THE MEN OF SUMMER

Reading Roger Angell’s new book put me in a warm and remembrance mood. Although I might watch professional football or basketball more on a regular basis, baseball is in my blood. I can go back to my eighth year on Grand St. on the lower east side of Manhattan, looking through the dirty glass window at the television set showing the 1947 World Series.
I still don’t understand how a little corner bar could already have a pt. set in that year. I was so eager to see the games that I actually tried to get into the bar and sit inconspicuously in a corner. I did not make it for very long. The bartender was kind to me and said that I could stand outside and watch. I am not sure how I had the time to see the games, but I must have seen, at least one Saturday game, and portions of others.
The Yankees were playing the Dodgers, as they did so often later on. It was the magical catch of Al Gionfriddo that made all the headlines. However, the Dodgers lost in seven games. It was better than the 1941 series, which they lost in 5 games. They finally won a world series in 1955. As I look back at it, I realize that it was a few years later that they moved to Los Angeles.
There was something special about baseball. Because of its slow pace, you could really get a Red Barber and later Vin Scully to describe, in detail, what was going on. These announcers were brilliant in their descriptions. I could almost smell the green grass of Ebbets Field. The sounds of the ball hitting the bat, of the crowd oohing and ahhing, were blessed candy for my eardrums.
The men that played baseball then were of a different sort. Very few of them had college education, and many had not completed high school. They were rawboned guys with amazing talent. Their minions were augmented by the introduction of black players in 1947. It was so late in coming that it did not include the greatest of Negro ballplayers like Cool Papa Bell, Josh Gibson and Satchel Paige (at his greatest).
These were not common men. Many of them were paid such paltry salaries, that they had to have second jobs in the wintertime. Some even played in the Mexican League, or some other southern league to make additional dough. At some point in the mid 1940’s, some of them even jumped to the Mexican League. Sal Maglie (the Barber) was one of those who was fortunate enough to be accepted back into the major leagues.
I favored Ted Kluszewski and his cut off sleeves. I could never understand why people thought there was something wrong with that. If you looked at Klu’s arms, you could see why. I still do my exercised with no sleeved shirts. It may not mean much to others, but it means a bunch to me. Those were my men of summer and they still reside in the back of my mind.

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