The following post is a plea on behalf of under-aged baseball fans:
During a stretch of fall when I was 13, I lost a good amount of sleep. I vaguely remember nodding off in Algebra a few times.
Much more vividly, I remember one night squeezing the earpiece of our telephone as my dad and I yelped simultaneously.
This was long before cell phones and, even, cordless phones. My father, stuck in his television-less office, had asked me to describe the play-by-play of that night’s baseball game over the phone. To fulfill the request, I had to set up the old portable television on the kitchen table, near the wall-mounted telephone.
Repeating the announcer’s rapid-fire descriptions inning after inning, my audience grew from my father to several colleagues who, like him, didn’t want to risk missing the action while in transit home. I would describe the pitch, the swing, the hit, the fielding to my father, who would then shout it around the office. I tried my best to be precise and accurate, but as the wild game reached the tenth inning I couldn’t help but slip up a few times with an unhelpful “Oh my God!”
By the time Mookie Wilson came to the plate, it was hours after my bedtime, hours after my father and his co-workers should have been home. But nobody was going anywhere until there was a last out in the sixth game of the 1986 World Series.
That was my season of baseball. Mets fans merely by geography and tenuous ancestry, my sisters and I had never been nearly as interested in baseball as my father. But that summer, as the Mets won more and more games, inexplicably given what we know now about their extracurricular activities, I found the excitement infectious. Plus, I was drawn to the sweet, easy talent of the right outfielder. (To this day, I harbor an enduring crush on Darryl Strawberry.)
By the time, the Mets made it into the playoffs, I was a full-fledged fanatic. My father scored two tickets to game three of the National League Championship Series against the Houston Astros. When Lenny Dykstra hit his game-winning home run, my father and I stood with the Shea crowd for a full 30 minutes cheering “Lenny, Lenny, Lenny.”
I don’t remember if I slept at all that night. I do remember my hands stinging from the clapping and how it felt to look up at my father and see him as red-faced and happy as I was.
Neither of my parents suggested I come home early from that game or that I go to bed during any of the others I watched beside my father late into the night on television. I now appreciate that my mother’s silence, especially, was an act of will. She knew she would be the one to pay for my drowsiness.
If I recall correctly, Game Six, my night as an announcer for my father’s office, lasted until midnight. I then waited until my father arrived home, an hour’s commute later, to rehash the details.
I didn’t understand then that those nights in my house were not really about the Mets. Or about baseball. They were about parenting. They were about my parents knowing when to enforce rules and when to break them.
Twenty-five years later, I have very little interest in the World Series starting tonight and less in the actual teams playing. (I’m just glad the Phillies didn’t make it this far.) But I have a 4-year-old who loves to watch baseball with her father. Her bedtime is a half hour before the first pitch. We’ll let her watch anyway.