An elderly man was bagging my groceries. He had white hair and liver spots. I’m guessing mid-seventies. He noticed my Braves cap. And I noticed the familiar look on his face when he said, “You think the Braves can do it this year?”

I am listening to baseball on the radio. Two dogs are sleeping around my feet. The New York Yankees are battling the Boston Red Sox in the division playoffs.

Chances are, you don’t care about baseball—and I don’t blame you. But this column isn’t about baseball.

Tonight, I promised myself I wouldn’t write about baseball. Too many people already write about it.

Sure, I grew up with baseball. It was in my drinking water. My father ate, breathed, and read about it. And when autumn rolled around, I remember him listening to October baseball like some men listened to preaching.

My father would park his truck in the driveway. We sat in the front seat, listening to a radio. The sun was high. Crickets whined. My father explained plays while sipping beer. And I felt like the most important human on the planet.

But like I said, this isn’t about baseball.

I remember the fall evening when he said, “One day, you’ll listen to these games without me.”

And silence filled the truck.

His eyes became glassy after he said it. Then, he tousled my hair. And I’ll never forget this: he offered me his beer.

To the rest of the world I was a child. But that night, in his eyes, I was a man. I held the can with both hands. I took a swig. It tasted like frog urine. I almost gagged.

He laughed. “When you’re older, it won’t taste so bad.”

I am sipping a beer right now, listening to WCCM 1940 AM radio. The Sox are fighting. I don’t particularly care about the Sox, and I care even less for the Yanks. But anxieties are high. The championship is riding on their shoulders. Thusly, I require another can of frog pee.

Earlier today, I went to the grocery store for tonight’s supplies. Namely: Chili Cheese Fritos, Stouffer’s Lasagna, roasted peanuts, and beer.

An elderly man was bagging my groceries. He had white hair and liver spots. I’m guessing mid-seventies. He noticed my Braves cap. And I noticed the familiar look on his face when he said, “You think the Braves can do it this year?”

When all my groceries were bagged, he offered to help me to the car. All bag-boys have to ask this. It’s store policy.

This man was at least forty years older than me. His skinny arms looked like they might snap if they carried anything over four pounds.

Then I noticed a Cleveland Indians lapel pin on his apron.

So I answered, “Yeah, I could use help.”

He seemed satisfied by this. He pushed my cart, moving slow. We talked about players, pitchers, and scores.

And fathers.

He grew up outside Oberlin, Ohio, listening to games with his dad, in the front of a gray Studebaker.

“We used to go for drives,” he said. “During the World Series, Dad would always fill up his tank, buy me some jelly beans, we’d just drive, listening to games.”

They zipped through hayfields, rural parts, small towns. Whiskyville, Amherst, and Lorain flew past their windows until they hit Lake Eerie. There, they would park, and listen, and watch boats.

He remembers when the Bronx Bombers and the Milwaukee Braves battled in ‘58. He remembers when Cincinatti lost to the Yanks in ‘60. He remembers that after Cincinnati’s defeat he began crying. He was twelve.

“I was so embarrassed I cried in front of my dad,” he said. “Boys didn’t do that back then. But my dad just hugged me and said, ‘Don’t cry, Bobby, you win some and you lose some.’”

The memory means a lot to him. But it is not the memory of a game we share. It is of men, and heroes, and their proverbs, and their ghosts.

My father has been dead a long time, but nothing brings him back to life like the sound of a seventh-inning crowd. During games, I see him. I don’t just remember him, nor do I imagine. He is in my eyes. Right here.

“Dad’s been dead fifty-one years,” the old man said. “But you never stop thinking about them.”

I tipped the man for helping me with groceries that I should’ve carried myself. Then, he pointed to my hat.

“Go Braves,” he said.

I pointed to his lapel pin. “Go Cleveland,” I said.

We shook hands. He hobbled toward the store. And in an ironic stroke of fate, his gait resembled the man who taught me to swing a bat. The slight hitch in his get-along. Slight bend in his neck. Slight jerkiness to each step.

I drove home. I turned on the game. Then, I opened a can of beer. I know I said I wasn’t going to write about baseball.

Oh well.

You win some and you lose some.

26 comments

  1. Betty F. - October 7, 2018 6:16 am

    It is so good to read your posts and feel like there is a “normal” real world out there with real people who talk baseball and carry groceries and miss a parent. Sometimes all the constant political hate-speak leaves me battered and wishing for more quiet space. You gift me with that. Thank you.

    Reply
  2. Pamela McEachern - October 7, 2018 7:07 am

    It is a special gift to remember someone that you loved just like you did. I can still smell my grandmothers lotion, sometimes literally. Jergens is still sold today and yes I have some. Thanks for the sweet memories.

    Peace and Love from Birmingham

    Reply
    • Sandi in FL. - October 7, 2018 8:58 am

      Pamela, Jergens Original Cherry& Almond scented lotion also reminds me (and my dear sister) of our sweet mother, who died years ago. A bottle of it sits nearby on my desk as I type this! The fond memories that this scent evokes are priceless.

      Reply
      • Pamela McEachern - October 8, 2018 2:39 am

        It is by my bed, nice to use before bed, love it.

        Reply
  3. GaryD - October 7, 2018 9:56 am

    Wow! The comments about the Jergens lotion; my mother always had to put some on before she went to town, Downtown Mobile. If I close my eyes I can remember its scent. It’s been a long time…

    Reply
    • Pamela McEachern - October 8, 2018 2:42 am

      It’s a sweet memory even if you only sample a wift in the store.

