In February 1954, actress Marilyn Monroe interrupted her honeymoon with the legendary Joe DiMaggio, and flew to Korea to entertain the American troops on stage at Daegu Air Force Base in Korea.

At Daegu she was confronted by over 100,000 troops who went crazy for her.

According to his great article in Esquire Magazine, journalist Gay Talese reported what she said to her husband, Joe.

“It was so wonderful, Joe. You never heard such cheering.”

“Yes, I have,” he said.

Yes, he had. A thousand times over.

I’m not a big sports fan, or a writer of sports like this paper’s Travis Lazarczyk. I never met a ball that didn’t hit me in the face, but baseball was to me as summer as Kool-Aid and mosquitoes.

I remember watching my brothers listening to baseball on their car radios, smelling the beer and cigar smoke in Skeeter O’Neal’s saloon, while a clutch of old men stared into space while listening to Dizzy Dean call the strikes, and I clearly remember in the background that choir of devoted fans.

Sports, especially baseball, isn’t just about money or breaking records. It’s about the music of the season. It’s about those love songs; that’s what they are, love songs from the bleachers, the hard seats behind the nets, arias from working folks and lovers, file clerks cheating the boss, kids skipping school. You can’t have a love affair without a song, and Americans are in love with baseball.

My brother Jug reminded me how, when Stan Musial hit a home run, he would take a slow shuffle from base to base, savoring the moment, as the crowds floated above their seats filling the hot afternoons with billowing ballads.

There is no such music at Busch Stadium overlooking the Mississippi this week, and the news reads like this: “The weekend series between the St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers has been postponed after one player and multiple members of the Cardinals’ staff tested positive for COVID-19.”

Out there at the Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati this week, should there be a game, I try to imagine, for example, the guy in center field smashing against the wall, as he successfully catches the ball that empties the bases and wins the game.

What will our hero do then? To the off-key music of a low flying plane overhead, or a truck backfiring on the street outside the park, a siren, he will walk back to the dugout, pause, tip his hat as Lou Gehrig did, and bow to the 75-bucks-a-piece cardboard cutouts in the seats? Yes, and it will break my heart.

What did Albert Von Tilzer and Jack Norworth ask of us in their legendary song, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game?” Wasn’t there something about a crowd with real people, shouting and jumping up and down, about peanuts and Cracker Jack? Did you know that you can still find Cracker Jack at some ballparks?

My baseball memories are few, except for that heart-stopping night of Oct. 27, 2004, when after 86 long, torturous years, the beloved Red Sox won the World Series. That wasn’t a game. That was an opera.

In high school, I worked part time as an “Andy’s” usher at the old Sportsman’s Park, where the streetcars stopped at Grand and Dodier (I had to look it up) when Joe Garagiola, a hometown boy from “The Hill,” was behind the hitters, and Stan “the Man” Musial (he had a restaurant in our neighborhood) was in the outfield.

The team bosses are putting bodies on the grass again, and hoping we’ll watch the sweaty survivors give their all one more time.

I’ll be watching, and humming softly to myself, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

 

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer. 


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