Our heroes are by definition magnificently far above us in what they do and how they do it. If you take a moment to look at the heroes of baseball, it seems not so impossible that you too might someday do what they do.
The costumes (simple, soft, comfy) and the main actions of baseball (swing, run, throw, catch, run, slide) tell you how sweetly uncomplicated it all is.
For a kid looking on, enthralled, obsessed, it almost looks possible. I can wear a uniform like that. I can swing like that. I can feel it.
At least that’s how it seemed in 1959, and we can hope that it is not far from the truth today.
Of the many who played the simple game at the highest level, these two Eddie Mathews and Hank Aaron, twin gods of the Milwaukee Braves in 1959, represented to the kid just about everything that was worth being if you were human–including approachability. Yes, you could imagine them coming to your house and throwing the ball around. Yes you did imagine it, over and over.
And those Milwaukee heroes didn’t seem to mind that you also worshipped others, like these two Baltimore Orioles, Brooks Robimson and Luis Aparicio (1967). Real heroes understand that. They know it is not betrayal, it does not diminish them.
Mickey Mantle (the Marilyn Monroe of baseball ?(without the tragedy), seemed to understand that as well as anyone. There seemed to be no envy in his rivalry with other players, no bitterness in his blazing competitiveness.
The best in baseball, at least in those days, always had time for the kid who worshipped them.
Brooks Robinson, sitting down, taking time. The kid is the batboy for the team. The BATBOY! Baseball even has a JOB for a kid, a JOB among the gods, a job in heaven itself.
What a game.
This batboy became a Chief Justice in the Court of Queens Bench in Canada, but we bet he never felt more glad to be alive than right there, the boy in charge of the bats.
If you are lucky, there is a game going on soon near you, and if you are super lucky, it unfolds in a place like this bit of heaven.
Nat Baily Stadium, Vancouver, BC