      Reply
  4. LeAnne Martin - October 7, 2018 11:36 am

    Love this, Sean. My dad was a Braves fan from way back–back when they were an embarrassment to the game of baseball. He and my mom fostered a love of softball in my sister and me, and I still remember those nights when he’d come home after work, eat a quick supper, and “play pitch” with me out in the yard. What a gift that was–what a gift he was. Thank you for reminding me.

    Reply
  5. Xan - October 7, 2018 11:55 am

    And I’m an Alabama girl that has bled Dodger Blue since I was 9 years old, and that was a long time ago. Your sketch of a transistor radio looks just like the one I listened to Vin Scully on under the covers in 1959. Now I listen to the Dodgers under the covers on XM Radio on my tablet. Some things don’t really change. Go Dodgers!

    Reply
  6. Ruth Edens - October 7, 2018 12:13 pm

    Fabulous! Any ponds cold cream memories out there? Or old spice or pipe smoke? Wow, thanks for reminding me.

    Reply
    • Pamela McEachern - October 8, 2018 2:40 am

      Old spice real sweet memories too

      Reply
  7. Connie Havard Ryland - October 7, 2018 12:35 pm

    I just love that you talk to people and share them with us. Love and hugs.

    Reply
  8. Peggy Savage - October 7, 2018 12:58 pm

    I just love you, Sean. I say you because “you” shine through in your in thoughts and words. Such a pleasure …..thank you…

    Reply
  9. Karen - October 7, 2018 1:04 pm

    You had me. I was right there with you, sitting by your dad, listening to the game. Then, I was riding in the Studebaker, stopping to watch boats while listening. My dad never cared about baseball. You took me back to moments I shared with him, though. Thank you for that.

    Reply
  10. Melanie - October 7, 2018 1:22 pm

    reading this 2 years to the day my mom passed. warms my heart. thank you Sean. ♥️

    Reply
  11. Carol - October 7, 2018 1:59 pm

    Your a winner!
    You hit this one right out of the park!!
    Go Braves!!Go Red Sox!!
    Born in Mass!! Raised in the south!!
    Thoes Red Sox games we’re all over the radio,
    especially coming out of Gus’s barber shop on Fifth Street ,Fall River , Mass. The radio blaring and my uncle
    Herky, aka Henry , cut hair on Sat. there!!
    It was a Religion to thoes guys sitting in and around the shop!!
    Thank for the memories!!
    Love ya!
    P.S. my Uncle Billy was a pitcher!

    Reply
  12. Susan - October 7, 2018 2:20 pm

    Tears in my eyes as I read this, remembering my dad. I never followed the games he watched or listened to but to this day I will just put a game on to listen to the crowd noises and announcer’s voice and I’m there with him.

    Reply
  13. Ron Thomas - October 7, 2018 2:55 pm

    Sean, you always amaze me with your writings, but Tuis one is your best ever.

    Reply
  14. ivylog - October 7, 2018 8:20 pm

    You did real good with this one.

    Reply
  15. that's jack - October 7, 2018 8:49 pm

    I remember what it was like to follow the Brooklyn Dodgers. i have no idea why! I thought me n jackie Robinson were cousins since we were both jackie’s. I remember baseball when my sons played. I remembered baseball when the grand kids played, I probably won’t be around when the great grands play. I like little league and HS more than the pros, but that is just me. My wife is from a baseball loving family. Nephew Butch Harris played pro a little. Pete rose or Jimmy Hall was in her class, but never attends the reunions.. He probably don’t want to talk baseball. Thanks for saying very little about it tonight. LOL

    Reply
  16. BJean - October 7, 2018 10:44 pm

    Beautiful.

    Reply
  17. Pat - October 7, 2018 10:51 pm

    You win some and you lose some and some get rained out………….

    Reply
  18. Edna B. - October 8, 2018 1:01 am

    I just love how you spent time with this old fellow, listening to him reminisce about days spent with his Dad. God Bless you Sean. I like baseball too. I’m a Red Sox fan though. Go Red Sox. You have a wonderful evening, hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  19. T.K. Erak (@ProfessorPhil5) - October 8, 2018 3:27 am

    Isn’t it funny to think that I was watching the game while you were listening to it on the radio…and then found each other on Twitter the same day? Loved your blog. “Dad’s been dead fifty-one years,” the old man said. “But you never stop thinking about them.” I’ve ever read anything more true…not a day goes by that I don’t think about my dad. Thank you for your story. It was beautiful.

    Reply
  20. Suzanne - October 8, 2018 1:33 pm

    Thank you Sean! My older brother and I always watched the World Series together though seperated by miles~we’d phone or text back and forth. Loved it! I lost him suddenly last Sept.so dont remember last Oct.~but look forward to this years series because I know I’ll have that feeling of closeness. Baseball & Big Brothers are the best.
    ❣️Suzanne

    Reply
  21. Kay Keel - October 8, 2018 4:02 pm

    I’m an NC born transplant to Alabama, but I’ve been in Alabama since I was very young. My brother and I watched Hank Aaron hit #715 with our dad, in our living room. For the record, my two favorite baseball teams are the Atlanta Braves and WHOEVER is playing the Yam Dankees!

    Reply
  22. Shelton Armour - October 8, 2018 5:33 pm

    I listened to Yankee games with my big brother (22 yrs. older than me) on the night-time AM radio skip when I was little. I’m 61 and still a Mickey Mantle/Roger Maris and today’s Yankees fan. I remember like it was yesterday…and to me it is yesterday. Baseball brings good memories…

    Reply

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