March 28, 2017

Seven, and It’s Summer

By Chaplain Mike

In the wake of last night’s baseball All-Star game, this simple reminiscence.

It was one of those perfect summer mornings. I was seven years old, a child in the great Midwest, looking forward to another fine day of riding my bike, playing ball, climbing the old weeping willow in our back yard, and doing a hundred other things seven year-old boys do with their pals on sunny summer days.

We were eating breakfast at the table, and I looked up from my bowl of Cheerios to check out the baseball standings in the morning paper. Being a Chicago Cubs fan, I naturally looked first at the bottom of the standings.

This was long before division play in major league baseball. It was simply National League, American League. Two teams ended the season on top, and played each other in the World Series. It was an all or nothing proposition, and for the Cubs it was always nothing. We were regularly in the second half of the National League standings, and usually near the bottom. That’s why it seemed so weird when I couldn’t find them right away in the cellar. I stopped chewing, and my eye slowly scanned upward until they appeared in FIFTH PLACE!

Well, I’m telling you, it might as well have been VE Day or New Year’s Eve or something. I’d never seen anything like it before. The Cubs–in the upper half of the standings, moving toward the top! I shot up out of my chair, grabbed the paper and ran out the door. The screen slammed behind me as I yelled to my mom, “I’ll be right back! I gotta go tell Jimmy!”

That’d be Jimmy Sandberg, one of my pals. He lived across the street in a white house. We never played much in his yard because it was small; well now, come to think of it, we did play army there sometimes because his side of the street had lots of great trees and bushes to hide behind. I’ll never forget the time we came running out from behind those bushes and flung ourselves to the ground with toy rifles in our hands like we were hitting the beach, and I landed right in a big pile of dog poop.

But mostly we played on my side of the street. I had the best basketball court around. Our baseball field was down behind my best friend Mark’s house. And our football field stretched behind my garage through several neighbors’ backyards. Jimmy was a good friend who played on all those fields with me, and we often rode bikes over the brick streets to the corner store to buy baseball cards too. He was a crazy Cubs fan like me, and together, we couldn’t get enough of them.

I sprinted breathlessly to Jimmy’s back door and pounded on it. “Jimmy, come here! You gotta see this!” I yelled. When he came to the door I caught my breath long enough to find the standings in the paper and point out that the Cubs had climbed up from the cellar and were in fifth place. Jimmy couldn’t believe it. His eyes got real big, he let out a yelp, grabbed me, and we started dancing around like the silly little boys we were, chanting, “The Cubs are in fifth place! The Cubs are in fifth place!”

Oh man, you’d a-thought we’d won the Series. We danced and sang until we got dizzy and tumbled to the ground laughing and wrestling and crumpling the paper all up. When we let go our hold on each other we fell on our backs in the dewy grass looking up into the most beautiful blue sky you’d ever want to see. In a few hours the Cubs would be playing and we’d have the transistor radio on by the driveway, listening to the game while we were shooting baskets or playing catch or swinging on the branches of the weeping willow out back.

The Cubs ended up in seventh place that year. Not too bad for them; still second division. But what unsurpassed joy we had for that one day, what feelings of hope and possibility!

I haven’t seen Jimmy for well over forty years now, and I wonder if he’s still around, and if he remembers that celebration. As for me, on summer days I can’t get the picture out of my mind, nor can I stop marveling at how little then it took to make me truly happy.

Just fifth place–FIFTH PLACE!

I guess that’s what it’s like when you’re seven and it’s summer.

Comments

  1. Chaplain Mike, as a Cubs fan you must continually be thanking the Lord that the Pirates are in the NL Central…

    How ’bout the NL last night? Nice to finally beat the Artificial League in the annual company softball game, eh?

    Go Reds!

  2. That Other Jean says:

    I feel your pain—and your exaltation. Long, long ago, I was a fan of the Washington Senators: “First in war, first in peace, and last in the American League.” I just can’t get into the Nats.

    I have memories of being on a swing just after dark, and long after my bedtime, watching the fireflies in the summer night. Thank God for seven, and for summer.

  3. Peter Yang says:

    You forgot the part about Jimmy’s little brother Ryne…:)

    Great story!

