Fathers and sons

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 3, 2008

Dear dad in Heaven;

It’s been a dozen years or so since you’ve experienced earthly happenings first-hand. Let’s refresh.

Remember how Tom Hudak and I, as kids, used to play Whiffle ball in your back yard, before the trees in the yard grew in?

Remember how we used to pepper the dark green shaker shingles on the back side of the house — our right field wall — with homers or doubles, which didn’t disturb you so much, but the constant pounding of home runs, like birds slamming into those shingles, drove mom nuts?

Remember how Tom and I used to keep score on lineup cards, keeping score for players that we pretended to be?

Remember the name Don Larsen? We’ll get back to that.

Remember mom’s words, “I’m cleaning out that room”?

That brings up a word I love: Confluence. Overused, it becomes numbing. Use it once in awhile, and it’s perfect, how two powers come together to create one, larger force. Great word.

You can now get a dose of how mom felt when those plastic balls hit the house.

I had a conversation with mom this week, and she told me how she found in that room she was cleaning some scorecards from Major League baseball games at least one of us attended through the years. The headliner program was from the 1956 World Series between your Brooklyn Dodgers and everybody else’s New York Yankees, from the very game Don Larsen threw the only perfect game in World Series history.

She wanted to throw them away, I suspect, but thought enough ask about the 1956 program. A dam was quickly built between the confluence of the two forces.

I know how it disturbed you when you realized Tom and I used the scorecard from that program to record our little whiffle ball game the back yard.

You were never into memorabilia, as it’s called these days. You either had no use for it, or appreciation for it. Yet my intrusion into this hallowed ground bothered you every time it got mentioned, which was often. Mostly by you.

I know you come from a long line of Dodgers fans. Well, that’s not really true. The only Brooklyn Dodger fan I ever knew was your father, the most senior member of your family that I’ve met. So I guess the line of family fans that I know isn’t quite so long.

But I know he was a Dodger fan. He used to bowl in Gil Hodges Lanes in Brooklyn, Hodges being one of the most popular Dodgers of those days.

I was born too late to actually see or remember Ebbets Field, but you did take me to its original Flatbush site, on which high-rise apartments had been built by the time I saw it. Still, that told me you had some affinity for the place —whether your dad took you to games or not — because you went out of your way to take me there.

I know you weren’t at the 1956 game in October, because you had just started your teaching career and I was about three months from being born. Or maybe the 1956 Series was important because it followed the only Brooklyn Dodger series win, having beaten the same Yankees the year before.

Or was it — and this gets deeper — because you were one of the many Dodgers fans who left Brooklyn and moved east to Long Island which hastened the team’s departure to Los Angeles.

Guess we’ll never know.

You used to enjoy recalling the prices of items at those Dodgers games of your youth — the cost of a subway token, the price of a ticket or a bag of peanuts, the price of a scorecard and pencil — and compare them to the prices of items at the games you and I attended. Maybe that’s why you became a gym teacher and not an economist. Even I know that prices change in 20 years.

Somehow that brings us back to Don Larsen, he of the otherwise mediocre career — an overall losing record but with nearly 200 decisions in the days before 162-game seasons — who found the magnificent sun that afternoon almost 52 years ago.