|A once-in-a-lifetime experience: Neil & I with David Ortiz on a trip to Cooperstown
My story doesn't start with a raffle ticket we bought in support of David Ortiz's Children's Charity, and organized with the assistance of The Red Sox Foundation, though that's what directly led to the amazing photo posted above. Actually, my story starts with my late father - who grew up playing stickball on the streets of Brooklyn during the depression. A man who became a huge Brooklyn Dodgers fan. Who told me stories of seeing Jackie Robinson play, both in AAA when my father was in Rochester after his WWII service, and also at Ebbets field with the Dodgers.
The only poem my father knew by heart was Baseball's Sad Lexicon by Franklin Pierce Adams. And I can still hear him recite it in my memory.
These are the saddest of possible words:
"Tinker to Evers to Chance."
Trio of bear cubs, and fleeter than birds,
Tinker and Evers and Chance.
Ruthlessly pricking our gonfalon bubble,
Making a Giant hit into a double –
Words that are heavy with nothing but trouble:
"Tinker to Evers to Chance."
I was born after the Dodgers broke his heart and grew up a Mets fan after he switched his allegiance. I was a kindergartner the year of the "Miracle Mets" and my earliest of baseball memories is sitting in the driveway with my Dad, listening to Mets games on the car radio.
I still think a well called game is a thing of beauty. And the sounds of the game bring my father back to me like very little else does.
My connection with baseball is very much tied to appreciating the game as a fan, rather than as someone who played it. Title IX wasn't law until long after my childhood and where I grew up, girls weren't encouraged to play sports. I went to the occasional game in my graduate school days in NYC and then when we moved to Boston in 1990, I was happy to trade one losing team to another and switched my allegiance to the Red Sox.
My children grew up Red Sox fans the way I grew up a Mets fan. The only time we could watch TV during a meal was if a game was on. Car rides equaled games on the radio. My children learned that baseball could break your heart when Nomar Garcioparra was traded.
2004 tied three generations of baseball fans together: My father, retired in Florida, had adopted my team and became a Red Sox fan, me, listening to tight games from the hallway because I was too nervous to watch, and my sons, falling asleep in front of the TV during the late games and demanding to know the score and play by play first thing in the morning.
Somewhere along the way, my husband became a fan as well. Not just of the Red Sox, but like me, of the game itself.
One more brief digression before I get back to 2022 and David Ortiz.
During the Summer of 2010, my eldest son and I stopped at Cooperstown while we were visiting colleges the summer before his senior year in High School. It was the first time at the Baseball HOF for both of us. At a local bookstore, we picked up a copy of Joe Posnanski's book about Buck O'Neil and the Negro Leagues and one of my fondest memories of that summer is my son reading me passages during our trip.
Fast forward to 2022. Our kids are grown and on their own. Baseball is still something that connects us. I'm still an avid fan of the Red Sox and especially love listening to games on the radio. (Have I mentioned that a well called game is a thing of beauty?)
And so my husband buys a raffle ticket. He buys it because we support good causes. We are big fans of David Ortiz and his charity raises money for children's medical care. All of our sweet spots. We have no expectations of winning anything.
And he gets an email that he's won. Not just any prize. The *Grand* prize: a private plane trip for 2 to Cooperstown, traveling with David Ortiz. 3 nights in a hotel. VIP seating at the Induction Ceremony.
Where, not only did we get to cheer for the one and only Big Papi (who is a completely lovely, authentic, and welcoming person), but we also celebrated the inductions of Gill Hodges - a player my father loved, and Buck O'Neil - the player my son and I bonded over more than a decade ago.
This weekend was an experience I will cherish my whole lifetime. Perhaps I will be able to tell some future grandchild that I got to meet Big Papi and add another link in this chain.
The connections between generations are as solid as a perfect double play, as joyful as a blue-sky summer afternoon at the park, and as enduring as the hope of a walk-off home run.