I know more people watch football– and basketball too, I’m guessing. And certainly, across the world many more people watch football/soccer, but there is something special about baseball. I think it’s tradition. At this very moment the World Series is going on, and the Chicago Cubs are in it, the same Cubs who haven’t won the World Series since 1908. They are playing the Cleveland Indians who haven’t won a World Series since sometime in the 1940’s.
There’s a lot to be said for tradition. Picture this if you will. My grandpa with one eye completely clouded over in white from a cataract, reaching for one of his cigarette papers, filling it with Prince Albert tobacco, rolling it up, and licking the ends together. He strikes a stick match on a very old pot-bellied wood stove and lights his cigarette. He takes a drag — dramatic pause — and then he says. “Did I ever tell you about the time that Pepper Martin…”
He had told me, many times before, but I didn’t mind hearing it again. The gashouse gang, Babe Ruth, and Lou Gehrig were my grandpa’s heroes. My Dad grew up with Stan Musial and the other Cardinal greats of the 40’s and 50’s. For me it was Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Curt Flood, Orlando Cepeda and others. I have clear memories of the Cardinals World Series games in 1967 and 1968, and then there was the drought of the 70’s. Then 1982. And so on.
Even when my dad and I have nothing else to talk about, we can talk about baseball and what the Cardinals are doing right and what they are doing wrong. Watching Cardinal baseball was also one of the most important things in helping my wife get through breast cancer and chemotherapy. We still watch almost every game together even after they do something stupid and we say we’ll never watch them again.
Some of the greatest moments of my life have been associated with baseball and also some of the worst. I went to a game and saw both Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa hit a home run, and then there was the summer after my sixth grade year when I made the little league team, and the coach never put me into a single game. I was crushed because I had every intention of growing up to be a major league baseball player.
Because of my love for the game, I made baseball, or in this case, softball a central part of the book. Most of the baseball moments in the book came strictly from my own warped imagination except for one.
I actually did hit a softball off a girl named Rhonda’s forehead. She was a tough country girl who played most sports as well as all the guys did, and it didn’t hurt her, but it sure made me feel guilty. I don’t actually remember if she threw me out at first base or not, but I’d like to imagine I was safe.
If you are a baseball fan or just a fan of being a kid, you’ll like Walt Michaels is a Weenie. Give it a try. The price is right.