  4. The establishment in your youth of incredibly low standards for performance must help in navigating the world of modern American evangelicalism, eh, Mike? 😉

    I was an L.A. Rams fan as a kid, rooting for a team that seemed to win their weak division every year in the ’70s only to get shellacked in the playoffs when they had to face the “real world” (usually the Cowboys or Vikings) I think it prepared me for spending almost two decades in the evangelical ghetto …

  5. Jim Park says:

    It continues to amaze me how many of my male contemporaries have such warm, fuzzy memories connected with baseball. Me, too. The first major league baseball game I ever saw in person was at Crosley Field, Cincinnati, in 1956. The Reds beat the Cubs that day, as I recall …on a Frank Robinson home run. I can thus verify, Chaplain Mike, that the Cubs were indeed the patsies of the National League. :>) It was a very big day for this seven year old visiting from Duluth, MN!

    I was so emotionally caught up in my love for the Reds that, when it was rumored that they might move to New York as the league expanded in 1960, I prayed long and fervently every night that God would intervene and prevent the travesty. It’s the first time I can remember asking God for anything. So God created the Mets. Prayer works.

    Would that I could recreate that sense of joy and exultancy that came so easily at the age of seven, generated by events that seem so trivial and even silly in my adulthood. Was that joy therefore any less valid? I hope I’m seven again when I go to heaven.

  6. Alix Hall says:

    I remember my summers as a child in the 50’s. Kick the can with the neighborhood kids–exploring the “forbidden!!” (we lived on Okinawa when I was 10 in the mid 50’s–in our housing area there was a hill called “Habu Hill” after the deadly snakes that were said to dwell therein. Of course, saying it was off limits only whetted our curiosity and we couldn’t wait to get there!!) Before that we lived at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma and there was lots to explore and real Indians!! Most of our fun was unscripted and unchaperoned. It was a safer and gentler world, I think.

    When my grown children were small, I tried to give them a glimpse of that world–they went creeking and exploring and people thought I was nuts, but I thought it important to give them a chance to develop imagination and simple childhood joy without a script. Needless to say, I raised rather independant thinking children–but then–as my mother used to say about my 5 brothers and sisters and myself–I didn’t want peas in a pod. My mother certainly didn’t get them and neither did I–and I think the world is a grander place for it. Thanks for the memories!!

  7. I remember summer in Florida – lots of biking riding, swimming (everyone had a pool) and playing Star Trek in the shady garage (yes, we were nerds. I blame my mother).
    My dear husband is a Cubs fan, and since I don’t care about baseball, I support him. I even agreed to a trip to Chicago so he could see his first “live” Cubs game at Wrigley Field. I’m not sure that’s what Jesus ment when he said, “wives submit to your husbands” but whatever: he’s so excited I can’t help but be happy for him. Despite that flack I am taking for being a Cubs fan, lol. ~ L

  8. Rick Ro. says:

    Oh, the innocence of youth…

  9. We dont do baseball very well down here – we play Cricket! 😉

    • Matthew, I need you to teach me about cricket some time. I’ve watched it many times, mainly in India, but I’ve never quite grasped the details.

  10. David Cornwell says:

    As a member of the Huntington, West Virginia YMCA, when I was 14 years old the Y sponsored a train trip to Cincy and Crosley Field. We left early and were on our way down the Ohio River Valley to Cincinnati. My cousin went with me. Mayor Payne, a popular mayor, was with us and made a couple of trips through the train, as politicians will do. We ate box lunches. The train station must have been near the field because we walked from there to the game. I have no remembrance of who the Reds were playing or who won even, but it was a wonderful day. I purchased some souvenirs, which sold at reasonable prices in those days. I think I had some banners and a baseball cap and maybe something else.

    Even making the trip better, the train was pulled by an old fashioned steam locomotive.

  11. Thanks Chaplain Mike for sharing your boyhod baseball memoies. They bring a pang to my heart. And Alix, my favorite summer game was kick-the-can. One of my fondest baseball memories was falling alseep with my little aqua colored transistor radio by my pillow, Hall -of-Famer, Waite Hoyt bringing me Reds baseball. Oh, I could also tune in The Gunner bringing me Pirate baseball. To this day I rather listen to a game on radio than watch it on TV. John