GET THE GAME ON ( )

• HBO recently ran an excellent documentary on Sports in America. There were lots of celebrities, sports heroes, historical events and such. Jesse Owens and Hitler and the 1938 Olympics, that sort of thing. I watched it faithfully remembering the Yankees vs Dodgers and others “classics”. I was puzzled for a while during one interview. Who is this rather nondescript, older guy? I listened quizzically as he dryly unfolded the tale. Much like me, the man as a youngster was from an extremely religious family. Stern father, to the point that none of the four brothers even voiced complaint when multiple “dress up” weekly trips to church were required. Not only did the family know discipline, the minister admonished the entire congregation about the real possibility of hell’s fire for eternity. Later I appreciated the artistic touch of the film makers, who super- imposed Elmer Gantry like evangelists, screaming the Devil’s powers, with flames leaping all around.
There was common ground between Father and sons: BASEBALL. Not only that, they lived in the California home town of one Eddie Matthews, he of future Hall of Fame credentials. Eddie was currently joining teammate Hank Aaron in knocking shit out of baseballs for the then Milwaukee Braves.
It was 1957. And there was a new “player”: TELEVISION! Not only television, but baseball on the television. Imagine the joy the boys felt when Dad brought home a new set! Not only that, the Braves had made the World Series. Eddie Matthews in their living room.
Alas, all was not joy. As fate would have it and because of the West Coast Time Zone, the pivotal game was to be played on Sunday, during church time.
Gloom itself. Still there was nothing said on Sunday morning. All six piled in the car, not a peep the entire trip to the church. They knew better. And again, a thunderbolt would surely accompany some of the unspoken wishes had they been even meekly uttered.
Sunday school was hard to bear. GAME TIME WAS NOT FAR OFF. And then something very unusual happened. As the boys, gathered to enter their usual pews, the parents met them at the entrance. An odd kind of “ushering” today, as Mom and Dad nestled the startled brood toward the family car.
The only emotion the narrator had expressed occurred here. A slight smile as he claimed to be the first to realize: We are going home to watch Eddie Matthews in the World Series!
Even then there was dead silence. Would a train smash their family? A fire due to “faulty wiring” usurps local family”? A dichotomy of emotions? You bet. Even as a great game unfolded, random unspoken concerns radiated like static within the home.
But the drama of the game finally imposed itself over the fears. You couldn’t make it any better or tense than this. Bottom of the ninth, one on, Braves are down one. Hometown and home family hero, Eddie Matthews at bat.
At this point the stoic narrator seemingly became even blander. As he concluded the final touches to this childhood highlight he spoke two brief sentences;
“‘Eddie Matthews hit a home run.”
“We never went to Church again.”
81

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