Posts Tagged 'Cubs'

The Eyes Have It

It’s a good thing he liked baseball.

My father, Morris, was a victim of macular degeneration. Not the treatable kind, it slowly robbed him of everything but a bit of peripheral vision and the ability to discern light from dark.

He’d spend nearly all his time indoors in their West Rogers Park two-flat that my folks shared with my Uncle Max and Aunt Jenny. He avoided restaurants as though they served nothing but e-coli. A proud man, he felt embarrassed fingering the food on his plate in order to tell the difference between the mashed potatoes and the green beans. Unable to cut his brisket without the aid of a compass, he relied on my mother to create those bite sized pieces that somehow found their way onto his fork and into his mouth.

Until it too failed him, his limited peripheral vision allowed him to focus on a hand of cards in his weekly gin rummy game with Cousin Harry. The cards were large and he held them to the side of his face so he could see them. The game moved slowly but he never lost his card playing skills and managed to best Harry most weeks.

Morris wore bifocal glasses even when they were no longer of any help. He really couldn’t tell if the lenses were dirty but that made no difference to his penchant for keeping them clean. He ran through packs of Sight Savers, those crinkly two by three sheets of tissue that miraculously clean lenses without streaking or smudging. Now pre-moistened, they were originally dry. He kept a pack of them in his pants pocket and often used them despite being unable to view the results of his efforts.

He was a rabid White Sox fan and listened to Bob Elson and Harry Caray doing the play by play on the radio. But, even with his affliction he dearly loved watching the Sox on TV. We had an RCA console that sat on the living room floor. My father would drag a padded folding chair to within a foot of the screen and turn it sideways. He’d then position himself on the chair so that he could watch the TV through the corner of his right eye. Looking at him you might assume that he was ignoring the game.

Always a baseball fan, he had tried football and basketball when he was younger but found them wanting. Perhaps the complexity of football was too much for a former Ukrainian. Maybe basketball too infantile. Baseball was his milieu.

His peripheral vision was not without its limitations. He could not follow images on the screen if they moved rapidly; baseball delivered what he needed. Images that seemed to be stuck in place. Chunks of time between batters that accommodated his need to refocus. Trips by the catcher or manager to the mound that were performed without a hint of urgency. A never-ending array of statistics thrown at the viewer to fill the down time while the other objects on the screen got their act together. On Sundays a double header consuming as many as eight hours provided the stimulus that was otherwise absent for my father.

He knew all the players and the scores of yesterday’s games. He’d criticize plays on the field even though he probably didn’t see the play or the offender. He’d rag on me about the Cubs who hadn’t won a World Series since the Bronze Age. I felt his agony when the Sox blew one in the ninth inning. I occasionally pretended to share his joy when they came from behind and won the game.

My brother Irv suffered the same afflictions…being a Sox fan and having macular degeneration. Unless pushed, he avoided restaurants and their wide array of traps and pitfalls. He didn’t watch much TV and relied on audio books. He gave up golf when he couldn’t see the ball on the tee. I sat with him through every minute of the 2005 World Series when, after 88 years, the Sox won it in four straight over Houston, while my Cubs still languished in the Bronze age. He died before the Cubs won it in 2016 and I have never forgiven him.

I’ve never been as much of a baseball fan as they were. But since I share my genes with them, thoughts of macular generation occasionally enter my mind. Like the other night at the restaurant.

Nocciola is a high-end restaurant with prices to match. We hosted my daughter Nancy and my faux son-in-law, Kevin. A lovely setting, it was dimly lit. Menus of a weight befitting the restaurant’s stature were passed. My initial exploration of its Italian focused offerings revealed that the Italian names of dishes including Crescione, Quaglia, Plin and the one dedicated to Old Blue Eyes, Anatra, were large, bold and plainly visible. The English language describing the content of the dish was not. For all I knew I could have been reading the menu upside down. Fortunately, Jackie’s smart phone provided much needed light and I was able to avoid starvation.

