Wednesday, July 15, 2020
The Day The Music Died
On March 7, 2020 myself and my son and two son-in-laws journeyed to North Port, Florida to watch the Atlanta Braves play the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in a spring training game. Little were we to anticipate that this would be the final weekend of Spring Training and any other kind of baseball for the 2020 season. It was a perfect day for a game. The wind was a little stiff requiring a light jacket. The sky was so blue that it made you squint to look at it quoting Moonlight Graham from Field of Dreams. We had such a wonderful time. Concern about any kind of pandemic was light years away from our conscience because the boys of summer were getting loose for the season ahead.
I sit and write at the moment in a mountain cabin in Gatlinburg here on July 15th, when we would normally be watching the All Star game. A lot has changed and brought a lot of divisiveness among our fellow citizens. We just ventured out to Pigeon Forge and the places we went into required the wearing of masks. After re-entry into our car we broke out the hand sanitizer each time and scrubbed the unseen virus particles from chafed hands. No longer do we shake hands with people whom we hold dear. In fact we practice social distancing from everyone at this point in our lives. Many of us work from home. We shun barber shops, libraries, golf courses, restaurants, convenience stores, church and countless other places we hold near providing the daily fabric of our lives.
The one thing that would make all this livable has been taken from us. Simply stated, baseball. I cannot help but reflect back 19 years ago to September 11th, 2001 when those planes flew into our World Trade centers and thousands of our fellow Americans died painful deaths. Those scary times were palpable. However, one thing that seemed to bridge the divide was 9/21 when the Atlanta Braves played the New York Mets in Shea stadium. The pomp and circumstance that accompanied the game complete with 7th inning singing of God Bless America was Chicken soup for the soul. The president threw out the first pitch. Firemen and Police officers were everywhere and yes the crowd honored them and the honor they brought to our country. 41,000 fans and millions at home comprising the TV audience watched that game. We felt better. We felt safer for some odd reason because of the game. Mayor Rudy Guiliani was present. He was quoted as saying " Don't be afraid. Be alert." In fact that became a bumper sticker." Mike Piazza the Met catcher, the every man who was drafted almost 200th in the year he went Pro, hit the winning home run. Baseball resumed all across America and the Star Spangled banner and America played at every one of those games.
During WW 2 FDR refused to allow baseball to cease. He called upon the players and the fans to embrace the game and support all that went with it, for no other reason than America just flat out needed the game.
I think back to the 1994 baseball strike when the season was canceled along with the post season. For the first time since 1904 the World Series was not played. Many of us were angry with management and the players association. I remember swearing off ever embracing baseball again. I might have lasted a few games into the next season as a hold out but in due course of time I was back watching and listening and following my heroes.
Last year was frought with elements of cheating during the play offs. Years past have brought gambling schemes and spit balling and performance enhancing drugs but America holds fast to what has been called the national past time. I suppose that baseball has a special zen that goes along with it. Even when things are not right in the world, all seems better when the boys of summer are doing what they do.
Now we come to this unseen virus that has become our enemy. It is like an invader from another solar system. It is there, we fear it. It has unraveled our world wide social network. Baseball must rise from the ashes. It is slated to do so next week on the 23rd. I say bring it on. Enough is enough.
I sort of have felt the same as I did on that cold winters day so many years ago when Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper died in that private plane crash. A song memorializes it. How many of us have not listened closely to the words and melody of American Pie by Don Mclean. Please let the game resume. America, indeed the world, needs to hear the music again.