In ‘ 65
Your father got the tickets. Tonight. You still can’t believe it, though you’re sitting in the front seat of the Chevy with him, on a warm June evening, and the traffic thickens on the Dan Ryan Expressway. But it’s true. You’re going to your first ballgame. Tonight.
And you’re almost there, you can feel it. Sure enough, there’s Comiskey Park up ahead! Home of the White Sox and the exploding scoreboard. You’ve passed this place so many times before, but it looks different tonight. All those cars mulling around. All those people outside. The lights are on too, those massive towers rising high above the old park itself. That’s the sure sign. There’s a game tonight. And you’re going.
And you’re right outside the park now. Dad puts one hand on your shoulder as you walk in front of him. His hand feels good, feels right, won’t let you get away from him and spill into the crowd going into the stadium. But you’re part of this crowd. It’s OK. We’ll all end up inside anyway, so who could be afraid of getting lost? Still, you want to be as close to your father as you can tonight. He knows what this game will mean to you. You want to be as close to him as you can.
And you’re inside at last. And it’s like walking into an old brick building. But such noise! The excited voices, the hurrying of feet along the concrete ramps. The buying of a quick hot dog and soda. Peanuts, too, of course.
“How ‘bout a program?”
Then the moment you’ll never forget. Through a tunnel and it’s like you’re outside again. The evening air. The grass. All lit up! The thousands of people sitting down low, up high, all around, watching you come in, you’re sure.
Your father points immediately to the first base dugout. The Sox! A few of them on the field! The pop and sizzle of the ball whipping between the two having a catch. Three more sprinting across the outfield, so far away. One with a bat, just outside the dugout. How can you walk, not spill your soda, and still watch the field?
But you do, and soon you’re sitting down. The Senators are out there too. The navy caps, the red pretzel “W” and red piping down the sides of each panel. But it’s the Sox you’re here to see and you wait through the organ music and the singing of the national anthem and they are all finally on the field and ready to go.
The names. Ward, McCraw, Nicholson, Romano. Berry and Horlen too. Names not many remember, names you’ll never forget. And they play, these White Sox and Senators, and the night finally falls, though the lights keep you from noticing. The night air chills you, so you slip on the jacket Mom made you bring and you sit and cheer with your Father. And you love him more than you ever did. Here, watching the White Sox. Together.
The double plays, the easy outs, the Nicholson home run high up into the night. You watch your father rise with all the others, clench that fist, hold that breath, then release it all when the ball clears the left field wall. He points toward the scoreboard, but your eyes are already there. It rocks and whistles, shooting skyrockets high up over the Dan Ryan. You yell and hoot, your father laughs with pleasure, and you love him more than ever.
Yes, you love him. Here and now, in Comiskey Park. Later, too, while asleep in the back seat on the ride home. And you love him twenty five years from now, when you take your own boy to his first game and you think back to how good 1965 really was: your first crush (Theresa, over on Ingleside Avenue), your first home run (later that summer, in back of St. Jude’s school) and your own first ballgame. In ‘ 65.