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Bucs bring back life, memories 60 feet, 6 inches at a time

September 24, 2013 - Paul Giannamore
The videography in “The Natural” runs through my dreams. The baseball coming from the pitcher, stark against a dark background, every seam turning and contrasting in red against the white of the ball.

It’s a time machine that takes me back to 1971. Or 1979.

I can remember watching the Pirates with my dad and my brother back in 1971. I was all of nine. Blass. Giusti. Cash, Moose, Sanguillen. But especially Clemente and Stargell.

Every game wasn’t on TV, so there was Bob Prince, whose voice resonates in my head as I think about the Pirates and this amazing season as if it was still coming out of a radio speaker, drilled in by 162 games of hanging on every word, little Zenith radio snuck into bed and put under the pillow for those West Coast swings. (BTW, I think the current team of broadcasters has, finally, made the game just about as enjoyable again. Kudos.)

Those memories are embedded, as much as Christmas or any family get together. It was the Bucs around our house. The Steelers had not turned a corner, and my dad was a complete baseball nut, though football was right up there. Those memories of 1971 are just as golden as the Bucs uniforms of the day.

I was entering my senior year in high school in 1979 when the Pirates moved through the playoffs and took Baltimore for the second time in the decade in the World Series. Still a kid, but a kid who was working and who had to get home quick from that fast food job to see the afternoon games. My brother had moved out west and my father was a couple years away from retirement. “Rubberband Man” runs through my head thinking about it, along with “We Are Family” and the thought that I always really loved Willie Stargell and was very happy that Pops got to be the face of that World Series and Kent Tekulve’s unbelieveable relief efforts saving the day.

And then the 1980s happened.

The strike and the drug scandal wiped out my dad’s baseball interest forever. I hated that because of what those prior memories still mean to me. It got to the point where he’d walk into my house and, if a Bucs game was on TV, he’d grab the remote, mumble something and change the channel. I am struggling not to do the same thing with football, whose thuggery finally has worn thin with me, but I don’t want to similarly cut off any more memories generated with my son, but I finally do understand.

My son has lived his whole life without understanding what a winning pro baseball team in Pittsburgh is like. He never knew the absolute electric joy of being in a stadium late in the season with tens of thousands of other people, hanging on every pitch, cheering with the notes of the organist, applauding until your hands hurt.

It’s different from football joy, which is more of a relief after a war.

I had almost forgotten until going to a game a couple weeks ago.

Baseball is a time machine, that little ball traveling through our memories. Friends and family, separated by time and distance and loss, all are right there, traveling 60 feet, 6 inches.

It’s good that PNC Park, the almost impossibly beautiful, perfect baseball venue, where the James Earl Jones monologue about baseball from “Field of Dreams” comes alive, finally has memories of its own being generated by McCutcheon and Walker and all the rest, and is a place of baseball joy that fathers and sons and brothers will share across time and distance, making nothing ever further away than 60 feet, 6 inches in our minds.

 
 

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