Michael Brantley strokes his 200th hit of the 2014 season. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.
By Bruce Stambaugh
I’ve loved baseball since I was a kid. That’s a long time, never mind how long.
Baseball was in my DNA. I suppose my father’s love of the game, and that of my grandfather highly influenced me. Dad played baseball in high school. Grandpa Merle played in high school, college, and in summer leagues.
My big brother played sandlot baseball, too. Of course, I wanted to be just like him.
Indians great Rocky Colavito threw out the first pitch of the August 10th game last year. © Bruce Stambaugh
Keep in mind that I grew up in the post World War II decade when the top two teams in the American League were the dreaded New York Yankees and the Cleveland Indians. Yes, the Indians had consistently winning teams with memorable players like Rocky Colavito, Herb Score, Bob Feller, Minnie Minoso and so many more.
Youth was my golden era for baseball. I was young, innocent, impressionable, enthusiastic, looking for any diversion from either work or school. Baseball was it.
I started playing baseball when I was seven. The coaches put me at second base for very practical reasons. I was small and it was the shortest throw to first base.
As I grew, I played every position on the field. Catcher was my favorite. I could see the entire game unfold before me. Plus, it was the shortest walk to the bench after the inning was over.
Indians fans will travel the extra mile to support their team. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.
Did I mention that I wasn’t a very good player? Still, baseball was the sports marrow in my bones. Still is.
When I wasn’t playing, I listened to games. I was in my glory when transistor radios came out. I could listen to the Indians late at night, when we were supposed to be sleeping. And I listened to them when grandpa took us fishing. I liked that kind of leisurely multitasking.
I enjoyed how Jimmy Dudley, then the Indians play-by-play announcer, called the game. He drew me in like I was really there, and several fish happily escaped my baseball daydreaming.
I always wanted to play third base for Cleveland. Ken Keltner, Al Rosen, and Bubba Phillips were my heroes. Max Alvis not so much. My all-time favorite Indian, Lou Klimchock, also played third on occasion, but his main position was second. Mostly, I just liked his name.
I knew baseball statistics. I collected baseball cards. I even chewed that stiff, hard, usually stale, flat piece of bubblegum inside every pack of Topps cards.
Michael Brantley and Tampa Bay’s James Loney both smiled broadly after Brantley’s 200th hit this year. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014
I collected hundreds of baseball cards, and a few cavities. My dentist took care of them, and my mother the cards.
I watched what few games were broadcast on television, at first in black and white, and only later in color. Mostly I relied on the alluring voice of Dudley to keep me informed of every pitch.
Our family attended a game or two each year. They were too expensive and too far away. Expressways hadn’t been invented yet.
As I grew from adolescence into adulthood, I continued my love affair with the Indians. I tried to pass that on to my own children, but times have changed, and so have they, for the better of course.
My wife also knows the game well. We attend a few games each year. We hope against hope that the Indians will someday win the World Series.
With the San Francisco Giants recently winning the game’s championship, Major League Baseball is over for 2014. Like any good Cleveland Indians fan will tell you, there’s always next year.
Someday fireworks will explode in celebration of an Indians World Series championship. Someday, maybe next year. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2014.