Saturday, November 5, 2016

My Life in Baseball...

Joe DiMaggio and Dorothy Arnold
By Jim Heffernan
 October 1939 – I am born. A month later Joe DiMaggio, “The Yankee Clipper,” marries Duluth native Dorothy Arnold, who was Dorothy Olson when she grew up here, but took a stage name when she went to Hollywood, where they met. I know nothing about this at the time because I am one month old.

Baseball season 1941 – Joe DiMaggio has a 56-game hitting streak, but at age 2 I know nothing about it. Also that year, in an event considered by many to be of lesser interest, the United States enters World War II, but I know nothing about that either.

Spring-summer 1949 – I make my debut as an outfielder and at-bat strike out king at a neighborhood playground. Memorable moment: I am in left field with my brother’s old leather glove on the wrong hand (I am left handed, he is not) and wonder, what am I doing here? A neighborhood group of friends plays some form of baseball just about every day in summer. I hate it, but go along.

Around that same time – My father takes me to a few Duluth Dukes Northern League games at Wade Stadium and admonishes me for not watching the action on the field, but rather eyeing hot dog vendors. I am given a Dukes sweatshirt, which I wear, but with no commitment.

Entrance to Wriggly Field, Chicago
June 1951 – On a visit to Chicago to see relatives, I attend my first (and almost only in life) major league baseball game between the Chicago Cubs and Boston Braves (later Milwaukee Braves and after that Atlanta Braves), sitting in the 60-cent bleachers, admiring the vines along the fence at Wrigley Field but not paying much attention to the game. Like the outcome.

The year 1954 – I notice that Joe DiMaggio marries Movie star Marilyn Monroe who sang
Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe
“Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.” She wasn’t singing about baseball diamonds. They divorce nine months later, possibly when Joe found out.

Rest of 1950s -- I ignore all baseball except in movies like “The Babe Ruth Story” and “Kill the Umpire” both starring character actor William Bendix who looks nothing like Babe Ruth.

Entire 1960s – I begin a journalism career and am required to “help out” the sports desk on busy nights, shocking the sports editor with my lack of knowledge of baseball (and other sports except ping pong).

Late in the 1970s – After work I play “catch” with my young son, who takes to baseball like a duck takes to water (and I take to clichés) and becomes involved in Little League. I am forced to watch entire games because I am chauffer.

Sometime in 1984 – I view the Robert Redford baseball movie “The Natural” and love it. When discussing it with co-workers on the newspaper sports desk I learn that true baseball lovers hate the movie, which explains a lot.

Around that same decade – I accompany my son to a couple of Minnesota Twins games at the old Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, one of which goes a monotonous 12 innings. I notice a romantic couple in the stands. He kisses her on the strikes.

Jump to October-November 2016 -- The Chicago Cubs win their first World Series since more than 20 years before I was born, defeating the Cleveland Indians. I do not watch on television. I know nothing about the teams, like why the Indians are demonstrating against pipeline construction in North Dakota. 

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