Thursday, April 9, 2015

Classic Old Century Baseball Fun

If you believe the calendar and not the actual weather, it is spring, time for baseball (the temple softball league starts this weekend) and tag/yard sales. I should have a bumper sticker on my car proclaiming “I brake for tag sales.” Or, “I turn around for tag sales.”

If you’re a parent or grandparent of small children, how could you not indulge in impulse purchases for the kiddies, particularly when you come across a toy or replica of one that provided countless hours of enjoyment when you wore knickers?

Last fall, as Gilda and I were on our way for a promenade in one of the ritzier ’hoods of Harrison, we passed a sign for a tag sale. I turned around, parked and entered a window of my childhood. What caught my eye was not an antique but rather a reproduction of a Classic Old Century Baseball Pinball Style Game. It was all wood. The tabletop game came with two steel ball bearings that are pitched by a spring. The batter swings a flipper, sending the ball bearing toward preset holes in the ballpark field representing hits or outs. For those interested in seeing a picture of the game, google “classic old century baseball game” 

For a mere $10 the game was mine. That’s mine, not Finley’s or Dagny’s or now Cecilia’s. My interest was pure nostalgia. I didn’t own one of these games as a kid. My best friend Lenny Dorfman did. Lenny lived five houses down, a corner house on Avenue W and East 19th Street in Brooklyn. Ten families lived in attached row houses on our side of the block. Lenny lived on one end, our friend Richie Posner lived at the 18th Street end. My family was in the middle. We always played together. My earliest memories have us playing dump truck in the dirt at the edge of my front lawn, or combining our Lionel trains in Richie’s second floor bedroom when the weather was lousy outside, or playing Classic Baseball on the backyard porch of Lenny’s house.

Baseball was the sport of choice back then. We collected, traded and flipped baseball cards. We played Cadaco’s All-Star Baseball, a game that could be considered the forerunner to today’s fantasy league programs, only All-Star Baseball included current and past players, their tendencies to hit safely determined by a spin of a pointer positioned over an individual player’s historic batting record. Each player had to employ strategy, first in picking a team then setting up a batting order and deciding when to insert pinch hitters. Of course, a lot depended on luck, or maybe some skill, in getting the spinner to land on a hit and avoid pointing to an out.

The Classic Old Century Baseball game has sat on our living room coffee table for some six months. I rarely have pulled back the spring to launch a pitch down the shoot. Gilda has patiently allowed me to indulge my nostalgia. Maybe she senses that as we age we long for traces of our youth. After all, she had me go up to the attic a few months ago to scrounge around for a box of her teenage papers. 

We aren’t trying to relive our past. Our present is quite good, thank you. Yet, it is comforting to reminisce about what our memories tell us were sweet times, simpler times, when we had few concerns and our fortunes—no misfortunes—awaited our journey over the horizon.