America's Game

Rita Papazian
Norwalk Citizen Article 10/18/2007

It was an interesting question my ex-husband posed to me a few weeks ago: "When did you become a baseball fan?"

It's not that I ignored baseball, but I don't think I've been so focused on the game as I have been these past six months. Blame it on the grandkids, in particular, 2- and 3-year-old Cameron and Zachary, who live in a Boston suburb. Actually, it goes back further, I think.

As I write this column, it is Oct. 16, 38 years since my father's death. He died just at the time New York's "Amazing Mets" were winning their first World Series with a 5-3 victory over the heavily favored Baltimore Orioles in Game 5.

Prior to that day, I had been keeping a vigil for three weeks at my father's bedside as he lost his battle with cancer. During my vigil, I would take breaks in the lounge area, watching the Mets and Orioles battle for the championship. As with many New York moments, I will always remember where I was when the Mets won their first World Series, and I can't watch the changing of the season and the falling of the leaves without thinking about my father.

My focus on baseball returned years later in my daughter's home, where my son-in-law is a Red Sox fanatic, which has now passed on to his two little sons. When the morning paper is placed on the kitchen table, we all rush to look at the photos from the night before's game.

I learned from my grandsons who Daisuke Matsuzaka is.

"Who's 'Dice Kay'?" I would say.

"Big Papi?"


These two little boys know them all, and so I have learned, too.

My enthusiasm translated into wanting to see a Red Sox game. I got my chance last month when my daughter won two tickets in a raffle that my son sponsored during a fund-raiser at his home. Someone had donated the tickets. My daughter knew how much I wanted to see a game, so she explained to her husband why she was taking her mother and not him to Fenway Park on Sept. 1. Maybe you heard about that game.

Rookie Clay Buchholz pitched a no-hitter in his second major league start. This was the first time ever that a Red Sox rookie has thrown a no-hitter. Derek Lowe threw the last Boston no-hitter in 2002. Clay struck out nine, walked three and hit one batter. In the ninth, Corey Patterson hit a line drive to center with one out, but Coco Crisp moved over to catch it. No one stopped cheering until Buchholz appeared on the centerfield scoreboard for a television interview.

Around the fifth inning, Fenway started to buzz that we were witnessing a possible no-hitter. I took a cell phone photo of my daughter at the game, and she e-mailed it to her husband, who we knew was watching at home with Zachary and Cameron. My son-in-law e-mailed back a photo of Cameron "with a sad face." Excitement built, even more so in the seventh inning when Fenway burst into song with Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline," the song my children cut their teeth on growing up as I danced with them in the living room. What could be more appropriate as my daughter and I held each other in excitement watching from a field seat at Fenway?

After the game, as we walked to the parking garage, TV cameras and reporters were on the street grabbing comments from the jubilant fans. My daughter had to pull me away from the microphone. But, Maria, we're a good story. You took your mother to the game that turned out to be a no-hitter while your husband baby-sat.

Another day when I was visiting, my son-in-law and the two boys sat in the living room watching a game while my daughter went shopping. I held Zachary. The batter hit a ball out of play into the stands.

My 2-year-old grandson said, "Foul."

I couldn't believe it. Nor can I believe it when I watch this 2-year-old outside with the big fat plastic bat in one hand and the Wiffle ball in the other. He throws the ball up and hits the ball. He runs to get the ball, then runs to me and says, "Nana, pitch."

The past few weeks I've been watching the playoffs. I am in awe of the physical prowess of these athletes. They are so agile and so young. Maybe I am noticing this for the first time because I had the opportunity to watch a few games at my son's new home in another Boston suburb. He now has a plasma TV. I watched the Indians and Yankees duke it out, and I found myself rooting for the Indians; of course, this week I had to change my allegiance, out of respect to Zachary and Cameron, to the Red Sox.

I've been drawn to the games this week more than ever. The games give me an opportunity to shut out the world. Life is just a question of balls and strikes within the framework of three outs.

One of my favorite writers, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, wrote a memoir, "Wait 'Til Next Year," about growing up on Long Island, where her father instilled in her the love of baseball. Her book is not only about her love for the game, but also about growing up on Long Island in the '50s, a time and place I share.

In the preface of her book she writes, "I would write my own history of growing up in the fifties when my neighbors formed an extended family, when television was young, when the street was our common playground, when our lives seemed far from worry "

That is the way I've felt this week as I've watched the Red Sox and Indians. That is the feeling I want my grandsons to embrace as they continue to play and understand the game. Watching baseball is being part of an extended family and a time when we seem to be free from worry.

Go, Red Sox. Go, Zachary and Cameron.

Copyright 2007 Rita Papazian All rights reserved.