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'Take your best shot' has new meaning

June 13, 2006|by BOB PARASILITI

Gather around kids. Take a seat and let me tell you a story.

It's a story of the good ol' days ... back when I was a kid.

Some of you dads and moms might want to listen in; you might remember these times, too.

I was just remembering back to when that final school bell leading into summer went off, just like you little guys experienced last week.

Oh, the things I had planned.

Sleep late. Mess around with my friends. Ride my bike. And go swimming. Those were just a few incentives.

But summer meant baseball.

I can remember gathering up with anywhere between four and 12 of my friends just to go out and swing the bat.

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If there were four or six of us, we'd hang out on the street in front of our house and smack around a sponge rubber ball, using the curbs and manhole covers for bases.

Some of the neighbors got upset when we went stomping through their yard or smacked the ball off the side of their aluminum siding. But hey, we were kids, what did we know?

The good times were when we did a bike excursion to the local Little League field. We'd play variations of the game, like right field out, depending on how many guys we had playing.

I remember that was the time when most of us tried to act like our favorite ballplayers. Way back then (and I'm dating myself now), I carried a Ray Fosse or Thurman Munson bat and dreamed of being like a Cleveland Indians outfielder named Rocky Colavito.

The only things I had in common with Rocky, though, was my heritage and a lot of vowels in my last name.

It didn't stop me from dreaming and pretending I was him.

The big times were when my dad came home with some tickets or I would win free passes for Indians games for delivering newspapers.

We'd head down to old Cleveland Municipal Stadium - a place my dad hated to go - to watch games. Some of the times, we were so high up in the stands, we'd have to tilt our heads back to keep the blood from running out of our noses.

It didn't matter. I still had my glove, just in case someone hit a foul ball that would have landed in Hancock.

In those times, the game of baseball had its problems - with the start of labor disputes, demands to be traded and the beginning whispers of something called free agency.

Still, my game of baseball was so innocent.

Now, 35-40 years removed of those times, I wondered what happened along the way.

My, how times have changed.

Off-the-field events have made what should have been Barry Bonds' glorious trek past Babe Ruth an afterthought. The Jason Grimsley steroid fiasco is making it apparent marginal players are as guilty as the game's stars when it comes to using a chemical boost to help prolong a career and make a buck.

And it doesn't stop with steroids. Now amphetamines - known as greenies and speed - are no longer the dark secrets used to keep players 'up' for games.

It sounds like a blanket judgment - and it's not meant to be - but recent news makes it disturbing to have a youngster want to grow up being like a favorite ballplayer.

Right now, the virtues of the position are lying, cheating, doing some sort of drugs while being greedy and self-centered.

It almost makes Ruth, who womanized and drank, and Pete Rose, who gambled, look like saints.

Thinking back, part of the innocent fun of baseball was the seventh-inning stretch. That's when saying the words to "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" were meaningful.

What song was any better for kids? We would get to yell, sing badly, support our team and beg for bad snacks (peanuts and Cracker Jack) all at the same time.

That song was written in 1908. But like Star Trek, maybe it's time for "Take Me Out to the Ball Game - The Next Generation."

With apologies to Jack Norworth, who composed the song, TMOttBG 2006 might go like this:

Fake me out at a ball game;

Watch them play in a cloud;

Guys jab their butts and use all but crack;

Un-enhanced players don't have the knack;

And it's loot, loot, loot for the home team;

As they sin to make the Hall of Fame;

For it's one, two, three psychs and then doubt;

And it will never be the same.

Sorry kids. Hope there are more eventful things to remember for those, "What I did on my summer vacation" papers come fall.




Bob Parasiliti is a staff writer for The Morning Herald. His column appears every other Tuesday. He can be reached at 301 733-5131, ext. 2310, or by e-mail at bobp@herald-mail.com

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