Monday, August 4, 2014

Men of Summer Become Boys Again

For his 40th birthday Howard Silver’s wife sent him to the Mets baseball fantasy camp for a week of instruction in the finer points of our once and forever national pastime. Sunday, on his actual 65th birthday, with his wife and grandchildren watching, he faced the ultimate daydream moment—top of the ninth, bases loaded, tie score, Howard at the plate. With a crisp level swing, Howard laced a single to left, knocking in the go-ahead run in the first and hopefully annual Temple Israel Center of White Plains Old Timers vs. Current Team game. Final score: Old Timers 10, Current Team 9. 

Perhaps no outcome could have been better than no-one-got-hurt, except the joy and thrill of seeing players who had not graced a softball field for 10, 20 or more years once again scurry around the base paths and float in the outfield grass snaring fly balls, or at least getting a glove on the horse leather. And for some of us—myself and Howard—it provided the chance to once again play alongside our now 35-year-old sons, something we hadn’t done in almost two decades. Howard at third base and his son Dani at shortstop flashed leather, picking hot shots with aplomb, believe me, they did not demonstrate 20 years ago. 

For the better part of 30 years I forsook sleeping late Sunday mornings from April through September. As the pitcher of our temple’s team, I felt a responsibility to show up to all games, even if it meant not scheduling family vacations during the season or coming home early so I could play the next day. Gilda did her best to tolerate my obsession. Perhaps she reasoned at least I would be doing some exercise that morning. 

This season I’ve passed the pitching baton to the next generation. I’ve shown up to just three games, the first one in April as a designated hitter, next to a double header two weeks ago to pitch one inning, and, finally, last week to pitch the last five innings of an earlier suspended game that we were losing 1-0. I gave up one run. We won 7-2. I felt young again, especially as I had a key hit in our six run rally.

But Sunday’s Old Timers game was different. Playing with the old timers—my contemporaries after all—evoked a throwback feeling.  We were older men reliving our boyhood, or at least our younger adulthood. We didn’t slide. Heck, a few of us, including me, couldn’t run the base paths. But no one got hurt. No egos were bruised, though we were merciless on each other with our banter. Even our near misses made us feel good that we were still close enough to be competitive. In other words, no one embarrassed themselves.

After winning last week’s game I couldn’t wait to rehash my exploits to Gilda who stoically listened yet again to my softball musings. I went to sleep reliving the game. 

I can easily imagine the rest of Howard’s special day and night yesterday.

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