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Thanks, Pop

Thanks, Pop
Mickey Mantle (left) replaced Joe DiMaggio in centerfield following the 1951 season. (National Baseball Hall of Fame)

By Steve Wilensky |

As we come upon another baseball season (tarred with the most recent labor dispute nonsense), I think back to what this time of year meant to me 60 some odd years ago. I long for the simpler times. Or maybe just those times when my lens of experiencing life was focused “differently.”

I grew up in Brooklyn in the late 50’s and 60’s, a Yankee Fan in an oasis of Dodger Blue (and the soon to be Metropolitans of Flushing). I was too young to know the Brooklyn Bums, Ebbits Field, or the Boys of Summer. I did not witness O’Malley’s treachery, nor experience the heartbreak of his grotesque infidelities. My heroes were not Duke, Pee Wee, Jackie, Gil or Carl. 

My heroes were Mickey, Roger, Yogi, Moose, Elston, Joe, Whitey, Bobby, Clete, Al, Jim, Tony, Tommy, and the most famous harmonicist ever to lace up cleats, Phil Linz.

My Dad, also a born and bred Brooklynite, ensured that his first-born son was instilled with the Pinstripe Pride, and filled with the grandeur that was the New York Yankees.

Being a baseball fan as an 8-year-old boy was to feel pure joy, uncluttered by free agency, pitch counts, salary taxes, performance enhancing drugs, infield shifts, metrics….ad nauseum.

We were not haunted by acronyms (ERA was the most complicated it ever got). No WAR’s or WHIPS. The former was a card game we played when we were little and the latter…….Never mind about that. Exit velocity? To pass along a wag’s more refined definition….”Exit Velocity, back in the day, meant how fast you could get out of the ballpark to your car to beat the traffic.”

Two of my grandsons, ages 12 & 9, are crazy Yankee (and baseball) fans. You see, I raised my oldest son, as my Pop raised me. To live the Legacy and pass it on.  My oldest son came home from school one day (maybe 5) and told me that he wanted to be a Mets Fan. The Mets had cool players, he said….Daryl and Dwight, to name a few. “Really?”, I said. “Where are you going to watch the games?” He looked up at me, a bit puzzled and somewhat concerned. “Here. In the house. On the TV,” he responded. I replied, “Sorry buddy, all the TV’s I buy are fixed so that they won’t play Met games.” He continued looking at me (I think, that even in his brief years on earth at the time, he kinda knew I was full of crap). But he was wise, and he may have had a premonition that his Pop was sparing him from a lifetime of misery. He would have felt at home in Chicago.

Two more sons were to follow, and each one is a crazy, out of their mind, Yankee Fan. We have (and still do) go to the Stadium, all four of us (my wife too, making five, as she is a Bronx Girl who grew up in the shadows of the Stadium). The grand kiddies come too. As more pop out, they’ll come as well.

Today’s baseball is not the baseball of my kid-dom, but nothing ever stays the same….except for death and taxes. Has the game that my Pops knew and loved changed? Yeah……But he was around to see labor strikes, lockouts, free agency, PEDS, and all that fun stuff. But he loved Baseball, especially his Yankees. He watched all the games….when the Yanks were magnificent and when they were putrid.

So yeah, we got PEDS, pitch counts, shifts, 7 inning double headers, etc., etc., etc. But we still have Baseball, in all its ghastliness and glory. I choose the Glory, just like my Pop did. Go Yankees!!!!

Steve Wilensky lives with his wife Lynda, in Freehold, N.J. Steve and Lynda have 3 sons, 3 daughters-in-law, and currently, 4 grandchildren. Steve has over 40 years of management experience in the corporate and non-profit sector. He is currently an Operations Manager.


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