020 4:10 pm

    What a greatest day for a boy and his father! I never met your old man, but I’ve come to know him through your words in CIRCLE and Posts. The best of him landed in you, Sean. Your ‘power’ makes me happy! My daddy’s best landed in me long ago….the worst in him has vanished by now, just as your dad’s has. I’ll never forget my daddy or the visit to his gravesite while “visiting” you!

  21. David P B Feder - April 21, 2020 4:19 pm

    PS: Sorry for the typos; I was dictating this and Siri is well-known to be categorically insane.

  22. Frank Gatyas - April 21, 2020 4:35 pm

    The play by play man announcing the game read your article. Then over the warm evening air and thru the AM radio crackle and static he told us,
    “Oh my, Dietrich really connected his time. He got all of that one didn’t he? Yes sir, he put that one high and deep and way, way, way out of here!”

  23. Mark - April 21, 2020 5:47 pm

    Tribalism sucks in all cases.

  24. Christina - April 21, 2020 5:52 pm

    Thanks for making us happy with your words and your wife’s cooking!

  25. Allen Berry - April 21, 2020 7:14 pm

    It’s been one of the hardest weeks of my life. I’m riding this pandemic out with a broken heart over a woman I didn’t know was so incredibly special until she was gone. Reading this gave me the chance to cry a different kind of tears, and I can’t thank you enough for that. Thank you, bud.


  26. Margaret Cade - April 22, 2020 12:48 pm

    Your father taught you many lessons and left you with precious memories. Cherish the good ones and forgive him for the ones that hurt you. He was only human and we don’t know what his struggles were. Overall, you have given us a glimpse of the tremendous love he had for you. ❤️

  27. Chasity Davis Ritter - April 23, 2020 3:28 am

    You always get me with your stories but you ALWAYS get with the ones about baseball. Thank you so much for sharing them. Yeah I’m sad about Baseball this year. Saturday April 18 should have been the first day of Dream League. My daughter should have gotten her New Jersey with its new number. She’s always excited to see which number will be hers for the season. We should have been sitting in the stands watching her play. (Ok her dad and grandma would have been watching and I’d have been trying to get some good pictures lol opening day) but games were canceled this season because we’re keeping these precious kiddos safe. Still doesn’t make me miss baseball any less. We compromised and did what we could to make her happy though. We took her fishing. She didn’t get any bites but she got to drown some worms and be in the sunshine and Daddy watched her and I tried to get a few good pictures so maybe the day wasn’t a loss. She didn’t get to throw a baseball but she did throw a few rocks into the water. I have my family and they’re safe and I have a good memory (and even a couple of pictures). Love you Sean. Never stop sharing!

  28. lovemonteelou - April 23, 2020 11:20 pm

    Beautiful story. Thank you for sharing. I’m not sure if baseball will be back this year, but I know they are trying to work something out. It may just be on TV with teams playing in AZ, FL, and now maybe TX. All I know is I miss it like crazy and when Spring Training was canceled and we were told we had to leave, it was sad, so very sad. I felt really bad for the kids from the Latin countries. We all felt the grief of something that hadn’t been finished. It was so odd. My husband has been in pro-ball for over 30 years as a Minor League player and then in player development. The ballpark is our second home for 7 months of our lives. So yes, I really miss it and the memories like yours that are made there.


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