The food arrived and my selection appeared to be floating at the bottom of a dark well. I told the waiter that I had hoped to enjoy a last meal before succumbing to hoof and mouth disease. Accordingly, it would be nice to see the food I was eating. A kindly soul, he elevated the lighting a few lumens and I was able to conclude the task at hand without the necessity of asking Jackie to cut my food.

When I was nearly finished, the lights dimmed. Perhaps the manager concluded that the old man had eaten enough to get the idea of where each element of the dish was located. And, not wishing to offend normally sighted guests, had returned the lights to their Devil’s Island setting.

It’s too bad I don’t like baseball.

My Heroes

I’ve been a Cub fan ever since my cousin Leonard got me hooked on them in the fourth grade.

I guess calling myself a Cub “fan” is a bit of a stretch.  I discovered that yesterday when Sweetie and I went to our first Dodger game in twenty years, courtesy of Mikey and our daughter Nancy.  The first sign of my baseball ignorance was when I couldn’t find the infamous Manny Ramirez listed in the Dodgers’ starting line-up.  Turning to Nancy I said “where’s Ramirez?”  Looking at me with that “where have you been” expression, she said “you gotta keep up.”  It got worse.

The Cubs’ lineup, glaringly displayed on the three-mile-wide super electrified scoreboard, proclaimed the names of those who were about to take the field.  I recognized only one.  The rest were strangers.  I didn’t expect the likes of Stan Hack, but where was Ernie Banks when I needed him?  Had Hank Sauer gone the way of the Dodo?  Surely Roy Smalley was still flinging the ball from short-stop onto Addison Street.  Nope.  These guys were all strangers.  Except for one familiar thing.  They were losers…just like my old Cub heroes.

The next clue to my extended absence from the national pastime came when I dragged myself up the stairs to buy some eats.  Twelve dollars for a beer.  Not a six-pack.  One beer.  I skipped the brewski and headed for the Dodger Dogs.

Fifteen minutes in the “express line.”  Three dogs, two french fries, one Coke and a bottle of water.  Thirty-six dollars and seventy-five cents.  And I couldn’t get the mustard out of the machine.  I shuddered at the thought of dropping the load on my way back.

By the time I got to my seat, my faux-son-in-law Kevin had stripped most of the skin from his bleeding thumb scrambling for a two-dollar foul ball which he proudly displayed with his one good hand.  I had also missed a two-run Cub homer by some guy named Geovany Soto.  My heroes were ahead by three runs.   Only seven innings to go.  A Greek chorus ran through my head intoning “it ain’t over til the fat lady sings.”

Turning to Sweetie, who had nearly dehydrated from the sun and a stadium into which no fresh air is allowed, I said “seems to me there are a lot more foul balls than I remember.”  My most astute comment of the day generated a look that has been known to turn fools into pillars of salt.

I stared at the clock as the third inning mercifully ended.  One hour had passed.  How could that be?  I’ve been here for weeks.  Six innings to go.  Thirty-six outs.  My calculations led to an exit time of 4:15.  But what about extra innings.  I’ll expire in this seat and they’ll never notice.

The innings passed while the music blared from a center field mountain of the largest speakers I have ever seen.  Music that had no more place in the national pastime than a parade of Nazi storm troopers.  Beach balls bounced up and down in the stands while I waited for some clod to fall over the second deck railing.  The right field fans insisted on promoting the “wave” while a guy in a Captain Morgan Rum pirate suit threw dollar t-shirts to hysterical people who you woulda thought had nothing to wear other than the clothes on their backs.  The game went on in spite of the entertainment.

My Cubs did their best to let the Dodgers back into the game.  A couple of errors by some guy named Aramis Ramirez and an Alphonse and Gaston act by two other strangers contributed to my feeling of deja vu.  All the while, the Greek chorus sang on.

Sixth, seventh, eighth…finally, the ninth.  Ahead by five runs.  Ooops, make that four with two outs, men at the corners, heavy hitter up.  Am I doomed to reside in Hades forever more?  God, let there be light.  A little pop-up and it was over.  The fat lady had sung and I was happy.

Walking up the stadium stairs with my Cub hat perched high on my head, a guy looked at me and said “you musta brung those guys some luck.”   Sure did.  They’re my heroes.


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